Getting started with the new Edgeryders platform

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#1

Surprise! If you have not been checking out Edgeryders since July 11th, you must have gotten that feeling of opening a familiar door to an unfamiliar room. I know I did! Here’s what happened: Edgeryders, my friends, is growing. It is growing in numbers: we are pushing 4,000 accounts now, with close to 30,000 written contributions and, by my own rough estimate, maybe 6 million words.

But, more importantly, we are growing in reach. As old-time community members know, back in 2013 we created a social enterprise to act as our community’s infrastructure. This company, also called Edgeryders, is also growing. As it grows, it becomes better at connecting our projects and initiatives for change to powerful, established organisations. And connections breeds alliances: the Edgeryders vision has always been about coalitions for positive change between the vast resources of society’s center, with its corporations and institutions, and the ability and need for “deep innovation” of society’s edges. The OpenCare project has been, and still is, incredibly generative. It already spawned The Reef, and more initiatives are in the pipeline.

As part of this growth, we have outgrown our old Drupal 7 online platform. Back in 2013, we chose it for its extreme flexibility of use. We were not at all sure how we would end up using it: we knew technology and its user base co-evolve, so we chose a platform that would not tie our hands. After four years of extensive testing, we now do know what we Edgeryders do online. We, it turns out, share knowledge, learn from each other and form alliances, through respectful, truth-oriented debate.

So, we decided to decamp to a new platform that puts debate front and center. It is, as always, open source software, based on Discourse (here is the GitHub repo). It will take a bit of getting used to, but those of us involved in pre-testing adjusted very fast, and we know absolutely love it. Give it a try! As always, get in touch if you experience any trouble.

Here is what you need to know:

  • Your edgeryders.eu login and password work as normal. One exception: if your username contains anything that is not a Roman letter (a-z, A-Z) or a digit (0-9), you have to replace each of these characters with an underscore. So Quíntus-Fabius Maximus becomes Qu_ntus_Fabius_Maximus. (Or you can use your registered e-mail address instead of your username for login.)

  • All content has been imported. All authorship information has been preserved. Your content is still acknowledged as yours, and you retain intellectual property rights on it. The Creative Commons Attribution license used on the old platform also is maintained for all content.

  • We have rolled out an ethical consent funnel. It is a two-questions quiz that replaces the “I agree to the terms and conditions” box to tick. We developed it as a way to make the OpenCare research more ethical, and are now extending it to every corner on Edgeryders. You will only have to answer it once, but until you do the platform will not let you post.

  • All links pointing to individual posts, wikis, events, pages etc. of the old platform still work (or soon will), and now redirect to the imported content on the new one.

  • Mentions still work, like this: @alberto (try it).

Photo credit: Chris Potter


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#2

Happy to see where this new phase will be taking us in the way we collaborate… Notice that the banner image above the post and the links inside dont work at the moment… I dont know if it has to do with the content migration or it’s something which will be fixed once this becomes edgeryders.eu official. @matthias should know…


#3

The image was broken for a time as we told Discourse that it’s already live at edgeryders.eu to prepare for the launch. That turned out not to be a good idea, so we reverted that change …


#4

Woop Woop! Nice work guys. Onwards :slight_smile:


#5

Love this :slight_smile:

I pop out of the blue (as, you will know by now, I tend to do) because this migration happened in a moment and in a way which coincides with a set of thoughts I had recently.

In the last few days, I was coming back to these pages because I finally started working again on my community-based project, a bunch of other code experiments with potential, in terms of social innovation, and the Edgesense Dashboard (I will expand on this in a separate thread, later).
That’s where I noticed that changes were happening and I guessed that something big was about to happen :slight_smile: (you probably discussed this for quite some time on ER but I was away for a while…)

At the same time, while reworking my website, I’ve been researching on a variety of platforms and tried to figure out the freshest approach to online communities: which solution would deliver a smooth user experience, while remaining focused on (rich and diverse) contents?


Discourse is definitely a great application and I praise your choice.
Although I was tempted to adopt it too (and I’m literally copying many of its features, to present bbPress discussions) I had a few reservations which, as of today, are still unsolved: customizing the platform to work more as a CMS and/or a social network seems quite hard to me. Especially when gathering etherogeneous contents, like custom page types and implementations, it definitely feels much harder than many alternative (more established and dedicated) solutions.

