Melbourne Scala communication channels

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Ken Scambler

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Jan 30, 2018, 9:08:15 PM1/30/18
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Hey folks, 

I'd like to sound out your opinions on how we can best communicate with each other in our community. We currently have 4 means of contact:

- Meetup.com (419 members)
- Slack (102 members)
- Google group (284 members)
- Twitter (136 followers)

They all have slightly different purposes, and no doubt a significant but incomplete overlap of members. 

Meetup has the most members, and clearly provides the highest visibility to prospective attendees in Melbourne. It is very convenient for organising & announcing meetups, allows general announcements, but is inconvenient for discussions.

Google groups is the oldest - it has been around since the beginning. It is the most convenient for in-depth arguments, and has the most historical discussions. It is mostly silent now, however.

Slack is the newest, and by far the busiest. It is very convenient for chat, Q&A, etc, but is perhaps not so good for retaining historical conversations, and has the lowest participation; the high rate of interaction is mostly a small group of people.

The Twitter does not have a high follower count, and sees little interaction, but seems like the best way to forge links outside the Melbourne tech meetup scene.

I see a few problems:
1) There's no easy way to show newcomers where to go to join in community activity
2) It's hard to publicise the existence of all these channels
3) It's inconvenient for organisers to notify all these channels for announcements & meetups, since none guarantee reaching our whole member base
4) It fragments our member base, such that none of the channels really have a very high rate of interaction

Google groups seems like it could be dropped, but it seems like more stable public infrastructure than Slack; and not every member might feel comfortable registering for this private corporate service.  Nobody would complain if Twitter were dropped, but it seems a backward step.  Meetup is indispensable but insufficient.

I don't really know what to do about it, so I'm casting for ideas. Did you know about all these channels? Which do you prefer to frequent? Which would you be happy to lose? Do you feel that you have a place to comfortably ask questions and learn? Can we safely announce meetings just on Meetup?

Take care all,
Ken


Ishaaq Chandy

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Feb 1, 2018, 12:12:35 AM2/1/18
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Having moved out of Melbourne a couple of years ago I am no longer an active member but am a lurker on the Google group as I am still vaguely interested in the occasional conversation here. At some point, when I eventually return to Melbourne, I will probably join on Meetup.

So, my vote would be to keep the Google group alive but acknowledging that my perspective is a bit niche I totally understand if you retire it due to lack of interest from more active members.

Ishaaq

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Ben Hutchison

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Feb 4, 2018, 5:35:10 PM2/4/18
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I think the main drivers of the Melbourne Scala meetup are:

- Face to face conversations and socializing. There's lots of online ways to interact nowadays but it's not the same as a regular series of conversations in real life with people who share common interests.

- Melbourne-based employment opportunities. The meetup offers people a chance to network through the local industry, find out what different companies are doing, and what jobs are on offer.

I see the online channels primarily as supporting and extending the physical meetup. 

I do think it's reasonable to advertise upcoming meetups on a single channel (eg the meetup site) and ask that everyone monitor that.

I don't want to close the Google group, given that it's got 284 members, and it's a better place to have an email discussion than meetup. 

Agree, that there's overlap between the group and the slack channel purpose, but I don't think its become a big problem as yet.

I dont use Twitter myself.

-Ben


Chen Harry

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Feb 5, 2018, 1:56:48 AM2/5/18
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I don't want to close the Google group, given that it's got 284 members, and it's a better place to have an email discussion than meetup.
+1

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Luke Stephenson

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Feb 5, 2018, 9:48:56 PM2/5/18
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For me,

Meetup serves a very specific purpose.

slack / google groups I'd use fairly interchangeably.

I'm starting to find my twitter feed rather frustrating.

Luke

Lachlan O'Dea

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Feb 5, 2018, 9:58:43 PM2/5/18
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On Tuesday, February 6, 2018 at 1:48:56 PM UTC+11, Luke Stephenson wrote:

[…]


I'm starting to find my twitter feed rather frustrating.

Wait, I'd just assumed that was the point of Twitter.


Lachlan.

Tony Morris

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Feb 5, 2018, 10:13:54 PM2/5/18
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Google group or IRC. The others listed are very annoying.

imo

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Toby Corkindale

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Feb 5, 2018, 10:20:25 PM2/5/18
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On Wed, 31 Jan 2018 at 13:08 Ken Scambler <ken.sc...@gmail.com> wrote:
Hey folks, 

I'd like to sound out your opinions on how we can best communicate with each other in our community. We currently have 4 means of contact:

- Meetup.com (419 members)
- Slack (102 members)
- Google group (284 members)
- Twitter (136 followers)


My opinions:
Google Groups seems like the best place for longer-form discussions, and it's easy to search to look for topics that have come up  before.

Slack is nice for quick discussions.

Are the extra Meetup members (all 140 of them) actually active in discussions on the Meetup forums? (I don't log in to check. Maybe I'm missing out on a lot)

-Toby

Ben Hutchison

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Jul 9, 2018, 9:03:35 PM7/9/18
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Resurrecting this thread because two recent events leave me unsure we've reached a resolution:

1. At the last meetup, a couple of people mentioned to me that they'd missed the last few meetups due to being unaware that they were on!  These were long time members who'd been subscribed since the times when all meetups were announced on the google group channel. When we stopped sending notification to this channel, they missed meetups for several months, until they went to investigate what had happened to the meetup.

2. I recently had need to do weighted random sampling and went googling for the current best scala solution. That led me to this SO answer [https://stackoverflow.com/a/24869305/214185] and, lo and behold, it was based on Andrew Conway's solution from a 2012 Melbourne Scala thread [https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/scala-melb/ZYzGz-xJxQI].

