I’m going to call on your expertise again to help me think through an issue for the Drupal.org redesign. This time we’re thinking about community.drupal.org, which is theoretically the community ‘hub’ of drupal.org.
At the time I proposed it, I imagined it being a place where both Groups and Forums would live and potentially also Planet Drupal and other community type ‘stuff’. Now that we’re starting to get into prototyping (yes, you’ll see it very soon!), the devil, of course, emerges in the detail…
The major part of Forums is – at least to my eyes – support. That being the case, putting it under a ‘Community’ label is not the clearest way to direct people to this support.
Other (apparently less important) content in the forums includes News & Announcements, General Discussion, Drupal Showcase, Events and Paid Drupal Services. Now, short of ‘General Discussion’ each of these other items have natural homes in the proposed new IA.
I’m also aware that there is a very active ‘groups’ section who have all manner of discussions going on (and, perhaps, quite a bit of duplication with forums?)
So, here is what I’m thinking… what if we pull forums apart a little. We *might* rename ‘Documentation’ to ‘Documentation & Support’ and include the support forum topics there. And we might retire the forum topics that are now duplicated in the main information architecture (paid services, news, events etc.). We might keep the ‘general discussion’ forum in Community, because it seems like a good idea to keep a nice ‘light weight’ place for all kinds of topics to be discussed, but the bulk of the Communities section would be groups.
The more we work on this project, the more obvious it becomes that Drupal.org is, in its entirety, a community site – so in our context, what does a ‘community’ section mean? I’m thinking that it means a place where the *topic* is more about the Drupal Community than it is the about the Drupal Project. But also that we want to intertwine these two much more than they are at the moment, so contextual linking is also going to be important.
How does that all sound to you?
16 thoughts on “Drupal.org – what makes up Drupal.org Community?”
Right. During the card sort, I said the forums should be killed entirely, and they should be split up and handled “closer” to where the action is. Support belongs in the issue queues. Jobs/services belongs in the jobs/services area, developer discussion belongs in the per-project (or per-topic) developer group, etc. Case studies, news, announcements about “big” Drupal-related events, etc, belong in the “News” subsection of the main site (as per your initial thoughts on the IA post). Well, maybe not case studies. Those are sort of a weird mix of news (“so and so just launched” and documentation (“here’s the combo of modules we used to make all this work and how they’re all glued together”), so those might need some more thought on the best home for them.
“We *might* rename â€˜Documentationâ€™ to â€˜Documentation & Supportâ€™ and include the support forum topics there.”
I might warm up to this idea, but my initial reaction is “eeek!”. I know end users like to be able to read docs and comment on them to ask for support, but that’s a recipe for cluttered docs and unanswered questions, since there’s no easy way for developers to find all these support-related questions on the docs. It’d be great if the bottom of each document had a few links for where to submit an issue if that particular document didn’t answer their question or they’re still confused, etc. On project-specific docs (which should live off the project pages, IMHO), those links point directly to the issue queue for that project to create a new support issue. On more general docs and stuff about core, there could perhaps be a field on the document page for editors to specify where the support issues should go. Just thinking “out loud” on this part…
thanks for your feedback Derek – that’s v helpful.
Just to be clear, I didn’t mean to suggest that the ‘support’ forums would be split up so that you would have a forum for each document etc. I was thinking more that you’d grab the ‘support’ section of the forums with all of it’s existing topics and just move it, wholesale, under the heading of Documentation and Support. You could just as easily just have another section entirely called ‘Support’ but I wasn’t sure that was warranted.
We’re referring to the tool instead of it’s purpose. This is inherently unfriendly to newbs and confusing when the same tool is used for multiple purposes. Forums are tools, but what matters is not what it is, but what is is supposed to do. So we have forums that do support and we have forums that do community discussion, then your suggestion of breaking them up seems like the clear winner. Yeah!
When the tool box only has one hammer, asking for “the hammer” makes sense, but when the toolbox contain’s six, you better ask for the framing hammer or you’ll get a ball-peen hammer. Annoying!
I think Drupal “Community” needs to be divided into three main categories:
1. Drupal Developers – forums and discussion tools for improving core files, usability, develop modules, discuss best practices and the like.
2. Drupal Themers – forums and discussion tools for creating new themes, managing template files and best practices/tutorials for handling layout/styling.
3. Drupal Users – *support* forums and discussion tools for customizing Drupal – using the interface, installation tips, everything not included in theming or developing/actual coding or styling.
Just a brief comment: There are lots of different groups at gdo, and only some of them are clearly Community: Groups like http://groups.drupal.org/drupalchix, http://groups.drupal.org/drupal-for-evil, and local groups like http://groups.drupal.org/arizona-state-university and http://groups.drupal.org/romania . Others are clearly working groups, like http://groups.drupal.org/cck and http://groups.drupal.org/translations. And some are probably a bit of both, like http://groups.drupal.org/churches and http://groups.drupal.org/art-music
I think Derek (first comment) has some great points.
