I think it would be helpful in the forum if there were more specific categories for each of your services. Having one large Discussion board mixes in more technical questions for people who are posting things about the shared hosting service.
Thanks for the feedback. We used to have more categories in the old forums and we removed most of them during the migration to Discourse (the current platform). We changed the old categories into tags.
The reason for less categories is that users get confused about which category to use: if I am deploying a WordPress plugin to run on DreamCompute, do I want to file a question under DreamCompute or WordPress category? If I am having trouble creating an SSH key, does that get to be filed in category Shared Hosting or DreamCompute or VPS? In the past forums, with many categories, the threads were often mixed up and there was no clarity there anyway.
Since multiple tags can be applied to a question on Discourse we decided it makes more sense to have a simple category for all #customer-discussion and differentiate them using tags. You can subscribe to a tag and get email notifications for all new questions with that tag. Tags can only be created by moderators, so there won’t be much confusion and the current set matches DreamHost products.
Can you clarify why you feel the need for a separate category?
I totally understand you want to reduce categories in favor of tags. However, in your current hierarchy, How To, Suggestions, and Site Feedback are all actually Discussions & Questions which is probably why you see 35,640 posts there while the others are 436 and the other two under 20.
The site I like the best that uses Discourse is SmartThings. They use Categories as their front page rather than Latest. I can’t imagine anyone actually wanting to read latest as if it was a blog that they’re keeping up with at any frequency. It isn’t a “news”/discussion site anywhere similar to Reddit.
People come to your forums to ask general questions, talk about your products, talk about their projects, etc. Seeing an endless stream of everything makes it confusing, especially when a lot of DreamHost users are going to be using shared hosting and posting generic post titles like “HELP! Something is broken!” - which is better suited to customer support anyways. I, as a Shared Hosting and DreamCompute user, would like to engage with more technical questions that might be on stack overflow but more specific to DreamHost like details about your OpenStack implementation.
When someone new and unfamiliar first arrives your site, it’s overwhelming to take in the latest stream and in the meantime learn that those labels are tags, not categories, and that you can’t access or overview the full list of tags on the page you first land on to get to where you want.
Your only way to access a collection of post types within a topic is to click on the tags in the forum posts’ tags and so then you’re restricted in jumping to the tags from the latest posts.
SmartThings’ site (https://community.smartthings.com/) clearly shows the categories that would fit any immediate user and let them engage with that sub community quickly. They are still using tags to delineate
Devices & Integrations - community oriented, shows of device handlers (drivers), and allows discussions about devices themselves
Projects & Stories - community oriented, shows off projects from the community and allows people to post ideas about the projects
Mobile App - clearly discussions about their mobile app product
Groups & Events - self explanatory
Developers - for the community to discuss development work
I hope I’m being clear here. The issue I think you’re dealing with is equivalent to having an electronics store and placing things on the floor with the latest at the entrance and older products at the back. Each product has a tag on what type of product it is – like refrigerator/home appliances or speakers/audio equipment. Even though they’re tagged it’s not appropriately organized. A refrigerator and speaker may use LEDs but it’s no question that even though they both have LEDs, people are not confused about the category of product they fit under.
It would make more sense to organize the store by categories like Home Appliances and Audio Equipment so customers can find them within their category.
Instead of relying on tags, I think taking some time to abstract out the proper categories to enhance navigation would be ideal. However, your question in specific situations like WordPress plugins etc is something that you’ll have to find patterns in as the forum owner/moderator.
I dunno how this happened but this forum lost a ton of daily activity on the day that Discourse was introduced. There are only a few posts here per day on any topic. There is no stream of activity to confuse our eyes when we open this forum. The recent activity, which could be the last week, is displayed in a page or less.
I’m a huge fan of effective categorization but so far the tagging system here seems to be working, given the low volume.
The only thing that I see that still bothers me is that text we enter for an OP gets suggested references going back over a decade. That results in people necromancing very old issues as though they are related to current issues. I opened a discussion on that but no action has yet been taken.
@cafevagrant, you can change the front page for your account at https://discussion.dreamhost.com/u/cafevagrant/preferences/interface.
Currently, it is set to “Latest”, can you can set it to “Categories”, as you prefer.
That’s great! Thanks for the tip. That fixes one of the issues mentioned.
Cool, with that out of the way, your main complaints seem to be that the site isn’t set up the way you want, and that’s cool, but let’s focus on helping you do what you want, and then you can convince the forum designers your preferences should be default.
You can view all the tags at https://discussion.dreamhost.com/tags. You can click on any one of those tags and use the tracking dropdown to subscribe or mute a tag at your discretion.
Optionally, in the same section as that preference to change the front page, you can choose subscription for all tags. For example, I like getting an email about the first post of each thread in Announcements:
It is notable that you can “mute” tags, meaning you won’t be notified about them unless you interact with it (meaning you will get replies if you reply, for instance).
