Forum split up by topic and searchable

The Forum is starting cumbersome. It needs to be split out by subject and searchable. There is a lot of really good stuff in there.

Adding search is definitely on the list, I'll bump it up.

Categorising is a bit more tricky -- not in terms of coding, obviously, but in terms of what categories there should be. Does anyone have any suggestions?

The most obvious split would be between PA-specific issues and general Python questions, based on what's been coming up so far. The risk of being quite so cut-and-dried is that sometimes a question may appear to be one, but turn out to be another - there's always going to be some of that, but choosing clear categories to begin with might help. You may want to give yourself the ability to move posts from one category to another in cases like these.

I would suggest having three broad categories to start - PythonAnywhere, Python General and General Chat (people will probably use the forums for general chat whether you want them to or not, so at least providing a category for it will hopefully contain it). It might be useful to subdivide the PythonAnywhere section into Feature Requests, Tutorials and Problems. You could even have categories for specific web frameworks and the like, but personally I think too many categories becomes a bit of a usability headache - you don't want potential forum users thinking "ah, this looks too complicated" and giving up.

Instead of putting in all this effort, though, it would be nice if there was an off-the-shelf Python forum web app available. Unfortunately, there don't appear to be any particularly competent ones. I gather that the Pocoo lot starting off producing one before branching out into Flask, Jinja2, Sphinx and all that, and never got around to finishing it. Shame, really, because based on their other projects it would be pretty good.

Of course the other option would be to split off the forum part of your codebase (only) and stick it on Github as an open source project. That way the community can add what they need - if someone here asks for a pet feature, you can always say "sure - give us a pull request and we'll consider it". You never know, if it becomes a popular project in the future then it might be a good source of advertising - if it doesn't then you haven't put much extra work in than you would anyway (unless you see the forums as a commercial advantage, which wouldn't be unreasonable).

EDIT: You might also consider having a limit on post length, so verbose sods like me have their posts cut off in the midd

Thanks, that's useful!

You know, we could probably add 'tags' to posts very easily - that might be a good start. And, of course, adding search would be useful

Tagging is a potentially powerful alternative to traditional categories, but I have a couple of reservations with it.

Firstly, a lot of users may be used to category-based systems in forum software and may become confused if they seem the same topic in multiple "categories". This isn't to say that innovation is a bad thing, of course, but it would be nice to implement something that doesn't have too steep a learning curve for users already used to other forums.

Secondly, use of free-form tags tends to diverge and become inconsistent in smaller communities. On something like Twitter, hashtags work well because the sheer audience numbers force the usage to converge for popular tags (and arguably it doesn't matter for unpopular ones).

Perhaps if the use of tags were restricted to a curated list then both of the obstacles above might be overcome. So the front screen would show most recently modified posts anywhere, much as it does now, but also present links to a search for each tag, and a more advanced search screen could allow search by multiple tags, perhaps with AND and OR functionality.

I suppose this does have the advantage that it may be more of an incremental step on what's already here, which might make implementation easier. Honestly I'm pretty ambivalent between tags and categories, but I suspect it's best to pick one and stick with it rather than have some hybrid approach (e.g. Gmail has tags, and sometimes they look like folders but it's still all tags - email clients like Thunderbird have tags and folders, and that just gets confusing IMHO).

One thing that would be nice in my opinion is grouping the posts on the front page according to the calendar day on which they were last modified, which would make it easier to quickly tell which posts have new items.

Yeah, I think curated tags could be a good idea. Or maybe just suggesting existing tags, with an option to create one if you really have to.

If tags were the answer, you might as well just use Stackoverflow?

+1 Tags

+100 Search

I don't know what the solution on creating tags is though. Sometimes you just need to create one, but it would be nice if people didn't unless that was the case. Standards are definitely helpful. Perhaps the answer is to have tags and allow people to create new tags at will, but also have tags be linkable, so when we have the tags FB, facebook, FaceBook, fBook, faceBook and faaceeboook they are all seen as synonyms by the system.

Another thing that could help with trying to get tags standardized is to have them keep track of their own usage counts, so when you have to choose between the tags python2 (2,439) and python-2 (127) you know which one is dominant. Or if you don't like the idea of a (number) on every tag, perhaps use a star system like eBay does, where ranges get different colors, so the effect is similar, but less ugly. Personally I like numbers, but I admit I'm odd. Or the number could be a tool tip on mouse-over, so it's easily available, but not seen when not needed.

@iconfly: Well we do really like SO...

@a2j: Yup, all good ideas.