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More time between FlightGear Newsletter issues?

Questions about the FlightGear organisation, website, wiki etc.

Re: More time between FlightGear Newsletter issues?

Postby Hooray » Sat Jun 24, 2017 2:26 pm

Hi,

just briefly, and maybe to provide a little historic context surrounding the newsletter, I would suggest to run a forum/devel list search.
Sooner or later, you will realize that we did have various forms and manifestations of the "FlightGear newsletter". In fact, the current "wiki-based community-driven newsletter" was inspired by a discussion we had on this very forum, roughly 9 years ago (IIRC).

Overall, the FlightGear project is facing certain challenges, and things like the newsletter are particularly prone to suffering due to certain constraints - which is why we've found the wiki-based contributions model to work particularly well compared to all the other attempts.

However, to be perfectly honest - the newsletter never was a working "on its own" - what people not involved in this community may not realize is that some of us (especially Gijs, Red Leader and myself) would normally reach out to people to get them involved in contributing to the newsletter.

I think Thorsten may recall that I reached out to him to encourage him to add news relating to this own developments to the newsletter - and that is actually something that I did somewhat regularly. In fact, I ended up using a simple template that basically invited people to contribute to the newsletter, pointing out how to get started doing this, which included links to basic introductory articles, including instructions on adding screenshots/images and youtube video. I also made it clear that the newsletter was community-driven and that everybody was invited to contribute to it, also people who stated that their grasp of the English language would not suffice, because we had others (like e.g. Red Leader) who were willing to help review/proof-read such contributions.

These days however, I am not as much involved in wiki/FG matters, and I guess that nobody is reaching out to our contributors anymore to get involved in the newsletter ?

Anyway, what I am trying to say is that the newsletter (or its schedule) is unlikely to benefit from being revamped - rather, I would suggest that people interested in the newsletter get started drafting a template to invite other contributors to get involved in the newsletter - there are tons of good ways to "harvest" contents from the forum/devel list and add those to the newsletter (or even the commit logs).

Actually, it didn't take much time to do that - like I said, I was using a template that I would personalize, and then I would configure the forum search such that it would show all topics created during the last 3-4 weeks, sending out roughly 10-15 PMs, with roughly ~3-5 people responding well to these invitations.

In other words, I guess what the newsletter primarily needs is someone involved in the forum/devel list, willing to monitor these channels and willing to reach out to contributors who may not be that familiar with the newsletter and the wiki in particular, while also offering to mentor people.

Apart from that, I don't think that the newsletter really needs any major improvements, it mainly needs contributors - and people willing to mentor new contributors.

Given the constraints of the project, my suggestion would be to start a new wiki article covering how to contribute to the newsletter, basically serving as/replacing the template that I would originally send out to people on the forum, and then sending out a link to the new article to people announcing new projects.

I guess that should work fairly well.

Then again, I am certainly not opposed to any efforts surrounding improvements to the newsletter, I just don't believe that it's necessary, or that it's going to work out too well - like I said, back when the newsletter was apparently working "well enough", there was quite a bit of behind-the-scenes networking going on, including 1:1 mentoring to get new contributors up to scratch with the wiki.

Finally, let me state that I would love to see the newsletter alive and kicking again, mainly because I am also not very involved in FG matters these days, and I find it annoying to have to browse the archives (forum/list) or the commit logs to come up to speed with FG matters.

Thus, I sincerely hope that people will find a way to make that happen !
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Re: More time between FlightGear Newsletter issues?

Postby Johan G » Sat Jun 24, 2017 4:15 pm

Many good points.

Hooray wrote in Sat Jun 24, 2017 2:26 pm:[...] to be perfectly honest - the newsletter never was a working "on its own" - what people not involved in this community may not realize is that some of us (especially Gijs, Red Leader and myself) would normally reach out to people to get them involved in contributing to the newsletter.

