Reconsider the "Users" category?

I’m confused. :confused:

What was wrong with adding a link to this forum to Python’s official website at https://www.python.org/community/forums/? Can this be reconsidered? Isn’t this discussion forum a good source that deserves being mentioned on the Python.org website?

Side note: I had just failed to find this forum via the Python website a moment ago; had to ask my Web browser history. :roll_eyes: This really shouldn’t be necessary.

You’re unfortunately asking in the wrong place. This is a question for those that run the python.org website which is a separate group of people.

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I was pointed to this thread as I was writing a new post asking why discuss.python.org is not listed at Our Community | Python.org (very nice feature that “related topics” thing is).

I’ve read through this thread and I’m still confused. Why keep it quiet? What makes this place different from the Slack, Discord or Libera IRC channels on the community page?

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Its probably an oversight.

On second thought…

Discuss is literally the first item mentioned under “Forums”:

“The official Python Community forums are hosted at discuss.python.org.”

It seems to me that the Users category has basically become a user-support category at this point. The Users category is by-far the most active category on this Discourse instance (more than 4x the next most active category: Packaging). In the past month, it has had more posts than all the other categories combined.

I don’t know if that category also accounts for most of the moderation requests, but it wouldn’t be surprising if it is.

With all that in mind, I think it would make sense to do either of the following:

  • Sunset that category, reducing the overall traffic on this instance – delegating to other community spaces for interfacing with users
  • Move that into a separate Discourse instance (i.e. separating the users forum for the development forum), allowing both instances to be specialised for its audience + have separate moderation pools

This came up somewhat indirectly in What I miss here coming from users.rust-lang.org.

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A category for general questions and answers about Python is a good feature. Hosting it in this forum provides general users with some opportunity to interact with developers, as well as with each other, and that can be beneficial to both users and developers.

General users may find it interesting to occasionally peek into the specialized developer categories to see what is going on there. Developers who wish to do so can conveniently check out the Users category in order to maintain a sense of how the general community uses Python.

Instead, let’s consider changing the name of the category to make it clearer where to ask and answer general questions about Python. How about renaming it “Python Q&A”? Optionally, there could be a transition period during which it is named “Python Q&A for Users”. That would keep the name recognizable to current general users during the transition period.

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It’s been my experience that when other open source communities tell
users “take your questions somewhere else, this is the developers’
club, no users allowed” it reinforces an unnecessary rift between
“users” and “developers” making it harder for the community to pick
up new recruits to continue maintenance of its software because its
users have been intentionally alienated from the development
process.

Further, when users are expected to ask questions in a place where
only people who have questions are paying attention, the quality of
the answers they’re likely to receive is far worse… their
questions are more likely to be answered by another well-meaning
user who is misinformed or has a severe misunderstanding about the
software’s internals.

Perhaps worse still, it creates an echo chamber among the project’s
enfranchised developer community where external input is unlikely
or, in the case of the core developer section on the forum here,
actually prohibited by ACLs. There have been topics in that section
where a community management question was raised seeking
suggestions, and I could have brought outside experience to bear,
but my replies were rejected by the forum software because the
Python developers have decided they actually don’t value that.

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Personally, as someone who hovers somewhere between a regular user and a contributor, I agree with @Quercus and @fungi .

In my experience as a Spyder developer (particularly on responsible for the documentation, website and funding proposals), having an easily accessible place to interact with users (GitHub discussions and our issue tracker) and spending a fair amount of time on it, this both benefited users (by helping them), but also greatly benefited both myself as a developer, and the project as a whole, since it gave a lot of invaluable insight on how people were using Spyder in the real world and what problems they were running in to, which has directly informed a lot of our funding proposals, feature prioritization decisions, and documentation/help improvements.

Likewise, I’ve enjoyed interacting with both the user and developer communities here, and while perhaps not as directly valuable to development as on Spyder, it still is helpful to see what issues users are running in to, and get to spend some time giving back and interacting with them. And, there’s some amount of interplay between the communities and issues that fall into gray areas, e.g. packaging problems that may be more user questions, or may point to deeper issues that can spark a broader discussion, and can be moved around accordingly.

