tl;dr See Call to Action below
The OSRF has chosen to do this because we believe it will provide a better user experience for the ROS and Gazebo communities. Being part of the Stack Exchange network brings a lot of benefits. It has a much bigger community overall and has a team focused on improving the Q&A experience. Spam and low quality posts, a perennial problem on ROS Answers, are automatically flagged, making the job of moderators much easier. Similarly, stale and unanswered questions are automatically pruned if they remain unanswered. They even have bots that periodically find and surface older content if it looks like it might be of interest. All of these features mean Stack Exchange hosts the premiere Q&A sites across the web. and we believe that Robotics will be yet one more of those great places.
Unfortunately, we can’t transition all ROS Answers content, and it will not be perfect. However, we plan to be transparent about what’s happening, and respond to community feedback about the process.
The foundation is working closely with the Stack Exchange team to make this transition happen and this will allow us to partially migrate some account information. For example, if you have a Robotics Stack Exchange account it will be possible to credit your account with the answers you made on ROS Answers or Gazebo Answers. We will be creating form for you to submit your accounts for association during the import process.
As an open source project we value using other open source tools, and responsibly stewarding the data generated by our community. We’ve chosen to step away from those things because the community has grown to the point where we are unable to provide an adequate level of support for this aspect of the ROS infrastructure. Earlier in the project, when we were a smaller community, it was very important that we make sure that there was a dedicated space for ROS and Gazebo users to congregate. Now that we’re a worldwide community with a large user base, maintaining these platforms has become a full-time job, and we see that our community is spreading out to more places for asking questions and finding solutions. It’s already common to see ROS questions on Robotics Stack Exchange, and they’re getting answered there too! And having to choose, “do I ask a fundamental question about Robotics in one forum or a specific ROS question in another and get bounced around because I didn’t understand the concept well” is much worse than just adding or removing a ROS tag on the same site.
I mentioned the open source ethos of controlling your data and not relying on others. This transition will push our community to rely on Stack Exchange for hosting our communities’ content. Stack Exchange has a strong track record and has proven a reliable site for many different communities. Furthermore, the content in Stack Exchange will retain the same Creative Commons license, CC BY-SA, and they do not prevent the data from being exported. In fact they have API access available as well as a specific data query portal where you can construct your own query. There is significant value in having the long tail of questions available, but the most important thing for us to provide to the community is prompt answers to their current problems. This is what Stack Exchange is better at facilitating than our own Q&A sites. Similarly, there’s often confusion among new users who regularly look at Robotics.SE and wonder why there’s not much ROS or Gazebo content there. They ask why ROS isn’t just over there. If Robotics Stack Exchange had existed when the ROS project started we likely would have been there to begin with.
I know that many people will have mixed feelings about this. I do, too. I was the person who proposed setting up a Q&A site, evaluated options and eventually set up what you know now as answers.ros.org based on Askbot. I’ve spent a lot of time answering questions and much more time moderating the site. You’ll see me near the top of the Karma list for the site and I’ll be losing that as we transition. But during this exploration phase I’ve made a commitment to visit Robotics.SE regularly and have built up my reputation there over the last year or so. I encourage you all to visit Robotices.SE and get involved there. We will be bringing our best rated questions and answers to the site, but the really important part of the site is the community who help each other get things working.
As you transition to Robotics.SE, remember that they have a slightly different approach to answering questions. Over the years of maintaining and growing Q&A sites they have learned a lot about how to make such sites work best. A lot of what we’d like to get out of the site is to improve the experience for ROS and Gazebo users. To that end, we as a community should strive to leverage those learnings which are well laid out in their Q&A answering policies.
If you’d like to know more please read up here: Help Center - Robotics Stack Exchange
It’s also helpful to understand that there’s a Meta exchange for talking about process. This is a great place for asking questions about any parts of the process.
- For example common reasons for closing messages are saved here: Copy-pastable comment text for common problems with questions? - Robotics Meta Stack Exchange
- There is a parallel thread on Robotics.SE Meta
Call to Action
- Please create a Robotics.SE account, if you don’t already have one, and start participating in the community.
- Read more about their moderating philosophy.
- The model: Our model - Help Center - Robotics Stack Exchange
- Reputation and Moderation policy: Reputation & Moderation - Help Center - Robotics Stack Exchange
- Read more about their moderating philosophy.
- Please fill out https://forms.gle/uRnWUC2taNVij2nw9 to let us know how to associate your answers.ros.org and answers.gazebosim.org accounts to your Robotics.SE account
- You won’t earn reputation for the votes in ROS or Gazebo Answers, but you will when people upvote migrated questions hosted on Robotics.SE after the migration.
- Please help us define the list of tag mappings.
- We are building the mappings here: https://github.com/osrf/se_migration_tags
- Please review all your questions and if they are answered please make sure that they are accepted so that they will appear on the other side as accepted.
- And if you have a moment please answer a few questions on either site so that we can help flesh out the knowledge base.
Migration and backwards compatibility
We know that many people rely on linking to specific answers at answers.ros.org and answers.gazebosim.org with deep links. To prevent link rot, we will switch both sites to read-only mode after the transition.
As we get further along in this process, we’ll be able to provide a more definite timeline of what’s going to happen and when. Please provide your feedback in the next 2 weeks.