Why should we exist?

In a recent tweet, the ex-Stack Overflow moderator George Stocker pointed out important questions, that we should ask ourselves…

The questions are: (1) Why should Codidact exist? and (2) Why should people use it?


My responses to these questions would be:

Codidact should exist, because…

  1. Everyone should (IMO) have a right for free access to knowledge.
  2. Knowledge is and will be too important to subject it to profit-oriented companies.
  3. Only knowledge allows informed and reasonable decisions.
  4. Knowledge grows, when it is shared.

People should use it, because…

  • they want to learn together,
  • they want to share their knowledge and help others,
  • they want to build a repository of knowledge,
  • they want to have problems (e.g. questions, mistakes in answers) and learn from them, and
  • Codidact is ONE platform that offers ALL OF THIS, without any interest (for example commercial) in anything besides that
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Contrary to what some out there think, I don’t think such a project as this is created “in spite of SE/SO turning evil”. Abstract from any of those events, there is no such free Q&A knowledge base, like there is a free Wikipedia encyclopedia (powered by a free MediaWiki engine). Anybody can roll their own Wiki, but for now it’s not as easy to roll your own Q&A site. This project should help solve that problem.

Also

They definitely do :)

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(If we’re talking about allowing users spin up their own instances) if it becomes easy to roll your own Q&A website, wouldn’t it increase the likelihood of it happening with low commitment, subsequently with a higher likelihood of a shutdown, and loss of all of its questions and answers?

I would speculate that many people chose SE because (aside from being the place where they find answers) it appears monolithic and “not going anywhere”. Recently that image has been damaged however.

I think Codidact should exsist to fill that gap, “We are a community-owned s.e. equivalent which does what s.e. promised / aspired to initially”? (Forgive my use of “we” as I’ve just registered, I’d like to see this project succeed, for what it’s worth)

I’m a bit uneasy about there being two, Codidact and Topanswers, as I can envisage users sticking with S.E. because of hesitation to make a decision. (Don’t get me wrong, I support both)

I like the focus on knowledge, which is ultimately what each community is about. We could also but emphasis on the site being reliable just because it is non-profit and neutral. There is no hidden agenda anywhere.

My use cases here are with fandom sites like you can find with many wiki-like https://www.wikia.org/ and https://www.fandom.com/ (which both seem to be the same wiki hosting service these days). You can relatively easily start your own site like that, but I don’t see any Q&A software like that.

For this purpose, competition with any major Q&A sites doesn’t matter, this is for personal or single-topic use, like for just one game or one product, not for creating a host of different communities like Codidact’s main instance is going to provide.

—————————————————————————————————
But to be clear, I see 2 main values in this project:

  • The value of a free Q&A community-driven knowledge base (future main instance of Codidact);
  • The value of an easy to install Q&A site software.

SE doesn’t provide a free Q&A software which you can download and run, only a paid Teams service. And its main instance is being run under a controversial management these days. So if those are your criteria for comparison of choice, there you go :p

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I think these points are most important.

I genuinely am unsure of how to respond to something like this. These sort of concerns are ones I don’t think we’ve really touched on, and are more thinking “yeah it’s not that important now hush we’re busy”.

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I have to agree with these doubts. I’ve been here a while, and it still feels like an anti-StackExchange site, or perhaps WeLoveMonica.SE. It’s yet to feel like a serious, disciplined, determined, professional, and focused group.

It feels more like a “this sounds cool, let’s do this” group. But every feature requires debugging and ongoing maintenance. Every feature will stop being “cool” after a while. Who is ready to commit to maintaining each “cool” feature in 2 years time?

I’m also yet to see how this is any more community-based than Stack Exchange. Major decisions seem effectively made by a small group of people, and anyone who disagrees is argued into submission.

I’m yet to see any reason to believe the problems plaguing Stack Exchange would not similarly plague Codidact once it grows (perhaps in addition to Codidact-specific problems).

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I don’t see any evidence for this claim:

There is a group of administrators, which does try to consolidate our MVP feature list. We do and will remove content violating the Code of Conduct (has almost never happened so far, though). All of us have been democratically elected by the community.

I can’t remember any time (and I read every post), where an admin overruled a clear community consensus. I remember one time (code license for core project), where an administrative decision was made. I remember some cases, where we suppressed a discussion that was hold multiple times before.

Every major decision (features, Code of Conduct, coding standards, planning organizational structure) is and will be made by the community. However, there’ll need to be some kind of “executive leadership” (even in direct-democratic antique Greece). We don’t have any decisive power from what I have seen, except for possible higher influence, because we spend a lot of time here.

We do try to nudge everyone into coming into consensus and to prevent extended and repetitive discussions. But that is neccessary, to be “a serious, disciplined, determined, […] and focused group”, as you say it. Professional is hard, as we all spend our free time. We still try to act professionally, but it can’t be exactly as in a professional setting, of course.

