Which discussion categories should be public?

Restarters.net is about to enter the next stage of development: public beta.

One of the more significant changes we’ll be making as part of this is opening up selected discussion categories to non-registered visitors - i.e. the internet at large

Check the community development plan for more detail about the public beta.

Given everything’s been private to registered members so far, we don’t want to take anyone by surprise or make public any discussions intended to be private.

So, here’s what we’re thinking at the moment for each category:

  • Repair in your community - go public
  • Repair stories - go public
  • Right to repair: policy & activism - go public
  • Events - go public
  • Small talk - remain private
  • Help & feedback - remain private
  • Restarters.net development - remain private

Note: local group messages will remain private to group members.

@Beta-testers:
How does everyone feel about this plan? Are there any ‘go public’ categories you think would be better to keep private (or vice versa)?

Also, are there any of your posts or discussions in a potentially public category that you’d like removed or moved to a private space before the change?

Noting that “Groups” (like the London group) - to correspond to geographic groupings so people who might meet each other offline can communicate without creating unnecessary noise for rest - will remain private.

Can you define what you mean by public and private? Do you mean that public will be visible without a login and indexed by search engines, and private accessible after login? Or is private only accessible via an invite? Or something else?

Hi @Panda,

Yep that’s spot on: private means viewable to registered and logged-in users (who have the appropriate permissions) and public means viewable to anyone with Internet access without logging in (and will be indexed by search engines)

Thank you for the clarification. Coming from the London Restarter mailing list I wrote on the understanding that these discussions would remain among the community, albeit with a very low bar to join the community, i.e., requesting a login.

What are the rationales to make the categories public or private? The main pro I can see of making them public is to increase traffic flow to the Restart web sites. And the main con is that some who would contribute to a community discussion may not want to contribute to a public agora, and it will dilute the useful Restart content that is publicly indexed.

Possibly because I have a background as a journo, but I find the larger the audience, the more editing is needed so my view would be to keep all the discussion categories private and make public only (new) categories that are solution oriented. Possibly something in between the current discussion categories and the wiki.

I’d still have a few pages on restarters.net that are indexable to make it visible. These would either be static, or if there’s a possibility in Discourse to flag a post with a tag with the meaning of this post can be public, have a widget on some public page of the website that pulls some of these public posts.

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Thanks Panda, lots of interesting points there as always!

By making some categories public, we’d be hoping to achieve a few things:

  • be able to share useful resources (e.g. The Restart Party Kit) with non-registered members.
    This would be especially helpful for those interested in starting up a new group and who want an idea of what doing so would involve.

  • lower the barrier of entry for new/existing members of the network.
    We think being able to preview what the discussion platform looks like (and the kinds of discussions that happen there) can help demonstrate the usefulness of the tool to and set helpful expectations for (potential) members (e.g. as an easy way in for potential repair volunteers unsure about attending an event). Most people are pretty reluctant to register for yet another site (even the London Restarters group are super reluctant), so anything we can do to make the platform more appealing is helpful.

  • use the community platform as an outreach tool
    One of our core ambitions as an organisation is to cultivate a broad culture of repair, which means drawing in new people. Allowing anyone to view certain categories could help us raise the profile of repair online and expand the network by sparking the interest of visitors who’ve never heard of The Restart Project or aren’t already involved in electronics repair.

  • Improve SEO for Restarters.net by allowing search engines to index lots of rich, organic language (which would also help with outreach by making us easier to find from non-Restart-related search queries)

I agree that there are downsides to this too. As you say, some people may be reluctant to post in public-facing categories. This is one of the reasons for posting this discussion - to get a sense of how people feel about this change.

In terms of our audience, the idea wouldn’t be to cater to the interests/needs of the internet at large. We’d keep focus on our own needs :slight_smile:

@Panda, I share your mixed feelings on opening certain categories to the public, especially where people will share about things that need improvement or moments that made them nervous, etc. I get the feeling it’s a hard ask for radical openness in this. I would like people to be able to share personal experiences and stories without too much “editing”.

One of our initial ideas was to open the Restart Party Kit and the Right to repair: policy & activism and leave the rest private.

Is there a way we could poll existing users on this @james?

A poll sounds like a great idea.
Here we go…

For each category, please vote on whether you’d prefer it to go ‘public’ or stay ‘members only’…
EDIT: I’ve updated ‘private’ to ‘members only’ (at neil 's suggestion)

What does 'public' mean?

Public means a category (and all the discussions it contains) is viewable to anyone with internet access without logging in (and will be indexed by search engines).

What does 'members only' mean?

Members only means a category (and all the discussions it contains) is viewable to registered and logged-in users only (as long as they have the appropriate permissions)

0 voters

0 voters

0 voters

0 voters

0 voters

0 voters

0 voters

EDIT: this poll is designed to get a sense of how everyone feels about this question. The final decision may not reflect the exact results.