I think Thorsten may recall that I reached out to him to encourage him to add news relating to this own developments to the newsletter - and that is actually something that I did somewhat regularly. In fact, I ended up using a simple template that basically invited people to contribute to the newsletter, pointing out how to get started doing this, which included links to basic introductory articles, including instructions on adding screenshots/images and youtube video. I also made it clear that the newsletter was community-driven and that everybody was invited to contribute to it, also people who stated that their grasp of the English language would not suffice, because we had others (like e.g. Red Leader) who were willing to help review/proof-read such contributions.

These days however, I am not as much involved in wiki/FG matters, and I guess that nobody is reaching out to our contributors anymore to get involved in the newsletter ?

[...]

Actually, it didn't take much time to do that - like I said, I was using a template that I would personalize, and then I would configure the forum search such that it would show all topics created during the last 3-4 weeks, sending out roughly 10-15 PMs, with roughly ~3-5 people responding well to these invitations.

In other words, I guess what the newsletter primarily needs is someone involved in the forum/devel list, willing to monitor these channels and willing to reach out to contributors who may not be that familiar with the newsletter and the wiki in particular, while also offering to mentor people.

Inviting people that have made contributions in one way or another, or are involved in other ways is most probably not a bad idea. I do remember that was done openly some years ago (and apparently more in PM and emails than I was aware).

Hooray wrote in Sat Jun 24, 2017 2:26 pm:[...] I don't think that the newsletter really needs any major improvements, it mainly needs contributors - and people willing to mentor new contributors.

Given the constraints of the project, my suggestion would be to start a new wiki article covering how to contribute to the newsletter, basically serving as/replacing the template that I would originally send out to people on the forum, and then sending out a link to the new article to people announcing new projects.

In other words it should be easy to contribute to the newsletter. Right? I think it would be technically possible to make templates that could simplify adding new newsletter blanks (but I have said that for years without doing anything about it :oops: ).

Hooray wrote in Sat Jun 24, 2017 2:26 pm:Finally, let me state that I would love to see the newsletter alive and kicking again, mainly because I am also not very involved in FG matters these days, and I find it annoying to have to browse the archives (forum/list) or the commit logs to come up to speed with FG matters.

It is also a good way to maintain an accessible chronology over the projects history and major developments.
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Re: More time between FlightGear Newsletter issues?

Postby Catalanoic » Sat Jun 24, 2017 4:33 pm

Nice words Hooray despite ttime constraints like everybody i think, i was thinking about some ideas to help keep the monthly newsletter, if we can standarize a way to do it, that means, writing a help/how-to article, helping and inviting other contributors to write at least a short description of their developments on all areas, use of devel notes on forum threads and mail devel lists directly to the newsletter, increase visibility in main webpage and forum, attract wiki users and readers, add third-party and forks contribution sections (github repos, fguk, etc.), MP events, future development, wishes and concept sections, some time framework to be able to translate it at least to major languages...
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Re: More time between FlightGear Newsletter issues?

Postby Hooray » Sat Jun 24, 2017 5:04 pm

Yeah, I guess there are several valid observations to be made, and conclusions to be drawn from this.
Personally, I can relate to suggestions aimed at improving the underlying process, i.e. analogous to Torsten's and James' effort at automating the whole release process.
However, we need to be really carefully not to over-engineer things here - as in "the perfect being the enemy of the good" dilemma.

I have seen many good proposals relating to improvements of the wiki by installing certain addons/plugins, but I have rarely seen those implemented - it seems mainly because both, Curt and Gijs lacked sufficient privileges/expertise to do so, and because Simon was/is time-constrained, too.

Then again, the wiki is an invaluable asset these days, no matter if disagree regarding the quality/use of certain articles or the way they were originally created/bootstrapped, it still is an excellent resource - and the whole newsletter template greatly helps provide a basic structure to bootstrap new articles.

So, what is primarily needed in my opinion is a new article covering how to contribute to the newsletter, detailing the process, and maybe detailing people/volunteers that are willing to mentor new folks wanting to get involved there, i.e. a list of people who people can get in touch with if they have questions. Also, what really helped boost contributions in my opinion is encouraging non-native speakers, while asking others to help peer-review such contributions (you'd be surprised by how many people used to tell me that they'd love to contribute, but that they'd lack the familiarity with the project/people and community to make "meaningful" contributions - which is why I started maintaining a list of these folks, and would regularly (monthly) invivte those folks to help peer-review the latest draft, because it was about to be closed.

Maybe the whole process needs to be written down, too ? I only just realized that all the behind-the-scenes networking wasn't obvious to people, and that the whole scheme may obviously suffer depending on people's involvement. Maybe we could by creating a tutorial that details how to create/edit/proof-read etc the newsletter, and how people can get involved in doing so ? For instance, some folks told me that they'd love to create all sorts of artwork (screenshots, logo work or even youtube videos) but that they didn't want to do any writing.

Thus, maybe it would be a good idea to form some kind of "newsletter team" where people can volunteer by adding their nicknames to a category such as "writing", "artwork", "translating" or "mentoring" ?

Besides, I do remember that others were asking here what kind of youtube tutorials would be good to have - and I think covering the wiki registration process, and how to get involved in the newsletter would be a worthwhile thing to do.

Besides, as many of you will undoubtedly remember, many/most of my own wiki additions didn't really involve much manual work - for instance, I would simply copy/paste relevant community announcements/discussions from the devel list/forum or commit logs and proof-read/adapt those as needed.

As a matter of fact, what used to be called the "instant-cquotes script" originally, was eventually renamed to become "instantRefs", and also ended up containing a simple proof-of-concept mode to turn postings into newsletter/changelog announcements, using a simple regex-based search/replace scheme that would go and look for patterns like "I have" to replace such occurrences with "$AUTHOR has":

http://wiki.flightgear.org/FlightGear_wiki:Instant-Refs


Admittedly, the script is in a rather unfinished state these days, and it has become more complex than I was hoping for, but it's a fairly solid foundation to come up with a semi-automated way to populate/update wiki articles without much manual work, and it will even retain references/images to wiki articles etc.

Image

In other words, someone familiar with JavaScript coding should be able to quickly adapt the script to become even more useful for use-cases like updating the newsletter/changelog, e.g. see the screenshot below:

Image
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Re: More time between FlightGear Newsletter issues?

Postby Thorsten » Sat Jun 24, 2017 5:19 pm

i think its all a joke or something.. but by the time you write 1186 characters to say me and some others aren't contributing you can write 2 lines for the newsletter what you made on last aircraft effects. i dont have contributed on your "area" so my knowledge there will be 0 to write something that i dont know


Ah, the things I could develop in the time spent helping others fix bugs, pointing them to the right wiki article or convince them they actually can do things themselves...

Point being, time spent convincing someone else to start contributing rather than waiting will (if successful) multiply, so it's worth doing that rather than doing it all myself.

Point also being, you haven't been asked to write the documentation of an effect - I realize fully well that you can't do that without the required expert knowledge. But you can do newsletter items because they do not require special knowledge. Just like I write aircraft portraits for the FG main webpage for aircraft I haven't developed.

And point also being, I think I have an excellent track record in wiki documentation and in the overall presentation for FG, so you'll just have to look elsewhere for an excuse to not do it - sorry.
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Re: More time between FlightGear Newsletter issues?

Postby Hooray » Sat Jun 24, 2017 5:26 pm

I am not going to argue with anybody here, but Thorsten's last posting is entirely correct - you will find many wiki articles to which I contributed without being overly active in the corresponding projects/domains. Also, I simply stopped inviting Thorsten to contribute to the newsletter because, he really has an unprecedented track record when it comes to using the wiki in general.

And really, the key point to take away from this is that Thorsten is right when he says that convincing someone to contribute to the newsletter/wiki or project is usually a huge multiplier - in turn, that also means that helping another contributor is multiplying your own efforts even more.

Thus, I really think it is a good idea to lower the barrier to entry by coming up with a corresponding tutorial, which includes screenshots and ideally comes with a youtube video covering the basic process - many people who started contributing to the newsletter also ended up helping with other articles eventually
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Re: More time between FlightGear Newsletter issues?

Postby Icecode GL » Sat Jun 24, 2017 5:31 pm

I don't think accusing anyone of being a contributor or not really helps at all.

