Discourse and the REAL open process for new features/proposals


(Alessio Fattorini) #1

@codinghorror I love your process for new features and proposals, it’s really engaging for users because you open the debate on alpha stage with some initial ideas but you’re open to discussing everything, defending strongly your opinion otherwise It seems to me very onerous to sustain… isn’t it?
What’s the best practices to have something like this?


(Jeff Atwood) #2

I am not sure I understand what you are saying here?


(Alessio Fattorini) #3

I try to be clearer, I like very much how do you debate new features proposals.
It often happens that company/developers decide what should be into the next release and what shouldn’t, sometimes write down a roadmap and at the end they (company, project leader) say: “that’s the new release! Hope you like it” rarely people get involved into the process.
Sometimes developers pick a suggestion from community and often develop it as they like.

In Discourse the process is quite different since you open the debate right from the beginning with some initial ideas, maybe some code… and you say “that’s your turn, We have done just this and now we are open to other ideas” and amazingly, you’re ready to discuss every single comma, defending strongly your opinion, acknowledging the value of other’s ideas, picking what do you like better, what is lin line with the goals or frequently changing your mind.

Imho that’s an approach very worthwhile but it’s hard and It seems to me very onerous to sustain Am I wrong? What do you think?

I’m trying it into my community and with my product since it’s very valuable.
Do you have any hint for me? What are the best practices here?


(Tom Newsom) #4

IMO, you’ve already identified the important thing:

Don’t approach your community with a blank slate. You’ll get 100 half answers. Make your questions specific and provide half the answer yourself. That way, you get much more suitable suggestions for the other half.

Some personal hints from my own experience:

Make decisions in public. Don’t retreat to private emails or chatrooms with your core staff. Those spaces should be for confidential information only. If your community can see you working, they’ll want to imitate your methods.

Be aware of “bikeshedding” which is the tendency of non-experts to take up valuable time and space discussing the trivial parts of a problem (eg. what colour to paint the bike shed at a nuclear power plant) because they don’t have the expertise to solve the hard parts (eg. designing a nuclear power plant). Let people have their say, but don’t be afraid to close discussions down if they’re not productive.


(Alessio Fattorini) #5

That’s hard since face-to-face or one-to-one (also with 2-3 people) discussion are faster so the decisional process is smother. With this open approach the process could take rather longer and be more involved than we initially thought.

This is a good hint, approach with a blank state is really a bad start :+1:


(Tom Newsom) #6

You’re right. I should say “Make some decisions in public”. The important thing is to set an example.


(Michael Downey) #7

This is always the trade off in any open source project. It’s part of how it goes. It’s also how things work when you have any type of virtual organization where people can’t meet face to face. But ultimately, you end up with more engagement and better decisions.

I believe Jim Whitehurst from Red Hat writes about his reactions in adapting to this when going to Red Hat from Delta Air Lines in his (excellent) book “The Open Organization”. I highly recommend it - and proceeds go toward the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).


(Alessio Fattorini) #8

Great book, it’s on top of my to read list


(Alessio Fattorini) #9

I’m still curios about @codinghorror opinion :wink:


(Jeff Atwood) #10

Mostly I look for

  • Ideas I had literally not thought of or considered, which usually means they are a) crazy or b) brilliant

  • Good visual mockups

I really thought I covered most of this in the pinned topic in releases - Discourse Meta perhaps you can clarify what is unclear?


(Alessio Fattorini) #11

Your pinned topic is amazing, love it but it’s hard understood if a new idea is crazy/bikeshedding or brilliant! At the beginning of the discussion, most of the topics seem worthless, how do you approach them? Any hint? Find the “gold” is tricky, avoid discouraging people also. Try to understand my purpose, I just want to learn.