People have questions and want answers, or ideas and complaints they want to share. Right now, the only ways for them to do this on our site are:
- Mail us.
- Add a comment to a page or blog post.
- Um... that's it.
We experimented with forums last year, but they never reached critical mass (and have since filled up with spam). What should we do going forward? Should we try to resurrect those forums? Set up a Q&A mailing list? Or direct everyone to the computational science area at StackExchange? The pros and cons as I see it are:
- Forums: hosted here, hence under our control (and could potentially be tightly integrated with the learning content), but really, the last thing the Internet needs is another place to look for information.
- Mailing list: if there isn't much traffic, it's not useful; if there's lots, people will mostly unsubscribe or tune out.
- StackExchange: control (or lack of it) is an issue, but it's well engineered, and once scientists get used to looking there, they might start using its siblings (like the original Stack Overflow).
I'm obviously inclined to #3—what are your thoughts?
Later: as an experiment, I've asked a question on Stack Exchange about core computing skills for scientists. Please feel free to answer it (and vote it up :-).
Still later: I've posted a proposal for a novices' area for Stack Exchange. Comments would be very welcome.