[quote=“james, post:7, topic:264”]

  • be able to share useful resources (e.g. The Restart Party Kit) with non-registered members.
    This would be especially helpful for those interested in starting up a new group and who want an idea of what doing so would involve.[/quote]

The Restart Party Kit is not a category, is it? This goes back to my earlier query/suggestion. Have all categories private by default, but have a mechanism (tag?) to make some discussions or posts public. I.e., have a finer granularity for the decision to make something public.

i fully concur some content should be made public, but am not convinced by your current suggestions.

[quote=“james, post:7, topic:264”]

  • lower the barrier of entry for new/existing members of the network.
    We think being able to preview what the discussion platform looks like (and the kinds of discussions that happen there) can help demonstrate the usefulness of the tool to and set helpful expectations for (potential) members (e.g. as an easy way in for potential repair volunteers unsure about attending an event). Most people are pretty reluctant to register for yet another site (even the London Restarters group are super reluctant), so anything we can do to make the platform more appealing is helpful.[/quote]

That can work both ways. Some of the actual content may scare away some potential contributors.

Also state the registration requirement before one has to start the registration process. You’ve worked on making it an easy process, publicise this.

[quote=“james, post:7, topic:264”]

  • use the community platform as an outreach tool
    One of our core ambitions as an organisation is to cultivate a broad culture of repair, which means drawing in new people. Allowing anyone to view certain categories could help us raise the profile of repair online and expand the network by sparking the interest of visitors who’ve never heard of The Restart Project or aren’t already involved in electronics repair.[/quote]

That’s a bit similar to the previous point. I’d agree that viewing certain content can spark interest, but disagree about viewing certain categories, unless it is made clear that that is a category for public viewing, i.e., the key aim of that category is to share with a large public.

Another solution, would be to have a public category, curated by someone who could copy some of the discussions from the private categories to that public category. Basically a live newsletter. That goes back as to whether a public category should be free for all or curated/edited. - That’s a vote you may want to have; if things are decided by voting.

With current SEO whether just adding volume of data as opposed to a more precise targeting helps, I do not know, but I understand that SEO algorithms are a bit more intelligent than they used to be.

If the “openness” is the important. everything should be in the public. Unless we let everybody make to comment to every section, I think this is the way to go ?

I’ve voted in the poll to keep some categories open, and some closed. I think it’s important that Restarters have plenty of space for conversations to remain private, as a contribution to the community, rather than to “everyone”, as @panda suggested.

One category for which it was hard for me to decide is “Repair stories”. Ideally, I would like it to be open, as posts there about a specific repair would often include how-to tips which would make sense to share more widely - and conversations about the radio could also benefit from being visible to people not yet involved.

However some posts there are of a more personal nature, and I wonder whether they would naturally fit more under “Small Talk” or elsewhere?

I’ve voted for a mix of public and private, but based mainly on what kind of content would be of interest to people stumbling upon it, less so as a means of people feeling more comfortable in revealing information that they might not otherwise in certain categories. As I’m not sure public vs private is the right way of framing it, as as Panda mentions, as it stands the barrier to accessing the platform is very low - anyone can self-register and immediately see the ‘private’ content. Which I don’t think is necessarily everyone’s expectation of private.

I agree that #repair-stories is a tricky one @ugo - similarly, I can see the advantages of it being public as any practical repair tips might be useful for a wider audience but am also aware that some may feel uncomfortable with that. Though, as you say, Small Talk is a useful alternative for anything more personal in nature.

@neil - good point re: the terms ‘private’ vs ‘public’. Perhaps ‘members-only’ vs ‘public’ would be a better distinction?

1 Like

Perfect :+1:

2 Likes

Thanks for this everyone. Looking at the poll results, it seems that there’s a pretty clear majority in most cases, with over 80% of voters agreeing on an option for every category except Repair Stories (which is 50/50).

We want to make this change as soon as possible, so going by these results, here’s what we’ll do:

Categories to go public

  • Repair in your community (83% in favour of making public)
  • Right to repair: policy & activism (100% in favour of making public)
  • Events (80% in favour of making public)

Categories to remain members-only

  • Repair stories (50/50 - no clear majority to make public)
  • Small talk (83% in favour of keeping members-only)
  • Help & feedback (83% in favour of keeping members-only)
  • Restarters.net development (83% in favour of keeping members-only)
2 Likes

It’s good to see such a clear vote for most categories. Let’s see as more people join how they feel about #repair-stories - perhaps we can close the other votes and keep that one open, drawing attention to it? :slight_smile:

Yep, for sure. I think as membership grows and more people start using #repair-stories, we’ll all get a clearer sense of how best to use that space and whether it’s better off public or members-only.

Good suggestion re: closing the other polls. That’s done :+1: