Re: for developers

Hi All,

I think an instance would be a good idea overall, but there would be a couple of things to keep in mind. Before I get into it, though, I wanted to make point about forums and forum software. Jorge Castro from Canonical gave a talk at the recent Open Help Conference* about the Ubuntu Stack Exchange site, and one of the take-aways that I got from his talk is that forums are a technology that was developed for discussion, but that they were co-opted for user support. Jorge mentioned quite a few downsides to using forums for user support, but the one that stands out to me is that forum threads can get really long - to the point where a thread might be 64 pages, and the answer to your problem is on page 34.

I also took away that perhaps the most important thing about a any kind of ask.*.com site is that people who are knowledgeable about the particular topic actually use it. Jorge talked a lot about how he cajoles developers to answer particular questions out on the site. I'm not a developer, so I'm not sure how developers are getting their questions answered, but any site would compete with resources like the mailing lists, IRC and (from an end-user perspective) even sites like Google Plus and Facebook.

One way that we could mitigate this is to link to interesting questions on those outlets to the site. That is, have a post on G+ or facebook linking back to the site to seek out input from folks, or to highlight a particularly interesting or useful discussion. 

In terms of using Stack Exchange, I think they run a good service (there seemed to be agreement at the conference that SA sites have some neat features that just aren't available on an askbot-based site), but think it's in our best interests and in line with our values to use a non-proprietary service. Also, using our own service would allow us to license the content under our own terms. Stack Exchange sites do use CC-by-SA 3.0 licensing for their content (which is the same as our user documentation), but the attribution requirements are pretty stringent.  If we hosted our own instance, discussions and questions / answers from that site could be more seamlessly integrated into more complete documentation.

I think it's a good idea to at least give something like this a trial-run. Perhaps set up a test instance (kind of like our own Area-51) to see if there is interest in something like this.

Jim C

*Shaun McCance wins at conferences - it was a great event this year.

On Thu, Jun 20, 2013 at 12:53 PM, Jim Nelson <jim yorba org> wrote:
I'd like to toss in my two cents in support of a Stack Exchange-style GNOME developer site.  I think Stack Exchange is a proven winner for developers helping each other with technical problems.  Ask Ubuntu has gone over very well, and it strikes me that an Ask GNOME would be popular and useful.

I don't really like forums or mailing lists for technical questions -- they don't tend to be very searchable, and thus the same questions get asked again and again.  Stack Exchange's reputation and badge system encourages participation, with the highest quality answer "floating" to the top of the response list.  Threaded forums and mailing lists are simply not organized for these kinds of high-quality results.

I suspect it would be easy to suggest a GNOME Stack Exchange on Area 51 ( and get enough participation to keep it alive beyond the beta phase.  However, Stack Exchange is not open-source, so that may not be the best fit.

Ask Libre Office ( seems to has had good results with AskBot (, which is GPL 3 and can even be hosted on their servers for a fee.

As a GNOME developer, I would probably use such a service every day.

-- Jim

On Thu, Jun 20, 2013 at 9:31 AM, Sriram Ramkrishna <sri ramkrishna me> wrote:

On Thu, Jun 20, 2013 at 6:25 AM, meg ford <meg387 gmail com> wrote:
We have the non-official GNOME Forums already[1]. Hosting something else ourselves seems like a waste. Am I missing something?


The problem is that they are unofficial.  The reason they were put in place is to prove that there is an audience for forums as there was some doubt on whether forums were going to be effective.  In my estimation I think forums have worked out fairly nicely and that if it was moved into an official capacity that it would be even more successful.  However, we haven't made that decision yet.

On Thu, Jun 20, 2013 at 8:18 AM, James <purpleidea gmail com> wrote:
On Thu, 2013-06-20 at 15:08 +0200, Alexandre Franke wrote:
> The Stack exchange software (used by Stack overflow) is proprietary. I
> think Ubuntu used to have their instance hosted there.
> There is AskBot ( which is a free software
> alternative. It seems to be used by Fedora
> ( and we could run that on our servers.
> Solace ( is another possibility.
> > We could possibly just point people to
> > or
> >
> Relying on a third party hosted, non free software tool when there is
> a viable free software alternative doesn't seem very in line with the
> GNOME philosophy.

+1, askbot seems nice. Good idea!


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