In the past, I’ve used the tags to subscribe to product conversations for specific items I was tracking, and excluded the others.
Well, that’s about it, but I wanted to comment on one tangent:
I bet you can imagine it! Everyone has their own approach, we can just try to hit the most bases with good defaults. I happen to be one person that keeps up on the forums semi-regularly, so it is very helpful for me to see the latest.
Hey Maiki. Since this is a forum for discussions, maybe as a moderator you can explain why this forum is oriented in a way to encourage users to subscribe to all or specific tagged forum posts and what data is leading that direction.
You mentioned that you use this feature semi-regularly, are you approaching this configuration as a moderator or as a common user? My assumption is people are using this forum similar to most help forums like Stack Overflow or even the other businesses that use Discourse.
Whenever I need to follow a subject I subscribe to that specific thread but don’t rely on the latest of everything that ranges from “help, my site doesn’t work” to something obscure like running a Google Assistant server.
No idea. I am a mod because I’ve just been active, helpful and nice to folks, so I get a few extra tools to help the forums (like changing a mistaken category for a post, or checking the occasional spammy message). I think @smaffulli has been involved with a lot of the development and design of these forums.
The reason I think that is because we’ve spoken about Discourse, and I am kinda active in that community; I administer internal instances for orgs, and also a public instance as an information art project. So if my advice in this thread sounds like it is based on DreamHost policy, it is not. I just know a bunch about Discourse.
mutt to process my mail, and active on about 2 dozen instances, so I use the filters and tracking features to curate an inbox I can power to 0 each morning, while still keeping up on what is happening.
So I’d say I am not approaching it as either of those personas!
I am not sure what you mean. I study online communities, so if you elaborate a bit, I’ll probably understand whatcha mean. There are a lot of attributes shared between the systems you mention (they were even developed by a lot of the same folks!), but I think you have something in mind about the categories and tags, but I am not picking it up, since Stack Overflow has an even weirder way to segregating knowledge (sub-sites rather than categories, and tags in a flat pool for everything else).
Let me know!
That sounds cool, and I get ya. What’s the issue? Is there something getting in the way of you doing that?
I mean, when I use Stack Overflow I use the search and find what I need, same here on these forums. I just happen to like reading what DH customers are talking about, so I also use it as a feed of conversations. It seems very flexible to me, but from your store metaphor, if I am parsing it correctly, you feel like you aren’t finding the knowledge you need, correct?
I am not sure if more categories are gonna help, but I will tell ya, it is a trending practice to reduce the amount of top-level categories. Even Discourse encourages you to rethink your current categories when you create a new one. It is harder to manage, that is the big one, of course. But also most of us experience feedback that equates to a better experience for our site users. That is certainly my experience. But again, I am not associated with the taxonomies on this site.
That’s great that you’re knowledgeable about Discourse as a product. However, the conversation I’m trying to have is how this specific forum can be more effective for it’s users
Then that’s a great point to make here. Your use case is not the target demographic. Although it is still important and useful information to have, the forum, or at least I think, @smaffulli can correct me if I’m wrong, is meant for users who are looking for help on Dreamhost Products
For all intents and purposes, those subsites are pretty much categories on steroids. The amount of discussion that they contain is large enough to warrant sites dedicated to them just like Reddit subthreads. They still use tags, but because they are category contained, they are more specific and relevant.
The problem is that the forum is oriented for your specific “feed of conversations” usage pattern. It is rather overwhelming otherwise.
Although this is a good point if there was an over abundance of categories, what I’m advocating for is not mutually exclusive at all. I am not advocating for a million categories, but in fact, in my original post, I am advocating for targeting and specific categories that make sense.
So I suppose, it would make more sense for me to direct all of this feedback to @smaffulli right?
The role of DreamHost’s forums has always been to have discussions about web technology in general. For DreamHost support there are specific channels already. The forums are more of an addition, a tool for web users to meet and help each others.
The problem is finding which categories makes sense at the time when you need them. When is a question about securing WordPress suitable for a hypothetical ‘Shared Hosting’ category or for one on ‘DreamCompute’? I’m very familiar with SmartThings and I find their approach very old school and confusing for newcomers. A list of latest posts in reverse-chronological order seems to me more friendly and inviting, like a facebook wall, a twitter feed, a stream of blog posts. SmartThing acts more like a portal where visitors have to pick their journey: do I want to go see this Wiki thing? or maybe do I need to go into this other? what’s in those buckets? Portals stopped being popular over 10 years ago.
Consider also another thing: most people don’t reach the home page first anyway and they land on this site to specific topic pages from a google search. The home page is a lot less relevant for the vast majority of readers.
Anyway, mine is only one opinion among the many. Since I don’t work at DreamHost anymore my opinion counts just like anybody else’s .
Dude! When did that happen?!
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