Groundwork for launch

@trvrb suggested

Perhaps @jlhudd, @sidneymbell, @trs or others could take a pass at content that needs to exist before it’s advertised? I’m not sure about the best initial category tags. Perhaps augur , auspice and SARS-CoV-2 ?

and @jlhudd replied

Would it be too meta to have that discussion there? I think we can have private admin categories for these kinds of discussions.

I think that’s a great idea, so here I am starting that discussion. :slight_smile:

@jlhudd continued

I can imagine topics including:

  • suggestions/approaches for creating ncov workflows (conceptual flow of data independent from the specific workflow manager used; e.g., a conversation with us, BioHub folks, Michigan State folks, etc.)
  • troubleshooting Nextstrain workflows (more specific to our current snakemake bioinformatics, getting pipelines running on clusters vs. cloud, etc.)

I imagine some categories could be more generally front-end, command line tools (cli), workflows (bioinformatics/pipelines).

My 2¢ offered is not to split things up by software component or position in the stack, but instead by larger, cross-cutting themes. I think initially a single very broad category or maybe two is all we need right now to see if this thing has legs. Maybe General and Help and Getting Started (or Troubleshooting)? Folks can easily follow or mute individuals topics/posts as their interest is piqued or wanes, so the categories don’t need to be too focused.

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Starting with just a couple categories seems like a great idea. We can always add more categories later as they emerge from the topics people create. Help and Getting Started might be clearer than Troubleshooting.

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+1. I’d go create those, but it looks like only admins (@trvrb) can create new categories.

Other good groundwork is described at

and we should likely customize and globally pin Welcome to Discourse or an equivalent new post.

I think on the “welcome” page it could make sense to have the following (a lot of which has been mentioned already here, just putting it all in one place):

  • “welcome” and description of what the point of this forum is
  • some community guidelines for how to use this platform
  • general
  • help & getting started

I’m not sure how familiar this platform is going to be to most users, so I think it would be good for us to clearly outline from the beginning the purpose and how we expect people to interact / engage on it.

A fun page to have could be “about us” or something where we give little intros to our team members, or at least the members who will be active on this forum. Kind of like what we see at but more about what role we play w/in Nextstrain. I see a lot of humorous ones that I think are pretty engaging and make the team feel more approachable.

Ok, I’ve tried to do a bit more setup and explanation by:

  • Adding globally-pinned welcome post describing the point of the site and the guidelines for participation.

  • Starting introductions off on that post and prompting others to join.

  • Customizing the very brief description of each category via their initial system-created topics: General and Help and Getting Started. The content of these posts appears in several places where categories are listed (for example) and should be very short. I’ve “unlisted” these special adminstrative topics to reduce clutter in the topic list.

  • Adding pinned topics to each category with longer descriptions: General and Help and Getting Started.

Happy to make further tweaks or see tweaks made. I’m still getting a feel for the particulars of Discourse.

Is this enough to start?

If so, I think it’d be great to

  1. Email current Groups users to let them know.
  2. Add a link in our auto-reply.
  3. Announce on Twitter as Nextstrain
  4. Announce on the SPHERES Slack
  5. Include in our documentation and repo READMEs
  6. Add to GitHub issue templates (suggested by Richard below)

yes, these make sense. Maybe also add to issue templates?

Along with some predefined categories.

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@trvrb Would you add something like the following to the hello@ auto-reply? (I think you’re the only one who can?)

You can also join to get help and discuss usage of Nextstrain.

Perhaps to the paragraph which starts, “If you are trying to set up Nextstrain for yourself locally.”

All of this is great Tom. Thanks for kicking things off. I just updated the auto-reply. I thought about updating the splash page to read:

If you have any questions, or simply want to say hi, please give us a shout at or introduce yourself at

But then I thought might be better to direct casual users to and more legitimate users to Ie I want people asking if mutations matter to email us and I want public health bioinformaticians to use this forum.

I do think we should start with updating under “Contact Us” however.

1 Like will add links to this site from docs & help :slight_smile:


I added a link adjacent to our issue templates on GitHub:

and also added a that GitHub will link to from new issue pages.