Thanks for creating such a great space for neuroscience discussions !
Recently, I have noticed a few pain points in the site moderation. I think addressing these will significantly improve the experience of using the site, both for those posting as well as those answering questions. Specifically, there are two major areas where I think we could make small changes that will significantly change the overall experience.
Better discourage long discussions that are hard to search. Often, users will post with an initial question, but then hit additional, unrelated issues in their analysis that they post under the same thread. While this is an economical approach for the user, it comes at a high overall cost to the community. In particular, longer threads are harder to search for subsequent users and cause significant strain to those who are trying to answer a substantially evolving set of questions. Discourse has tools in place to address this tendency, but these tools must be deployed manually. My suggestion would be to promote several of the more active community members (perhaps as measured by badges) to leader status, which would allow community members—who are themselves often involved in these threads—to streamline discussions. They would also then be able to re-tag posts as necessary to include the actual tags used in the discussion, rather than the ones the user had initially suggested when creating the post.
Improve board- and tag-specific content structure. As a platform, Discourse includes significant functionality for pre-populating new posts. For example, new posts in individual boards can adopt a set Topic Template, similar to a GitHub issue template. In particular, for the NeuroQuestion category, such a topic template could significantly reduce the initial back-and-forth that developers and users walk through, asking for the specific software used and the versions of the software, for example. There is also the possibility of improving the structure of our tagging system; for example, by adding parent-child tag relationships. This could significantly improve routing within development teams and allow teams to better track user requests.
I’m tagging in a few folks that I’ve had initial discussions with this on : @tsalo@Steven@bthirion@satra. I’d love to hear your feedback on these ideas, or if you think it would be possible to put them into action ! The #nilearn core development team has discussed them internally, and we’d be in favor of these improvements. Please let us know what you think.
I think this is great. Would it also be possible for these “leaders” to change the title of posts? I think that could be very helpful, as some post titles may be uninformative or may not actually relate to the underlying problem (revealed after debugging).
Strong proponent for this too!
Other issues I see (not sure how to best address them, will edit post if I think of more):
Post creators not marking solutions on threads.
Duplicate questions, or questions that are explicitly answered in the software documentation.
thank you very much for brining this up and your work on this @emdupre (et al.).
I agree with all points made and those added by @Steven. Besides the outlined benefits, I think it would additionally help with “onboarding” new community members making it easier for them to get a hang of things. It would greatly improve the experience for everyone here.
Also throwing in my agreement with all points made above. I’m going to hijack this thread somewhat, although if I’m going too far off-topic let me know and I’ll split it into a new thread.
It seems that leaders can only be made by moderators or admins, and moderators can only be made by admins. While the permission structure is overall sensible, the academic career pattern seems to work at odds with community maintenance. I think it’s safe to say that people are most active as grad students, have a period of ebbing and flowing attention, and eventually fall off due to other demands on their time. I think it’s fair to say they’ve done their bit and it’s good and normal for people to drift away, but if the admin pool is full of people who no longer have time to monitor who should be made a moderator, and the mod pool full of people who aren’t observing who should be made a leader, we’ll end up with dysfunction despite how active the community is.
It would be good to have some way to bootstrap our way back to a functioning privileged user pool when things inevitably are allowed to drift for a while. I would propose threads or boards where leaders can nominate new leaders and moderators can nominate new moderators. A moderator or admin, respectively, should be able to review the requests summarily to ensure there isn’t anything odd going on and then just enact the promotion.
I think this can partially be addressed through a Topic Template (i.e., an HTML admonition reminding users to look at the software documentation before posting a software-related question) and partially addressed through more explicit onboarding documentation pushed to new users through Discobot. For example, here is the welcome message I received when I joined (way back in 2017, though it looks like this closely matches more recent Discobot default messaging !).
To @PeerHerholz 's point : I absolutely agree that both onboard docs and these more active moderation techniques will help new community members orient to the platform—even if guidelines on e.g. concentrating threads to a single topic exist, if they are not enforced then it’s hard to realize their relevance for the community. I’m sure everyone wants to contribute productively, and having more active site moderation will significantly help in this respect !
To @effigies 's point about setting up a sustainable human infrastructure:
I absolutely agree that a system to keep these privileged user pools active is important, and perhaps the largest sticking point for developing a sustainable infrastructure as these structural changes are addressed.
I like the idea for folks to be able to invite new moderators or leaders. Do you think it would make sense to track, too, who has recently received high interaction badges, such as Thank You and Gives Back ?
Thanks for the great suggestions. As a first step, since you are very active with Neurostars, you have given the moderator status. If there are more suggestions from the community we could add them as leaders/moderators in the future.
Regarding the Topic template, if you have some suggestions please let us know, we could review them and implement it. If you would like to discuss the specifics, you can send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Once again thanks for the suggestions to improve Neurostars!
I appreciate the faith in my moderation abilities (), but I think it would likely make sense to engage more people in this effort. In line with the points @effigies raised above, this level of “social infrastructure” will really be critical in making sure that these suggested improvements are fully implemented.
To that end, I’ll suggest that we go ahead and elevate all 38 users with the Thank You badge to “Leader” status. It would also be great to contact everyone with this new status and explain the role to them, and encourage them to directly engage in these discussions on moderation and content structure. Does this seem reasonable to everyone ?
If so, maybe we could have a public discussion on the Topic Template content for NeuroQuestions in a new thread here in Site Feedback. It would be especially useful to have their feedback there !
Let me know if you’d like me to first create the new thread on Topic Templates so we can include it in a Leader “welcome” message, or if you have any concerns.
The idea would be to focus on improvements that would make your experience better for answering questions / using NeuroStars as a persistent resource for already answered questions. Would love to hear your thoughts on the idea of Topic Templates (discussed in Topic Template for Neuro Questions) and on this idea of more aggressively moderating / splitting user questions that evolve towards multiple parts of an analysis pipeline, etc !
Following the proposed changes, I’ll only add something to the thread moderation hehe.
I was wondering if there could be a roadmap or something comparable that outlines when and how a thread will be split. This is basically motivated by creating an openly communicated and rather specific set of “rules” that might make it easier for everyone (users and moderators) and also increase fairness. However, I think this can only be so specific as quite often the distinction between different threads is going to be less precise. Sorry if I missed respective prior comments/efforts.
Hi @emdupre, thank you (and others) for lifting me to the leader status. The points you raise are important ones. Since I discovered Neurostars, I found a lot of information there, learnt a lot in the process, and it is a pleasure to help others also with what I learnt. I will be happy to help in anyway to improve the experience of using Neurostars. I agree very much with the idea of enforcing more the use of templates when new questions are asked. I recently discovered that the same questions were often asked by the “experts” at the beginning of a thread (at least for software related questions).
I am not familiar with the tag system, I will learn this aspect as well.