I know I'm getting annoying with the bad analogies, but here is another one anyway: imagine the newsletter is a newspaper. Newspapers are published everyday, but we have a reduced team of three people writing articles. There is no way those 3 people can write a proper newspaper in a single day, so the CEO asks for solutions. Hooray turns up and says "we should just get more employees to write more articles!". The problem is that our newspaper company is small, unpopular and no one knows it exists. Also, we don't pay much. Even if we get some employees writing articles and we manage to publish a newspaper, these employees will quit eventually when they get better offers where they get paid more (which is why the newsletter is seeing less and less contributions each month).

What I'm proposing is to pay these employees more. People contributing to the newsletter should get a greater reward so they don't quit. And if the reward is big enough more people might turn up to start writing themselves. Since we don't have money at our disposal, the reward should be 1. Personal satisfaction, 2. Recognition, 3. Having the feeling that what you did actually mattered and didn't get lost in time. Increasing the time between editions fixes the immediate problem (lack of content) as well as preparing the ground for a bigger newsletter read by more people and written by more people.
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Re: More time between FlightGear Newsletter issues?

Postby Hooray » Sat Jun 24, 2017 5:39 pm

Look, like I said, I am not interested in debating anything - if you think you can come up with a scheme that works better, I would suggest to give it a try - there is no reason why you cannot create a new newsletter scheme that can co-exist with the old scheme that apparently works so poorly right now.

But then again, I am fairly familiar with the newsletter scheme, how it came to be and what works and what doesn't - I also know for a fact that the newsletter never just worked "on its own", it always took a conscious effort by a handful of contributors to reach out to others, mentor them and encourage/motivate them.

I am in position to disagree or agree with anyone here, my opinion is irrelvant - I can merely state that the existing scheme used to work without too much work, and that it mainly worked because of networking behind the scenes, i.e. sending out eMail and private messages to get people involved. Equally, I was adding stuff from various other channels (like the archives), and other contributors (e.g. Thorsten, Stuart or AndersG) would simply review those additions and politely disagree with them by proof-reading/rewriting such additions in a more proper format.

And that in particular is not an uncommon thing around here: motivating someone to do something out of disagreement, which is also how Gijs' NavDisplay framework took shape, how the CDU framework was created and many other competing features.

Apart from that, I don't think terminology like "employee", "payment" etc will do us a service, without resurrectign the whole "how the project works" debate.

Point being, I am firmly convinced, we primarily need to make sure that the processes are documented and well-understood, while also providing an up-to-date list of available mentors to be the "go-to persons".


Speaking in general, the wiki and the newsletter have a particularly low barrier to entry, and we're really encouraging all involvement/contributions there, in fact I have rarely seen contributions revoked/reverted there, apart from exceptions due to other community related challenges.
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Re: More time between FlightGear Newsletter issues?

Postby Thorsten » Sat Jun 24, 2017 5:41 pm

I don't think accusing anyone of being a contributor or not really helps at all.


It helps to point at the cognitive dissonance that people who do not contribute to the newsletter raise question why people do not contribute to the newsletter.

Or, put another way, it helps to point out the futility of waiting for others to do something. :mrgreen:
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Re: More time between FlightGear Newsletter issues?

Postby Icecode GL » Sat Jun 24, 2017 5:46 pm

It helps to point at the cognitive dissonance that people who do not contribute to the newsletter raise question why people do not contribute to the newsletter.


If you are referring to me, I suggest you read my OP again. Quoting myself: "I'm not here to discuss the reasons, but to propose a solution.". I never wanted answers, since they were actually pretty obvious to me. I wanted solutions so I could feel like contributing to the newsletter was worth my time, or anyone's time.

Apart from that, I don't think terminology like "employee", "payment" etc will do us a service, without resurrectign the whole "how the project works" debate.


Woah there, you really take things literally. It's just a clear comparison, nothing else.

if you think you can come up with a scheme that works better, I would suggest to give it a try


I would. The problem is that what I'm proposing needs to have the approval and support of people who are the "face" of the FG project. I can't just create the "FlightGear Magazine" and include a link to it in the next FG release.
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Re: More time between FlightGear Newsletter issues?

