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Hello Robotics Stack Exchange Meta,

I’m posting this here because I’d like some general feedback about potential processes and best practices for potentially migrating a large community to use the Robotics Stack Exchange. It’s not a particularly good question but I think this is the best forum to get suggestions from the community. I’ll try to track this and read through all the answers/comments as I hope that there won’t be just one answer to this.

At Open Robotics we host two different Q&A websites for the ROS and Gazebo projects, https://answers.ros.org and https://answers.gazebosim.org we are reviewing what the best hosting options are for our community and one of the ideas that we’re considering is migrating here to the Robotics Stack Exchange as the recommended place for our communities to ask questions. I’m planning to put together a proposal for the community for a path forward. What I’d like to find out from this community is what would be important to include in a migration proposal if we were to select to migrate to the Robotics Stack Exchange site?

There are many different elements to this process and there’s many different aspects to plan for. At this point I’m not looking necessarily for answers, but first reactions and areas of concert that I should make sure to address in my more complete proposal.

I’ll provide some background information for those less familiar with ROS and Gazebo answers. We have about 60k questions on the site with ~20 questions per day. We have over 1000 users with 100+ karma (It’s not a direct correlation to here but it’s similar.) Our daily active user base ranges from between 12k/day during the week and drops to 4k/day over the weekend.

I’ve been spending more time here and learning more about the ecosystem. The review processes are great and I’ve been working to understand the overall moderation process which is great.

With potentially ROS and gazebo joining the community I expect that we’ll want to update some of the FAQs etc to help guide the taxonomy more clearly and enable filtering. For example we require tagging the rosdistro and recommend tagging the relevant package. Is that something that we can improve guidance and prompts relating to? We also have some standard canned responses and guidance for questions to be reworded such as XY problem statements. What are the other things that we should pay attention to to make this as smooth as possible?

I’m also wondering what can we do to facilitate the migration process? Can we help get moderators elevated quickly to deal with an influx of new people asking questions? Is there ways that we can bring over some of the most frequently asked questions?

I’m also hoping that with the boost in users we’ll also be able to elevate robotics out of the Beta phase where it’s been for a while. There are also alternatives such as making separate area 51 proposals for ROS and or Gazebo or a combined Robotics Software but being able to simply retag things instead of telling people to go to another site seems like it will be less friction for the whole community. There’s also been a worry that ROS users would overwhelm this community. But I hope that the ROS users can also interact with all the other topics as the ROS users are also roboticists and can interact with the other aspects of this category as well.

Thanks for your thoughts.

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Thanks for the post...

This topic is under active discussion within the Robotics Moderator team and the wider SE community

In principle, the mods have no objection... but obviously there are other considerations.

The main issue will be how to deal with legacy posts, as importing them into Robotics.SE may not be feasible.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks it's reassuring to know that there's some discussion going on. If there's anything I can do to help with the brainstorming of the process etc please feel free to reach out. One thought on getting the most important questions is to leverage the self answering mode to manually bring over selected high traffic questions. (Keeping good attribution leveraging the CC-BY-SA) This has a benefit of also helping people earn reputation. An automated solution would be great too but this could be a stop-gap to reach critical mass. $\endgroup$
    – Tully
    Nov 16 '21 at 8:37
  • $\begingroup$ Do you have an estimate of when there might be some more feedback on this such that a migration plan could be sketched and then discussed with our community too? $\endgroup$
    – Tully
    Nov 19 '21 at 0:12
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    $\begingroup$ Let me get back to you... $\endgroup$
    – Andrew Mod
    Nov 19 '21 at 8:56
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@SpencerG Can we discuss some of these topics with Philippe? Because I believe the R.SE moderators are in agreement that the merge is a good idea, but we need the higher-level community moderators to weigh in.

You raised a number of good questions. I'll try to address them all.

  1. Updating FAQ and help guides. As you found from your other attempt to change help guides, there is limited support for this. We can add content to the top of the help center landing page pretty easily, but modifying the content in the asking topics is harder because these are site-wide pages.

    a. Required tagging of ROS distro / package. It is easy to create new tags, and even modify existing tags. I would suggest removing the generic "ROS" tag, and replacing it with "ROS-Noetic", "ROS-Foxy", "ROS-Melodic", etc. So when users create a new question, and type "ROS" in the tag area, they are presented with these options. Hopefully that enough of a nudge to guide most people to do the right thing. But this is more easily said that done. Currently, we have over 430 questions tagged ROS or ROS2. Changing them all would be quite a bit of work. And of course any user can always just type in "ROS" and hit ENTER, creating the generic tag all over again.
    UPDATE: I just learned that you can blacklist and/or block tags. See this and this. We might consider the drastic action of blacklisting the "ROS" tag. But there might actually be some generic ROS questions, so I'm not sure I'd want to do this. Note that there are also tag synonyms that we might be able to make clever use of.

    b. Canned responses. I'm not sure we have any ability to do automated responses. At least it is probably not worth the SE dev's time on our little site. We maintain a list of copy-and-pastable common responses. I'm sure we would need to add a few new ones for the new ROS questions. Unfortunately, this is still a manual process. But hopefully the community will step up and contribute. These responses can be used by everyone, not just mods.

    c. Anything else for a smooth transition? I'm not sure. Maybe create a question and answer on the meta site with the differences you've found between answers.ros.org and robotics.stackexchange. Something that you can point to for seasoned users of answers.ros.org to ease the transition.
    Also, start early. I believe a lot of my suggestions can start being implemented now. So that if/when the switch happens, there is enough infrastructure in place to make it a smooth one.

  2. Get new moderators elevated quickly. I'm not sure there is shortcut to this. But getting your moderators on this site ASAP is a start because there will be a moderator election soon. Participate on the site. Ask and answer questions. And if you have multiple users, up-vote each other's stuff. But I am in no way advocating sock puppets.

  3. Port frequently used questions. From some discussions with other moderators, I believe any sort of automated porting of your existing questions and answers is probably extremely difficult / not worth the SE dev's time. But I would suggest you pick a handful of the most common questions from your site, and ask them here, and either answer them yourself or have someone else from your team answer them. This will both boost both of your reputations, as well as give you something nice to point to if/when the same question gets asked again.

  4. Make a separate site or join robotics.stackexchange. I believe the other moderators and I are in agreement that merging with this site is still the best course of action as opposed to creating another site on StackExchange. Of course there is a risk of the ROS community completely overwhelming the R.SE community. (The thought of having 20 ROS questions for every 1 robotics question is kind of scary). But there should be enough overlap of the communities that it makes sense.

  5. Graduating out of beta. I won't comment on this because there will be some official news on this soon.

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