OSE Forum

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2019

We have considered Discourse as the primary candidate for implementing the OSE Forums.

The main reasons for discontinuing Forums in 2018 were twofold. First, we had no dedicated moderators, so the quality of the discussion was reduced. Second, we needed 2 key features that would integrate the Forums better into the OSE infrastructure, which were not avialable in our self-hosted install.

The first feature is upvoting. This allows a Stack Overflow-like capacity of raising most relevant discussion to prominence. This means that we could then make the Forums more relevant to technical development - by crowdsourcing solutions to working issues. Imagine the increase of development effectiveness when you don't have to wade through long discussion threads - but instead - the most useful answer is brought to the top for you like in Stack Overflow.

See list of Stack Overflow Clones. Note that Vanilla Forums appears there, but Discourse doesn't. This needs further evaluation, as initial research by Michael Altfield indicated that Discourse is more suited to this function. Kudos and Voting are avialable in Vanilla - [1]. Voting - [2]]. Kudos - [3]

Second, OSE needs the embedding of individual discussion threads so that these can be ported to the Wiki under specific development pages. Thus, we would be able to use our own software instead of the current proprietary solution - Disqus. Note that Vanilla Forums appears to have this feature (embedding, commenting - [4]),

As we move into customer support, another feature that emerges is collaborative crowd support - which can reduce support costs by a factor of 10x. Vanilla Forums offers this - [5]

Critical Features

Since the 2 critical features were identified, here is a longer list that meets the goals of OSE:

  • Advanced searchability - to integrate into OSE development infrastructure
  • Upvoting/downvoting - (like Stack Overflow or Reddit)
  • Embeddability - of posts into Wiki, Wordpress, and any website. This can add commenting ability to any development discussion. This is much the same as Commenting - except Commenting is a single thread, whereas embedding refers to embedding a whole topic or even multiple topics.
  • Rating - 5 star reviews - embedded by workshops and products or other offerings for transparency
  • Commenting - ability to use software as comments to replace Disqus spyware
  • Customer Support - we would like to do what Vanilla offers via a Q&A format - community building and learning within the user community. As such, OSE support tickets should be public. [6]

OSE Goals and Platform Structure

One of the central goals of OSE is to increase human collaboration capacity towards solving pressing world issues. Specifically, we are working on open source collaboration towards open source product development, in order to make the Open Source Economy a reality. Thus, the OSE collaboration platform must be designed to promote this goal.

A communication infrastructure that promotes this goal can be focused by providing space for development and discussion. The wiki provides a generalized platform for development. It is scalable like Wikipedia - and thus can support the development of a new civilization from scratch - based on a modular approach to developing and documenting information.

To focus such development, we examine the structure of Discussion Forums - which is a standard tool used in open source development projects - in addition to email for direct or mass communication. For mass communication, OSE has set up phpList.

It is useful to examine the role of Discussion Forums more specifically. In the OSE Case, the goal is very specific: developing a new opering system for civilization, starting with production of material prosperity as a foundation for freedom. For this reason, we propose that instead of using Discussion Forums - we use a Question and Answer format as opposed to a Discussion Forum format. This proposition is based on these assumptions:

  1. The goal of ose is focused open source product development
  2. Q&A format with upvoting and downvoting, such as Reddit or Stack Overflow are popular because of their capacity to add value to comments via crowd-sourced input to filter the most useful information and bring it to prominence to the reader. Effectively, this saves people countless hours of wading through forums to extract useful information. This value is clearly the reason for the popularity of Reddit and Stack Overflow - as proven industry standards of crowdsourced information
  3. Reddit and Stack Overflow are effectively discussion platforms as well - because they allow comments - and because any question or answer can be framed as a comment and a question.
  4. Questions are useful, as they point to insights and invite involvement from others.
  5. Comments can lead nowhere.
  6. For focusing development, it is useful that discussion be related to development. As such, we invite documentation on the wiki, aand the Q&A format can refer back to wiki articles.
  7. It would be useful if the Q&A has an OSE wiki plugin - where [[ ]] would mark Wiki Words - pages on the wiki - and link directly to them without the user having to type in the full URL.
  8. Thus, a Q&A site could serve all the functions of Forum Software - with the added value of upvoting. When structured right - a Discussion Forum is effectively a Q&A site. A Q&A site (with upvoting) includes a Forum function. A Forum without upvoting is not a Q&A site. Thus, OSE should install based on the Q&A capacity, not Forum capacity. A Q&A site can be used for plain discussion - simply the Q is phrased as a Comment. So there is effectively no difference between a proper Q&A site and a Forum in terms of discussion capacity. Effectively, a Q&A format is a Forum with Crowdsourced Sensemaking.
  9. Sensemaking capacity can be improved by adding a Summary Post request after a certain number of comments are made - to help readers summarize a thread by inviting a moderator to summarize all responses or point out valuable insights.
  10. The OSE Forum - which is now here a Forum with Crowdsourced Sensemaking or a Q&A format - would still have to have the embeddability in other platforms, and embeddability of single threads for an effective Commenting on websites/pages capacity.
  11. If we use a Q&A format - it seems that we can address both discussion and Q&A. There's nothing inherent to a Q&A format that limits discussion - the discussion part is up to the responder. But the upvoting part is crucial so that we allow wisdom to float to the top. The solution would be clear forum guidelines to direct discussion in the most constructive way.

