[Bioc-devel] Keep the bioc-help email list running?

Martin Morgan mtmorgan at fhcrc.org
Wed Oct 8 21:54:48 CEST 2014

Hi Weijun --

Thanks for the comments...

On 10/08/2014 12:15 PM, Luo Weijun wrote:
> Dear all, I noticed that the classical bioc-help email was shut down
> completely, instead we have to use the new bioc support forum. I feel that we
> can be a little more cautious on this.

> First, there should be tens of hundreds of subscribed users to the email
> list. This is a extremely valuable resource, not many projects like bioc have
> that. We could be giving up such a big community base accumated these years
> over night. Whether and how long we can have that many users back to the
> support forum is a question mark.

You can see recent size and activity in the annual report, about 3470
subscribers, 500 posts per month (about 16 per day) and 180 unique authors.


The entire mailing list history is available on the support site, including this
one https://support.bioconductor.org/p/2/ ! Information is much easier to
discover on the support site compared to the mailing list.

In terms of 'community' in a more qualitative sense, I've enjoyed perusing user 
profiles, seeing what people (or their pets) look like, and where they're 
located geographically.

> Second, I find it very conenvenient to ask/answer questions or share info
> through emails. For users like me, the email list is stickier than a support
> forum. You may conduct a survey or compare the recent usage statistics if
> needed.

Especially for tracking the support site, see the 'Notifications' field on your
profile page; mine is configured for the (somewhat misleading) 'email for every
new thread', and actually I receive mail for each new thread, comment, or answer
(though not changes to existing posts, something that is not possible with 
email). One can track individual tags, too, if one interested in being informed 
about particular types of questions. In principle one can reply to these 
messages via email, but in practice for me this serves as a 'pull' to the site, 
clicking on the link embedded in the email.

It's still very early days for the support site. We are accumulating statistics,
and it does not look too bad. For instance in the last 24 hours there have been
11 new threads and I have received 25 messages (more active than the mailing 
list!) about posts. Biostars is hugely popular, more than an order of magnitude 
more traffic than our web site currently.

> Third, many users will chose to ask questions on Biostar or Seqanswers rather
> than on the support forum. There would be no competitive advantage in terms
> of user interface or forum activity.

The mailing list faced similar 'competition', but with the additional obstacle
of accessing the list in the first place. The quality of information and 
expertise is what will bring people to the site.

> Fourth, we can have both the support forum and the email list running if some
> people prefer the forum. There shouldn’t be much maintenance needed to keep
> email list as all the infrastructure is there and automated already.

Yes we thought about this but in the end realized that this would divide our
community and double our work as responsible maintainers -- keeping up with both
the mailing list and the support site.

> Just my thoughts here. Anyway, I think this is a issue closely related to the
> growth of bioc project and the whole community. We have good reasons to think
> it and discuss it. Thanks!

Thanks again for your feedback, and of course if the support site were a 
disaster we would re-activate the mailing list (it's in suspended animation, not 
actually destroyed). So far, reactivating the mailing list does not seem like a 
probable outcome.


> Weijun
> _______________________________________________ Bioc-devel at r-project.org
> mailing list https://stat.ethz.ch/mailman/listinfo/bioc-devel

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