Please, please send me any evidence (either publicly here or by DM’ing me here or – confidentially – by sending me an email to luap42 at codidact dot org) for your claims.

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Hi from the community. I didn’t elect anyone. Like I said, a small group of people did.

That’s not what I said.

That’s not what I said either.

Your own post exemplifies what I mean when I say “argued into submission”. Responses are not “thank you for your valuable feedback, we’ll take it on board”, they’re basically “you’re wrong—we’re right!” It gives the feeling that nobody is listening to opinions that conflict with the plans of the small group of people.

And go ahead, dismiss me and tell me my opinion is wrong here too, while simultaneously telling me “the community” is being listened to.

Yeah, that’s what I’m referring to. A small group of people have disproportionately high influence—it feels like it’s their site, not the community’s site (at least from my perspective).

Instead of Stack Exchange making decisions, it’s a bunch of people on the Internet making decisions.

For example, I came here to join this community:

A community-controlled, open-source Q&A platform.

But yesterday that radically changed…

(This has 6 hearts.) See what I mean: a small group of people get to make radical, overriding decisions!—It’s like noone else matters.

No!—You said it was a Q&A site. I came here for the promised Q&A site. You cannot just change this offhand.

What radical site-redefining decisions are going to be made tomorrow by the small group of people? It’s so unstable.

Note:
I hope my post is clear and friendly enough. I am not English-native speaker and I don’t want to be offensive. So if anything is using a too strong or unclear language, please accept my beforehand apology for that and let me know, so that I can improve it.


Elected by a smaller group of people than active right now, because there weren’t that many people, when we started. It wasn’t possible to wait with making important decisions at that time, because then we’d never have started. It isn’t possible to ask every new member, whether they agree with every prior decision, because then we’d never be able to start.

If anyone has a problem with the current administration team or wants to become a member of it, too, they are free to write a forum post about it. We won’t delete any constructive post that criticizes us.

My bad then. I apparently mis-read your “Major decisions seem effectively made by a small group of people”.

It is not possible to accept and implement every feed back by every user. That’s the opposite of being determined and focused.

Furthermore, I am not arguing you into submission. I say, that I haven’t seen anything, which I would classify as you did. I am asking you to provide examples, so that I can look at them and work with you together to improve how the Codidact team operates. I can’t do that without examples, though.

And, as you can see, I am not dismissing your opinion. I am listening and trying to work with you together to get some kind of agreement. Your opinion isn’t wrong. Opinions have the property of being neither correct or wrong. I just happen to disagree with you in some points.

I think – although I may be wrong – that the influence comes mostly from being highly active. Anyone can post feedback, make a proposal, suggest feedback or provide critiques. Many users are doing it and some are doing it a lot. Therefore they are involved in more decision making than others and it can appear, as if they had more influence.

I think (and I would count myself to this, too) that some people are very emotionally invested into this site. They want it to succeed and they have strong opinions, how such a site should look like. It’s somehow natural, that they’ll defend their plan against opposing opinions.

It is, however, everyone’s right to disagree civilly. You can do that and I can do that and everyone else, too. However, if some people choose not to do it, it’s their right, too. That does mean, though, that they need to accept the decisions made by other people.

And in the end, someone needs to make a decision. For our project, this decision should be made by collectively discussing around these topics and finding a consensus. This does mean, though, that disagreements need to be written down.

Maybe I misunderstood something, but I don’t see Art making a change, but suggesting one. And six people appear to approve of that change. If you don’t, you are free to either accept it or to write an answer opposing it. From what I have seen, you have not yet done so.

Also, as far as I can tell, no decision has been made, so far. For example our landing page still shows the old slogan. So does our GitHub wiki:

https://codidact.org/


Moving forward, I am honestly not sure how to continue. You can send me more examples of where you think something has gone wrong, and I’ll look into them and either clarify or fix. You can give me some proposals on how to improve these things, and I’ll look into and consider them. We can continue this discussion (in a different thread, though, as we’re somehow going off-topic IMO; reply and I’ll move this discussion), but I fear that that may be considered “argumenting into submission”. Please let me know, what you prefer.

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Codidact started as a reaction to problems at SE. But it’s not an SE clone and it’s not a “spite project”. We have the opportunity to make core changes to how communities use platforms like these, and our vision has evolved to embrace that. We can empower communities to learn and build knowledge together in ways not possible with just a Q&A platform like SE or one of its many clones.

We’re building that platform in a way that communities using it can be in charge of their sites. They don’t have to take our rigid design choices, don’t have to hack sandboxes using meta, don’t have to work around licenses that make sharing photos or graphic designs for critique onerous.

Communities should be in charge of their sites.

