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... and if so, is there a way to do that in SE?

Sometimes people post questions that don't have definite answers - they are more like open ended topics of discussion. Although we do have a chat feature, they are volatile and the amount of people participating seems to be low. Sometimes people just want to post something related to something they released, or a job posting (check out this chat room).

How do people feel about having a complementary forum that does not distract from the main site for the types of questions/posts that do not fit the Q/A format?

  • Exactly how would your "complementary forum" differ from chat and why could one expect it to have any more participation than chat currently does? – whuber Aug 24 '12 at 19:23
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    @whuber well, IMHO, the chat, as currently implemented, doesn't provide a good "list of topics" in any meaningful order/organization. They just show the last three or two active ones, and because of using a chat metaphor, the answers are structured more like a conversation. That causes it to jump from topic to topic (where the title becomes somewhat irrelevant). It makes searching by topic orders of magnitude harder. It is not really a chat (when I am on IRC I get replies from people almost instantly), and it is not really a form. So IMHO, it is the worst of both worlds. – Ragi Yaser Burhum Aug 24 '12 at 20:04
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    I also understand a lot of people may be against the idea, but I just wanted to throw it out there in case other people felt the same way. – Ragi Yaser Burhum Aug 24 '12 at 20:05
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    Thank you for the clarification, Ragi: it helps me understand what you're trying to achieve. I did not mean to intimate I'm against the idea. But, however much I might like it, I know enough about SE to know with certainty that it won't fly here, regardless how useful it might potentially be. That's why you will be getting replies that try (gently, I hope) to steer you towards other outlets. – whuber Aug 24 '12 at 21:01
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    @RagiYaserBurhum You might want to check out the Geo Geeks community at Google Plus. plus.google.com/communities/101440815480941087049 – R.K. Dec 20 '12 at 6:19
  • Cool, thanks for the link – Ragi Yaser Burhum Dec 26 '12 at 16:43
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I'd really like to see SE add a blogging feature to the site so that any member (or at least any member meeting a threshold reputation) has a blog on their profile page.

This would allow the member to post things that aren't really questions. More importantly, questions raised by the blog post would be voted on, so that the blog author could focus on questions about his or her post.

Blog posts can often be thought of as answers in search of a question. Questions raised by a blog could appear in both the main site as well as beneath the blog post. The voting mechanism could allow readers to find the most highly voted blogs, and search by tag, if they prefer. The voting would also allow authors to focus on answering the most highly voted questions raised by the blog post.

It seems like our current blog is just a bag hanging off the side of GIS.SE. I think a lot of former blog writers got tired of trying to figure out what questions in the "comments" section of the blog were worth responding to. The voting mechanism would make this task easier.

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    good idea. I think you are onto something – Ragi Yaser Burhum Aug 28 '12 at 15:07
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    "It seems like our current blog is just a bag hanging off the side of GIS.SE" - There are unpublished posts on the current site - but the blog GIS.SE community has to drive it not one or two senior members - but do like the idea of a voting tool for it. – Mapperz Aug 31 '12 at 14:53
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In my opinion that would not be a good idea. There is SE for questions with definite answers and chat for others. If more questions would be posted in chat, maybe more people would log in. Forums where "everything goes" can be found all over the web.

For job adds, there is careers.

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    Thanks for the answer @underdark. What do you think is a good forum for GIS? I am a member of various mailing lists, but I don't think there is a specific one I would recommend to others for an over-all encompassing one like GIS.SE is for GIS questions. – Ragi Yaser Burhum Aug 24 '12 at 19:58
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    Could you provide some examples of questions that should be posted in such a forum (besides job adds) that would not end in flame wars? – underdark Aug 24 '12 at 20:22
  • Sure. Announcement for releasing something (i.e a new release of software x that comes up daily on GIS.SE). Brainstorming for approaches to implementing some new functionality (i.e "any ideas of how can we leverage redis's PubSub in GIS?" and then build up on each other's answers"). Organizing a local group meeting/conference ("who is attending [x]"). Getting people interested in working on a project together ("anybody wants to solve [x] with me on GitHub?"). Asking about opinions about a particular GIS topic/event/technology. – Ragi Yaser Burhum Aug 24 '12 at 22:02
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    In all honesty, open ended questions of any kind and organizational things. For example, this discussion we are having right now with you and whuber. Does it fit the Q&A model better, or is the way we are going about discussing this the best format (for example, I have to cut my answer into two every certain amount of characters to be able to be able to work around the character limit imposed). – Ragi Yaser Burhum Aug 24 '12 at 22:04
  • I also understand, as @whuber mentioned, that perhaps this may not be the place for this. And it would make sense that there would be some (valid) resistance about adding something to the site that does not necessarily fit the original purpose of the site (a Q&A site). – Ragi Yaser Burhum Aug 24 '12 at 22:06
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    Many of the things you mention, I'd probably take to the OSGeo list (like organizational stuff or looking for collaborators). I don't know what's out in the ESRI world, maybe there's something similar. In my opinion, SE is not the right platform for such topics. – underdark Aug 24 '12 at 22:20
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It's not clear that any of the examples suggest a compelling need for a "complementary forum." Let's see how they might fit in to what we already have.

Announcement for releasing something (e.g., a new release of software x that comes up daily on GIS.SE).

In many cases this can be handled with a community promotion ad.


Brainstorming for approaches to implementing some new functionality (e.g., "any ideas of how can we leverage redis's PubSub in GIS?") and then building up on each other's answers.

This is the idea behind community wiki. Carefully presented, such questions are on topic here. CW allows people to provide partial answers that are gradually improved.


Organizing a local group meeting/conference ("who is attending [x]?").

See the community promotion ad link.


Getting people interested in working on a project together ("anybody want to solve [x] with me on GitHub?").

That sounds like a quick chat followed by a mass migration to another site to deal with that issue. It might qualify for a community promotion ad (q.v.). It can also be conducted, with some care, on SE itself. For a model, see an early effort on a sister site, the polystats project.


Asking for opinions about a particular GIS topic/event/technology.

Chat is a reasonable vehicle for this. No main SE site would host such a discussion: that's not the SE model or purpose. If, however, you're not just kicking back for a nice warm chat with buddies during your off hour and you are truly seeking information, then you probably want well supported, well crafted opinions. We're the site for that.

  • And don't forget our blog. Wait--there's a blog? – whuber Aug 25 '12 at 2:47
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I agree with the impulse behind the question and ensuing discussion: the Stack Exchange milieu is missing something. That amorphous something looks a bit like a forum and smells somewhat like chat, but isn't either of those.

There is nothing stopping us or anyone from creating a vendor neutral offsite forum using google groups or whatever and just making a go of it. (In this context I consider OSGeo a "vendor" in so far as the user base is selective and narrow-ish.) Without official association though I think such an effort will wither on the vine. Even our blog which is SE sanctioned is anemic, in part, I believe, because of it's distance from the core community's area of activity.

Perhaps we could leverage the existing chat features to fulfill most of the "something" until a better mousetrap arises.

WRT the problem of chat not having topics: use rooms. They're easy to create and automatically associated with the parent; we have two at present. A convention of posting an announcement of the new topic in the main chat room will help with visibility (as will people starring those of interest).

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