MVP: Meta Site Concept

It was discussed on Discord a while back that we definitely need some sort of meta site to represent Codidact. Here’s my preliminary thoughts:

  • We implement the meta site at meta.codidact.org. (Call it Metadidact for the sake of this post.)

  • Metadidact serves all of the sites in the Codidact network.

    • There are individual boards/tags for each site in the network.

    • This lets meta questions for less popular sites get more exposure.

  • Eventually we move an archive of this forum to Metadidact once we move discussion over there.

I also wanted to throw out the concept of featured posts and I think we need to have a better system for that. I’d like to hear thoughts about that and the meta site I outlined above.

Also it doesn’t really matter to me if this is MVP or not but I figured it should be.

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Great idea. In fact, I think this is truly MVP because at the beginning we will have a lot of questions, requests for changes, etc.

A couple of points:

  • This won’t actually be meta.codidact.org Rather, it will be meta.whateversitenamewecomeupwith.tld The discussions are related to one-or-all of the topical sites of the initial public instance of codidact.org. Codidact.org (and any subdomains) will be purely for development of the software, not for a specific instance.
  • Even for questions relating to design changes to the codidact software, once we are live the primary location should be where we get the traffic - i.e., the public site and not codidact.org. If someone wants to get involved in the actual development process then we send them to codidact.org.
  • As a general naming scheme, I would go with:
    • www.sitename.tld and sitename.tld - Overview page
    • meta.sitename.tld - Meta
    • topic1.sitenamt.tld - Specific topical site page unless/until a topical site gets its own domain name (which would only affect the URL and not the underlying system - i.e., all topical sites within a codidact instance are in one database/codebase)
    • meta.topic1.sitename.tld - Meta site for specific topical site but not MVP.
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All good points. I’ll still advocate for a consolidated meta but I’m fluid on that topic.

I still think we should keep the Codidact name because it’s short and catchy, and it would just be a lot easier once we start to develop (we can consolidate everything to one domain). But once again, I haven’t heard the other side of that, so I’ll wait until start to make a decision.

I disagree with these two things:

  1. having only a network-wide Meta site, and
  2. having the Meta-site on a sub domain.

To 1

I think having only a network-wide Meta would result in overlapping interests and actively harm community building. This is, because Meta is the place where the community is shaped and it should be a place dedicated specifically to that single community.

Furthermore it should be easy to join and to participate in Meta, as we strive to build a community-run platform and Meta is, where community governance begins. Having a separate system will lead, with a high probability, to a smaller group of people being active on the Meta site and having a lot of influence to critical decisions. This is bad for community governance.

To 2

I think we should not simply use a slightly modified copy of our main Q&A platform to host Meta sites. This is a bad idea IMO, as Q&A systems are not designed for discussion. I think we have the chance to build a better alternative to the current Meta design of Stack Exchange.

Post talk pages can be one part of this, but should be accompanied by a instance-wide discussion software for policies and that kind of stuff.

We have the chance to build a Meta system, that is integrated into the site, from the beginning. This can make things way easier than the current system, which was an afterthought AFAIK.

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So are you suggesting that we should just continue the use of this forum as our “meta” site? I think that could actually work quite well, since the Discourse instance can be very tailored to our specific needs.

Then we could use the categories system to split up the different meta discussion boards, and have one for the network as a whole.

I don’t think using it for the “per-site Meta”-site would be a good idea. It’s “too far away” from the core software, even when it is possible to sign up using the instance account with just one click. This kind of thing is what I oppsed under “To 1”:

Furthermore it should be easy to join and to participate in Meta, as we strive to build a community-run platform and Meta is, where community governance begins. Having a separate system will lead, with a high probability, to a smaller group of people being active on the Meta site and having a lot of influence to critical decisions. This is bad for community governance.

When I oppose a network-wide Meta, I don’t oppose any platform for the whole network, where discussion around it can be held. I am opposing a platform, where discussions around the scope, tag management, rules and design of every single instance is held.

It’s also important to note, that merging Meta sites is easier than splitting them. For the first we only need to “migrate” all questions to the single instance, for the latter we need to revise all prior posts.

However, I think using it as a network-wide platform (for network-wide rules and feature-requests/bug reports) is fine and it has the advantage of existing already.

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We still have to potential option of splitting the metas into multiple Discourse instances. Would that satisfy everyone? And then we just keep this one as the network-wide meta?

No.

During our development we will be able to (and should!) take a lot of already built stuff. However this is one (maybe the only one) aspect, where we should build our own system.

We can take an external system that maybe an awesome forum, it will still lead to the problem of few users not engaging in it. It’s humans’ nature to prevent effort. Switching the system (the environment) will, with 100% certainty, lead to a lot of people not doing it, as it is simply not worth it.

However, we can also design a system that is beautifully integrated to the basic Q&A software, that is optimized for our use case and build a system, where not only ~0.015% (or 0.176% or similar numbers) of our users participate, but a lot more.

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We need some place to have site-wide meta discussions, and each community needs to be able to have its own discussions too. It’s fine for those discussions to be visible to other communities (we can all learn from each other), but we need to avoid confusing users of Site A with similar-looking questions that are really about Site B. So I don’t think we want to jumble it all together.

Thinking out loud here: what would be bad about having meta discussions, with suitable tagging and filtering, right on the individual main sites? I’m picturing something where “meta” is just another tag, meta questions are by default not shown (I’m here for questions about unicorns, not about the unicorns site!), but there is clear access to see those questions too if you want. This is a thought experiment, not a real proposal.

And, separately, there’s “main meta” in whatever form it takes.

