Forum OpenACS Q&A: Response to Can we have a new web/db forum?

Posted by Michael Feldstein on
I'm not clear on exactly why there is a need for another web/db
board. There already exists a web/db board in which, as far as I
can tell, people can pretty much post anything reasonable (and
quite a bit that's not so reasonable) without fear of censorship by
the board's sponsors. OK, so some members of the community
have issues with some of the directions that aD has taken. How
is that relevant? Web/db is a community service provided by aD,
and all they get in return, really, is credit for hosting the
conversation. What's the problem? I'm not opposed to the idea in
principle; I just don't yet see what it accomplishes other than
snubbing aD (which, if that is the purpose rather than merely a
consequence, strikes me as neither smart nor gracious).

As for the non-techie board, speaking as a non-techie, I see
some potential value, but only if we have a better idea of just
what kind of meetings of the minds we expect to happen there. Is
this an "ask the expert" corner? If so, that's valuable but will
probably get relatively limited traffic (which is OK, as long as
somebody keeps those email alerts turned on). If we're
expecting non-techies to use that forum to express ideas about
what they want from the toolkit and the community, well, I think
that's going to take a lot of time and effort--well beyond simply
turning on a bboard--to achieve. (Note that I think it is absolutely
worth that time and effort; I just want to be sure we know what we
need to do in order to be successful.) To begin with, you need to
educate those non-techies enough so that they can ask
intelligent questions and pose intelligent suggestions. Speaking
as one who has scaled (and is still scaling) that learning curve, I
can tell you it doesn't happen overnight. Also, I'm not entirely sure
that having that conversation happen in a segregated board,
separate from, say, OpenACS development main conversations
is the best way to go. It *might* work, but I think it's a crap shoot.

There are some first steps we could take that might help clarify
this issue:

- Create a "non-techie" post category on the main OpenACS
board. We underutilize the categories, IMHO.

- Write up a page that constitutes the community's official
welcome and invitation to non-techies. Post it on the front page
of the web site. Be sure to articulate the *mutual* benefits of

- Start a non-techie FAQ. Allow members of the community to
submit questions. Actively maintain the FAQ. (I would be willing
to be the primary maintainer, although I'd need to solicit some of
the answers from people who actually know what they're talking

If you start seeing a ramp-up in non-techie participation based
on these measures, then engage them (us) in a conversation
about next steps.