When I think drupal community, I think I place I can go to talk about drupal and related topics, like happens in #drupal, where the question is how you would approach something, which usually encourages conversation and different points of view.
When I think support, I think a place where people will ask how-to do something and what a set of instructions to make it happen like happens in #drupal-support.
OH – the “Documentation & Support” heading makes a lot of sense to me.
I agree with Derek that forums need to die. Badly.
The only reason they exist right now is because submitting a support request for the right project is not intuitive enough and so many new folk ask in the forums instead (and only rarely get a response). I think that if we fix this they are no longer necessary – as Derek notes, all the forum stuff already fits into other places already (groups, job lists etc), and so is really duplicate.
My initial reaction to “Documentation and Support” is the same as dww’s. I see those as two fundamentally different things.
Documentation is static, one-way communication. It’s not interactive.
Support is interactive, dynamic, use-case-specific interaction with another person.
Those are both subsets of the more generic “Help”, I suppose, but I don’t know how that would fit into an IA. The last place I want users asking for support on some bit of code I’ve written is in the handbook pages for it.
Now, a dead-simple way to get from documentation to the right place to submit support, that would be very useful.
I actually really like the suggestion at http://groups.drupal.org/node/15295, which basically creates a built-in working group for every module (perhaps only if the module maintainer enables it?). Other working groups can live outside of projects per se. However, that’s me speaking as a developer who hates hates hates forums in all incarnations. :-) I honestly can’t recall the last time I even went into the forums on d.o. Issue queue and IRC are where I live.
That doesn’t mean a new user to Drupal would grok the module/project-centric workflow that developers may want, though. They’re more likely, I’d imagine, to see Drupal as a single entity first rather than as a collection of semi-autonomous entities working in concert like a beehive. (Your research may say differently; I don’t know.)
I’m not entirely sure how to reconcile those two seemingly opposed workflow models. That’s what we hired you for. :-)
I also would ideally like to see the forums retired completely.
A tiny minority of Drupal developers use the forums, those who do are generally moderating rather than participating for their own sake. This means that people asking questions often don’t get answers, because the forum postings don’t really get filtered into module issue queues, developers miss out on valuable feedback/bug reports about modules.
At the moment they encapsulate a real split between the ‘insider’ and ‘outsider’ groups identified earlier in the IA research – with insiders spending all their time on groups, #drupal, issue queues and the mailing lists. The split is around knowledge of the Drupal community rather than any particular specialism, and both groups lose out due to this split.
The forums also have a lot of trolling/human-spamming – and while there are volunteers moderating them, IMO it’s partly due to the overall neglect from the Drupal community at large that they’re such a target. I personally stopped posting on the forums regularly within a month or two of working out how the issue queues worked, because there was no need, and every time I look at them it’s usually a dispute linked from the webmasters queue.
Some of the duplication between forums and groups has been dealt with to an extent – i.e. the ‘deprecated’ section for abandoned forums which have effectively moved to groups: http://drupal.org/forum/115 – so the precedent is for moving away from forums for any kind of working group or announcements. I’d expect to see news etc. moved to content types on drupal.org or another subdomain and split from the forums entirely as part of the redesign as well. To a large extent, ‘paid services’ duplicates groups.drupal.org/jobs, etc. etc.
On a quick glance at the support forum, I reckon that around 80% of questions would have been better asked (and often already answered) in a module’s issue queue. The ‘projects as organic groups’ discussion linked above would likely help a lot of users to make that leap.
However, I think there’s an identifiable percent which probably doesn’t have a home if we do this – support questions about Drupal in general, people looking to install who want some advice, non-module/theme support like ‘which module should I use’ or ‘how would I do this’ or ‘how can I do this on x hosting provider’. If we want to kill the forums entirely, then we need somewhere welcoming and friendly for those questions to live.
So for me, I’d love to get rid of them, as long as we can bridge the gap for complete newbies – for whom (or for me at least) the obvious place to look when you’re trying to get help/information about a project you’ve just started using is the forums – that’s how I began interacting with the Drupal community (including people who helped me out in the forums and I now ‘work’ with). It’s also the model for other projects like Ubuntu – but again, not necessarily a good model.
If we don’t have forums, we need to make it really easy for people to find all the other places where they can participate and get help. However, if that can be dealt with, then it’ll be much better to have a flourishing community.drupal.org – with no actual ‘forum module’, than an increasingly narrow and barren drupal.org/forum which is currently unrepresentative of the Drupal community in general, and in large part dis-functional.
