Statistics User Forum

last person joined: 15 days ago 

The Statistics User Forum (SUF), supported by the Office for National Statistics, aims to be the strategic voice of users of official statistics. The Forum acts as an umbrella organisation for user groups, each of which covers a particular area across the spectrum of official statistics. Through the Forum we enable open and constructive dialogue between users and producers of official statistics and encourage communication across the user community.

Stats User Forum (SUN) volunteers group

  • 1.  Stats User Forum (SUN) volunteers group

    Posted 21-03-2019 21:18

    Some of the members of the SUF SUN community will be volunteers for reviewing the proposed SUN replacement software.

     

    I just wondered if the volunteers would find it useful to share views. We don't know who the other volunteers are because of privacy constraints but we can, of course, talk on SUN if we choose to.

     

    I have had a quick look at the Discourse site and it seems ok.

     

    I haven't tried the "sandbox" for a couple of reasons. The presentation of posts looks fine though somewhat social media-ish rather than business like but that is not unexpected. I suspect there is a lot of work to be done in the sandbox to create something that looks like a usable SUN replacement – the site describes Discourse as a "simple, flat forum" which is not the case for SUN which is a 3(?) level hierarchical structure.  It is not clear how that hierarchical structure would be created but it is probably via the "self managing usergroups". There isn't time to set up in the sandbox what would effectively be a prototype system to explore possible solutions. And finally I didn't login to the sandbox because I don't like being asked to give my email address to a company that I don't know and will not have a commercial relationship with.

     

    A couple of more detailed thoughts.

     

    First the "Features" page seems to provide a helpful summary.

     

    Second what took me a little by surprise on the Features page was the reference to "Markdown, BBCode, and HTML formatting in posts". This seems to imply a markup language like **Bold**text**Bold** to format text which seems a bit odd in this day and age. SUN has a standard WYSIWYG point and click to embolden text. I also paste quite complex posts into SUN with charts and tables which I create in Word and I trust that this will still be possible in Discourse.

     

    I hope that the above is useful.

     

    All the best.

     

    Arthur.



  • 2.  RE: Stats User Forum (SUN) volunteers group

    Posted 22-03-2019 09:37

    Hi Arthur,

     

    This is a good idea. I've not really looked at 'discourse' yet, but did suggest two additional items for the user needs list:

    ·       A search facility

    ·       Access from phones/tablets (something I'd find useful)

     

    Your comments about a '3-level hierarchy' have made me realise that I'm not that familiar with how SUN works. Can you explain what you mean by this?

     

    Best wishes

    Karen

     

    Dr Karen Hurrell

    Statistician

     

    DDI: 0161 829 8509

     

    Equality and Human Rights Commission | Research | Manchester

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  • 3.  RE: Stats User Forum (SUN) volunteers group

    Posted 22-03-2019 10:16
    Karen,

    I and a number of colleagues on the RPI/CPI user group use SUN  a lot!

    The hierarchy as I understand is as follows -

    1. A high level home pagehttp://www.statsusernet.org.uk/home 
    2. Communities for example RPI/CPI - http://www.statsusernet.org.uk/communities/community-home?CommunityKey=3fb113ec-7c7f-424c-aad9-ae72f0a40f65 
    3. Threads within each community -  we are using one now - "Stats User Forum (SUN) volunteers group" - http://www.statsusernet.org.uk/communities/community-home/digestviewer/viewthread?GroupId=79&MessageKey=3b0303a3-9080-4e36-97b4-e96678146315&CommunityKey=ce7d4fe7-9072-44da-afb2-d6b48077edb6&tab=digestviewer&ReturnUrl=%2fcommunities%2fcommunity-home%2fdigestviewer%3fcommunitykey%3dce7d4fe7-9072-44da-afb2-d6b48077edb6%26tab%3ddigestviewer 
    Below the threads are the posts and the library entries for larger files.

    Discourse describes itself as a "simple, flat forum" but I'm not sure if that provides the full picture - see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Discourse_(software)

    I am retired and am reluctant to share my private email address to Discourse but you and others will have work emails which are less sensitive.  If you or others register to use the "sandbox" I would be grateful if you would try and load the contents of the following SUN post into a Discourse post as it contains two charts - http://www.statsusernet.org.uk/communities/community-home/digestviewer/viewthread?MessageKey=eca36479-e98b-410c-9a91-f4e46ac45dcf&CommunityKey=3fb113ec-7c7f-424c-aad9-ae72f0a40f65&tab=digestviewer#bmeca36479-e98b-410c-9a91-f4e46ac45dcf

    It will be interesting to see how well Discourse handles charts and tables as that is what we statisticians tend to share.

    All the best.

