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Best Practices for WICG Discourse

(Moved from this Discourse thread.)

Be nice

Something more specific to Discourse, and already kind of touched upon by the (almost entirely hidden) Community Guidelines (which sound a lot like the community guidelines from Stack Overflow and I'm pretty sure come out-of-the-box with Discourse), is a notion that I feel is best conveyed by the Wikipedia policy "Please do not bite the newcomers".

While it can be annoying to read impractical and oblivious proposals by developers with next-to-no experience or understanding about the topic they're proposing (eg. anybody who proposes changing something that would break a large amount of the existing content on the Web), WICG is the space for that. Not only is it generally important to criticize ideas and not people (as explicitly spelled out in the aforementioned Community Guidelines/FAQ), but this specific form of criticism is the one prone to doing the most damage.

The learned-hand regulars here can handle a little bit of flippancy, since we have the background to justify our participation to ourselves, but new users need to be handled with the kid gloves. A bad experience the first time you speak up in a new setting is akin to going to a building and finding that the door is locked (or getting hit in the face with embers). Even a mildly unpleasant experience is liable to make a newcomer not try again - and, if newcomers get turned away at the door, that means that the very problem this group was created to solve will have been in vain, as the ordinary users whose thoughts could and would lead to more useful specifications for the average, in-the-thick-of-it web programmer get left high and dry without a place where their ideas will be heard.

If you only want to hear vetted proposals from people who know what they're doing, see if you can make your way deeper into the W3C, and let the WICG process be the filter that protects you from hearing stupid ideas - but WICG is where we need to hear the stupid ideas, so we don't miss out on the diamonds in the rough.

(Note to native English speakers: links to explanations of common idioms like "handle with kid gloves" and "diamond in the rough" are not to be patronizing, but to identify their meanings for the service of users who may not be as fluent in the language, since this post is oriented toward new users who may only have familiarity with literal English as it is used in specifications.)

Speak up

The whole point of the WICG is that there's pretty much no barrier to entry: if you're not familiar with all the discussion and/or technical details surrounding a certain topic, but the overall concept appeals to you, tell us about it. Best case scenario, people will explain these things to you: worst case scenario, it'll be a little more noise to skim over.

(Caveat: if you're going to speak up, do so in a detailed fashion - explain your thoughts, at the minumum explaining what it is about the issue that matters to you. The whole point of speaking up is to suggest something for new discussion to incorporate and address. The only thing comments like "+1!" suggest for discussion is posts complaining about people posting "+1" comments, and then an infinitely spiraling series of posts complaining about the complaints, like a shush in a movie theater or a "reply all" to a mailing list that spreads like wildfire.)

Participate in as many places as you can

I personally jump between here and GitHub: others participate here and in the mailing lists, or on the mailing lists and on GitHub. (I've participated in the mailing lists every now and then - I'd probably participate in the mailing lists more if I had a decent web client for posting to them, instead of having to spin up Thunderbird and point it at GMANE.)

Summarize discussions

Explain the conclusions other efforts have come to: what problems rose, what actions were taken, what would need to happen to move forward. This is what half of Tab Atkins' posts here are dedicated to, and it does a fantastic job of focusing/directing the thread toward something that can actually happen.

Suggest actions

Think about what would be involved in making a discussion a reality.

Hyperlink everything

The cost of somebody seeing a link that maybe isn't relevant to them (they have to take two seconds to figure that out) is way lower than the cost of somebody not seeing a link that would have been relevant to them (they spend several hours / weeks / months incompletely duplicating someone else's effort), so drop in links with wild abandon.