The size of the “community” for me is making it hard to maintain a sense of community online. As time goes on I feel like I need direct methods like IRC, or concrete interactions like the issue queue focused on one goal, or in-person interactions become more important.
I think the number of forums maybe needs to be cut down and what they are for needs to be really clarified. Documentation and support should not be mixed – they are really separate! Good nuggets from the support forum can be incorporated into the documentation. Clearly, there are edge cases where there it will still be useful for people to search the forums, but that should be a last resort compared to the docs and issue queue.
Of course, trying to use the issue queue myself, I shudder at the notion of more people coming into the issue queue hoping to find fixes for their configuration issues. Maybe that’s anti-community, but… it’s frustrating to try to help newbies who are totally flailing and yet have not taken the time to spend a few hours reading docs. How do we make clear some set of minimum doc you should read so that you can post meaningful support questions?
Those people talking about “killing” the forums I think are being overly simplistic about things. Not surprising, since they’re almost all developers who stick to the issue queues and don’t help out in the forums. ;) I’d prefer to see input from people like Michelle, Very Misunderstood, and wolfflow on this point.
The forums are filled with support requests like the following:
“I just got hit with a new project, and I’m wondering if Drupal is a good fit. The website will need event calendars, document management, and private content. It will also need a social networking component, where people can add each other as friends, and tag their profiles. Also, ponies.”
What issue queue, pray-tell, does this belong in? By my count, at least 10 of them. So it’ll probably end up in the Drupal core queue. The Drupal core queue already has 5,200+ issues in it. It’s where *developers* are actively trying to blast through features and bug fixes. An issue queue is NOT a support tool: it’s a tool for getting stuff done.
Furthermore, because bug trackers are traditionally a developer tool, most end users are frightened to death of them and stay away. Forums, on the other hand, are ubiquitous. Everyone knows how to use a forum. They lend themselves well to open-ended discussions and brainstorming. This is where all of us “got to know” our fellow community members before we found the issue queues and started to tool around in there. They also don’t e-mail some poor maintainer on every reply.
I don’t argue that there is community segmentation, and that “outsiders” primarily stay on the forums and “insiders” primarily stay on the issue queues. I also don’t argue that users don’t get optimal support they need, because module developers only follow their issue queues and will never see problems posted about their modules in the forums. I also don’t argue that one of the nice things about issue queues is the ability to mark something as “fixed” when it’s been taken care of, something we can’t currently do with our forum posts.
But all of this is stuff that can easily be improved by re-thinking the overall page and site design so that information flows to the correct places. Which is the whole point of this process, hm? :)
I’m all for finding better ways to handle announcements, paid services, and hosting. But I think removing the support forums would be a grave mistake.
If we got rid of the forums as such, then clearly we’d need a place for questions about ponies.
I’m not gung-ho about making all users jump towards the issue queue (although it’s clear that quite a lot should, and could – but don’t because we have a catch all ‘support’ forum area – even for module development). But when you take out news, site showcases, plus all the stuff that’s already migrated to groups etc. then questions about ponies is pretty much going to be all that’s left.
(for non-drupallers, “I want a pony” is our catch-all term for ‘support or feature requests from completely new uses who’ve done zero research and which are almost impossible to answer’).
I’d rather see us move towards something like Yahoo! Answers or Get Satisfaction (the latter introduced to me by Leisa this evening). Both offer community models for support, but are pretty far away from the forum format.
As well, if projects became groups, then I don’t think it’d be such a huge issue if people posted support questions in the core ‘discussion group’ – at least genuine bug reports for core or modules could be re-assigned easily, and with a greater mix of people reading it, it’d be more likely that various types of users could help each other. As long as people can still subscribe just to issues in groups as opposed to issues + discussions.
Also, just to be clear, I do help out in the forums, only about once or twice a month though. I also regularly look at postings in Paid Services due to the spamming issue, maybe a couple of times a week. In both cases usually I feel like any information or work I’m going do is going to be lost in a big black hole – because the ‘duplicate forum post’ (not to mention the re-registering banned user problem) problem is a massive problem, which any kind of forum format doesn’t do much to reduce.
I personally think that “Community” is too vague from a usability standpoint. I agree with Derek about putting the individual forums “‘closer’ to where the action is.” The task of breaking all the existing content out and moving it between potentially several different server bases, et cetera, makes me shudder in fear, but in a perfect world, if you are in need of module documentation and support, those things would all be in close proximity to one another… Conversely, it is also nice to have “one stop shopping” and find all the forums in place. I’m torn, I suppose.. I think what I’m getting at is multiple paths to the content you are potentially looking for makes the most sense for usability.
