For a while I’ve been aware that the current structure of the forums is not ideal. So I’d like to restructure the forums to make them more usable for everybody. The main tools we have for this are the category/subcategory structure, tags and the default view for the home page.
I think the biggest problem with the current structure is that categories don’t neatly map to what people actually need and it is thus hard to follow just the topics one is interested in. The relatively high volume of questions of users seeking help can also make the rarer but important discussions about development/governance/… harder to notice. From the question-asker side, it is often not clear how to categorize a given inquiry as it may e.g. involve both a specific interface and a modelling problem.
To start the process, I’d like to gather the usage scenarios we have for the forums and some basic considerations on their requirements. Discussion on changing how the forum work should then follow from those scenarios.
I’d be very glad to get your feedback on how you use the forums or how you think other people use the forums (we are unlikely to get a lot of specific feedback from novice users)
Here are the usage scenarios I’ve come up so far:
I have a problem installing Stan. I want to be able to easily find if there is a solution for a similar problem already. If not, I want to share my error message/other problem and get help.
We also want to keep track on how difficult Stan is to install and try to remove the biggest recurring pain points.
I am a practitioner/statistician who wants to analyse a specific dataset and has a problem with a specific model I am trying to build/use. It might be a syntax error or convergence issues. I want to get some help.
In many cases the problem is highly specific to the model at hand and searching for solutions tends to be less efficient, although I want to be able to find posts where people discuss models of similar broader class.
We also want such users to easily discover relevant parts of Stan documentation, tutorials, … as quite frequently the main problem is some misunderstanding of Bayesian statistics. The solution will quite frequently not be a guide on how to implement the model the user initially wanted, but rather a suggestion to change the overall approach to the problem.
I am a researcher/developer in statistics and want to see if I can implement a broader class of models in Stan. I might also have a problem with a specific math part in a bigger model.
Often such questions are quite hard and resolving them may represent a research project of its own. Still it is good to have those out, even if they remain unresolved as others may want to find people who worked on similar problems before.
I want to help. I want to be able to easily see questions that I find interesting/important/in need of attention/within my expertise/…
I’ll note that there is a tension in that people answering questions are what makes this site work and we really want them to have the smoothest experience possible. On the other hand, we can much more easily intervene with this group than with users asking questions, because it is people who have been along for a while and we can easily contact them directly.
I want to be able to see what is the buzz in Stan development, what cool new stuff people have built with Stan, meetings I can join etc.
I as a developer/potential contributor want to discuss a specific endeavour in making Stan better, get feedback for proposed changes, …
We want to keep continuity with older discussions of similar topics.
Did I miss something? Do you see other considerations that should feed into further discussions on forum structure?