moving OpenRefine mailing lists and Gitter to a Discourse forum

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Sandra Fauconnier

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Sep 20, 2022, 5:36:15 AM9/20/22
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Hello OpenRefine community!

tl;dr We consider moving OpenRefine's mailing lists and Gitter to a web-based Discourse forum, and invite your feedback.

This message is also published on OpenRefine's blog.

For quite a while, some active OpenRefine community members (Antonin, me, and the OpenRefine advisory committee) have been talking about ways to make OpenRefine’s community more lively, active and diverse.

As one step, we consider moving the current main community communication channels (the user mailing list, developer mailing list, and the Gitter chat) to a public, web-based forum, using the Discourse software. After the move, we will not delete the mailing lists, but keep them read-only as a public archive. We feel inspired to move forward to this, because in our latest user survey (held in April-May 2022), a web-based forum was the most popular option when we asked you for your preferred means of communications.

Our choice would be a hosted web-based Discourse forum, on a URL like forum.openrefine.org or similar. We would go for Discourse for many reasons. First, because it is well-designed and widely used open source forum software, but (among other things) also because it allows much more diverse discussion on 'smaller' topics (e.g. translation of OpenRefine's interface; discussion about larger feature requests; threads in languages other than English...). Discourse offers mailing list / email modes for people who prefer this as their main mode of communications.

We collected many considerations and pros/cons in this document, including the other options we could consider. We invite your comments and feedback there, or here on OpenRefine's mailing list. Also, if anyone is interested in helping with the move, please let me know (previous experience with setting up a Discourse forum would be extremely valuable!) :-)

Tentative timeline for the move (our team is small, so this may be slower, or faster if a few of you volunteer to help!):
* Today - OpenRefine’s community is informed about this plan; you can respond and comment for two weeks (and longer if we notice it is needed)
* Week of Oct 3, 2022 (or later) - Decision go/no go based on your feedback
* If there is general consensus: around the first weeks of November (depending on availability of Antonin, Sandra and volunteers) - start of actual migration to Discourse
* If there is general consensus: end November 2022 - OpenRefine’s community uses Discourse for communications and mailing lists are now read-only!

Looking forward to your comments and feedback!

All the best,

Sandra

-- 
Sandra Fauconnier (she/her)
Project Director, OpenRefine
https://openrefine.org 
Subscribe to OpenRefine's user mailing list: https://groups.google.com/g/openrefine

Owen Stephens

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Sep 20, 2022, 6:08:45 AM9/20/22
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Hi Sandra,

Thanks for this. I'm very much in favour of this move and think it will be the start of making discussions and other support materials outside the user manual more accessible to the community, and (I hope) help encourage more people to contribute their experience and knowledge to the discussions.

Back in February 2020 (BCE - Before Covid Era!) I talked to another OpenSource project, MatPlotLib, about their online discussion forum - which uses Discourse - and felt that the way this allowed discussion to be structured, found, and viewed on the web was a big advantage over the OpenRefine Google Groups we currently have - you can see this at https://discourse.matplotlib.org/

Based on this example I'd love to see not only the current discussions consolidate on Discourse, but for us to consider if this would be a better place for community contributed materials such as the "recipes" which currently remain somewhat hidden on the Github wiki (RecipesMARC and GLAM RecipesApache Log recipe). 

My only concern would be the potential loss of any useful materials currently in the Google Groups - is there any plan/ability to migrate or archive existing content (there are a few threads in the Groups which I still regularly refer to or link to). It would be good to see if there are any options for either archiving this material somewhere for the moment, or migrating it wholesale into discourse

So - very much in favour, and would be interested in anything I can do to support this effort.

Best wishes

Owen

Sandra Fauconnier

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Sep 20, 2022, 9:12:47 AM9/20/22
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Hi Owen! Great to hear that you think this is a good idea :-) (I think so too!)