    Arthur


    SUN


  • 4.  RE: Stats User Forum (SUN) volunteers group

    Posted 23-03-2019 18:07
    Thanks Arthur. This is the reply I've just emailed to Chris at ONS. Some things work on Discourse (eg your page with charts successfully posted) but others don't (especially that I couldn't find a way of uploading pdfs or Word docs). Paul
    ========================

    Hi Chris

    User requirement:

    1) Assume my requirements as chair of SUF have been logged by the SUF support team in ONS Communications. These include being able to email all members of SUF and to distribute agendas, papers, minutes etc.

    2) As a user of SUN, I also want to share documents with others, including pdf and Word docs (eg draft papers so that others can add/comment).

    3) Want to emphasise the value of discussion on SUN. Not just sharing documents but doing so in an environment that encourages and supports discussion.

    Trying Discourse:

    1) Initial impression difficult to find way around. How to post a message for example? Did get a bit more familiar by interacting with Discobot, but still didn't find a way of opening a new discussion.

    2) I did manage to post a copy of a page from SUN that Arthur Barnett had suggested as a typical post, especially as it had two charts in it. That worked (though it looked as if it wouldn't be successful as the charts themselves did not appear until I pressed reply.

    3) But big downside: I couldn't find a way of uploading pdfs or a Word doc. The upload facility only accepts jpg, jpeg, png, gif or txt files. This may be my lack of skills of course, but I couldn't find a way of saving a Word doc as a txt file. Even if I could do so, I understand that txt files have only basic formatting facilities eg not suitable for drafting a submission to a Parliamentary Committee or a GSS consultation response under tight deadlines.

    4) Arthur has also pointed out that SUN has a number of levels (eg communities) and these would seem to have to be maintained as a flat structure on Discourse - hence more difficult to navigate - rather than the hierarchical structure we use at present.

    Thanks for the opportunity to try Discourse. Hope these comments are helpful.

    Best, Paul

    PS. Another requirement I have is to be able to send people a link to documents stored on SUN.

    ------------------------------
    Paul Allin
    Chair, Statistics User Forum
    Visiting Professor
    Department of Mathematics
    Imperial College London
    p.allin@imperial.ac.uk
    ------------------------------



  • 5.  RE: Stats User Forum (SUN) volunteers group

    Posted 24-03-2019 14:44
    Further to Paul's point about the upload facility only accepting jpg, jpeg, png, gif or txt files.

    The RPI/CPI User Group would find it difficult, or worse, to operate effectively without something akin to the SUN Library facility - 313 entries at present.

    A quick look shows the UG Library contains the following file types -

    • Word
    • pdf
    • Excel - analysis and data so .csv would not suffice
    • Powerpoint - this will be a requirement for all communities that hold meetings.

    File size may be an issue particularly in the future if UG members need to analyse the price data sets which are large.  Excel has been big enough so far but analysis needs may change with the government response to the House of Lords Committee report.  So far I don't think that anyone on the UG has resorted to using Access or similar.

    I have emailed Chris at ONS.

    All the best


    Arthur


  • 6.  RE: Stats User Forum (SUN) volunteers group

    Posted 28 days ago
    Hi Arthur,

    I'm just testing whether SUN is a flat structure

    Thanks

    Chris


  • 7.  RE: Stats User Forum (SUN) volunteers group

    Posted 23 days ago
    Hi everyone, thanks for your time everyone, reviewing requirements and how the proposed solution Discourse might meet those needs.

    I've compiled all of the requirements, issues and questions into a single document, alone with a response (a) to each (copied below).

    The good news is that there should be a way to address all of the points raised, using Discourse. Some may require a bit of a workaround or different way of doing things. We'll see more of this when we test the prototype.

