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The Discourse/Answers Separation

I’ve very recently been trying to become more active in the ROS community and one thing that kind of struck me as odd was the separation between ROS Answers and Discourse. Both seem like fine platforms for their purposes but looking through the Rust discourse it seems they are using it for both general discussions as well a people asking for help.

So I guess my actual non-meandering question is: why do we keep the two separate? Is it historical or are there deeper reasons (e.g. the Rust discourse does feel a bit cluttered with topics with the help tag)? Is there a world in which we would have one platform for both?

Discourse is for announcements and discussions, and for this reason it reaches a large audience by default (I believe you have to opt out of notifications in discourse). Whereas answers.ros.org is for seeking help, and since the number of topics is broad, you instead have people opting into notifications for subjects in which they have an interest, via tags.

Also, I think it would be hard to argue that something like StackOverflow should be replaced by a discourse instance. The Q&A websites (including AskBot which is what answers.ros.org uses) have tools which facilitate getting help (e.g. being able to select an answer and question/answer/comment voting) and for moderation, which by default discourse doesn’t have. I think it’s fair to say it’s a better tool for the task.

Personally, I think you could use discourse for both use cases, as Rust does, but I don’t think it’s preferable. I subscribe to a digest of their discourse and because I haven’t bother changing my notification settings recently (they keep changing their tags and conventions), it’s pretty much overwhelming and I don’t even read it anymore. I think having help separate would be better for them, but perhaps they have reasons for believing otherwise.

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The people who made Discourse first made a Q&A site before that (may have been Stack Overflow, but I don’t remember which one). They explicitly made two separate systems for the two different purposes because a Q&A site wants to focus on one chosen answer for the question, whereas a discussion site is for conversations with posts ordered by time.

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