Proposal: Consolidating Ansible discussion platforms

Hi folks,

We’ve been thinking for a while about the various communication channels that exist for the wider Ansible Community. We want to establish The Forum as the official & default discussion platform, as it has critical mass.

We need your input

Currently we have:

  • This forum (forum.ansible.com)
  • Matrix
  • IRC Libera.chat (previously Freenode)
  • Google Groups (ansible-announce, ansible-project, ansible-devel, awx)
  • GitHub Discussions
  • Ansible Network Slack instance

The AWX Google Group has already been migrated to The Forum.

During the past 9 months, we’ve already seen that The Forum has more unique engaged users per week that IRC or Matrix. Engage users people people replying to, or adding a thumbs up on a post. We saw The Forum basically over took IRC at launch, and Matrix about a month later. You can see the full stats here.

Given the massive success, we want to establish The Forum as the default place for all discussion. Matrix/IRC will still exist, though we know realtime chat isn’t always the best, and by the time you need that level of support you are likely already there.

Proposal

Therefore we are proposing:

  • Remove all references to IRC
  • Remove most references to Matrix
  • Link to The Forum (with links to the right tags) so individual repos will direct people to the right subsections of The Forum.
  • Deprecate the Google Groups (ansible-announce, ansible-project, ansible-devel)
    • And we will bulk-import old Google Group posts into The Forum)
    • We will likely continue to post ansible and ansible-core release announcements to ansible-announce, at least in the short-term

Future

  • There are a few GitHub Repos that use GitHub Discussions, there isn’t much traffic there, so we will archive those.
  • There is a low-traffic Ansible Network Slack instance, which we will also archive and move over to The Forum

Previous discussions

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moreover, most of IRC and Matrix links are dead. I saw several times that matrix and irc links mentioned in the collection don’t have a single active collection maintainer.

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Consolidating to a single area makes a lot of sense.

My only concern is continuing to receive Ansible release announcements, but I think that’s a simple thing the forum could do.

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@yurnov Welcome to the Forum, and thanks for your comment.

That’s very true, and related I did a quick search earlier and found we have over 100 references to irc.freenode.net under github/ansible/*.

One thing we’ve learned it not to over optimize. We initially created many Working Groups, which was OK when they were active, but often ended up with a load of small/empty rooms with no critical mass. Using the Forum means that all discussions are in one place, and we can use Tags to filter/group information.

As a community, we need to talk about how and what we want the various GitHub repos to link to in the Forum. Maybe they will all just link to communication.html so we’ve just got one thing, maybe they should have Deep Links including Tags to take you to directly to the right part of the Forum. I don’t know as much about the functionality of the Forum and how links can be done, so I’ll let someone else reply with ideas.

1 Like

I think it’s a good idea to make the forum the default discussion platform.

But it’s hard for me to say what to drop. I use Matrix (and I see some valid use cases for chat) and GitHub Discussions for ansible-inclusion. But I don’t want to say “drop everything else” just because I don’t use it.

I don’t object to your proposal, but how about defining the official & default discussion platform in a first step, and then decide what this means for Matrix / IRC / Google Groups / GitHub Discussions / Slack in a second one?

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Thanks for your question

The Forum can operate as an email system, so if you prefer emails (like the ansible-announce Google Group`) you can have it configured that way.

I didn’t go into detail, though we the existing release announcements that for ansible and ansible-core that currently go to the ansible-announcements Google Groups will go to The Forum. Since the Forum has a much richer set of meta data (such as Tags), we think we can actually increase the number of Ansible Projects that have release announcements going to The Forum, without causing “spam” for people that aren’t interested in that particular project,

2 Likes

You are right, this is about setting the default (though Google Groups will be going away).

I should be clear, Matrix isn’t going away. My team and I are all active in there there every day, and that’s not going to change. This is more about defaults, as you correctly state. It’s more that the number of mentions/links to Matrix across out GitHub repos & documentation will likely massively reduce,

I think ansible-inclusion actually make very good use of GitHub Discussions (threading, checklists, ability for reviewers to update the top level checklist). This process seems to work well, so I see no reason it should change. If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it

Google Groups will be going away, they aren’t in a good state. It’s a difficult platform to use, and it overlaps directly with The Forum, and offers far fewer features.

If there are repos with GitHub Discussion (ansible-lint for example only has 3 posts this year), then I feel it’s OK to archive those.

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Would News & Announcements help you there?

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It all sounds good to me, however I do wonder if it is worth bothering to do this:

I’d suggest it might be more sensible to simply archive the Google Groups, if that is possible?

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That’s an option, and where we are right now with the AWX group.

However, there is value in importing it here:

  • Owning our history: Having our project history where we control it is important. I fully expect Google Groups to go away one day, as Google have already tried to do that twice. When it does, we may not get a lot of warning, so let’s deal with it as soon as they become read-only
  • Search results: Discourse is good at search - when writing a topic you’ll often see something like:

    so enriching this with older stuff can be useful in making sure we’re not repeating ourselves too much.
  • Deep linking history: Somewhat a combination of both, but the ability to say “we’ve discussed this before, see this topic” is useful. Yes you could link to Groups, but if feels different I think.

