Introduction posts from SLU students

The Welcome to Discourse subforum contains almost nothing except “introduction” posts from students at Saint Leo University, Florida, the majority of which never make another post. Such posts have been appearing for some years, since at least 2021, and have been steadily increasing in volume since then.

Making such a post is apparently a requirement in one or more of their courses:

Has someone from SLU faculty discussed this course requirement with the moderators? If not, I think it borders on spam. It’s not a big problem, since it’s contained to the otherwise low-traffic ‘Welcome’ forum, but it still spills over into the Latest Topics stream.

Should such posts be discouraged?


At least in years past, they were often quite active posting questions and help threads, and I recall even mentoring one of them a bit. However, I don’t seem them much in Python Help like I once did, at least identifying themselves as such as they used to often do.

Not to my knowledge, at least while I’ve was a moderator, which was relatively recently. I’ve seen this for many years as well, and a couple years ago I inquired of one what this was about and if we could speak with their instructor about it, and she said the following:

So per that claim it is merely a “suggestion”, to offer the forum as a resource for students with questions? However, I never heard back from the instructor, and the post you cite seems to suggest that it is compulsory.

I’d been noticing it too and wondering if something should be done, but my personal conclusion was absent a broader discussion such as this to leave it be, given introducing oneself is indeed the whole purpose of the category after all and that’s all they are really doing. It does bother me a little bit that it is considered compulsory, but taking action against it when it doesn’t actually violate any explicit rules or guidelines only punishes the students, who evidently have no choice in the matter.

If people find it bothersome, what I would recommend here (as I appropriately did some time ago to @kknechtel ), is we create one thread that all the SLU students can post in called “SLU students post your welcomes here” or similar, and merging any recent lone threads into that one. If others here agree, I can go ahead and help implement that.

Additionally, we could ask the students there to help us get in touch with their instructor, so we can inquire more into it and open a line of communication in case it does pose a problem.


A SLU megathread sounds like a good solution. Then those who aren’t interested in those introductions could mute the thread, rather than muting the entire ‘Welcome’ forum.

I am also a little curious precisely how the suggestion/requirement is pitched by the instructor. Recommending this forum as a learning resource is obviously OK. On the other hand, if ‘Make a post at introducing yourself’ is an actual assignment that should perhaps be addressed.


Just to add the data point here: I completely missed this thread because the “SLU” in its title caused me to just skip right over it without realizing that it was not just one of the posts it’s discussing.

I took a few minutes to look through the posters of the last several months’ intro posts, and not one of them has a post outside of the intros and almost all have a “read time” under 10 minutes.

To be clear, students are of course welcome here. I just don’t think it’s useful for a professor (who may or may not even be here? They’re apparently not responding to their students’ posts) to require them to post when they have no intention of actually using the forum.


I have sometimes replied to such introductory posts when it appeared to me that the student was interested in computer science as an area of academic concentration, or might potentially be interested in the forum beyond its use merely as a destination for posting a required introduction. I would usually steer the student toward the Python Discourse Quick Start and About Discussions on pages, and suggest that they look at some of the discussions in the Python Help category. This was done in hopes that the student would gain a sense of how the forum might help them in the future, and how they might eventually use it to benefit others.

See the following for an example of a post that I felt merited a reply:

Provided that these required introductions are confined to the Welcome to Discourse! category, I don’t think they are a problem. However, if all the course instructor does regarding the forum is to assign the students the task of posting an introduction, then it is a missed opportunity. Students who become seriously engaged in learning Python could benefit from this or other forums after they have gained some knowledge of Python. The instructor could facilitate this by asking the students to also look at the pages referenced above that explain the workings of this forum. Then, later in the course, the instructor could return their attention to the forum by looking at some selected discussions that are interesting because they represent examples of how to use and how not to use a forum, or ones that feature an interesting problem or algorithm. The students can then be invited, purely optionally, to post to the Python Help category if, and only if, they are ready to ask a good question or provide a good answer, with any posted code properly formatted, of course.

Would it be prudent and practical for someone with authority on this forum to suggest directly to instructors how they might guide students toward effective engagement here?


Forcing (?) people to open an account on a service they have no intention to use, and possibly leaking personal information in the process. Isn’t that shady? Even if not intentionally so.

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It might be a favor to future SLU students if their instructor eventually learns that this compulsory assignment is really creepy, especially if it is made by a CS professional…

There’s no evidence that your reply was even read, though. These “SLU student intro” posts really feel like drive-by droppings, done to satisfy a course requirement but the people involved never seem to care about following up. I’ve stopped reading any of those threads.