The Q&A format doesn’t work well for meta discussions because Q&A is supposed to be more focused, but we’re separately talking about making comments more durable, threaded, and downplayed (by default), so maybe Q&A works for meta now. Or maybe we need something completely different.

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The advantage of using the same format for Meta as for regular Q&A is that we do not have to do much extra programming. Meta becomes an extra “Community” - or in this case, an extra “matching” community for each regular community, plus one “global” Meta.

The problem with using tags to differentiate the main communities from the meta equivalents is that they can get too confused with each other - which already happens enough on SO, and this would likely make it worse. Plus “Meta” can actually be a real tag for some topical sites, confusing things even more.

“Meta” doesn’t work exactly as another community because a user doesn’t (or maybe they do?) have a separate profile for “meta” vs. regular, plus a user essentially gets Meta automatically (or should, IMHO) when signing up for the main community site, but other than that there is little difference - keeps the database structure, editing, etc. all virtually the same as regular sites.

I like the per-site and main meta concepts on SE, but am mindful that I’m a power user who seeks them out and lots of users never do. And I’m mindful of the complaints that meta was jammed into the Q&A format because that’s the tool that existed. I think it mostly works on my sites – less well for support requests especially on main meta, but mostly ok. But we’ve got to increase visibility, and this is our chance to do something better if we can identify what “better” means.

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Well, for one thing visibility. From the main page in SO (DIY specifically, but I think they are all the same or nearly the same), the only references I see to Meta without “clicking around” are the two links to featured MSE posts (both hugely negative for quite a while now, why they let that be (I wouldn’t if it was my site!) is beyond me, but I digress). But no links to either the DIY Meta page in general or specific posts. In fact, the way I usually get to DIY Meta is:

  • Click on my avatar to get to my profile page
  • Click on “Meta user” (not terribly huge or obvious)
  • Click on the site banner which changed color and has META on it.

Not at all intuitive/obvious even for me (a certified geek). For the average user: fughedaboutit.

Solution (or a start) is easy: A prominent Meta link on the main page, with clickable (?) and also mouseover text with a quick explanation of what Meta is for. (Or an example - that could be a “Meta for” Metaphor…but I digress).

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Maybe it would not be that much effort to build a simple discussion system for Meta pages. After all, the whole posting code could be reused. What would be different is that meta posts would not be categorized into question/answer, but every post could be answered individually, and probably there should not be the possibility to edit other people’s post (unless made community wiki, should we decide to support that in MVP). And probably the sorting would be different.

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This post is about the organization of meta. I use “discussion” generically, whether it ends up being Q&A threads using the same mechanism as the main site or something more free-form.

A lot of Stack Exchange users are scared of Meta.SE. Less so than when it was Meta.SO, and not as caricaturally as some Stack Exchange staff puts it, but even so, Meta.SE is a bit of a wild place with its own conventions.

Part of it is due to content that hasn’t aged well, but part of it is due to a clash between communities. Some features and discussions are only relevant to sites with 1 question per day and some are only relevant to sites with 10000 questions per day. Some are only relevant to technical sites and some are only relevant to hobby sites, etc.

It would be nice to be able to share some threads between meta sites, but I don’t think a single meta is viable. Even sharing between similar communities is nontrivial. For example, sites about languages face similar problems, and I’ve always regretted that there isn’t a good place for us to talk (we tried creating a chatroom but it never had a critical mass). But sites about languages also need discussions in their own language.

I don’t think a single meta site can work. Each community needs its own space where it won’t be disturbed by people who don’t understand that specific community’s unique problem. But at the same time, each community thinks all of its problems are unique and yet many of those problems have been solved before, so there should be some permeability between meta sites.

I don’t know how this can work. Some aggressive cross-advertisement? A meta aggregation board? Tagging should be harmonized.

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A major benefit of using the same engine as the main site is familiarity. I’m against using a different system such as Discord because of that. Q&A works well for support questions. It doesn’t work as well for discussion, and maybe we should tweak it a bit.

Bug tracking shouldn’t be on meta. If someone has a support question and it turns out to be a bug or feature request, someone can copy the information to Github, and we might even build a bot to help us.

For the MVP, let’s start with a “meta” Q&A for every Q&A site. Keep it simple. Better discussion and cross-site integration can wait.

5 Likes

I think a site-wide meta would be to benefit to the wider community

Gilles points out some problems with Meta, perceived and tangible. Some of that to me, seems to be due cultural issues and legacy, two things we won’t be quite so encumbered with.

However, while there are indeed big differences between sites there is also commonality; even if that is by dint of being another instance of the same software.

Some things we do, will have network-wide impacts, particularly early on as both the software and community is evolving. There will be things common to sites about the software, the rules, or the conventions that are worth seeking voices from across the communities.

Per-site metas are useful too

At the same time, there absolutely are things that communities need to discuss amongst and decide for themselves.

QA is a decent starting point, and I agree it could perhaps be extended; albeit at the cost of a different interface and extra technical work/debt.

3 Likes

I’ve been thinking that having multi-community questions could be interesting. That would be the perfect use case.

1 Like

This post is somehow contentious, however looking at the likes I think we have the following Consensus:

  • We have meta sites for discussions about the community and the software. They either use a Q&A-based approach or a more discussion-oriented one.
  • We need to have instance-level discussions (network meta) and community-level (per-site meta) discussion sites.
  • The instance-level and the community-level meta discussion forums should be separate for now (contentious point; decision based on like-score)
  • Meta sites should be freely and easily accessible.

If you have anything to say that has not been said before and that would dispute this consensus, speak now, or this topic will close in 24 hours.

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This topic was automatically closed 24 hours after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.

Consensus has been added to Wiki in version 149f2b1.