Recently, I read these:

The last thread also pointed to this article:
https://blog.erlend.sh/foundation-re-defined-going-back-to-specialised-applications-a197f3e799e7
which I guess is more relevant to me than to ER but still it makes a point which I believe is worth discussing: what is the optimal balance between seamless UX, specialization of contents and features, ease of development?


And this is why I’m posting here today.
I’m aware that the ratio between pure conversation and “special” contents on ER is substantially different than what I’m aiming to. Still, if any conversation might exist on ER with regards to the above, I would love to read it.
If not, I’d be keen to know if anyone’s interested in having such a discussion.

I understand this is quite a long, very specific reply for a Help & Feedback topic but, hey, this is Discourse: you can definitely move this to the most appropriate topic/category if there’s a better place for it :slight_smile:


#6

Stefano @moe, welcome back. Great to have you. The choice of Discourse was proposed by @matthias. His proposals have an approval rate of approximately 100%, for a reason.

My post at the beginning of this, er, “topic” (since we are now using Discourse vocabulary) explains in a coarse way our thinking as it emerged from Matt’s proposal. We did not really ask the question of “community forum vs.community CMS”: we stand on five years of experimentation, and simply mapped onto Discourse what Edgeryders users were already doing. Discourse gives us a vastly improved user experience in certain areas (the editor…), and (according to Matt) has 1/15th of the lines of code that Drupal Commons has.

We are certainly interested in any discussion oriented to improving our community. If you want to have it from a more technical angle, Matt is the best qualified person.

Breaking news: there is going to be a second leg to the Edgeryders community: Matrix, which is a chat. The core group is already using it behind the scenes.


#7

I’m so glad to be in touch again @alberto, despite the fairly extended time lapse in my communication (which is becoming more and more a condition, in this period of my life).

I hope I didn’t give the wrong impression with my reply; I totally see the point of your choice and I back it fully (not that you need my blessing… :slight_smile:)

My questions were not concerns; rather they came out of genuine interest: I was wondering if you assessed the usage and perception implications of such a big change, as I’ve been reasoning for quite some time about these and, despite the many opinions, I never got to an ultimate vision.
(I kinda feel some kindly patronizing rebuke coming, here, that I cannot aim to anything “ultimate” for something such organic and ever-changing as a community, but stil… :slight_smile:)

I’ll be happy to refer to Matt (that’s @matthias, right?) for techy stuff but what I meant to ask was more in terms of usability and semantics.
I don’t want to be vague though, so let me try expand a bit (and please consider I’m not a Discourse expert, so I might totally miss stuff which is already builtin).


Usability

Let’s say you want to create a custom page which lists all videos from your Vimeo profile, dynamically, or you want to integrate the Edgesense Dashboard in your website or a page which reports updates happening on your Google Drive documents, a calendar, a ticket/task system… or anything of the sort.

My understanding is that building such dynamic pages is not straight forward in Discourse.
Am I wrong? If not, are you planning to keep this kind of features out of the main platform or not planning to rely on them, at all?


Semantics

The Discourse model for forums is indeed very agile, it provides excellent content overview and fairly good navigation.
On the other end, being a forum, I feel it tends to “flatten a few semantic dimensions” when compared to a full CMS and, even more, to those with social networking capabilities.
My understanding, from a quick glance at current the re-organization, is that content has been remapped more or less as follows:

  • sections (or post categories) become forum categories
  • groups become sub-categories
  • blog posts and group posts become forum topics, being differentiated from each other via the categories they belong to
  • static pages become forum topics too, the main difference being that replies are locked
  • wikis (I couldn’t actually find wiki pages yet) are forum topics as well, with special features (and caveats?)
  • finally, I assume Discourse’s groups will be used to handle private access and custom notifications (but AFAIK they’re only managed by administrators)

Is this correct enough as an interpretation?
If that’s the case, I assume some stantard concepts, typically existing in social networks, such as the following mechanism, dashboards, group summaries won’t be available here. Same goes for blog views and multi-level menus (these last ones being the least missed feature, frankly).