I have a vision for Codidact and will strive to put it in words after Shabbat. (Can’t do it today, sorry.) I think that will help.


That’s about the output, the running system. In order to get there we also have the Codidact development team, the folks here now who are figuring out how things should work and implementing it. This team is large and strives to be as inclusive as possible. That said, as with any open-source project, decisions need to be made and work needs to progress, and even when somebody comes along later with a better idea, the answer might have to be “we’ll consider that later” or “we’re already on a different path and that change is too large”. I’m sorry about that. I’ve been there; it’s frustrating to be a “latecomer” and feel like you don’t have as much of a voice.

But you do have a voice. There’s tons of stuff we haven’t figured out yet. There’s plenty of work to do and people who want to help are welcome. We want your ideas, your code, your test cases… we want you to be part of the Codidact project.

Community-driven doesn’t mean anarchy or constantly going back to square one. We have a structure in place. We have leads. Yes, they were chosen by a smaller group than is here now, but the project needed to get going and our leads are working hard on this project (no figureheads or egos). A large project needs leaders – to guide the technical direction, to keep all the many tasks on track, to organize and plan, and to provide a vision. I’ve been remiss in not communicating a vision more clearly; I apologize for that and will endeavor to remedy it.

Codidact is the next stage of communities working together online to share knowledge. Q&A is core but it’s not just Q&A. It’s not Stack Exchange.

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See A vision for Codidact.

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I concur with becky82. That was also my first impression. For examples, look at how Olin was shut down one or two months back. You may (I have not followed it closely since) have lost a very valuable contributor by just one response (I will abstain from using any particular adjective to describe it).

Sometimes the benefit of doubt and asking clarifying questions instead of making assumptions can go a long way.

Maybe it is unavoidable in almost any group, but there is always the risk of a small clique (effectively) keeping newcomers out ("The decision has already been made. There is nothing you can say to change it."). Or at work (“We are withholding this vital information that you need to do your job, because you are new here (or for some other reason X).” (not actually uttered, but real)).

First impressions are very important. Decisions have to be made, but the risk is to become insular. On Stack Exchange meta sites the main mechanism was (is) mob downvoting.

Many suggestions will be FSPs (frequently submitted proposals) or FRPs (frequently rejected proposals). There should be a proper standard response to those (and not the equivalent of RTFM): "Four months back, after 2 weeks of debate, 55% voted for proposal 719 ([title and direct link to proposal]) and 21% for the contradicting proposal 701 ([title and direct link to proposal]). However, it is up for scheduled reconsideration in 17 months. You are welcome to already take part in the debate at [link].

One model is to let the decision power follow the actual work. If you are willing to put real work into it and not just opinion, then you have real influence.

Another is to have a (real) roadmap - “Look, what you propose is similar to what we plan to do 8 months from now. However, it is never too early to develop the idea and perhaps even make a proof of concept prototype to get more insight into how and if it could work.”.

A third model is to have elections on proposals (or even competing or contradicting proposals), but only after they have been discussed back and forth for an extended time. Proposal 837: First develop tutorial-like features (instead of helpdesk-like features)

Without interfering to the other points, I just wanted to point out, that Olin is still here and actively contributing.

For reasons of privacy I won’t comment on Olin. Feel free to send me messages, where you think I had a wrong reaction and I’ll try to correct it. I apologize if I came around as rude and I’ll try to be even more friendly next time/avoid getting into discussions.

Ironically, I don’t know exactly what you mean with this and where this relates to.

I can only speak for myself, but I think nobody here wants to prevent newcomers from participating in discussions. However, we cannot re-discuss and overturn any decision once somebody new comes and disagrees with it. If we did that, we’d effectively never start. If we did that, then we’d really have to turn new people away. We need to keep decisions, once we made them.

Some decisions have been made after seriously weeks of discussion. We must stick to those discussions or we’ll never be able to start.

Such discussions are:

  • We will build a community-governed platform.
  • Our primary focus is Q&A.
  • Our tech stack C# ASP.NET Core
  • How we do reputation/privileges

Every bit of time we spend with these discussions is actively preventing us from starting to build our software.

Therefore there are decisions, where nobody will be able to change it. This is mostly true for questions of opinion/interest/personal preference, such as tech stack. I am not complaining, but we had really really heated and long discussions about it (as in: almost a week without a real break; I woke up with some 300 new messages daily)

Besides those discussions that simply can’t reconsidered (tech stack and the others from above), we try to link to the original discussion and – if the arguments are simply repetitive – close it or – otherwise – let it stay as long as it is productive.

In my opinion, we are actually allowing too much discussion. I am not saying that it is bad, but it feels like we are bikeshedding on some matters instead of finally starting.

The current standard procedure is to follow this process around “how are MVP features decided”, which aims for agreement over voting, but uses voting if no agreement can be made:

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