The point is that, as a publicly available and searchable forum, this Google group has more influence and long term potential benefit to the world than a closed, invite-only chat room. This is an example of how this can happen.


On reflection, Im not sure the Slack channel experiment has been a overall win. While we've gained the slack UI niceties, we've lost search indexing and anonymous browsing of the archives, we've split our user community to some degree, and we're still dependent on people discovering a non-obvious self-signup app to get in Slack's front-door [https://scalamelb-slack.herokuapp.com/].

Can we somehow have our cake and eat it?

-Ben

Tony Morris

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Jul 9, 2018, 9:07:48 PM7/9/18
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FWIW, the Brisbane FP Group has had an active IRC channel since 2009. It works well.

Slack tends to exclude quite a lot of people, especially now that the IRC bridge has been turned off. I know the Canberra FP group (more recently) uses slack, but since many of us are unable to use slack, I am unaware of its status.

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Jem

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Jul 9, 2018, 9:23:28 PM7/9/18
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One other thing to consider: not every message makes sense to be public and forever searchable.

Ishaaq Chandy

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Jul 10, 2018, 1:08:05 AM7/10/18
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I am no longer in Melbourne and so not on the Slack channel, but my 2c has always been to prefer the google group, but again, since I am not in Melbourne and only a lurker at best, you should really ignore my vote.

However, that's not the real reason I am replying to this thread. The real reason is - you mentioned weighted random sampling Ben, and that's a problem area I had to deal with a few years ago and I implemented the mechanism outlined in this paper [1]. It's a beautifully simple and elegant solution that gives you k weighted random samples from an unbounded data stream (i.e. you don't know the size of the data set apriori) in a single pass using reservoir sampling. The actual implementation is disarmingly short but you need a bit of math to figure out why it works - unfortunately, the paper is light on proofs - but you can find the proof with Google (or figure it out yourself if you know how).

Toby Corkindale

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Jul 10, 2018, 3:28:33 AM7/10/18
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On Wed, 31 Jan 2018 at 13:08 Ken Scambler <ken.sc...@gmail.com> wrote:
I don't really know what to do about it, so I'm casting for ideas. Did you know about all these channels? Which do you prefer to frequent? Which would you be happy to lose? Do you feel that you have a place to comfortably ask questions and learn? Can we safely announce meetings just on Meetup?


I think Meetup is the best place for announcing meetings, but I'd love it if longer-form discussions were directed to the Google Group.

I don't manage to keep up with discussions on Slack (I already have far too many Slack groups, and fail to keep up with most) -- but google-group discussions used to work well -- there weren't too many, and the content was mostly interesting.

-Toby

Travis Dixon

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Jul 10, 2018, 5:54:30 PM7/10/18
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It's unfortunate that a few people missed out for a while, but it sounds like that was resolved and meetup.com for meetups is something we can all agree with?


FWIW I've also lost my initial infatuation with slack.  There's some value to it, but no more than IRC and its value is lowered by the closed protocol.  For work I now use whatever proprietary messaging stack the employers use (stride, teams & slack all have feature parity) outside of work my preference is open protocols (typically IRC, though I'm interested in trying https://rocket.chat/) as it gives me a wider choice of client



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Ben Hutchison

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Jul 10, 2018, 8:02:32 PM7/10/18
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Hi Ishaaq!

IIUC, the paper you linked tackles the harder problem of weighted random sampling /without replacement/, where the sampling process is a stateful trajectory in which prior samples change future sample probabilities?

I was seeking the simpler with-replacement problem, where each sample is stateless. 

-Ben

Ishaaq Chandy

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Jul 11, 2018, 12:33:54 AM7/11/18
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Hey Ben,
Yes, this is without-replacement on an unbounded data-stream, so if you absolutely need with-replacement then, yes, this won't help you - look up Walker's Alias method for that.

Yet, the beauty of this approach is very simple to implement - much simpler than the Alias method. You basically need a for loop, a random number generator, and a min-Heap.  Incredibly, even though it is without-replacement the probability computation of an entry is independent of the probabilities computed for the previous entries. If you want to make k selections out of a data-stream of size n, the time complexity is O(n log k) and the space complexity is simply k - the selected entries in the min-Heap.

Ishaaq

Andrew Conway

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Jul 11, 2018, 1:13:18 AM7/11/18
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As one of the clueless people who missed out for a while, and then
realised, I think having the meetings just listed on meetup is
harmless; I know to regularly check now (meetup used to send me email
about new meetings, but stopped about the same time messages stopped
coming over the google group).

Presumably this discussion will inform other clueless people like me.

The main response on the email list seems to be that people on the
email list often don't use slack (I rarely use it). I presume the
people on the slack group would tend to have a different opinion
though.

Regards,

Andrew.

Jem

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Jul 25, 2018, 12:31:23 AM7/25/18
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Given our slack has only ~100 members, it might make sense to migrate members to the view-source #scala channel and retire our group.

View-source is an Aussie tech focussed slack group. Most members are Australian and Melbournites seem to be disproportionally highly represented. The #scala channel there has 14 members and nil traffic, so it could be a good way to promote Scala within Australian tech scene - getting more voices in and not losing the ability to use slack for less formal correspondence.  

With such a change I'd be in favour of moving the group's core comms back to google groups.

Having said all that, I've not been in Melbs for 3 years now so I should also join the ranks of the silent. (probably not going to happen).



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