[GRASS-dev] Should we use GitHub Discussions?

Vaclav Petras wenzeslaus at gmail.com
Wed Jan 20 19:31:43 PST 2021

Let me finally write some arguments for GitHub Discussions.

First of all, I think it is a tradeoff, so I agree that the issues here are
valid, at least to a point. My question now is if it is worth enabling
GitHub Discussions anyway.

As I mentioned earlier, people are asking for a web-based solution (see
e.g. post from November on grass-user [1]). I think emails (and mailing
lists) are awesome, but mailing lists are increasingly seen as archaic and
not accessible. Nabble does not seem to cut it and it was even demoted on
the mailing list for its link instability (which I think is a concern). It
seems that if the Nabble situation would be fixable, it would be fixed
already. Signup to receive all emails for a specific mailing list before
posting a question is a big commitment, especially when people are using
multiple software packages or are just trying out GRASS GIS. Is it clear to
everybody they need to sign up before posting anyway? When you are already
committed to GRASS GIS, they might not show stoppers, but when you are not,
they certainly can be. Conclusion: If we want even the uncommitted users to
ask questions, we need something which feels light, you already have an
account there, and it does not require you to manage email filtering.

There are already web-based forums, namely GIS StackExchange and
StackOverflow proper where GRASS-related questions are being asked. This
demonstrates the interest in the web-based Q&A platform, however when you
look at the posts there, you see that it does not work that great. First,
many of the original posts and consequently answers are actually not a good
fit for that kind of platform - often a back and forth discussion is
required. And perhaps more importantly, there are only a few GRASS power
users answering there compared to mailing lists and comparing to how many
people from the GRASS community have an account on GitHub. Conclusion: Even
if we don't direct users to a platform and support that platform, people
will use it anyway resulting in harm as questions are not properly answered.

GitHub Discussions is a good web-based forum for three reasons, 1) GitHub
is a platform we are already committed to, 2) devs, core+addon
contributors, and bug-reporting users all have an account there, 3) a lot
of potential users already have account there. The last point is especially
interesting because not only that a lot of code-aware GIS users or
scientists have an account there, but a lot of developers have an account
there and we are very very interested in attracting developers.
Developers/programmers need to combine multiple projects to create whatever
they are creating. Asking them to subscribe to a mailing list in order to
ask a question is exactly the reason why they will try their luck with
another project. Conclusion: To attract more users, especially those who
are developers, a GitHub-related service, such as GitHub Discussions, is
needed and we are already on GitHub.

As I mentioned in the initial post, I don't think enabling GitHub
Discussions means closing mailing lists. I think it is important we have
there is an option to ask a question, or even report a problem, without
signing up for a proprietary third party service (it is bad enough we more
or less require that for contributions). However, as there are people who
see GitHub Terms and Conditions or a web interface as a barrier to post a
question, there are people who see mailing list sign up for more inbox
traffic, emailing, or attachment limitations as a barrier. The commitment
needed for a mailing list, includes, perhaps surprisingly, an important
group to reach that is the developers.


[1] https://lists.osgeo.org/pipermail/grass-user/2020-November/081842.html

On Mon, Jan 18, 2021 at 8:41 AM Markus Neteler <neteler at osgeo.org> wrote:

> On Sun, Jan 17, 2021 at 6:35 PM Brendan <brendan.harmon at gmail.com> wrote:
> >
> > Could posts on the mailing list automatically be posted on GitHub
> Discussions and vice versa?  That's how the GRASS Nabble forums work right?
> Those look great.
> If that would work, perhaps yes.
> Otherwise I'm with Moritz and the others who see the risk of fragmentation
> etc.
> Markus
> _______________________________________________
> grass-dev mailing list
> grass-dev at lists.osgeo.org
> https://lists.osgeo.org/mailman/listinfo/grass-dev
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