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Q&A

Welcome to Codidact Meta!

Codidact Meta is the meta-discussion site for the Codidact community network and the Codidact software. Whether you have bug reports or feature requests, support questions or rule discussions that touch the whole network – this is the site for you.

Let's improve how we manage proposals for new communities

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Related: Incubator (takes all questions that aren't ontopic anywhere else) community


We currently use posts in the Site Proposals category to organize proposals for new communities on our network. Sometimes a community has come together quickly and this has worked really well, but most of the time it feels like we are not serving our potential new communities well.

We've known for a while that we need to improve how we do this, somehow. Specific problems we're trying to address:

  • Proposals don't allow for enough detail about scope.

  • The people who said they were interested at the beginning might not still be around or still be interested or actually have many questions to ask. There's no real building-out step between saying "I'm interested" and site launch. We need to help the community develop alongside the community scope.

  • Empty or inactive sites look bad.

  • Viable proposals are hindered by our current process, languishing because we don't have a good way to measure the right stuff. It's hard to have visible, useful discussion when a proposal consists of one question and its answers and comments.

We'd like to improve this, and I'd like to share what we're thinking about and get feedback before we proceed.

Yes, I recognize the irony of what I am about to do here. But I think this discussion belongs on main Meta Q&A.

A proposal for proposals

We need a space in which to develop proposals and proto-communities more fully. We propose a site for that. Think of it as an incubator. This would be a new site on our network, perhaps proposals.codidact.com, that would replace the Site Proposals category here on Meta. The new site would have three categories:

  • Site Descriptions: this is where proposals are "anchored". As with the current Site Proposals, there would be one post per prospective community. Unlike the current Site Proposals, these posts would -- via tags -- cross-reference posts in the other two categories for examples and discussion.

  • Incubator: this is a Q&A category that accepts questions for any current proposal. We think the best way to figure out if a proposed scope works is to try it out. Ask real questions, get real answers, see if people are interested, see what issues arise while doing that, and start working them out.[1]

  • Meta: this is for the usual meta stuff, plus meta questions about specific proposals.

All of these categories (yes, even Meta) will share a tag set, and we'll define topic tags for proposals. Topic tags are specially-formatted, so they can be distinguished from the regular tags. From a proposal description, you can easily see all the current Q&A in the incubator and all related meta discussions. The tag description for the topic tag could link directly to the proposal for expediency.

How does the incubator work?

From the user perspective, here's how this would work:

  • You still make a proposal (description) post with background and proposed scope. The posts in Site Descriptions use the Wiki type -- articles (not questions) that almost everybody can edit (for best collaboration). This post is the "current working draft" about the proposal, collaboratively developed by interested participants. If there are disagreements, use Meta, not edit wars.

  • You can ask questions in the Incubator category as if you were asking on the real site. You apply the topic tag(s) for the proposal(s) this question fits with. People can go ahead and answer, refine with edits or comments, and do all the other things people do to make content better.

  • Questions in the incubator must use at least one of the topic tags (more than one if the question fits multiple proposals). People following the incubator can use filters to exclude the topic tags for proposals they're not interested in.

  • To emphasize that it's an incubator not the proposed site, there's no reputation, and we'll set ability thresholds very low. Within some basic bounds, almost everybody can do almost everything. (Staff will moderate.) If practical, we'll keep the Incubator category out of Google's index.

  • You can ask questions about specific proposals on Meta.

Because a proposal consists, in large part, of its body of actual questions that people have asked and answered, I hope it will feel more dynamic and less stagnant. The best way to refine scope is with actual questions. Also, the best way to find out if there are people interested in participating is to try it out.

What happens when a community is ready to launch?

When there is consensus that a proposal is solid, we would create the community and also:

  • Move incubator Q&A with that topic tag to the new community (dropping the topic tag). The community starts with its existing material and looks "lived in". (If an incubator question fits more than one proposal, that'll be sorted out on Meta first.) If there are Meta posts that should move too, we'll do that.

  • Create user profiles on the new community for everybody the previous bullet touches, so we won't have any problems with attribution, null users, traceability, etc.

  • Add the "imported" tags, except for the topic tag, to the Q&A tag set on the new community. Create a normal meta with its default tag set.

  • Redirect incubator question URLs to the new community's URLs.

  • Ideally, send notifications or email to all involved users to announce the new community, in addition to posting about it on the network. (This will require code development so I can't promise it, but it's a hope.)

What happens if a community isn't viable?

If it becomes clear (yes I realize those are waffle words) that a proposal isn't working and if Meta discussion hasn't resolved the issues, a proposal can be closed:

  • The proposal post in Site Descriptions is closed by an administrator.

  • Incubator questions whose only topic tag is for this proposal are closed and archived: they are moved from the Incubator category to an Archive category that is not publicly visible. This means they remain available for auditing but are "out of the way". To be determined: who should be able to see these posts? Any logged-in user, or something more restrictive?

  • Meta questions for this proposal are closed. I don't think they should be archived with the Incubator Q&A, because these posts will probably touch on larger issues that are of interest to other proposals or future proposals in this topic area. Let's revisit this part when we have an actual example.

How do we maintain incubator quality?

The incubator, by its nature, will have questions on a wide variety of topics. This makes it harder for individuals to evaluate quality, and we'll be relying on the topic experts who are part of the proposal. I think we're still small enough to be able to work together in this way.

That said, sometimes it's obvious that a question is in need of work. We expect that questions with obvious problems will be closed quickly -- and reopened quickly if the problems are addressed.

