I do a fair bit of product consulting and open source software development involving Discourse, the open source framework this community is running on. This is me: https://meta.discourse.org/u/angus and https://github.com/angusmcleod. I also happened to be an Aussie based in Canberra and have a strong interested in civic technology, so I’m interested in this community!
I have a few pieces of initial feedback based on my experience working with other online communities of professionals. They’re all things you can tweak just by changing a few settings. All of this is offered in an “open source” spirit , and I’m happy to expand on any of these points
Generally we advise our clients against using the
/categoriespage as their “homepage” unless their community is large and thriving and there is a good case for it. When you first land on a community the biggest question on your mind is not “I want to understand the taxonomy of this website so I can target my engagement”, but rather “Is this place alive / relevant / meaningful?”.
Typically having the
/latesttopics as the landing is the way to go for smaller / newer communities. You can change this by re-arranging the items in the
top menusite setting. Essentially, the subject matter taxonomy matters alot less than who is here and how lively it is.
Relatedly, you should supress non-discussion categories from the homepage. Currently the
/latesttopics on this forum are mostly single post topics (i.e. with no replies) from #designsystem. When you see that you think “This is a dead community”, as people aren’t actually discussing things on it. I would suggest you add #designsystem to
default categories muted(i.e. the site setting). You should aim to get a “homepage” with a list of lively discussions on it, regardless of the subject matter.
(I think) I understand why the name “Cross-Discipline Community of Practice” may have been used for this “meta” category, but it’s a bit of a mouthful and doesn’t really mean anything to someone not already “on the inside”, including relevant professionals who aren’t already members of this community. I would suggest something like “Welcome”, or even just “General”. You need to make it a bit more obvious to the uninitiated.
Have an “Introductions” sub-category of your “General” category (i.e. “Cross-Discipline Community of Practice”) where people can introduce themsleves when they come. This makes them feel welcome and lets community regulars point them to things they may be interested in engaging with. It also helps people understand what the demographics of the community are.
Don’t add categories until people are actually talking about the subject. For example, while I understand that you want people to talke about AI ethics here, i.e. in #AI-ethics, the reality is that they aren’t currently, and this “empty” category is actually negatively affecting your chances that they will, as an empty category concerning a subject is a social signal to users that this is not where the “real discussion” is happening. You first need to start discussions in this subject area in a category where discussion is already taking place, then create the specific category once you have a few conversations going and move those conversations over to that category. (@MBG)
In general, online communities for professionals are not all that different from other social groups online or offline. A good analogy, and one that Jeff (the founder of Discourse and Stack Overflow) likes to use often, is that of a “Dinner Party”. The way you attract “the right people” to your dinner party is not by calling it “Dinner party for X”, you use social cues such as “Who is coming?”, “How lively is it?” etc.