Why different software for the two different communities? Edited

I need to try to phrase this in a way that's not provocative, but seriously, why. Why does the developer community use Discourse and the user community use Lithium?

Are these two groups of people really so different, and do they always fit neatly in to the one camp or the other?

For example, how come the developer community has a decent editor that supports markdown, proper code formatting, but the user community does not? This editor is a huge backwards step from CQ, and from OSQA, even from the original forums.

Maybe I will get used to it but so far Lithium is a sub-optimal experience for people that are actually trying to contribute answers, and I am speaking for my entire team here.

 

4 comments

I was wondering the same thing. 

The developer community is my first time using Discourse, so I still need to get used to it. Especially the navigation is very confusing to me. 

The user community is much easier to navigate and just seems to make a lot more sense to me.

It's just a matter of time until I'm used to it, so it's no big deal. But I do wonder why they're both so different. 

Yes, I agree about the navigation... that is confusing, I'm not used to Discourse either. However the editing experience in Discourse is miles better than this.

It just seems unfortunate that many of us will need to learn both, at the same time. 

Neither seems ready for primetime, eg email notifications. I blame summit... everything must be ready for summit, there is no more "it's ready when it's ready".

I must admit I was disappointed too.  I'm not going to comment on usability or features as I've not spent enough time on either yet, but I don't understand this move at all.

On Answers, we had a range of questions on different levels.  One might be something simple like "Hi, new admin, can't find X", and the next might be "Why doesn't this complex add-on code do what I want?".  Having those two extremes in one big pile wasn't great, as you end up with a lot of "noise" on stuff you don't want to answer or even read.  (Although an advantage is that some of us are interested enough to learn from some of the noise)

I understand a desire to separate these two extreme types of question out, and I fully support it.  But having them in two completely separate places seems wrong.

In the new community, we've already had a batch of questions shut down with "go ask in developer".  Three problems with that:

1. For most of them, it was the "right" answer, but there's now a grey area.  At what point do you make the decision to throw it over?  A lot of the questions in the new community do contain coding questions.  Should they be moved simply because of that?  Especially when they're "light" ones with very simple answers that could help readers understand the systems better?

2.  One question I saw them showed that the questioner did not understand an important relationship in JIRA.  A far better answer than "go ask dev" would have been to explain what the questioner was missing.  That could help people asking similar questions in both systems, and for questions like that, we now have to look in two places.

3.  "Go ask in a totally different place" is a poor response.  A better one would be "we moved your question to a better place".  Two disparate systems make that harder.

Jamie, Maarten, and Nic,

Thank you for honest, open, and constructive feedback. I wouldn't have expected anything else.

We will take all of this into account in our continuous improvement of the experience for all our community members.

We're open to all suggestions and ideas to help improve the communities but do know that we cannot implement everything.

I'm looking forward to seeing all of you at Summit and AtlasCamp where we can continue these discussions.

Cheers,

Peter

Thank you Peter. Maybe you, Nic and I could grab a few minutes during those events.

Kevan Lin Atlassian Team Apr 14, 2017

Jamie, 

As a way to follow up with you regarding your experience with the editor in Lithium, Id like to know more about what you'd ideally like to see? Specifically, what do you mean by "proper code formatting"? Any information you could provide me would go a long way in me understanding your needs - thanks!

I'd like to jump in here with a few observations:

