Noise-to-signal ratio

I second this. It’s very hard to make users follow rules. And we have been only enforcing code of conduct type stuff. More than that is unmanageable.

But what I can say is that leading by example is more effective from my experience.

I understand the sentiment and the difficulties of enforcing more rules. Right now I’m not quite proposing rule changes or stronger enforcement–just increased awareness.

The problem with leading by example is that it assumes the people you want to change are watching and are willing to change. There may be a somewhat small contingent of long-term members such as Sven and myself, as well as stakeholders, but for most people who transit this forum, it’s for tech support, especially since only Level 2 members and above can even access the tangential category. People don’t usually hang around tech support forums nor do they browse casually, picking up on examples being set. Other times, they just want to do whatever it is they’re here to do, so they’re unwilling to change even with examples.

That said, I want to stress again that I’m not advocating for an approach that’s akin to reaching for the sledgehammer; I’m just saying we should nudge and prod further than whatever it is Discourse is doing (which I’m not noticing, to be honest).

And we know that never happens…at least, not without a lot of pain on our part…

There’s definitely a difference between “teach me about this, so we can fix it together” and “it’s broken, fix it for me, I’m not interested in learning, that’s why I asked you!”. Ideally, more of the former, and less of the latter…

I’ve been considering the viability of paid Qubes OS tech support for a while, now…

“I’m just like Edward Snowden, I have a crypto wallet, and I want to protect myself from evil hackers, which is why I installed Qubes OS, but I have never touched a command line, and now my computer is ‘not working’, because I used the GUI to download both the cloud and the edge through my NordVPN, and suddenly my serial bus froze onto my clipboard, and I think it’s because rEvil disabled my nVIDIA drivers via my hardware wallet. Normally I just click on the EXE file, and I don’t know what goes on behind the scenes, and it just does it! FIX IT NOW! Yeah, I’m totally 1337…”

EDIT: For anyone who doesn’t know much about computers:

  • Congratulations! Admitting it is the first step, it’s nothing to be ashamed of, and we look forward to supporting you on your journey of enrichment! Even experienced ones learn something new every day!
  • NONE of this quote is anything that should be aspired to, and NONE of it actually make any sense whatsoever. NONE OF IT!

Honestly, I’d happily listen to this all day if I was getting paid for it…but I’m not…

Trying to get people interested in Qubes OS when it’s painfully obvious they haven’t got the slightest idea how computers work (and couldn’t be bothered putting in effort to learn) is an uphill battle at best.

It is definitely very rewarding and satisfying when you see someone’s knowledge grow, though. But then, you’re hit with the next person, and you’re back to square one…

Is there a way to channel the behaviour you’re talking about into a certain area of the forum, so that it doesn’t contaminate the broader forum? (for example, the parts that contain the important advice that will prevent someone from getting compromised)

Just out of curiosity, if discourse has a “LIKE” button, is there by any chance a “STUPID QUESTION” or “CLEARLY MISINFORMED” button as well?

I have a feeling that they would be clicked on a lot…

I’ll happily write one if it doesn’t exist.

But there has to be a way to achieve all of these outcomes, without being too taxing on our patience…

That could sound like something the “trust level” concept in Discourse could help with. Something like, Level0/New users could be allowed to create topics only in a “Newbie’s corner” category ? Generally-useful topics there could then be moved to the regular “Support” category.

The number of new users does not translate into more page views ? Do we have some visibility of where this comes from (ie. “users dropping out” vs. “users posting less” etc.) and the evolution of these numbers ?
Sounds like we would need to monitor such metrics if we feel there is a problem to address.

That would be a lot of work, to move that all. We already have special Testing Team.

Are there that many support questions from Level0 users ? I had the idea that the involved work would look like (today at least) moderating a small number of questions, but they I may easily be misleaded :slight_smile:

It isn’t exactly the fact that questions are being asked. I don’t mind that.

It’s that the answers don’t actually answer the questions, or the answers make such outlandish claims without even a shred of evidence or citation to support them.

And even when confronted with evidence that shows that their claim is basically a flat-out lie, the answers are still not amended.

This can cause problems when people are genuinely interested in educating themselves.

And in some cases, especially when you’re talking about Qubes OS, it could even result in pwnage…

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With payments comes expectations and liabilities, which is a monstrously big can of worms compared to whatever loss a non-functioning user forum entails.

I mean, you could try doing it independently, but that also creates its own set of issues, with the big one being trust–users for whom a program doesn’t exist unless there’s a desktop icon, but are wary enough to use Qubes, would probably be wary of the unaffiliated gentleman selling services claiming to make all the thinking go away.