Postby Hooray » Sat Jun 24, 2017 5:46 pm

Actually, I can relate to both sides of the argument, I am not an active contributor to the newsletter, but I do know what doing so entails.
For the time being, I am primarily interested in seeing a working newsletter so that I can get up to scratch with FG matters, without having to following all channels - even though I cannot promise any actual involvement from my side to make that happen in a timely fashion (unfortunately).

However, I felt it was worth sharing how the existing newsletter scheme came to be, and how it had to be "implemented" each month, even though that may not have been very visible to bystanders, I don't even think that many regular contributors (not even core developers) were really aware of the behind-the-scenes networking involved in coming up with a more or less complete newsletter ...
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Re: More time between FlightGear Newsletter issues?

Postby Thorsten » Sat Jun 24, 2017 5:52 pm

I wanted solutions so I could feel like contributing to the newsletter was worth my time, or anyone's time.


If you saw value reading it in the past, it should be worth your time now - this isn't a particularly complicated question as far as I can see.

But as others have said, you're free to set up any 'better' solution you like. It's just not so that people massively contribute to release notes - most of these are written by Stuart and me.
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Re: More time between FlightGear Newsletter issues?

Postby Hooray » Sat Jun 24, 2017 5:53 pm

The problem is that what I'm proposing needs to have the approval and support of people who are the "face" of the FG project. I can't just create the "FlightGear Magazine" and include a link to it in the next FG release.


I don't think you need any of that, i.e. I think you are overly concerned here - and sorry if I am pointing out the obvious, but if in doubt, I would suggest to refer to the original 2008 debate, which should serve as the background info for how the existing scheme came to be, and how many other schemes had failed prior to that, and to make it blatanly obvious who came up with the existing scheme, let me quote a posting from 2008:

Newsletter
Hooray wrote:Why not simply start a new page on the wiki where anybody can provide contents, so that whenever it's time to send out a newsletter, the draft from the wiki could be taken?
That way, it wouldn't be too much work for a single person - more like a "community-driven" newsletter, while this may appear to sort of defeat the purpose, not all newsletter recipients are necessarily also wiki users.


Besides, keep in mind that I am one of the more controversial figures around here and that some core developers would love to see my account removed here, and join the fgmembers team instead - still, that scheme got implemented and maintained over the years, which had nothing to do with my "reputation" or my "role" in the project ...
Heck, it simply worked without too much manual work involved, and without all the work resting on the shoulders of a single individual.

However, like I said previously, I am not the slightest bit emotionally attached to the current scheme - if someone can come up with some semi-automated/better way to accomplish this, I am all for it !!
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Re: More time between FlightGear Newsletter issues?

Postby Icecode GL » Sat Jun 24, 2017 6:00 pm

If you saw value reading it in the past, it should be worth your time now - this isn't a particularly complicated question as far as I can see.


What? Unless you ignore what I've said in the last 2 pages I don't think the answer is as simple as you say.


This isn't going anywhere. I'm not as involved with FG as other people here, and consequently I don't care as much. What I proposed didn't have the support of the majority so I don't have anything else to say.
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Re: More time between FlightGear Newsletter issues?

Postby Hooray » Sat Jun 24, 2017 6:05 pm

There are several possible schemes obviously - it would be kinda neat to use git/svn commit logs and require committers to use a corresponding "scheme" for updated/new features, so that the logs can be traversed in a semi-automated fashion to build the newsletter/changelog automatically - that would have the added advantage that the whole history could be rebuilt from the git/svn source trees.

It would also not involve much manual work to do so - in fact, it would be possible to come up with a separate fgmeta repository to maintain such "news" there, and use that as the source for procedurally building (and even translating) resources like the newsletter/changelog.

At some point, we were discussing a similar scheme for the wiki, by using standardized components for the main article's "News" section: http://wiki.flightgear.org/Template:News

In particular, see: http://wiki.flightgear.org/Template:Loc ... nouncement
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