  1. The editor has a very small width. This might be ok for reading prose, but makes it difficult to write answers that have significant length or contain pastes (screenshots, code snippets, hyperlinks, etc)
  2. Specifically regarding hyperlinks, I've written a few answers where it seems like people missed the hyperlinks over the text - I am wondering if the link color is not lending itself to people seeing it well. As a workaround, I typically just paste the URL instead of using link text, which pushes back into issue #1.
  3. Code formatting - in Answers, you could select what syntax highlighting you wanted. Given the level of contributors on answers, it would be nice if this were not one-size-fits-all and folks could get the right highlighting for their snippet.
  4. Keyboard shortcuts - Confluence's editor is the best out of any product I've worked with. The text "1." will convert into a numbered list. "* Item" will convert into a bullet list. All we seem to get here is Bold, Underline, Italic.
  5. Back to #1 again - the editor has a very small height (compounded by the small width). As I'm typing this out, I'm having a hard time reading what I've already written and it's not even a long answer yet!
  6. Pasting screenshots. We need this. Uploading to a third-party site and then clicking the camera icon and pasting the URL is a pain.
  7. Bugs. Bugs. Bugs. Behavior seems to be inconsistent and a lot of times it does something unexpected but then I can't reproduce. It doesn't seem like everything that was captured during Beta is still on the list of known issues. I don't know what your release cycle is, but given that we're nearly two weeks in and we've only seen two issues fixed off the list... It's difficult to get a good idea of what you want to do on your posts when you're constantly trying to keep track of what you can't do vs. what you should be able to do. 
  8. Headers are gone - all you have to break up pieces of text in your answers are lists and "pho-headers" by bolding text on its own line.
  9. Copy/paste loses formatting. I tried to copy this post into Safari as Chrome wouldn't post it (turned out this was something else with Champions not being able to post). None of the formatting came over, despite going from Lithium editor to Lithium editor in another window.

Enthusiastically seconding 1, 6, and 9. 

It's difficult to say what's wrong with it when it's so far from what I would like.

It's like wanting a burrito and being given a banana and trying to explain what's wrong with a banana.

The trend seems to be to markup based editors of whatever flavour. Once you learn a few syntaxes it's very keyboard-friendly.  With this editor if you want to insert code you have to mouse around a lot...  markup based editors you just outdent the code. Even with CQ you could type {code}. It's just clearly not meant for people who have a developer orientation... 

Agree with Daniel's points, though I think I have different priorities. The fact you can't resize the editor is a major problem.

 

 

Rather than explain what's wrong with it, just compare with the editor at https://community.developer.atlassian.com/t/how-to-get-the-current-project-the-user-is-on/2507/6. That's snappy, resizable, and there are no copy-paste issues because it's just plain text.

Some of the Discourse interface is confusing, but you could strip out the geeky stuff and have something that works great, with proper email notifications and everything. Or perhaps this is a giant A/B test.

@Daniel Eads - Thank you for spending the time and outlining the various ways the editor isn't meeting your expectations. It's evident that we haven't met your expectations and I will do whatever I can to help make the editor a better experience for you. 

I won't get into the technical bits, but there was a lot of work done to even get to this point of the interface, and we're constantly iterating to improve the experience over time. I only ask that you give us some patience as we try to do the right thing. 

re: "Code formatting - in Answers, you could select what syntax highlighting you wanted. Given the level of contributors on answers, it would be nice if this were not one-size-fits-all and folks could get the right highlighting for their snippet."

With the "right highlighting" are you referring to code highlights where the various elements are different color to help see the syntax?

re: Pasting screenshots. We need this. Uploading to a third-party site and then clicking the camera icon and pasting the URL is a pain.

At the moment, when clicking on the camera icon, you can drag-and-drop a graphics based file for upload. I hope that helps with your screenshot posting. 

Kevan Lin Atlassian Team Apr 17, 2017

@Jamie Echlin (Adaptavist)

Thank you for your clarification. Now that I understand what you were used to and how we've changed that I can now work on making the experience better. I know that this editor lacks a lot of the robustness that you were used to. I hope that over time we might be able to make this as robust and even more so over time. Like @Daniel Eads, I hope you will also extend some patience with us as we're trying our best to deliver a great community experience. 

Honestly, without your feedback we wouldn't know, so thank you for letting me and the team know what frustrations you're having.

Thanks Kevan for your replies. I have some feedback :)

@mentions - are you just bolding people's names? I don't see a way to actually mention people in the interface yet. I also didn't receive a separate "you were mentioned" email notification.


