Measure value, don't value what you measure

This article is bang on.

We also think about community engagement for tmpdir. This could serve few lessons to any community builder.

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I think for a more technical focused or just specific topic focused online community, much of the time engagement really does mirror a good community situation. The various forums and mailing lists which I’ve participated in where I kept coming back, it was because I was having a good time, it was fun. When it got unfun, I stop coming back.

Social media is different. Social media doesn’t have a core topic for everyone to coalesce around. But most forums and mailing lists do. I think that’s a big difference when looking at engagement.

My impression (I have no data) is that for communities which have a defined purpose that engagement really is a good metric to measure the health. But for communities which do not have a well defined purpose (ie: Twitter, Facebook, etc), engagement is a poor metric to gauge the health of your community.

tmpdir has a vague but defined purpose in my mind: to talk with other smart people who come from embedded software/systems backgrounds about work, life, and technology. Someone posting about politics would get ignored and/or kicked out.

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The above is very much aligned with the original vision:

The above post is dated 2020-07-17 – this site has been up for over two years.

How are we doing? Should we be doing anything different? Are the notifications OK (rate, etc can be configured)? Is there anything annoying about this community/platform that can be fixed?

We still don’t have a large number of members, but there are pageviews:

To gain numbers, it probably helps to have a defined purpose centered around a popular OSS project or some narrow interest. For example, the KiCad forum is doing quite well. But, numbers is not our goal here.

Originally, I questioned if this forum should be invite only, or open sign-up. One concern is a community can quickly get colonized (the term Brendan Eich uses)
by toxic people. So far, this has not been a problem as social media is probably a much more attractive platform for most.

Personally, I find it useful to write and share stuff. And Discourse is by far the nicest platform I’ve ever used to do this (I even like it better than Wordpress, which is very good). So the personal benefits to me are:

  • a nice micro-blogging platform – I think better when I write
  • get curated, interesting news from other who post
  • an on-line notebook where I can post useful information that I can quickly find later
  • occasional discussion with smart people

Fun is key, and perhaps something I’m not very good at. Perhaps the new chat functionality could help here. If you have something fun or want to share what you are working on, feel free to post to chat channels. Chat can be used for more transient information that has less long term value. Discourse chats are only visible to forum members. Khem, Collin and I have been using chat over the past few weeks – seems to work very well.

One reason I don’t document things on tmpdir is because I don’t own it, the service. I have no control as a contributor of if the service lives or dies. I’ve been burned before contributing to a platform which then just went away, all my contributions were gone.

I don’t know how to solve that problem. But like on Facebook, I’ll sometimes post things but there I don’t care about if those things go away forever, it’s all just junk posts. But if I write something down which is actually useful, I don’t want it to go away unexpectedly.

That is a fair point – something we’ll need to think about more.

One capacity I use tmpdir as repository for information that I might want to refer later. @bradfa has a good point. I think no one can guarantee whats in store for us in future, however, we can make some fallbacks. e.g. like distributed nature of git. Perhaps if discourse had an easy way to save data locally and then can be used by others to launch another discourse instance if this one was to go away for any reason. I have this feature in Calibre which I use to manage my books. I export the data to a location and then import it from a new install of calibre and I am back online in no time.