Time for a revision of the top-level cats? And a menu that can quietly go

In 2021, the NGI Forward process finished, and some other stuff was re-prioritized either up (Witness) or down (Anywhere). There are also some categories we might no (longer?) need. One is Qualitative data analysis. Another is Edgeryders Topics, which also takes the prize for least informative cat name ever, and appears to be simply a repository of posts written to be displayed on specialized websites using the webkit. A third one is The collective intelligence company, also confusing in the sense that it appears that a website called “Edgeryders” contains a category also called, more or less “Edgeryders”. It also appears to contain material for external websites.

Proposal: re-organize. Move all website stuff (including Witness, but not Witnesspedia) into one (not two) category called “Content for external website”, or something equally informative. Move NGI into the knowledge collection. Ask Amelia about what she wants to do with the sandbox (but: no activity in the last year, so…).

On the other hand, in 2021 you might have noticed a resurgence of activity in the subcat The Reef. We have gotten to the point where we would love to keep using Edgeryders as our forum; and could use the ability to create sub-categories. For that, however, we would need to move The Reef to top-level. Would this be possible, @matthias?

Finally, I think it is time for the menu at the very top to go, or at the very least to be drastically simplified.

The left part just repeats some top-level cats, and creates a technological debt because it does not update automatically when those cats change. The right part is mostly superseded by external sites like our corporate site. Not all, though: some items, like Netiquette and Terms & privacy, are actually useful for the user of the forum. But maybe there is a way to integrate that stuff in the standard home page of Discourse.

Thoughts? Ping @company


EdgerydersTopics is something Owen is working on for treasure so please no changes there.

@matthias I am happy to do this myself. Am I allowed?

Agreed. There is already the category “Documentation & Support → Websites” that I intended for that purpose.

Before moving the website stuff into other categories, please check with Owen if that can be done without causing issues. I am not sure if all websites refer to Discourse content by topic ID. Some might refer to content in a specific category, in which case the website config has to be adapted when moving that stuff.

Agreed. Though any NGI workspace sub-categories would go into two sub-categories under Workspaces, one for public and one for protected organizational topics.

As far as I remember, this was a temporary solution until we created the openethnography.net sandboxing website for Open Ethnographer. Maybe we even took over the sandbox content, in which case the QDA Sandbox category could even be deleted. If not, the easiest is to move it so it appears as “Workspaces → QDA Sandbox”.

Sure. I see you want to help us tidy up the top-level category space. If we can get to 7±2 top-level categories, there really is no issue having “The Reef” among them.

Also agreed. I’d say, remove the left part, and update the links in the right part (such as to our corporate site). Let’s leave the rightmost submenu “Communities” intact for now. If we’d remove that, we’d also have to remove the login integration between all these sites … we were actually thinking about that (with @hugi), but have not made a decision yet. Input welcome.

You can adjust the top menu by going to the Default theme edit page and clicking “Edit CSS/HTML” there, switching to “Common → head” there and adapting section “SECTION 1: Custom main menu bar at the top”.

I see that there is a transparency or layer order issue with this menu when scrolling. Will get Daniel to fix that.

And as a precaution against mistakes when moving lots of content to different categories, please create a manual Discourse backup (here) before starting a work session. Means, if you split the work over three days, you’d create three manual backups, one on each day before you start moving content around.

That backup only needs to include the database, as files are the same as in the regular backups every three days.

Yes, of course.

@hugi, would this break the external website https://exchange.ngi.eu? Or do all API calls go through topic IDs?

Update: I have now eliminated the top-left menu. Also, after speaking to Amelia, I moved the content of the QDA Sandbox cat into a new subcat, #knowledge:amelias-smart-cities-project. The top-level QDA Sandbox itself is gone. Conversely, I moved the content of The Reef’s subcat onto #the-reef as a new top-level cat.

After confirmation from @hugi and @owen, I will then proceed to do the rest.

@alberto Fine by me - I can also remove the topics category shortly, as it will not be necessary.

It uses tags, not cats, so it should be fine.

For about 90% of the users of the other communities sites, I think it is mostly a hassle to have the SSO with Edgeryders communities. And even for me who uses three of the sites, I would barely notice if it went away since the login cookie seems to persist forever, and even when it doesn’t, I use a password manager in the browser.

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Yea, I think you’re right, so we’ll let the SSO system quietly disappear in the next weeks or months. Maybe the top-right “Communities” menu as well.

It means the original idea to have a federation of innovation and social change related online communities (“like Stack Exchange, but with forums”) has failed, both as an idea and commercially. So, one more failed project in a long list. The forums we have or could get simply have too different subject areas for people to realistically be interested in several of them.

How interesting that you should think that! My own account of this story is: we (well, Matt, since he did the heavy lifting) created the technical affordances for " federation of innovation and social change-related online communities". That means it could have happened, but we did not attempt to make it happen. In my experience, social dynamics need a lot of care and one-on-one work: fostering a common culture, planning joint activities, etc.

The only structured attempt I have been part of was to get Blivande and Edgeryders to think of themselves as brethren; that included both sides trying to find excuses to hire each other. We went to Tunisia together, @hugi ran Particip.io through Edgeryders, we brought some NGI events to Blivande. He had even planned an “Edgeryders Day” in May 2020, and I was going to go, but then COVID hit and, a year later, Hugi had concluded this was not going to happen, and we decided to let it go (he got last word, because Who Does The Work Calls The Shots). It was a decent try, I would do the same things again if I were in the same cinrcumstances, but I do not see how you can sidestep this kind of work.

These days, that’s exactly what new online communities need, and exactly why small enterprises like ours cannot financially afford to create one. In earlier days, with many blank spots on the web, people would have to give even a nearly empty online community a chance in order to find like-minded people around a particular interest. Not anymore.

I present you Matt’s Law of Platforms: “Since 2010, it is impossible to create new successful online communities. There are exceptions, but yours is not one of them.”

That’s what I learned.

With the federation of online communities we had in mind it’s about the same argument. It’s like a community of communities, needing the same care work to become successful – I think in that your assessment is very on point. And we would not have the resources for all that care work. On top, the new communities we gathered are largely not active anymore, that is, not successful – with the exception of Blivande. We’d have had to try and persuade existing online communities to switch to Edgeryders-based Discourse hosting. Maybe that was possible in principle, but all that outreach and conversion work to then end up with a relatively typical Discourse hosting fee would not have made it worth it.

It’s interesting you say that. I just had a long meeting with Volt (you know the political party) about maybe moving over to, and paying for, a federated edgeryders discourse set up.

Anyway - something happened with the menu items so that now the terms of service etc have vanished

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Well spotted. Fixed now.

Can we wait with removing the cross site login function please @matthias ?

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No problem. Postponed for at least a year, and will ask you once I get that idea again.