Concrete topics vs open-ended brainstorm or thoughts

What are people reading this post supposed to do?

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I didn’t expect any specific outcomes from posting this, I was just sharing a wording that was successful.

Others may appreciate it for when they tell people about Snowdrift.coop. Or maybe it’s good enough to capture somewhere more formally, but I wasn’t jumping to that assumption. If anyone has/had any feedback (positive or critical), they could add that too. Another reasonable reply could be for others to post their own versions of pitches they found successful.

maybe we need to dedicate a section of the forum to this kind of post then. What if people are interested in Outreach, but not about brainstorms relating to it?

Going through posts like that and searching for something that isn’t there is exhausting and unnecessarily time consuming. :expressionless:

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Were you searching for something? If so, what were you searching for?

The post I made was specifically a thought/report after I had an actual outreach experience talking to someone. It wasn’t brainstorming alone.

I think #clear-the-path:outreach is certainly for discussing how to best do outreach and how it goes etc. For concrete tasks, we have https://gitlab.com/snowdrift/outreach/ and for tracking specific contacts (whether patrons, projects, volunteers, grants, or otherwise), the primary tool we want to be using is CiviCRM (which @salt is just still working to make fully operational so we can all use it).

You tell me. You’re the op that did not expect any specific outcomes from posting this. How am I supposed to do?

I have no problem in what you say – often times I just don’t want to have to read it. Because I, too, don’t feel like anything was expected from me after having read your thoughts. I think if you think aloud in a forum you should either feel obliged to communicate what you expect from others reading it - OR - post it in a subsection where people expect this kind of post and are looking forward to read it.

Currently you only leave me the choice of not reading outreach entirely, that’s not what I want, but certainly what I’ll do if there is no way around it.

I appreciate the feedback, and I’m not saying you’re wrong here. Not everything in the forum has to be actionable (that’s not the purpose of the forum), but it’s always better if it’s clear what the point of a posting is. I’ll keep that in mind. I’m also open to adjusting how we use the forum or how it is set up if we notice a pattern that shows room for improvement.

Although it was discussed outside the forum, shortly after the original post @Salt brought up things he appreciated about the post and found it useful for the specific topic of how we pitch to new people.

I suppose in hindsight, and with your feedback, perhaps I could have more specifically made it a topic inviting people to share experiences doing outreach / pitching etc. That would make the purpose more clear.

Thankfully, you don’t have to watch every post in a category. You can set to “Watching First Post” to see new topics and then choose whether to watch replies on a per-topic basis.

I certainly don’t mean to post too large a quantity of topics. I think it’s easier to manage the flow when there are clear topics with replies rather than lots of separate topics.

I revisited the topic and edited to make it clear and to collect everything in one place. It’s much better. Thanks again for your feedback!

I wouldn’t mind quantity if it is clear to me what I’m signing up for before I start to read the entire post. In your case I often even lag behind what everything is all about even then.

Avoiding quantity by blending multiple subjects makes it even harder to stay on topic.

I guess my problem here is that most of your posts are just too close to what I would consider a brainstorm; a relevant, on-topic set of thoughts shedding light on things from different angles but always from your perspective, often hypothetical, accompanied with lots of invitations to continue discussions by exploring new thoughts being put on the table – and – open questions.

When I go to the forum and try to catch up with things that have accumulated over time and be done with it. That approach seems to clash quite often with the way you use the forum. My suggestion for a solution might be: be clear about when you just want to “throw in” a thing to think about. Have #brainsorm sections where you can voice your thoughts without having the pressure to post something with a clear intent or goal.

At this point a great percentage of posts here I would consider to be #brainsorm – at least enough to clearly state my tension. Maybe I just have wrong expectations of a forum?

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I don’t have answers[1], but perhaps these observations will be useful.[2]

In general, forums (particularly open forums) are used for open discussion — reddit, hacker news, etc.

They are also optimized for open discussion. Compare to email, where messages stay in your inbox until you archive them[3]. Here, notifications you’ve read become harder to find over time. This focuses people’s attention into active threads. In context, this is a good thing. Re-reading dozens of posts to remember the context from a months-old discussion is very time-consuming[4], and most of this sort of discussion is not very important[5].

On this forum, we also do concrete work, which (mostly) doesn’t expire.

Thus, it’s necessary to periodically look things over to see what still needs doing and make sure nothing slipped through the cracks. Notifications are not good for this. You can bookmark threads that you want to keep an eye on, but the controls are awkwardly out of the way[6]. So I end up browsing by category, and it sounds like so does @mray. In this context, “brainstorm”-type posts are clutter[7]; they make it hard to find anything that needs my attention.


  1. I might make suggestions later, but I’ve spent enough words and letters on this post for now. ↩︎

  2. Except the footnotes, which are examples & nitpicking that you can safely skip. ↩︎

  3. By default, in most clients. Some have filtered/prioritized inboxes, that show only unread messages. But they’re the minority. ↩︎

  4. Especially long threads. I am not suggesting you read this one. But if you did anyway, and it’s now an hour later, consider this a crash course in why necroing threads is typically frowned upon; automatically closing inactive discussions is another safeguard against this. ↩︎

  5. Usually it’s a combination of entertainment/socializing and debate (or otherwise exploring different ideas). Reddit and YouTube comments tend toward the former; HN and LessWrong toward the latter. In either case, reviving old discussions doesn’t have much value (in the debate case, because participants’ views may have changed in the intervening months). ↩︎

  6. On reflection, this may also be related to why we struggled with forum-based consent decisions. If you read a thread and see it needs your consent, it’s a bit of a pain to find your way back to it. ↩︎

  7. For example, this one: Article on decision process vs time-frame. It was actually a good article, that I appreciated reading and helped me clarify thoughts on a different topic, but it was clutter when living in #clear-the-path:project-management. @wolftune I think I brought this up to you privately before, but didn’t express the tension as eloquently as in this post. ↩︎

Thanks again for the thoughts @mray. I’m interested in learning, adapting, and seeing the value in the feedback. This is much like what came up in meetings (no coincidence that the pattern was similar and the post your noted here was about a month old). There, I had sometimes opened a topic because of some tension but didn’t have a sense of the outcome I needed. We made the shift to asking for topics to express up front what the desired outcome might be. And when we got through formal topics sooner, we had time for open-ended chat.

Same here on the forum. It might be that open-ended chat in the right places (such as #restricted:lodge ) could lead to identifying more clear and pointed topics that should go elsewhere. It may be preferable not to conflate those things.

I believe it will be positive for me personally to shift to being clearer and less half-baked in my communication. So, I invite the prompting for that. That doesn’t answer everything about how the forum should be used in general, but I think that will address the immediate tension.

On that one specifically, I thought about posting it as a reply to Random interesting and/or relevant links which is a single topic place for what some people might call “linkspam”. But I felt it was important enough to bring up more specifically. I don’t do that too liberally. That was a specific post I wanted there, though I didn’t fight you moving it to a relevant existing topic.

While that is true, it’s also clear that the most concise, clear, to-the-point communication has the best impact in those places. There’s some value to the Twitter/Mastadon style push for pithiness and concision.

I embrace the challenge to aim for higher signal-to-noise ratio. No excuses. All feedback welcome. If we discover good practices to make it easier for everyone to get high signal-to-noise ratio, let’s consider those. I don’t have any actionable system-level suggestions at this time.