[dojo-contributors] Google Groups management

Eugene Lazutkin eugene at lazutkin.com
Fri May 22 02:08:02 EDT 2009


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I am the guy who routinely moves questions from one forum to another ---
remember "[editor: moving to the appropriate forum]"? So I have a
mini-statistics on this topic. Most mis-posts could be grouped into two
big categories:

1) Posting to the Dojo forum questions on Dijit and DojoX.

2) Posting support questions to a developer forum.

Both mistakes can be easily explained.

#1 was mostly due to the fact that users associate Dojo with everything
else: "Problem with a dialog, a grid or a chart? Sounds like it is a
Dojo problem => use the Dojo forum. Yeah, I see it now, nice Dojo guys
made it the very first one."

#2 was due to our bad planning. Developer forums were equally accessible
as support forums and badly named: "I am a developer. I develop stuff
with Dojo. There is a problem. I'll ask other developers in the
developer forum."

With existing mailing lists we do not have the problem #2. The only
exception I remember was the question about our github policy in
dojo-interest just a day ago, which was more appropriate for
dojo-contributors. I don't know if it is the naming, or the moderated
access, or the relative obscurity, but it works. Let's keep/preserve it
that way.

And we don't have #1 because we don't differentiate between support
questions. I can imagine that with 3 mailing lists or groups we will
have the same problem. With one difference: it would be impossible to
move posts. Another potential problem specific to mailing lists:
cross-posting, which can be a problem when we have several of them.

The big question is: do we really need to segment the user support channel?

Our forum demonstrated another huge problem: it was next to impossible
for users to post code snippets correctly. I understand that UI didn't
provide any obvious convenient way to do it. But I refused to read big
chunks of badly formatted code asking authors to mail me them directly
as attachments or open a ticket and attach snippets there. I literally
can't understand mangled code. In some cases it was beyond mangled ---
some stuff was not shown at all. Mailing lists and groups would not
solve this problem too --- it would be easier to post because everything
is a text, but inappropriate line wraps can be just as bad, especially
if a maximal line width is enforced like in google groups.

We are a programmers community. We just have to communicate pieces of
code to each other. And this problem has to be solved. We use some sort
of "paste" variation on our IRC channel. Probably we should promote
something like that for mailing lists/groups/forums too. It would be
nice if it supported syntax highlighting and optional line numbering for
most important languages: JavaScript, HTML, CSS. It would be super nice
if it was integrated in/easily accessible from UI. Bonus points for the
ability to execute the code like we on Dojo Campus.

Obviously it is not an option with 3rd-party solutions and mailing
lists. The best I can come up with is to enforce a mandatory footer with
all relevant information for mailing list posts, and a clear explanation
of all these details in group rules/the wiki/the front page.

Again I can look at the Django community to see how they cope with this
problem. I am just more familiar with it, I am sure you can find other
examples. Django uses an IRC channel like we do (#django @ freenode) and
several mailing lists, with two most used: django-developers (==
dojo-contributors) and django-users (== dojo-interest), both hosted by
google groups and available through news servers like gmane (that's how
I read them). Amazingly they didn't segment django-users by topics like
we do --- probably they decided to go with the flow, not against it.
Trac is used for tickets and it serves as general wiki actively
populated by the community. http://dpaste.com (by Paul Bissex) is used
for code snippets (originally developed to use on IRC) --- open for
everybody, and there is even a RESTful API for it. For more
permanent/useful snippets there is http://www.djangosnippets.org/ (by
Simon Willison, open source) with a rating system introduced way before
StackOverflow. Bloggers writing about Django are consolidated with RSS
feeds. And did I mention that Django has a gorgeous documentation?

Let's compare Django with Dojo. We have good stuff too. IRC --- check (I
don't like our paste solution, should be replaced/improved). Dojo Campus
covers a lot of ground: it has a decent documentation system, which can
dub for a wiki too, the content is mostly there, and it provides a place
for tutorials. We consolidate Dojo bloggers --- I have no idea who
selects them, but it is there. Trac --- check. Dojo Snippets? Not there
yet, but it sounds like a future addition to Dojo Campus. A mailing list
for contributors --- check.

It looks like the biggest difference is in the way two communities
conduct two-way offline communications with users. Django has one email
address and one official web interface (on google groups) + news servers
like gmane, Dojo has 5 user-oriented forums at
http://dojotoolkit.org/forum, 4 "developer" forums in the same place,
which are mostly misused, and a mostly dormant mailing list without any
kind of web interface. It looks like we are spreading thin instead of
concentrating.

How do they do it? django-developers averages 300-500 messages a month,
django-users --- ~2500 a month => almost 100 per day. Nobody complained
yet that it is difficult to fish out relevant messages. Hmm. Food for
thought.

BTW, The Dojo Toolkit is already present in Google Groups (WARNING:
NSFW): http://groups.google.com/group/the-dojo-toolkit

Eugene Lazutkin
Dojo Toolkit, Committer
http://lazutkin.com/

On 05/21/2009 09:04 PM, Bill Keese wrote:
> Dustin Machi wrote:
>> Given that google groups fails to meet the original  
>> purpose of using forums in the first place (splitting up forums into  
>> more manageable chunks)
> 
> I don't think that was the original purpose of switching to forums; you 
> can easily create multiple mailing lists to split things up.
> 
> And, google groups allows you to create as many groups as you want. 
> Six months ago we tentatively agreed to have three groups:
> 
>    - http://groups.google.com/group/dojotoolkit-core
>    - http://groups.google.com/group/dojotoolkit-dijit
>    - http://groups.google.com/group/dojotoolkit-dojox
> 
> 
> This was the compromise between having a single group (dojo-interest), 
> which contributors hated because they couldn't monitor a certain subject 
> like dijit or charting, versus having many groups (see 
> http://dojotoolkit.org/forum although our website is down now), which 
> contributers hated because users kept posting to the wrong groups.
> 
> 
>> its not clear to me why we don't just close  
>> the forums and use the existing mailing lists.  People can go back to  
>> using nabble or gmane or whatever external tool to submit from the  
>> web.
> 
> Well, anything would be better than the current situation with competing 
> mailing lists and forums.
> 
> I guess dropping the forums and just supporting mailing lists (maybe not 
> dojo-interest but three mailing lists) would be OK, although I'm not 
> sure what that achieves over completely outsourcing.
> 
> I'm against supporting any forums in-house because of our long history 
> of IT issues, and also because (like the web site) it gives contributors 
> an excuse to endlessly debate about customization / site design / etc. 
> rather than actually working on dojo or answering support questions.
> 
> 
> PS: I'm having problems with dojo's SMTP server again and I can't send 
> this message; will try using yahoo's server instead.
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