Maybe we’re thinking too much in the way things are currently done on d.o. Drupal has so many ways to deal with different types of users and different types of content. Let’s make use of that as it has been proposed with the groups for prejects.
Forums are in most cases the entrypoint for total newbies. Having something like a forum will give them a sense of “drupal cares for my basic needs”. I thinks an entrypoint where one can ask the most basic questions is needed if we as a community want the entrybarrier as low as possible.
For anything more specific, people should be able to ask for help where it is appropriate. So if someone has a question about a module – there should be a way to tie that to where the module is. But as mentioned, the issue cue is probably too intimidating – it’s where the pros hang out. As a new user I’d never use it. But if there was a “get help” button there, that would help. Same for “propose new feature” or “file bug report”. I know that can be done now, but it’s tied into this developer tool that many are afraid to use. Also a link to the appropriate section in the handbook would be handy there.
That leaves the group of questions that aren’t tied to a specific module, like how do a build a gallery site, or how do I build a DIGG clone…
Most of these are probably covered in the handbook seqtion, so links to the handbook or a handbook specific search should be the first thing newbies should get redirected to.
Where do people turn to when they can’t find help there? Maybe that’s where a Yahoo Q&A style thing would be the answer.
In general I think new users have a hard time finding information on d.o and therefor ask stupid questions in the forums. guiding the to appropriate places and offering specific help would save them and the pros a lot of frustration.
I spend a significant amount of time in the forums providing assistance– many times even attempting to answer the questions about ponies, lol.
I have basically 3 comments. First, I shudder to think what will become of the issue queues if the forums are removed as the first line of defense. Whether by design or not, it seems that by the time people find the issues queues they’ve somewhat learned how to formulate a request for assistance in a manner that enables someone to actually provide it. By and large, it seems not too many pony questions make it there.
Second, I definitely think the number of forums can be much reduced. I like what another commenter suggested– user, developer, themer. I find myself replying to forum threads via ‘Recent posts’ instead of through the actual forum containers– therefore i make no distinction based on those containers. I just wish there was some way to remove the issues from that listing and order them by age and number of replies. I think it would also be useful if threads had a status (open, resolved, etc). It’s also probably worthwhile to note that many times users don’t seem to pay any attention to the containers either.
And finally, with all this talk of splitting up the community I would just suggest some caution so as not to make it difficult to find information. I know that sounds odd since most people detest d.o search, but once you learn the black magic and incantations required to search it effectively, it’s actually pretty effective– and it’s a one stop shop. I’d hate to lose that. IMO splitting that up across other apps like yahoo answers or get satisfaction would be a mistake.
Another minor point, there should be an easy way to search handbook pages separate from the rest of the content like the “search downloads” box for modules.
Also, keep in mind there will always be questions about ponies– if the design isn’t really careful and clever about trying to herd them into the proper place they’ll end up everywhere. That’s actually true about everything. There needs to be a really big and clear navigation block that leads to the different places we want them to go– ie “Problems with a specific module? (leads to issue queues)”, “Looking for a module? (leads to module search)”, “Just getting started? (leads to getting started docs & videos)”, “Looking for the user guide? (leads to handbook search)”, “Looking for developer info? (leads to developer doc search)”, “Looking for Theming info? (leads to theme doc search)”, etc. It should be big, colorful, obvious, and enticing (complete with icons). People are lazy but if we funnel them to click in the right place with the first click chances are better that they will.
I posted something similar in the forum a few weeks ago, but reposting since I don’t think the comments here are representative of the peeps who use the forum.
1. Existing categories are ambiguous.
Post-Installation could in theory be an umbrella for ALL questions after you’ve installed Drupal. Module Development? Users are making little helper modules for their sites all the time but the questions they ask usually relate to specific APIs, PHP, SQL etc. Why not have sections for these? Similarly, Theme Development would be better broken up into Themes (for the full thing like Zen), Theming (Qs relating to template files and preprocess stuff) , CSS, Forms, jQuery, etc. I think the number of categories could be nutted out to be no more than the existing twelve. It would be up to forum moderators to make sure posts were categorised correctly and move things to the right places.
2. Modules should have their own mini-forum.
Due to the thousands of modules, each module would not need to have their section appear on the /forum landing page, but posts could be tagged by ‘Project Name Forum’ rather than the current ‘Forum’. Users could then see all forum questions relating to a particular module by clicking that link. And that link (and last five posts) could obviously be put on the module page. That would encourage users to ask general support questions in the forum rather than the issue queue, which developers could claim back as the rightful place to report bugs, feature requests, field more complex Qs etc. Developers could move inappropriate Qs in their issue queue out into the module’s ‘forum’ for the community to help out with or move stuff in.
In short, the forum is an integral part of the Drupal community which must stay. It just needs better discrete categories and a little moderation.
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