The purpose of the incubator is to develop real Q&A by actual participants in the target community. Questions that are instead wholesale copies of questions from other sites will be closed and most likely deleted, especially if it looks like plagiarism. We don't want to collect questions that somebody on Reddit once asked; we want to collect "live" questions that people here care about. That doesn't mean you can't bring a question here that you've asked somewhere else, but we're looking for a new question that someone currently cares about and that takes into account what you've already learned.

A few nuts and bolts

We'll need to update all the places that talk about how to propose sites.

We'll need good guidance: category descriptions, the extra help shown to people who are not logged in, and probably some site-specific help.

When launching a community out of the incubator, we'll need to do a "pre-flight" check for a couple things. First, make sure posts to be migrated have only one topic tag and work with the community to resolve conflicts. Second, check that posts marked as duplicates link to posts that will also be migrated; we don't want links from launched communities back into the incubator.

After launch, we might need to do some tag cleanup on the new Meta (which no longer shares a tag set with Q&A).

Feedback?

We'd like to hear your thoughts, concerns, and further suggestions. Thank you!

This post has been updated to address concerns raised so far -- keep 'em coming.

Resolution

See Introducing proposals.codidact.com, a new way to add communities to our network. I expect we'll make adjustments as we use this more; feedback is always welcome.


  1. Somewhere Else, a proposal is accompanied by proposed question titles, but titles alone weren't enough for the communities I watched go through that process. Modifying the Site Proposals category to allow for potential question titles wouldn't solve the problem here either, in my opinion. ↩︎

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Quality, and being able to vote on any proposal (2 comments)

3 answers

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I love the idea and hope this new approach gets implemented very soon!

Some concerns:

  • I suppose that if a proposal does not take off immediately, most of them can just sit around and wait until a community forms. However there might be cases where it becomes clear that the type of questions might just not be a good fit for a Q&A site. I think there should be a possibility that proposals can be closed. After a discussion on meta, staff should have the ability to do this.

  • I like the idea that successful proposals will be able to take their questions with them to give them a nice starting point. I'm just a bit worried about what will stay behind. I fear that over time a growing number of not well received questions will accumulate. I think one needs to think about a cleanup mechanism.

  • How to avoid that the incubator gets flooded by copies of questions from reddit and other Q&A sites? How to avoid many sock accounts by the same user to make a proposal seem more active than it actually is?

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Updated (2 comments)
Could the migration tool also prune failed proposals? (3 comments)
Assuming good intentions plus moderators (5 comments)
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This is a step in the right direction, but I think the new system will still have a few problems:

  1. Mixing all the question for all the proposals together in a single category will be quite off-putting to asking questions. If someone is interested in underwater basket weaving, all the questions about elvish fantasy worlds will get in the way. Put another way, there will always be an exceptionally high drivel level for everyone.

    A separate category for the questions of each site might fix this.

  2. I'm not so sure about the wiki site definition. Who gets to decide what goes into the official description? There will be inevitable disagreements about what the site content should be. If you have a suggestion, you just edit it into the proposal? What about the next person that disagrees? Do they remove your edit and add their own?

    This process doesn't make sense. You end up with the last-written ideas, not a consensus.

    Each idea that deviates from the proposal as stated in the "question" should be in a separate "answer" so that it can be independently voted on. Eventually as a consensus emerges the site description can be edited. The terms "question" and "answer" don't really apply. They are more "site definition" and "proposed modification". However, note that other than the names, exactly the same software mechanisms apply.

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3 comment threads

Updated (1 comment)
Proposed modifications as answers versus Meta posts (2 comments)
Separate categories versus tags (3 comments)
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1. Limiting people who can create and vote on proposals

Besides everything, this is great. First, I suggest making a limit [1] for people who can propose proposals. [2] Because before suggesting new communities, you should already have a fair knowledge of interacting with Codidact communities, this will prove that you are capable of managing a successful community and to prevent proposals like this.

I can also suggest a limit [3] for people who vote on proposals not everyone should be able to vote, this will greatly prevent sockpuppets and proposals. Other than reputation, maybe gaining abilities like Edit Posts or higher across your network profile is also fair enough to give you the ability to vote. [4] I just want to make sure that people have spent a fair time here helping the community and know how to deal with it.

2. A large number of users

Besides all these limits, you shouldn't launch proposals with less than 50 users [5] who are willing to contribute. 9 or 10 people like what I've seen in proposals isn't great to launch a whole community, they're not superusers, just normal ones. So wait until the proposal has a lot of people who are willing to spend some time around. And don't focus on moderators. Focus on finding the right people and, eventually you will find people who are willing to moderate.

3. Accurately know the scope before the launch [6]

The scope should also be pre-defined (almost complete) accurately before launching the community. A great community is a community that knows who they are. Not being able to identify the scope accurately before launch indicates that this's not going to be a successful community.

4. Emailing people

Emailing people upon the launch of the community is necessary because life is busy and we can even forget that we wanted to participate in such a community also because proposals may take years before they're ready to launch.

5. Proposals duration

Personally, I don't mind if a successful proposal takes up to 10 years to launch better than a 2-year or less community that isn't successful.


  1. While reputation is not a metric for me but it's an indicator that you have some quality posts here. ↩︎

  2. I think 200 reputation (total reputation across all communities aka network profile) is a great, fair limit. Numbers are subject to change. ↩︎

  3. 50 reputation across your network profile is great enough. Again, numbers are subject to change, I'm just proposing the idea as a whole. But I find those numbers are pretty fair. ↩︎

  4. Or maybe creating a new ability called "Vote on Proposals" that once you gain can vote on any proposal, probably a combination of some quality posts and edits across the network. ↩︎

  5. Probably even more, I can't find any reason to launch a community with less than 50 users. ↩︎

  6. I'm writing this because I've saw posts in some communities that are still discussing their scope to this day while it's great to have discussions, something like scope should've been pretty known and defined before launch. ↩︎

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