Quote formatting - others have mentioned it, I will just pitch in a +1. I used the code block for your comments/questions below and the results are not ideal.

 

I won't get into the technical bits,
but there was a lot of work done to even get to this point of the interface,
and we're constantly iterating to improve the experience over time.
I only ask that you give us some patience as we try to do the right thing.

Happy to be patient but your statement actually concerns me quite a bit - I feel like the editor does not currently meet standards even for a basic tool. It's definitely not Confluence, which is what I think all of us are asking for in a roundabout way by asking for features which are in Confluence and comparing what we are looking for with Answers. To say that a lot of work was done to get to this point (which is not a great point in my opinion) worries me that the Lithium platform was not designed for our use-case in the first place and that its technical limitations are so strong that we'll never see parity with Answers. This is not an attack on you or the team's work; just an observation that Lithium may not have been a good choice.


 

re: "Code formatting - in Answers, you could select what syntax
highlighting you wanted. Given the level of contributors on answers, it
would be nice if this were not one-size-fits-all and folks could get the
right highlighting for their snippet."

With the "right highlighting" are you referring to code highlights where
the various elements are different color to help see the syntax?

Yes, and also selecting which language the highlighting should go with. See the {code block} macro in Confluence.

 

re: Pasting screenshots. We need this. Uploading to a third-party site
and then clicking the camera icon and pasting the URL is a pain.

At the moment, when clicking on the camera icon, you can drag-and
drop a graphics based file for upload. I hope that helps with your 
screenshot posting. 

Unfortunately this is not what I mean. With the current state (an improvement over previously where there wasn't even file upload capability), this is the workflow:

  1. Take a screenshot to a file
  2. Click the camera button in the editor
  3. Get file pulled up in a Finder window (inconvenient when in Full Screen mode) OR open the Browse dialogue (slow)
  4. Drag and drop the file OR select & upload from the Browse dialogue
  5. Click the insert button

Compare this to the workflow in Confluence / Answers:

  1. Take screenshot to clipboard (Command-Control-Shift-4 on macOS)
  2. Paste from clipboard directly in editor

I agree with Daniel that Lithium is not up to snuff, and judging by where it is and the rate of improvement it may never be.

Looking at their marketing materials it seems aimed at less technical communities. All the talk about harnessing customer passion and crowdsourcing support makes me feel a bit dirty.

Where I disagree is in wanting the confluence editor. Whilst it's probably the best in its field, personally I prefer plain text, markup-based editors. You never get any weird editing glitches or copy-paste issues. But happy to be in the minority on that one... the confluence editor is head and shoulders above this one.

I would take a plaintext markup-based editor over the current editor. Best of both worlds would probably be a toggle between the two (not sure if this is possible with something like the Confluence editor, but JIRA is doing a pretty good job with the Rich Text Editor in 7.3).

"I only ask that you give us some patience as we try to do the right thing."

I've seen that phrase used a number of times now in various posts from the Atlassian Team. Asking your main contributors over and over "to be patient" is not a great way to instill confidence in your product. These are basic issue that should have been addresses LONG before the product was launched. I can understand small amounts of regression in capabilities, but the differences from Answers are so vast that I as a developer myself I cannot fathom why you made the switch when you did. I was a regular contributor to the Answers site, but I can tell you since this new one has gone live I haven't hardly answered anything simply because of the horrible email notifications (finally showing some slight improvement ... still far from ideal) and editor usabilities issues.

Y'all are shooting yourselves in the foot and that is going to make it super hard to get to the doctor.

Sounds like a tight race between easy Copy/Paste functionality and code snippet insertion?

Does Lithium allow for the TinyMCE editor I wonder?  This editor even handles copy/paste from Word <gasp!> 

The first two fixes we're working on are the size of the editor and the copy/paste functiomality.  Those should be released within the next 2 weeks. 

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