Replying to two of your points, including the one about archives of the current mailing list:

On 20/09/2022 12:08, Owen Stephens wrote:
Based on this example I'd love to see not only the current discussions consolidate on Discourse, but for us to consider if this would be a better place for community contributed materials such as the "recipes" which currently remain somewhat hidden on the Github wiki (RecipesMARC and GLAM RecipesApache Log recipe).
A big +1! I hope everyone will feel encouraged, empowered and inspired to post many types of useful info on the new forum; and this specifically will make those recipes much more discoverable.

My only concern would be the potential loss of any useful materials currently in the Google Groups - is there any plan/ability to migrate or archive existing content (there are a few threads in the Groups which I still regularly refer to or link to). It would be good to see if there are any options for either archiving this material somewhere for the moment, or migrating it wholesale into discourse

Antonin and I talked about this a bit. The current mailing lists won't be deleted; they will just become read-only and the archives will stay accessible and searchable.

I am a bit hesitant to migrate the entire archives of both mailing lists to Discourse. There are currently more than 2,600 threads in the user mailing list. It feels a bit like 'flooding' the new forum if we'd migrate all of this; and I'm also not sure if it would be OK privacy-wise (we'd need to investigate if people's email addresses are transferred and published on Discourse, and maybe some folks will not appreciate their old messages appearing in a new place). We haven't done this before, maybe there are good tricks to do this right and perhaps someone on this list has tips for us :-)

Perhaps a good compromise approach is to re-post links to very helpful old mailing list threads on the new forum? Any other ideas or opinions here?

All the best!

Owen Stephens

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Sep 20, 2022, 11:30:07 AM9/20/22
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On Tuesday, September 20, 2022 at 2:12:47 PM UTC+1 san...@openrefine.org wrote:

I am a bit hesitant to migrate the entire archives of both mailing lists to Discourse. There are currently more than 2,600 threads in the user mailing list. It feels a bit like 'flooding' the new forum if we'd migrate all of this;

Perhaps a good compromise approach is to re-post links to very helpful old mailing list threads on the new forum? Any other ideas or opinions here?

Thanks Sandra

I definitely understand the concerns. I'd be happy to look at whether there are some things we can extract from the current group and re-post in the new forums (or add to information elsewhere). Can we get any data on the most active or most used threads? 

Thanks

Owen

Sandra Fauconnier

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Sep 29, 2022, 11:31:54 AM9/29/22
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Hello all!

It looks like there are no major objections against a move from our mailing lists to Discourse! On the contrary, the main feedback I've heard so far (both here and via other channels) seems very positive.

If any of you still have objections or major comments, this is your reminder to please voice these via any channel you feel comfortable with :-)

In the longer document, there is a remark about easy, 'quick informal chat, instant messaging style' communication, which we currently have on Gitter and would miss on a web forum like Discourse. We can also totally keep our Gitter channel open for this purpose; the main bottleneck is that it's not very actively tracked/watched at this moment (we'd welcome people to help if they want!). Does anyone have strong feelings about it?

If we don't hear very strong opinions in the next few days, I suggest we go ahead with a small group of people and create a test Discourse forum to play around. Let me know if you want to join this test phase - help is very welcome :-)

All the best!

Sandra

Sandra Fauconnier

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Oct 5, 2022, 5:23:01 AM10/5/22
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Hi everyone,

Seems like we have green light. Let's follow up on this! Exciting!

I have created a GitHub issue where the group of testers can co-ordinate the first steps of testing the new forum. As soon as feasible, I suggest we can move our 'meta' discussion there too. https://github.com/OpenRefine/openrefine.github.com/issues/118

If you want to help with the test period (we'd welcome helpers!!) please indicate so in the GitHub issue: https://github.com/OpenRefine/openrefine.github.com/issues/118

Anyone interested in the process can also follow along and comment there.

All the best!

Sandra

Thad Guidry

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Oct 5, 2022, 8:25:18 AM10/5/22
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How will moderators be chosen?  Can we just pick Owen if he agrees now? :-)  I already vote for Owen :-)
But honestly, we'll need other moderators to participate from around the world.



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K

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Oct 5, 2022, 10:24:26 AM10/5/22
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I vote yes for Owen.

Kola

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