I’d be interested to hear from the @admins and @moderators on how this affects them, particularly as I’m a moderator on both small/technical focused and very large/user focused communities elsewhere.

@cameron you also might be interested in commenting, as you’re particularly active helping users in the Users category

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It’s actually not bad. Yes, the Users category generates the majority of issues, but it’s still fairly small. Discourse’s built-in spam blocking and such does a good job typically. For instance, there was a single message today to manage. Most days it’s at most 2 unless the system goes haywire and mis-flags, but that’s really only happened at a large scale once (as @fungi is well aware :wink:).

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Hi, why do you mute normal users of your language

Its a high-volume category filled with a large repetitive, low-level beginner help questions that can overwhelm other discussions on here. Guido is a busy person with a lot of things to do and conversations to be involved in that require his specialized expertise, whereas anyone with a decent amount of Python experience can answer such questions adequately (and in fact, a handful of active users are enough to cover almost all of the questions). Moreover, Guido is a core developer and participant like any other, who has every right to make his own choices about what categories he spends his time on.

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I am a beginner of Python. I think beginners ask questions because there’re something need improvement.

The Tutorial is not complete. It does not cover the concept of closure, keywords: classmethod and staticmethod, etc…

If variable num is integer like num = 123, no one will assign it like num = 'abc' and it is wrong. so, can python be static typing and the compiler can do real optimization.

“The Tutorial is not complete.”

If the Tutorial was a thousand pages long, and took five years to complete, it would still not be complete.

Things like closures, classmethods and staticmethods are advanced concepts that are not necessary to cover in an introductory tutorial.

“If variable num is integer like num = 123, no one will assign it like num = 'abc' and it is wrong.”

It is not wrong. Many thousands of Python programmers do it, including myself.

There are hundreds of statically typed languages, and hundreds of dynamically typed languages. Neither is better or worse than the other, they are just different.

If you want to program in Java or Pascal, you can use Java or Pascal. But if you are using Python, you might as well learn to do things the way Python does them.

It is fine to re-use the same variable for different types.

I suggested the introduction of a dedicated discourse instance for users in What I miss here coming from users.rust-lang.org because I think gearing a forum towards users would make it more welcoming for users. When it comes to welcomeness towards users, I think we have to distinguish between two factors:

  1. how welcoming the community is (e.g. are the people welcoming?, is there appropriate moderation?)
  2. how welcoming the infrastructure is (e.g. what forum categories are there? for what/whom are they designated?)

As far as I can tell this forum is doing a great job when it comes to the first point but only a mediocre job when it comes to the second point. There are 8 categories targeted primarily at developers but only a single category targeted at users. If you are a user with interests other than Q&A, you are just out of luck. While some categories sound interesting for users they aren’t actually welcome there, case in point:

Editor/IDE Integration
Discussion place for integrators of Python support into editors and IDEs (not meant for general users).

Creating a dedicated forum for users would allow the introduction of further categories targeted at users. The exchange between users and developers (as well as between beginners and experts) is of course very important, but it does not necessitate having everything in a single forum. Case in point users.rust-lang.org where the quality of help provided by volunteers (some of which are very much experts) is incredible.

There could be dedicated categories in users.python.org to foster the exchange between users and developers (e.g. the current Idea category) and perhaps a Surveys category that developers can use if they want to gather feedback from users.

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For me, I view Users as a general purpose place for people programming
in Python. Maybe that was not The Plan, but the description says:

 General discussion forum for the Python programming language.
 All welcome.

And that is a great description for the top category!

I’d consider that roughly the same audience as the python-list mailing
list. Certainly I’d expect anyone using Python who has a question to
come here if there isn’t a pretty obvious better place to go.

