FOSS Responders

Decide how the FOSS Responders working group will use Discourse in relation to other tools

Now that we’ve formed a working group to push forward the FOSS-responders initiative, I think it makes sense to evaluate our tools and workflow so that we can scale.

Challenges we want to solve and ways Disourse can help

  • Slack conversations get lost. We’re all in different time zones and a lot of our actual work has been happening on Slack, so it’s hard to participate in conversations you’re interested in. If we watch the FOSS Responders Working Group category, we can easily participate in topics that interest us.
  • GitHub has a learning curve. Not everyone is familiar with how to do pull requests in GitHub or use it to collaborate on non-web development projects. Discourse reduces the barrier of entry to participating in our initiative.
  • Transparency. By using Discourse, we can be transparent in how we are collaborating and people can easily join in.
  • FOSS tools to help FOSS groups. Discourse is an open source tool. We received a lot of feedback from open source orgs that they’d like to see us use open source tools as much as possible to support our open source community.
  • Reducing bottlenecks. We want to remove as many bottlenecks as possible. One of our goals is to compile a list of resources for communities, and the most scalable way is to crowdsource this and have the community help.
  • Expanding our reach. As mentioned before, Discourse has optimized Search Engine Optimization (SEO) so will help us expand our reach. It also has a low barrier of entry and is pretty user-friendly and robust, so a wide range of people can use it.
  • Too many tools. Right now we have Slack, GitHub, Google Groups, and now Discourse. We can replace the need for most of these tools with Discourse (see proposal below), while adding the benefits listed above.

Proposal for tooling, workflow, and any migration efforts

This proposal builds off of @yanokwa’s ideas in the feedback on categories thread.

The following is a proposal on how we would use each tool.


  • Central hub. This would remain the main landing page and would be the central hub around which our initiative runs.


  • Community. We could form a community around the FOSS Responders initiative.
  • Searchable. Discourse works really well for asynchronous, long-form communication that you need to be discoverable (so basically the opposite of Slack). It also has been optimized for SEO, so discourse threads often turn up in Google searches – so it’s a great way for our initiative to be more discoverable.
  • Email compatible. You can respond to threads you follow with your email, similar to GitHub issues.

Discourse consolidates tools:

People can mainly just use Discourse and Slack to interact, which reduces the need to have multiple applications open to participate / contribute.

  • Replaces most GitHub issues. We can use the FOSS Responders Working Group category for discussions and action around non-website related matters. Using Discourse allows others in the community to easily participate and volunteer for things they’re interested in.
  • Replaces Google Groups. We can create an email address with a restricted access group so that people can message us with questions.
  • Reduces Slack conversations. You can watch categories or topics, and turn on desktop notifications so that Discourse alerts you in real-time. This means that Discourse acts as a hybrid between GitHub issues and Slack, where you can document conversations around a particular topic so that more people can join in, or so that you can pull in others appropriately. You can set permissions so that you can have private conversations when needed.

Note: We’re working on a way to enable single sign-on with GitHub and gmail credentials so that we can make it easier for people to join.


  • Quick responses. Slack would remain a way to get in contact with each other quickly and a place to build relationships.


  • Website development. GitHub would be where issues for website enhancement would live.
  • Financial support issues. We can continue to process financial need requests through GitHub in order not to disrupt the current set up.

Migration efforts

A note on timing
We have yet to do a big push around FOSS Responders marketing, so I think now is the time to make any needed changes. After we do a big push, it’ll be harder to change the existing workflow.

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@tmurso @alyssapwright @tobiaseigen @yanokwa @downey – can you all take a look at this and let me know if it makes sense? There may be a way to structure this proposal better, or other edits that need to be made. Would love your thoughts!

I think I turned it into a wiki so you all can make direct edits!


Hi Nuritzi! This looks fab. Really like it and agree with everything. You are very much on the right track! :+1: The only niggle I have is with slack - why not use mattermost instead of slack? Pretty easy to get a mattermost instance up and running, and it’s nice to be able to segment work from volunteering by having a separate app. Like discourse, mattermost has pretty decent email notifications when you’re offline so you can decide to jump back in.

Worth quoting the key phrase from @yanokwa:

Generally speaking, I typically encourage using discourse for any communication that is worth saving. Slack/Mattermost is great for immediate collaboration and getting help on small things right away, but most of what appears there is ephemeral and disappears out of sight. So even if you have a really productive slack session, you want to record the best bits in discourse later. The nice thing also is that you can easily garden discourse topics so they are easy to read for those who follow, e.g. to split topics, delete posts that don’t contribute, edit to fix formatting, and so on.

Jeff Atwood wrote about this on meta a while back:


Makes good sense and I love the proposal ideas. Look forward to more broad discussion!



Update on April 3, 2020:

Per the group, we’ll use Discourse mainly for

  • Resource center
  • Matchmaking
  • Promoting crowdfunding
  • FAQs

Other tools will also be used

  • Slack has been broken into subgroups to help filter out some of the noise
  • Website will be the central hub
  • GitHub will be used for actionable tasks relating to the website and design in addition to tracking tickets for people who have applied for funding assistance
  • Google docs is used for notes and workflow planning

Note: I’ve maintained the Working Group and Meeting Notes categories in Discourse as a workspace for some of us. However, it’s important to note that most people will be mainly using Slack to collaborate in subgroup work.

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