I feel this complicates things too much and creates a distinction and segregation that doesn’t quite work (e.g. a CS PhD starts using Qubes and has insightful ideas, but has to start in the kid’s pool).

I like the broad concept of this–I’ve long felt it hard to separate the wheat from the chaff here, especially as the number of topics expands.

What might help is something like a “Best of” category where individual posts or entire threads deemed worthy by team members, mods, leaders, etc. are copied to. They would be selected on the basis of quality, relevance (how often does this issue appear?), technical content, or even entertainment value. Ultimately its main function would be as a quality-controlled community guide/FAQ.

What’s important for technical content is that they’re relevant, so stuff about R3.X that’s now outdated, for example, would be removed.

You can have intangible rewards (I’m thinking titles) that go to those who create these posts, or creates the most of them, etc. This might increase the overall quality of content here. Of course, those who can nominate and vote can’t win these.

Agreed. Or at least, I would very much like to think so…

Every community has the “I just want it fixed but don’t want to contribute” members, including academics, unfortunately…

I know you’re point, but should they not have to prove themselves first?

I like this. This seems to be what the LIKEs are used as…

I believe Discourse already has this capability, mainly used to avoid double-posting. (I could be wrong).

Yes. There is a LOT of stuff online that works with a little adaptation, and straight-up does not work at all. I’d happily help fix this.

Honestly, I’d love to see competitions of sorts.

  • Qubes OS desktop ricing competition
  • UI design challenges (can be code,drawings, or even plain text)
  • Who can break into a dummy Qubes OS machine? (i’ll happily expose some to the internet if necessary, I have heaps of Qubes machines lying around begging for reinstall) :wink:
  • What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever done with Qubes OS?
  • Nominate your most helpful user

I don’t know, stuff like that would get me interested.

It would also keep the people who are just here because they can occupied enough not to “tarnish the support”.

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This. We are flooded by this from a very small group of relatively new users.

It is also impossible they don’t see this thread. My hope is to affect some positive change without addressing any specific person.


The core of the problem can be summed up using Brandolini’s Law:

“The amount of energy needed to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude larger than is needed to produce it.”

This is also known as the ‘bullshit asymmetry principle’, and actually highlights a fundamental issue with internet (anonymous) communication. Things are going to get worse with algorithms like GPT-3.

It’s these types of answers that neccessitate corrections–those who wish to see the forum do well have to take the effort to correct false claims that can be thrown out there with little thought. This is a quick way to exhaust resources. Since this is an infosec forum at its core, I’m not going to shy away from the implications for the sake of maintaining pleasantness–a determined adversary can subtly flood a forum with bullshit using various accounts, making extra mods needed, then volunteer to mod and cause more trouble that way. Or they can do it as a means to some other ends. Or they can do it for the shits and giggles.


Glad to see this discussion. For all I know my posts are the subject of this thread (and I’d like to think everyone has thought about that themselves).

Absolutely agree for “technical” questions. Less certain about feedback/discussions as this post should indicate :wink:

Sounds ominous, especially if searchers and lurkers outweigh posters

Just to offer a possibly different perspective, I started reading the forum early but only engaged because I was unable to read the tangential category (and found some of the non tech support topics interesting).

IMO people transiting are less of a concern, at this point at least afaik, than denizens providing wrong but authoritative-sounding answers without correction and unclear community expectations.

Expecting respondents to amend their answers will probably lead to further frustration. If you’re motivated, informed replies might help.

Really glad you didn’t. I’d hate to see the departure of clueful participants or worse.

Since I don’t have the answer here’s a potentially relevant link.

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I was here a year ago when we were mooting the creation of the locked forum. If I remember correctly, there’s no issue with opening the tangential category so the general public can read it, but there’s no way to do it in a read-only format on this platform (Discourse). Back then I wondered to myself if this would lead to perverse incentives (spam posting to move up the ranks). It seems it has.

Thanks for bringing this up–this just might lead to something.


Edit: Turns out the conversation happened 9 months ago–not quite a year.

Found the thread and some relevant posts:

Regarding why there isn’t read-only access to the All Around Qubes subforum:


Some thoughts I had during the subforum’s planning phase:

Here I want to bring up what I wrote at the time, about how “those who participate must have, in a non-trivial way, demonstrated an interest in Qubes and positive contribution to discussions” (emphasis added). A system that judges who’s been naughty and who’s been nice is one that is inherently subjective, but after a year (okay, 9 months) of All Around Qubes, it feels like we’re at a point where we can decide if trying to keep the door open via an automated mechanism is worth it.