This leaves the Bugtracker capacity as the only missing feature of the OSE platform. In the interim, that can be an OSE Forum thread.

Actionable and Deliberation Items

  • Decide on Q&A vs Forum (Discussion) format. Note that these are 2 different things - but a Q&A can include Answers which are effectively Comments - so it does not appears that a Q&A format is less effective at discussion. It appears that Q&A is more effective for effective development as opposed to discussion - which is less direct and in many cases can lead nowhere but could just support venting.
  • Asking questions is in some way self-moderating - as a person is required to get to a point - both with the question and with the answer. Questions would be easier to moderate - as it is easy to determine relevance in a Q&A format.
  • Determine which format is relevant for Crowdsourced Support, Development Discussion, Commenting, Upvoting.
  • Upvoting - clearly Q&A is better.
  • Downvoting - Interesting question on top of thread whether downvoting is constructive at all - [7]. Is downvoting nonconstructive? Negative and positive feedback should be given. It seems that a person who is truly interested in growing and learning is not afraid of negative feedback. Negative feedback should not be interpreted qualitatively as negative: it's just a statement that someone doesn't like a comment. YouTube is a bad example, with unmoderated content, where discussion quality can be low. But on a moderated site like OSE's - negative feedback should be welcome, as it can lead to growth. Our main concern is growing and learning. Furthermore, in a Q&A format, down and upvote is accepted - that is a proven industry standard for Stach Exchange. Downvoting is a natural part of a mechanism where the best rises to the top. The good part is that the worse responses still appear in the thread. It would be wrong to delete downvoted information - as dislikes are also good to know. Note that Stack Exchange is calling out for upvoting and downvoting of not only questions and answers - but comments as well - [8].
  • Commenting - Isn't a question the best kind of comment? While we are used to 'discussion' - 'asking' is a more powerful, directed form of discussion. Discussion can include qeuestions. Questions can include discussion. Questions are more direct. Given the scope and focus of the GVCS - we should go to questions as our preferred way to comment. For example, instead of saying, "This is the greatest invention on earth, as I don't know of anything like it!", one would be forced to dig deeper: "This appears to be a great contribution to humanity. Are there any other inventions of a similar nature that are as relevant to human good?" Thus - we could be creating an inquisitive culture - not a commenting culture. This is consistent with OSE's proactive orientation - and this could help attract the people who ask good questions. Further, the trolls would not be given as much space, and would be forced to become more constructive.

Design

  • Upvote and downvote on questions, answers, and comments
  • Upvote and downvote on character - civility, knowledgeability, open-source culture. Can be summarized as number of likes or dislikes on comments.
  • Crowdsource moderation like in Reddit

Crowdsource Moderation

  • For a scalable project, moderators are not sufficient. Crowdsource moderation must be used - which is stated to be the reason why Reddit is so popular.
  • Instead of Report Spam, use Downvote/Upvote - this addresses the spam issue. Spam flows to the bottom, but remains - while taking burden off the moderator.
  • Downvotes on reddit are used for posts that are nonconstructive / completely offtopic, as a means of filtering them. It’s stronger than not upvoting, and I think it’s the main reason of Reddit’s popularity and it’s major strength…it crowdsources moderation. - from [9]
  • Another great comment from the same source - I understand that the principal authors of Discourse do not intend to include downvoting in the core functionality, as per the May 13 discussion. My question is whether downvoting has or is likely in the near future to be developed as an optional plugin. Is anyone able to advise? the context is that while i am attracted to the Discourse design concepts i would like have the option of adding a downvoting system if necessary to sharpen the incentives to make quality postings and to help ‘steepen’ the reputational ‘curve’.