There are two things we can do:

  1. Try to reach out to the professor, either directly or through their department/university, and explain that this instruction isn’t adding value to our community.
  2. Clean up existing posts by deleting them, or by consolidating them in a single thread.

However, I don’t think we can blame the users for following their teacher’s instruction, and I decline spam flags when people flag these posts.


The referenced thread has been viewed a few hundred times thus far, but we don’t know whether the original poster read my reply or whether anyone who viewed the thread used any of the information in it.

It might be best if the instructor discontinued the requirement that each student open an account. Instead, after the students have reached a stage of learning later in the course when they are asking good questions, the instructor could inform them about the forum, demonstrate how it can be used effectively by showing them some exemplary discussions, and leave it up to each student whether or not to create and use an account.


Definitely agree there. But if I want to flag one to get merged, what’s an appropriate flag type?

I would actually love to see some kind of a course requirement that gets them to search existing posts. That doesn’t require a login, and it also encourages previous material to be read rather than treating every problem as “time to write a post”.


Fully agreed with @davidism on all points; he put it much more concisely and clearly than I.

I’ve mod-messaged a few of the most recent posters asking if they can help us get in touch with their instructor to open a channel of communication, clear things up and potentially share the community’s feedback and advice on this—there’s been some great suggestions already, of course.

To determine next steps, I’ve opened a poll (in a separate thread, for visibility):

Curiously, I noticed one of the St. Leo students, in their first and so far only post after their welcome, posted the following short description of the waterfall development model as a separate thread in the Welcome to Discourse! section, which clearly doesn’t make sense on here, was reported as spam and which I removed:

I’ve messaged them letting them know why, and asked them if they could explain why they did so—perhaps it was some sort of assignment, even? If anything relevant comes up that I can share, I’ll let you all know.

Between @davidism 's ever-vigilant eye and my daily patrols (and I can first-post-sub to the category), pretty sure we can catch this quickly enough (particularly as there isn’t that strong of a time pressure), but I suppose you could just flag it as “Other” (if we decide to do this)?


There was another recent SLU signup who posted clearly LLM generated content on some Ideas posts as well, which was flagged and deleted. So they might have had some new instructions to post more than “hello”. Let’s just see if anyone responds with more info for now.



Regarding the following choice in the poll …

… note the term “posts” rather than “threads”. Would this mean merging only the original post from each thread and discarding any replies, or would it entail merging entire threads intact? Most recent SLU posts have not accrued any replies, but many older ones do have replies. Some of the replies are themselves introductory ones.

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I was only immediately planning on merging the most recent batch (over the last few days), since it is a rather time-intensive process that requires, for each thread:

  1. Opening the thread
  2. Clicking the mod action menu
  3. Clicking the Select posts button
  4. Clicking the (small) Select all link
  5. Clicking the Move selected button
  6. Searching for the target thread
  7. Selecting the target thread from the list of search results
  8. Clicking Move to existing topic
  9. Going “Back” in the browser
  10. Clicking the mod action menu again
  11. Clicking Delete topic

In testing, this takes me just under a minute per topic, though most of that is due to Discourse’s laggy performance on my over decade-old laptop.

Of those in the latest batches, exactly zero have replies, and only one in the previous (January) batch does. However, regardless, per that procedure all posts are selected and moved, either as a unit or chronologically (selectable),

Perhaps you should do only that and leave the previous ones as they are. However, if you do decide to merge the older ones that have replies, I think it would be best to merge entire threads as intact units rather than to merge the contained posts chronologically.

If people really think its worth it I can merge all of them; its just that there are over 120 of them judging from the first posts in #welcome that contain SLU, which at the rate above will take nearly 2 hours, and I just figured there are probably more valuable ways for me to spend that time helping the community.

Thanks, I’ll do that; I’ll start from the beginning of whatever time period we agree on it so the overall thread-level order still makes sense (though it does mean we’ll need to decide for sure on that before we start the process, as we won’t be able to change our mind later unless we merge all the older posts to add into a different thread, and then merge the original megathread into that thread).

I don’t know that you need to merge anything older–no one responds and the threads just fall off the first page after a while. Even merging the latest set might be a waste of time unless you’re sure that future students will use that thread.

Making contact with the course instructors seems much more important.


Just to be clear, I’m suggesting that for each thread that gets merged, the original post and all its replies should be kept together as a unit. However, perhaps the real issue is the rather superficial original posts to which no one replied. If there will be a merging, and by the way I’m not one of those pushing for it, you could merge only those lone posts, while leaving the the threads that do contain replies as they are. On average, the better original posts are the ones that did garner replies, and therefore can be regarded as having initiated threads that are worthy of remaining on their own, rather than getting merged.