Since this project started we’ve used mailing lists such as our Discuss list to talk about Growstuff-the-project. Discuss is a place for developers, testers, and volunteer contributors of all stripes to chat to each other and keep the project moving forward.
Unfortunately, mailing lists have a lot of problems. For instance, you have to commit to being a member — going through a multi-step signup process, which isn’t the most user-friendly — to be part of it at all. For another, members sometimes find the flow of email too much and switch to “digest” mode, but then have trouble replying to particular threads they’re interested in. And the archives are far from friendly, and it’s hard to link to a thread and ask someone to contribute.
On the plus side, everyone has email, it works on everything from desktops to phones, and there are lots of tools to manage your email (for instance by filing messages into folders automatically) if you know how to use them. Email lists have a long history in the open source community, and many open source developers prefer them.
Growstuff wants to encourage everyone to get involved in how the site is built. We want you all to be able to suggest features, report bugs, improve our data, use our API, help with testing, and have a say in how our community is run. Some of us feel like mailing lists are hindering this goal.
Around the time we started, there was a brand new project also starting, called Discourse which aimed to replace antiquated web forums and mailing lists with something more modern and engaging. One of our community suggested we use it for discussing Growstuff, or even integrate Discourse into Growstuff itself, but the time wasn’t right for that, as it was too new and untried. Now Discourse has released Discourse 1.0 and it’s stable and full-featured enough for us to revisit it.
I’ve set up a trial Discourse installation called Growstuff Talk. You’re invited to come and look and see if this is a platform you’d like to use to participate in the Growstuff volunteer community.
Here are some of the features of Growstuff Talk:
- New and active conversations are right on the front page.
- Anyone can browse and read topics, and see what the Growstuff community is doing to build our site, our data, and our community.
- To participate, you can sign in with Twitter, Facebook, or various other options.
- It’s easy to link to individual conversations, or to categories of conversations, and share them with others who might be interested.
- If you like email, you can choose to get email notifications of new topics, and reply to topics by email as well — you can do almost anything from within your existing email client.
- For our coders, there’s syntax highlighting, which makes pasted source code easier to read.
- It works great on your phone or or other mobile device, too.
Read more about Discourse’s features on the Discourse website.
We have a one week free trial, so we’ll be playing with Discourse until next Thursday, September 4th. After that we’ll decide whether to continue to pay for a hosted Discourse server (it’s not much, but it’s silly to pay for it if we don’t like it.)
Please join us over the next week, try out Growstuff Talk, and let us know what you think!