Here’s a few links about related topics where doubts and limits are presented, just to give a broader idea:


To sum up, the nature of my question was triggered by this renovation but was, let’s say, on a higher level.
I consider you guys the heroes of hyper-active online communities and I’m simply keen to know all I can from stuff you learnt on the way. :slight_smile:

Again, I don’t want to sidetrack the original topic so feel free to move this elsewhere (I’d open a new topic myself but I’m still not aware of the way you’ll structure categories in this new incarnation of ER).


#8

No stress, @moe. This is not a bad place to highlight some of the differences between our old Drupal and our new Discourse. Note that an “official” explanation is planned along the way, but for now my own understanding will have to do. As always: if you want to get more involved in building all this, the doors are wide open. Just let me know. Our customised Discourse is also itself open source and available at https://github.com/edgeryders/discourse.

The development and maintenance approach underpinning the platform is this:

  1. Start from an open source solution that is good at what the community does most. What we do most in Edgeryders is seeking truth by comparing experiences and debating them. So, Discourse. We get plenty of goodies out of the box, including, for example, an intuitive way to keep track of what’s going on. When you logged in, you saw a small blue number close to your avatar (top right): that’s a visual cue that one thread you have been active in (this) had been updated (by me), and you might want to check it out. Also, there are features like “new” or “latest” (which are misnamed in part, but we’ll fix this). And don’t get me started on autosave. Sweet!

  2. Anything else we want bad enough, we will code. This turns out to be much easier than with Drupal, because the code base is so much smaller and because Drupal has plenty of cross-module dependencies. At the same time, adding features should not be too easy, because feature creep. This forces us to be economical and to “live close to the code”, in the same way that traditional farmers live close to the land and know that, if they overexploit it, there will be hell to pay.

So:

Usability

Dynamically generated pages are difficult in Discourse, yes. But that is not a problem, because the community does not seem to be clamouring for them. We (meaning Edgeryders itself) do need pages on the platform that do not fit the Discourse mould. Edgesense and its younger cousin GraphRyder are a good example. So, we develop for them. In general, the new platform will feel, and be, more minimalistic. Some things will simply not be possible. Those that are possible will hopefully be easy and intuitive.

Semantics

You are attempting to map Drupal Commons entities onto Discourse entities. But that’s not where the action is, because Drupal entities were always a compromise. Everything fit in them by definition (since the old platform was Drupal), but that fit was not always easy. So, what we tried to do instead is fit Edgeryders activities as we see them into Discourse entities.

We started from refocusing on our 10-years goal: building OpenVillage, our little open source utopia. That means doing two things: overcoming specific challenges (for example: how to build open source insulin?) and running complex projects, which encompasses several challenges (for example OpenCare, of which OpenInsulin is a part).

Now:

  • Projects were “meta-groups”, and recently a custom content type called “challenge chains”. They are now top-level categories
  • Challenges were groups, and recently a custom content type called “challenge”. They are now sub-categories.
  • Drupal nodes of all types are now topics.
  • Drupal comments are now replies.

That’s it.

A few loose ends:

  • I am not aware that our Discourse has a groups feature. There is a sort of “implicit grouping” based on interest: if you are contributing to a topic, or simply watching it, Discourse considers you a member of the ad-hoc group running the thread, so it will send you notifs, etc.

  • Discourse tags we plan to use in several ways. The most important one is to support OpenEthnographer and our own data strategy (this short paper explains what we are already doing and, how we plan to scale it another order of magnitude).


#9

I love discourse and I think this is going to be better in the long run !
I wasn’t a big commentator, more of a reader type, but this is definitely going to make me give my 2 cens more often :slight_smile:

by the way, reading from the conversation above, I think there is static pages plugins for Discourse
maybe this would be the missing element to have a mix of dynamic/static pages that you can integrate in the whole Discourse navigation system…I never setup such system myself but by reading around it seems this is a popular request.


#10

Welcome @ricardo_mendes! Yes, we are all loving it. Once smoothed out it will be a joy to use.


#11

I like the new interface. It’s lighter! (the time I take from egypt to move between pages)
I still have to explore it further.
Mabrouk.


#14

All content from Alberto’s post at the start of this topic is now in our new and complete user manual:

https://edgeryders.eu/t/using-the-edgeryders-eu-website/6463

If you have any remaining question you can ask by creating new topic in our Support category.