I don’t expect it to make a huge difference, but it’s worth the effort, IMO. I still link people to the original post I made to move Foreman to Discourse in 2017, and though it was written on Google Groups, I find it by searching the Foreman forum :stuck_out_tongue:

2 Likes

@chris That’s a good question, thanks for asking.

Thinking about your question, and @gwmngilfen reply makes me wonder should we import everything, or be selective?

  • Does it make sense to bulk-import everything, including unanswered questions?
  • It it worth the time/effort to review and work out if a post is good?

I expect the answer will be to bulk-import everything, though there maybe something better we can do.

The lack of meta data around Google Groups (ie, is this post solved) is yet another reason we want to move from Google Groups to This Forum (Discourse).

1 Like

I agree that this forum has become more active and its easier to communicate. I haven’t joined IRC in a while and months ago joined the matrix. A lot of the matrix is not active at all and get random conversations that get lost easily. It makes sense to promote and point to more conversations here since this forum platform makes it easier to communicate and see all the recent conversations and participation. I love this forum so much so I support anything that helps it.

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Oh yes! That’s perfect. I just subscribed to that after noticing the Bullhorn moved to it as well.

Thank you!

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I like the idea of making the Forum the default, keeping Marix and IRC as chat (and reducing how often they’re mentioned), and to definitely get rid of Google Groups and GitHub Discussions (except for special situations where they are used for processes, like the Ansible community package inclusion process). I also like the idea of getting rid of Slack, but that’s something the network team has to decide on I guess since they are the only ones using it.

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  • The forum as the default platform: +1
  • Remove all references to IRC: +1 most definitely SGTM
  • Remove most references to Matrix: -1, instead I would remove some and make it a lower priority thing
  • Link to the forum (with links to the right tags): +1
  • Deprecate the Google Groups: +1 BUT as @chris said without pulling stuff from Google Groups to the forum.
  • GH Discussions closure/move to the forum: +1 but with some exceptions like ansible-inclusion pointed out by @mariolenz
  • Ansible Network slack archiving: +1
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I’m inclined to say remove all IRC and all matrix from github readmes. We list general rooms already in the docs (social, user, dev rooms and maybe the community room). Everything else points to the correct category and tag in the Forum. Or for those who have active groups/working groups, point to the group page here in the forum, which can list their active matrix room.

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I suggest some combination of…

  1. guiding people to the platform that matches their preferred communication style, and
  2. using the “right” tool for the job.

To be clear, I don’t mean we should promote/maintain all forums or all real-time chat platforms, for the same reasons we don’t have multiple sources of truth for our code. We should agree on one–the “best” one, whatever that means to you–of each type and focus attention there. We all have limited resources (namely time), which is true at the macro level too, i.e. the community. The Ansible project used the network effect to great success, and I believe channeling communication through fewer places will produce similar results for community engagement.

Using Github for code/issues, The Forum for long-form discussions and more thoughtful discourse, and Matrix for instant feedback and live events make sense to me as a user. I’m not prescribing these specific tools, only pointing out that most people immediately recognize their brand and intended use. We shouldn’t underestimate the challenge people face when getting started. New users can be overwhelmed by choice when looking for help, as all sources look the same to the uninitiated. It’s discouraging when you find a dead chat/forum, but it’s equally frustrating when you don’t know where to go next.

So yes, as someone who teaches others Ansible daily, prune away. I love the proposal and agree (mostly). The Forum seems like the best option for a “default discussion platform.” However, I don’t think completely abandoning the others is ideal either. If we’re talking about consolidation, it’s a little ham-fisted to propose such a thing on the thing itself. I don’t say this with any judgement or malice, more that the user bases may not overlap, and it’s the difference between asking a person vs telling them. We should get support from the other active community members from within those communities, supply a rationale behind the migration, and provide alternatives when it’s appropriate, e.g. the email functionality within The Forum or judicious/temporary use of Matrix bridges for Slack.

If we’re talking about promotion (e.g. “if you don’t know where to ask your question, go here.”), then IMHO The Forums seem like a no-brainer. Writing helps solidify ideas. Anecdotally, I can’t tell you how many times the process of filing an issue, or even describing it to others, has led me to a “duh” moment where I’ve corrected my own silly notions simply by trying to explain it and/or by creating an MRE. It’s akin to rubber duck debugging, and this type of learning and discovery is desirable in a community for… well, many reasons.

As mentioned by others, importing data and archiving is a great idea (e.g. Google Groups), and I would only add that, when possible, we should provide a clear breadcrumb trail back to The Forum, since the web has such a long memory. For chat platforms (other than Matrix), bridges, bots, and system auto-reply can provide a temporary trail.

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Feedback wanted: As a part of reducing fragmentation and consolidating Ansible discussion platforms effort described by @gundalow here, we’d like to prioritize the Forum across the collections under the ansible-collections organization.
Please see the details and share your opinions in the Reducing fragmentation: Add Communication section emphasizing Forum to collections READMEs in ansible-collections org forum topic.

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