I don’t think it is–If we switch from this automated mechanism to one where mods and others manually review those who have reached a certain level periodically (say, once every quarter), noise and spammy behavior motivated by access to the fabled hidden forum gets removed (there’s nothing special going on in there, just in case anyone reading is wondering). As a bonus, we might also improve the quality and quantity of discussion in the All Around Qubes subforum.

A post was split to a new topic: Threads Asking For Help Get Buried If They Don’t Gain Traction / Get Bumped

I was not greatly in favour of the forum - I thought it would kill the
mailing lists and would reproduce everything worst about Reddit. In some
areas, it has.
My kill file grows daily.

Mailing list interactions are also an issue, but I think having some outlet for the infosec tangents which naturally comes with discussing Qubes could bring surprise benefits to the project, of course assuming a certain level of quality is reached in terms of both communication skills and critical thinking.

This is why I’m now humbly proposing nuking the current subforum and its users (‘humbly’ and ‘nuking’ don’t really belong together, but oh well), ending the use of Discourse’s Lounge template on which the current forum is based, which is based around Discourse’s automated level system, and switching to manually vetting who to let into the subforum (once a certain level of participation has been reached) once a quarter. Steps must be taken, though, to ensure we don’t end up with some sort of echo chamber.

I don’t think this is as much work as it sounds, as few have reached Level 3 this year, and it doesn’t seem like we’ll have a deluge of Level 3s in the foreseeable future.

@fiftyfourthparallel if I understand you correctly your theory is that some users have engaged in unnecessary low quality posting to reach level 3 faster in order to gain access to “All About Qubes”.

I see some truth in this, but actually think that it has less to do with the “All About Qubes” category, but the gamified nature of Discourse. My personal impression is that the vast majority of forum users have engaged until they reached a certain level of badges and/or level and then disengaged. To go even further: in my unscientific, subjective perception this can be pretty exactly pinpointed to the anniversary.

However, I oppose your proposal to make “All About Qubes” even more “closed” then it already is. That’s very much the wrong direction in my opinion. What are we trying to do here?

  1. have a low barrier to entry and serve a generation of people uncomfortable with mailing lists
  2. grow the Qubes OS community and be welcoming and helpful to everyone
  3. with the “All About Qubes” category: harness this community to encourage further related thought and learning

The forum has been very successful seen from this perspective. With having a larger audience and lower barriers naturally the “noise” increases. It is a problem no question, but it’s one we need to address without loosing the advantages.

By my nature, I would be most happy with a mailing list/newsgroup, hanging with the guru’s and filtering out any nuisance with a killfile. BUT, this is not about what’s most fun for me. The reason I use the forum and spend this amount of time with it is to grow the Qubes OS community and ease entry for new users. I need Qubes OS to be healthy, grow and be around for a very long time. The more people use it, the more people will donate/contribute/convince others to try Qubes OS. THIS is why we have a forum – right?


I forgot that we have a moderator just for the subforum I just proposed razing, so I must apologize if I offended you or caused you distress–this suggestion in no way stems from your competence or aptitude at the task. In fact, I’d be perfectly fine if you were automatically allowed to moderate whatever replaces the demolished subforum (if any).

Easing entry for new users is a practical and noble goal that should be among the key goals of this forum, but I don’t see how it’s relevant to a subforum requiring Level 2 to access, especially when all the user support categories are unrestricted.

The problem with having a part of the forum where typical users can’t enter is twofold–people want to know what’s in a sealed box, and people want to belong to exclusive groups. These desires can compel some to behave in less-than-desirable ways, especially since its unlocking is linked to the gamification of Discourse with achievements (badges), so they see this as a game, with behavior to match.

I disagree that it’s the achievements that are driving this; it’s the actual, tangible reward of getting into a restricted area. However it doesn’t mean we can’t harness this desire for our benefit, and a subforum for tangential discussions on infosec etc. can bring unexpected benefits to the project on top of being informative–this is why I propose using manual review, which is less effortful than it sounds.

What I want the subforum to more closely resemble are highly curated forums that generate authoritative content on their subjects. An extreme example is the one linked below, where the owner personally moderates by reading through every submitted comment before allowing them to appear and often returns to threads later to delete comments retroactively deemed irrelevant:

It’s a pity there aren’t more of these forums.

More detail in separate topic here