    Thanks again

    Chris
    1. The site describes Discourse as a "simple, flat forum" which is not the case for SUN which is a 3(?) level hierarchical structure. Response - A "flat" forum structure means that reply posts appear after the latest post, as opposed to a "threaded" structure, where replies appear directly under the post they are replying to. See here for a better description. The current SUN platform is a flat structure, so there's no change.
    2. SUN has a number of levels that need to be recreated: Home, communities and threads with posts and Library below the latter.
      Response - In Discourse, communities would be categories, and each will have its own page which displays all of the posts underneath. Categories can also have sub-categories. -Here's an example of this being implemented by another forum, using Discourse of typical category with sub-categories:
      https://discourse.mozilla.org/c/reps and of the 'all categories' view: https://discourse.mozilla.org/
      To look at a specific example: http://www.statsusernet.org.uk/communities/community-home?communitykey=4aef5d6d-3222-4768-b6dd-ad4db5b41bf2&tab=groupdetails
      Category would be called StatsNB with a description: "StatsNB = Statistics Noticeboard. This is the main noticeboard for the site…"
      Discussions would be posts in that category
      Announcements would be banner posts
      Library would need some investigation (likely to be a plugin)
      Events (and dependent on the best approach, the Library) could be created as a subcategory or possibly a tag, though this would require users to correctly tag their posts.
      Members list for each community would disappear (members are members of the entire Discourse)
    3. Second what took me a little by surprise on the Features page was the reference to "Markdown, BBCode, and HTML formatting in posts". This seems to imply a markup language like **Bold**text**Bold** to format textwhich seems a bit odd in this day and age.
      Response -This approach is increasingly common as it allows people to have a lot of control over the format of their posts, from any device, without the need for a big toolbar, like at the top of Microsoft word. It may seem a bit odd at first but people quickly get used to it. There's no difference for simple text posts and for formatted text you never have to write the formatting code unless you want to – just use the formatting buttons,
    4. I also paste quite complex posts into SUN with charts and tables which I create in Word and I trust that this will still be possible in Discourse.
      Response - I have tested copying and pasting from Microsoft Word and it works fine for the common formatting – bold, italics, numbering, bullets, hyperlinks
    5. Requirement for a search facility
      Response -There is a built-in search, with advanced search options
    6. Requirement to access from phones/ tablets
      Response -Discourse has been designed so it also works on smartphones, tablets and mobile devices using your normal browser. You do not need to download the app (which isn't very well rated) to do this
    7. Initial impression difficult to find way around. How to post a message for example? Did get a bit more familiar by interacting with Discobot
      Response - Yes, an unfamiliar environment will take a bit of getting used to. The Discobot tutorial certainly helps. We'll also aim to configure Discourse as closely as to the current platform as makes sense and create some guidance docs to cover any significant differences, if need be.
    8. but still didn't find a way of opening a new discussion.
      Response -This is a "new topic". There's a button in the top right of the topics/ discussions page
    9. I did manage to post a copy of a page from SUN that Arthur Barnett had suggested as a typical post, especially as it had two charts in it. That worked (though it looked as if it wouldn't be successful as the charts themselves did not appear until I pressed reply.
      Response -Glad to hear this worked – the text editor is not "what you see is what you get" – see answer to point 2
    10. Requirement to upload PDFs, Powerpoint, Excel and Word docs.
      Response -In Discourse the type of files allowed is an admin setting (in the demo version its locked down to a few files types) but we could change that to allow Word, Powerpoint, Excel and PDF documents. Some files types are considered unsafe to up-load so we can't guarantee every possible file type, though if they're currently in use on SUN, we should be able to allow them on the new platform. The maximum file size can also be changed, so there should be no issue there.
    11. Assume my requirements as chair of SUF have been logged by the SUF support team in ONS Communications. These include being able to email all members of SUF and to distribute agendas, papers, minutes etc.
      Response -This can be configured to allow emailing members. Please see: https://meta.discourse.org/t/how-to-handle-announcements/49390/5 and Unsubscribe from announcements
      Mozilla Discourse remove preview
      Unsubscribe from announcements
      Hello, How can I unsubscribe from these announcements? [image]
      View this on Mozilla Discourse >
      - As referenced above, it would be useful to know if there are any further requirements that haven't been mentioned here.
    12. As a user of SUN, I also want to share documents with others, including pdf and Word docs (eg draft papers so that others can add/comment).
      Response - This can be done in Discourse be creating a post and attaching a file – see also point 9
    13. Want to emphasise the value of discussion on SUN. Not just sharing documents but doing so in an environment that encourages and supports discussion.
      Response - Discourse has been set up with an emphasis on social / discussion capability, rather than technology. There are many features to support this, including many that we could add that are not part of the current SUN platform
    14. A requirement I should have mentioned is that I need to be able to send links to documents stored on SUN to people without the need for them to sign into the system. Discourse doesn't seem to let this happen?
      This should be fine. Please see the discourse.txt attachment on this first post on this page as an example: https://meta.discourse.org/t/new-attachments/8609



  • 8.  RE: Stats User Forum (SUN) volunteers group

    Posted 23 days ago
    Chris,

    Thanks your post is very useful.

    I look forward to trying the prototype.

    All the best.

    Arthur


  • 9.  RE: Stats User Forum (SUN) volunteers group

    Posted 8 days ago
    Edited by ONS Admin 8 days ago

    We're pleased to say that we have been informed by the developers that they are aiming to make the new StatsUserNet prototype available for testing from Thursday 18 April. Many thanks for your ongoing support. We will let our willing group of volunteers know when the site is available for a test run as soon as possible.



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    Admin ONS
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  • 10.  RE: Stats User Forum (SUN) volunteers group

    Posted 6 days ago
    You will be aware of the ongoing process to move to a new platform and the plan to create a five day read-only 'window' for data to be safely transferred. 

    Following discussions with developers it has now become necessary to bring that window forward to today, Thursday 18 April. We fully realise the very short notice that this gives users but have agreed that the window will not kick in until 17.00.

    We apologise for any inconvenience this might cause but hope that is offset by the rapid progress toward a newer and more efficient version of StatsUserNet.

    Once the site is read-only, updates will be available via this link: https://digitalblog.ons.gov.uk/statsusernet-migration-updates/

    Regards

    ONS SUN Admin Team

    ------------------------------
    Admin ONS
    ------------------------------