The list of categories has some pretty clear sections at the top (Users,
Ideas, etc), and there’s no direct equivalent to the “tutor” mailing
list for beginners. So they should come to “Users” as well.

So I expect anyone with a Python programming question to land here. If
their question is quite specific to something specialised like numpy etc
the should be welcomed, and pointed to the better forum. But if there’s
someone here with knownledge in that domain, I’ve no objection to to the
discussion happening here.

We can clearly stick links in the category descriptions. Maybe Users
could do with a single terse link to a separate page on Python resources
(area specific lists and forums, etc). But I also think it would
diminish that great concise welcoming description.

In my experience, no amount of “focus” in the description will prevent
misfiled posts - the best we can do is what I see: Users at the top as a
catch-all and a bunch of obviously somewhat specialised categories below
it.

Many mailing lists send an intro email when people subscribe. My
experience is that this does not prevent posts which should go elsewhere
or be formed differently. And the more information there is in such an
intro, I suspect the less it gets read.

So my opinion is that:

  • do not focus the “Users” category on the stdlib in any formal way
  • greet specialised nonstdlib questions either with specific advice or a
    suggestion of a better list/forum, accompanied with the context that
    this forum is mostly around the stdlib, or mostly populated by
    generalists
  • I’m against telling people to go away because they’re asking something
    specialised without a helpful link to better help
  • I’m against telling people to go away because they’re asking something
    specialised in any kind of “brush them off” dismissive tone; I would
    rather their query went unanswered than that they were made to feel
    unwelcome
  • we’ve got topics in the Categories, just like mailing list subject
    lines - we can all ignore what we’re not interested in; aside: can
    people mute topics?

For context:

  • I hate forums; I interact with discourse via email - to me that is a
    major feature of discourse, that I have this choice
  • I’m on a lot of lists, and I have my mail system file them in a far
    smaller number of mail folders, so I’ve got quite a few lists all
    mixed into my “python” folder, including the discourse forums - all of
    them to which I subscribe

So my “python” folder has: python-list, tutor, Users and a bunch of
other things. They’re labelled, and I expect to pay a bit of attention
to that context. There’s only one line per topic/subject, and the most
recent stuff is at the top. For me, this works.

How is this relevant?

The Users category is inherently going to get something of everything.
We should expect that category to be a big mix, and expect to divert
people to better places when those places are better (and there’s nobody
here who can help).

I’m fine with expecting to help with the stdlib in users and
occasionally or as convenient helping with other things. We’re always
going to get the beginners, either outright on in whatever new domain
they’re using. We’re always going to get people in specialised domains
(eg numpy) where users have come here because it is an obvious place to
start.

Specialist lists can be confronting - there’s the whole “imposter
syndrome” where you don’t feel competent enough to join and ask your
question. But a forum for “Python Users”? That’s where you go to start.

So I’m ok with the informal focus on the stdlib - that’s what all Python
users have in common. But I’m against formal focus on the stdlib.

If a question’s not for you, you should ignore it and move on. That’s
what I do, even on topics I’m interested in, if others have covered off
what I’d have tried to say.

Cheers,
Cameron Simpson cs@cskk.id.au

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In a recent thread, Ashlie Here, Saying Hello!, within the Welcome to Discourse! category, a student from Saint Leo University wrote:

:grin:

The Users category, in its current form, is the best venue for the best of the best to continue to offer their best to the educational community.

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Hmmm, what’s the navigation path to get to that Forums page? I didn’t find it before adding my post to this thread.

Later: ohhhh, the drop down menu for Community holds a dozen entries, including ‘Forums’ while the Community page itself only has half that, and the page doesn’t have Forums. I would expect the menu items to be reflected in the page too.

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As a general note, a closely related issue came up again on this thread, after a number of recent user-help posts in the PSF category that belonged in the Users category:

@CAM-Gerlach I think it is indeed a translation issue:
“Python Software Foundation” → “Python Software Basis” → “Python Software Basics”
And so the category is selected for basic help requests… :wink: