Meet the fascinating individuals behind the most recognised avatars here on Meta with our series of #user-interviews. This week, we speak to:
Taylor Henry @tshenry
Location: San Diego, California, United States
Tell us a bit about yourself! When you’re not hanging out on Meta, what do you do?
Professionally, I’ve been taking on freelance web development work. The #marketplace has been extremely helpful in providing job opportunities. Personally, my hobbies include hiking, wildlife photography, and video games (of all eras!). One of my main interests is in herpetology (the study of reptiles and amphibians). Spoiler alert: my avatar comes from a picture I took of a Mexican Spadefoot Toad (Spea multiplicata):
How did you first find out about Discourse?
I first found out about Discourse while looking for a better forum option. I’ve been administrating a small, private wildlife photography forum that’s hosted on one of the “free forum” hosts. On the web, “free” services almost always come with a price, and that price was having to pay to remove ads, having very limited control over things, and living with phpBB2. It worked, but the limitations and constant, unwelcome changes in the services made me long for something better. I looked around at several options and the one that stood out was Discourse!
What are you using Discourse for? i.e. which Discourse communities are you a part, and to what degree?
Currently, Meta is the only Discourse community I am actively involved in. I’m still in the process of moving the private wildlife photography forum over to Discourse, so that will be exciting when that’s complete!
How did you get so involved in the Meta community?
I didn’t expect to get this involved! I originally thought I would just need to look some things up, and maybe ask a question or two as I worked on getting a Discourse instance up and running. But as time went on, I started to get reeled in. It was clear that this was a thriving community with an incredible amount of positivity. As I began to learn more and more about Discourse, I found opportunities to contribute through helping out with support questions, bug reports, and creating a few themes.
What compels you to contribute to Discourse?
There’s so much negativity in this world. I try my best to grab hold of the areas in life that produce the most amount of positivity. As I mentioned, Meta tends to be pretty strong in this area. I think that’s what really got me to jump in. Also, I enjoy helping others, and being able to do that while growing my own knowledge and improving my own skills in the process… You can’t beat that!
Tell us about a non-Discourse community that you’re involved in! Doesn’t need to be a forum (in fact, preferably not). Could be a book club, a game, a roleplaying group etc.
I’m not really part of any other communities at the moment. I guess I’m mildly involved in the local Pokémon Go community. I’ve found the game to be a great balance of nostalgia, exercise, and social activity
What kind of significance does the open source movement have to you?
Quite a lot! I think it’s a fantastic way to build software. The accessibility of open source code helps programmers learn from what’s already been created. Also any new additions can be peer-reviewed, helping to ensure quality. Open source seems like it can only promote better code and security.
What has been the greatest challenge in learning about Discourse and its community?
Plugins have been pretty challenging. I’ve slowly been making progress on plugin dev, but I need to really focus and devote the time needed to learn all of the layers involved. I’ve found that I enjoy working with themes the most, so I’ve definitely been neglecting the plugin side of things.
Any ideas on how to improve the Meta community?
Most of the areas I remember hoping to see improvement have already greatly improved over the past year or so. One area that might still have room for improvement would be more organized documentation. The #howto topics are great, but I think we could use something like a table of contents topic that clearly sections off all of the different subjects that are covered in the howto category, and potentially elsewhere around the Discourse universe. Another beneficial addition might be some type of glossary to help users with the terminology as they become acquainted with all things Discourse.
Any advice to future contributors?
Really try take the time to learn how to make use of the search functions on both the Discourse GitHub repo and here on Meta. There is so much useful information in both places, but it can be challenging at first to track down what you need. Also, if you are interested in learning theme or plugin development, I highly recommend going through some of GitHub repos of the active #themes and #plugins found here on Meta.