2018 - Forums Deprecated

In 2018, the forums were no longer moderated or maintained, and the decision was made to deprecate support for the site. The content is still accessible in as static-content; new content is not possible.

For more information, please see CHG-2018-02-04

Overview

The OSE Forums (forum.pensourceecology.org) are currently unmanaged. OSE Forums have been around since 2008, but we never installed a formal moderation process. Elifarley Cruz was a volunteer administrator for some time. Since then, updates on Facebook have served as a regular communication channel. Currently, Facebook is the main news and update outlet for the organization, such that anyone wishing to find out news and workshop announcements should follow the OSE Facebook Page.

We have found that the main need of a forum is to maintain constructive dialogue, and we are absolutely committed to maintaining a safe and constructive atmosphere, and a Zero Tolerance Policy for violators. As we go into the future OSE's goal is to upgrade the forum so that it can also be a part of our technical development process. Further, as OSE moves into the future and OSE chapters are started around the globe, our goal is to provide a model for how other chapters can start their own forums, especially if the forums are in a different language than English. To this end, here are the features and requirements that would help us meet these goals:

Implementation

General

  1. Clear and open source protocol for setting up, administering, and managing a forum. This would also serve as a manual that would facilitate the startup of forums by new OSE chapters, including a shared standard and the ability to share data. So that OSE maintains control of its data, ooen source software must be used.
  2. Forum Moderator, and Moderator Team
  3. Clear User Agreement and Contributor Agreement to protect the open soirce nature of the community
  4. Easy login procedure and user permissions management
  5. Integration with Wiki regarding user login and profile, such as a contributor's skill set

Requirements

Essential

  1. A good search feature
  2. Embed code generation such that forum threads can be pasted elsewhere, as individual threads - such as the OSE wiki
  3. Upvoting Mechanism for threads and specific responses within threads. This would turn the Forum from a simple discussion to a powerful selection and distillation mechanism for valuable content. For example, a Forum thread can be used as a technical question or a review request, and the best answer would be upvoted and would be most visible. This would allow the gems of knowledge to rise to the top of a much larger sea.
  4. User friendly, rapid posting interface
  5. Viewing of content by most recent or most upvoted.

Information Architecture

  1. Good structure of forum itself. Structure consisting of only a few subject areas, such as Discussion, Development, Distributive Enterprise, and Community. Clear guidelines regarding each section are required, as well as at least one full time Moderator for the Forum. The funding mechanism for the Forum Moderator should be an OSE Distributive Enterprise, in order to further dogfood our products and community development process.
  2. Viewing by thread or message.
  3. Display of link content from the OSE wiki only, and viewed as links only for any other content.
  4. Upload of images, resized automatically to 100k or less
  5. html code embed for displaying any html content
  6. Tight control of front page display - 4 main Forum sections. Each has an explainer video with it.
  7. Theme clarity: Open Source Ecology, open source economy, via open source product design towards Distributive Enterprise. Explainer video to unravel this.

Secondary

  1. 3D viewable/rotatable display of FreeCAD images from OSE wiki. This may be done using html embed codes, but using local processing power. If we evolve our WebGL capacity - we could do this via WebGL - a preferred and open source route.
  2. Map of contributors
  3. Badges
  4. Link to person's wiki profile and wiki log
  5. Tagging threads.

Forum Structure or Information Architecture

The main current purpose of the OSE forum is to promote technical development of the GVCS. This includes all the tech ical developme t leading go robust product design - as well as to the creation of Distributive Enterprise related to the GVCS.This must be reflected in the forum structure. There are several supporting functions, including orientation of new participants, helping people find contributors in their area, development of new OSE groups and chapters, technical development per se, and development of Distributive Enterprise, etc.

Annual Budget

  • Setup (one time)
  • Regular maintenance
  • Hosting fee. Traffic requirements. Annual cost per GB ? 10 cents per gigabyte. Recruit http://www.mkomo.com/about for assistance.
  • Moderation

Links

  • See initial Forum design notes from 2011 at Forum Policy, which has a link to an Essay on constructive criticism.

Work Product

To be developed.

Platforms

  • Lulzbot uses it - [10]

See Also