Reconsider the "Users" category?

I wonder if we can focus the “Users” category to “CPython stdlib users” instead of all of Python users? So for example problems/issues related to other libraries like pandas or something should probably be asked elsewhere…

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I muted the category a while ago because of how noisy it’s gotten. There were some good posts in the start like Couple of CPython API questions and Why are some @expressions syntax errors? which lead to fruitful discussions about the design of the language.

Now it seems like it’s more overrun with beginner questions which there’s already plenty of other resources for on the internet. Then again making a category like “insightful user questions” isn’t that easy.

I’m personally okay with there being some beginner and intermediate level questions, but I do agree with Mariatta regarding focusing the scope to CPython’s stdlib instead of just Python in general. In the vast majority of the threads that are asking about other libraries, we almost always end up having to redirect their questions elsewhere (which doesn’t seem like a great usage of limited time).

I imagine that we’ll find some of those questions still, but it should at least reduce the volume.

It seems like Google’s taken a liking to discuss.python.org recently. I wonder who here’s the culprit :male_detective:

I think it will be hard to have a category for “questions about the standard library.” Many of the people now asking questions in the Users category don’t yet know enough to understand what the stdlib is, no matter how you word it. Even if they do understand that concept, they may not be able to diagnose whether their problem is with the stdlib or with something else.

BTW, what even is the stdlib these days? Would requests and black (which are hosted under the PSF GitHub org) be on-topic? Why not?

How much energy do you want to devote to making these distinctions and redirecting topics that are out-of-bounds?

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In my mind requests and black aren’t part of stdlib. They’re hosted by PSF but not really maintained by Python core devs.

I’ve always thought that this Discourse forum was created as alternative for python-dev mailing list, which has been focused on core Python development.

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Maybe we need to fix some docs then. The About page here says:

Discussions related to the Python Programming Language, Python Community, and Python Software Foundation operations.

Even the domain name isn’t helpful: discuss.python.org hardly signals “core Python development.”

But also, there’s a lot of packaging talk here, outside of core development concerns. It’s great that it’s happening, I love that there’s a place for packaging improvements to be made. Does it fit in the elevator pitch for what this forum is for? How do we expand the description to include it?

Of course, the people in the Users category won’t read the About page or any description we give of the forum. But it would be useful for ourselves to have clarity.

I also think it is great that we have a dedicated category for packaging.

I think the Users category is too broad for me to keep up with. As a core dev, I need to peek at that category once a while: It is where we discuss the annual steering council election, it is also where we direct folks to if they have questions about Python Language Summit. I felt I end up spending a lot of time reading the posts in the Users category only to realize that it is a topic I don’t actually care about or I simply lack knowledge to help.

I think what I’m looking for in the end is python-dev-like Category within Discourse, where discussion is focused on core Python. If we create a separate category for beginners/learners, I think that would be great too.

Forgive me if I’m wrong, but aren’t you (Mariatta) one of the champions
for moving from email to Discuss?

If we want people to use Discuss instead of email, what do we expect to
happen? It’s going to get some of the traffic that currently goes to the
tutor and Python-List mailing lists. That’s only going to go through the
roof if the mailing lists get deprecated, shut down or lose popularity.

(I count 444 emails to Python-List in January. A dozen or two messages
to the Users category is nothing.)

I don’t remember anything on the Discuss pages that says that it is
restricted to questions about core development. (I can’t check, because
Discuss no longer supports any browser I am able to use at home. Please
send any jokes about upgrading from Windows95 to /dev/null thanks :slight_smile:

If Discuss is going to be a general alternative, let alone replacement,
to the mailing lists, then there needs to be a place for beginners and
intermediate users to ask questions about the entire Python ecosystem,
and not just fob them off onto third-party discussion forums which may
or may not be suitable or even exist.

If the Users category isn’t suitable for general discussion about the
entire Python ecosystem, then I believe that the category is misnamed.
Either that or we should change our expectations about what users will
want to talk about on the Users category :slight_smile:

Observation

The Users channel says “All welcome.” While the idea fits with the open philosophy of the Python community, I don’t think it practically means all questions will be entertained. The spectrum of questions is too wide. Unlike Discourse, sites like StackOverflow have guidelines, tools and moderation to help direct new contributions. Examples of new user questions:

  • novice: e.g. “What is a list?”
  • homework: e.g. “My teacher wants me to …”
  • broad: e.g. “I want to make a mobile app …”
  • specific: e.g. “pandas gives an error when I …”
  • known gotchas: e.g. “Why doesn’t 1/0.1 equal 100?”
  • incomplete or unclear: e.g. “I have foo(). How to get bar()?”

It’s no one’s fault really. Beginners don’t know what to ask and experienced users may not have time (or want) to respond. As a result, I’ve noticed such questions have a high chance of going unanswered, which can seem unwelcoming.

What to do?

I’m not sure. To start, I think the User description pin may need clarification on what questions are expected. Maybe add some resources to help users solve their own questions (Python/library docs, how to post issues on GitHub, etc.)

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I have only one question. How do I mute this category in the emails that I occasionally receive?

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Go the users category and it’ll be on the top right:

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You can also visit your Preferences and add categories to the Muted list.

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Oddly, I don’t have the “Muted” (crossed-out alarm bell) option. Honestly I find discoverability in the Discourse UI often a big problem. But maybe that’s because I’m Dutch. :slight_smile:

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The menu is scrollable, and Muted is the one option below the fold… :frowning:

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Well, the Muted option is muted: isn’t it logical?

aren’t you (Mariatta) one of the champions
for moving from email to Discuss?

Yes I still prefer Discourse over mailing lists. But I understand not everyone find it suitable for them, and therefore I’m still in both worlds: I read python-dev mailing list and Python Discourse. I’m not subscribed to python-list or python-tutor, I’m just not interested and I have limited free time available.

I don’t remember anything on the Discuss pages that says that it is
restricted to questions about core development.

All I remembered is that Discourse was put in place during Core Python Sprint 2018. Perhaps that is why in my mind I’ve personally always associated Discourse with core Python development. And I realize that my expectation about Discourse doesn’t necessarily align everyone else’s expectation.

If the Users category isn’t suitable for general discussion about the
entire Python ecosystem, then I believe that the category is misnamed.
Either that or we should change our expectations about what users will
want to talk about on the Users category

Yes, and that is why I’m asking, can we please reconsider the “Users” category, so that it is not too broad? Or rather, can we please split it into several more focused categories, instead of “this is the category for everyone”?

The Users channel says “All welcome.”

Yes I know, and that’s why I’m asking: can this category be more focused because currently I can’t keep up with it. The category has been too random and too broad.

Also, we’ve said since the beginning that Discourse is “an experiment”. It has been a year and half since we began experimenting with Discourse (since core sprint 2018) Would be great to evaluate how this experiment is going, and what are the things we need to keep/change?

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I recall someone posting last week that they added a link to Discourse to a highly visible place somewhere, is it possible that that’s what have caused the explosion of the Users category? In that case maybe it would be better to change the wording on that resource to clarify what kind of content is welcome here.

It originally was framed around trying out a replacement for python-dev and python-committers and potentially python-ideas. The issue is “Users” was meant to be analogous to python-dev, but it has subsequently become a catch-all and closer to python-list. Probably creating a more specific python-dev-like category would help to be more focused on that topic and still be the place where steering council nominations end up. All that will require is a name and description that can clearly communicate what the category is for.

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I think that was me, in How to keep content balanced? I have now tweaked the Python.org “Forums” page so that this Discourse is at the bottom of the list, and specifically says it’s more for users of the CPython standard library.

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