Allow private and restricted categories

@nukeador I have 2 questions.

Q1) For the Dutch community, would it be possible to have this structure

Communities (already present on homepage)
- Netherlands (public community for all Dutch speaking mappers where we can make multiple topics (and make some sticky))
-- BAG (a closed/ limited access sub forum where we can discuss about our dutch BAG import (buildings) . I don't mean a sticky topic but a category where we can create multiple topics)

So then we would get a nesting level of 3.

Q2) We have a discussion about the new forum on the old forum and for some mappers, including me, it is currently not clear what the new nesting will be. WIll the communities community here be a list of topics from all different countries with labels indicating the country or is the above structure possible?

Level 3 nesting is not technically possible on discourse without additional plugins.

I would suggest to start with a level 2 category under Communities and use tags until the volume of the messages under one of the tags is high, then we can move to a level 1 category with subcategories.

I wonder what do you refer with “closed/limited access”, which kind of access are you looking for? Can you describe a bit more your need?


Thanks for the quick reply

I wonder what do you refer with “closed/limited access”, which kind of access are you looking for? Can you describe a bit more your need?

On the current forum beside users:Netherlands we also have a forum for the BAG. It is our building and address import. We have a hidden forum where a moderator has to make a user member for him/her to see itand participate. So beside our new place here we also need a closed forum for that.

I would suggest to start with a level 2 category under Communities and use tags until the volume of the messages under one of the tags is high, then we can move to a level 1 category with subcategories (level 2).

Okay, just to get the definition of nesting level straight. If I go to, the categories you see there is level 1, right? I suppose all the local communities will get a sub category there (so say a group). When I click that country category I see a list of topics.

So if I am correct, you propose:
- Communities (already existing)
-- Netherlands (mainly Dutch speaking by the way). 
--- Discussion happening here in topics
-- Netherlands BAG Forum (this would then be the hidden BAG forum with limited user access) 
--- Discussion happening here in topics
-- Other countries their communities

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OK, then it looks like a different request: Having a hidden category and with restricted access.

This is technically possible but a discussion hasn’t happen about how to handle these type of requests and limitations (if any).

I suggest a discussion about this is started to get feedback from the rest of the community. A few initial open questions that I can think of to frame the conversation:

  • Should private categories be allowed? How and by who?
  • What are the needs for private categories?
  • Should restricted access categories be allowed? How and by who?
  • What are the needs for restricted access categories?
  • Are there other alternatives to solve these needs? (i.e the group messages feature)

I can move this topic to the #site-feedback category and rename the title if you think that’s OK.


Yeah, sorry, I sort of placed two requests in one topic. I am fine with moving and renaming.

Does that also mean the proposed structure is possible, also for the public dutch forum? Can the current posts from the old forum be merged into the public dutch sub forum here?

If needed, community categories can be L1 categories, which technically allows for subcategories under them. Having L1 categories is something the community discussed and approved here.

That’s something that is being tested as part of 🚧 Forum migration test instance (forum/fluxBB > community/Discourse) which is still under testing. Hopefully the migration will take place and messages can be merged to the same category here (moving messages around is technically possible).

Are there any other private groups on the old forum besides “Netherlands BAG Forum”? It seems like something special being put in place when Lambertus was still administrator of the old forum. By the way, what was the reason to have this group as private in the first place?

I have to say I’m not a big fan of private groups. My suggestion would be to move to a private Github repo instead, and invite everyone interested as collaborator.

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why BAG import discussion should be hidden?

A Dutch user made a JOSM plugin for our BAG imports. This plugin is not publicly available, you have to request access. To also keep the discussion about the BAG import/plugin separate, a private group was made. This prevents cluttering of the public Dutch channel and prevents others from joining the discussion.

That beeing said, I am open to hear about other possibilities Discourse has to resolve this request in another way

Technically it’s feasible for sure: How to set / configure private / closed group access, membership and visibility - admins - Discourse Meta

I believe too many closed groups aren’t helpful to build a global community. On the other hand, Slack users can even create your own private channel without bothering an adminsitrator (server settings permitting).

I agree with that, most groups should en will be open. I suppose this is an edge case where a closed group is needed. This might change in the future if the plugin advances for example. For now it would be usefull to prevent clutter in the public dutch community and the prevent people from participating if they dont import the BAG. Atleast for now, this strict helps to keep the quality of the import high.

Note that in the public forum we have a sticky post where users can request local bag imports. And ofcourse, if non importers have questions about the bag, they can ask there.

This must be possible, just set over the Bag forum part to a first level categorie “Community closed groups”. And learn. I like to have it on one platform.
If you are not a member of a second level category (group), you do not see this first level.
That is how it is in the old forum.
Not visible it does not harm the perception of others.

Sometimes a new project in the beginring, you only want to discuss with a few, a workgroup, this must be possible inside the OSM community. Not finding out what working group members use outside.
Not on some other platform, a lot of people do not want to be on all kind of platforms for several reasons, everybody has a OSM account.
Do it within this new forum. Make it possible. Do not displace working groups to other platforms.

This forum is made to bring all together, old forum, help forum and else.

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Private Categories
Yes, I would support private categories, but under some conditions (needs).
I support it because we want to keep people on this site as far as possible. I believe our discussions are already too fragmented across multiple platforms so we should provide what is attractive to and wanted by the community.

The conditions I suggest below are to ensure that the categories are not too closed, that closed categories are not too numerous and that closed categories remain within the ethical code of OSMF.

  • I suggest that a responsible structure from within OSM itself should own and manage the private category. I think (suggestion) that a Local Chapter, a Working Group, a Special Committee or the Board itself should own and manage the closed group. All of the executive of the LC, WG, SC or Board (as appropriate) should be ex-officio members of the closed group.
  • I suggest that the proposal for creating a private category be a Board or Communication Working Group (discuss which) agenda item with formal request and a short motivation. Further, the criteria for allowing/denying a private category should be well known, though they may take a while to firm up.
  • I suggest that all OSMF policies on problematic comments should apply equally to closed categories and that the category admin shall appoint at least one moderator.

Restricted access
As above for private.

There may be alternatives. I would like any alternative to be offered on this platform. Moving a discussion to a different channel is fragmenting.

Craig Allan

Whilst I wouldn’t completely rule it out I think it would need some exceptional justification to have a private category. I mean maybe if personal information needed to be protected but then this would probably be the wrong venue for the discussion anyway.

I certainly don’t see any reason why the specific example that prompted this topic needs one - the logic seems to be that because only certain people have access to the plugin only they should be allowed to discuss the import process and that seems entirely wrong to me.

OpenStreetMap should operate in the open as should those who contribute to it.


:+1: Imho Open Street Map should operate in the open and the forum should be open to every member as well.

There are lots of existing platforms for private business of any kind and many of them are in use by smaller OSM groups. I am sure they will not move into this new forum even if private categories would be allowed without restrictions. From that point of view I would strictly vote against any private/restricted access categories.

Private channels are not unheard of in the OSM community. For example, the board and OSMF working groups all use private communication channels, as do the moderator team and similar groups. I can certainly think of use cases for private categories.

Whether the example from the initial post is such a case? I don’t really see a strong reason why it needs to be private. But at the same time, it seems quite clear to me that, had it not been for the forum migration, it would just continue to operate as it has for years. We do have the option of just getting done with a software change without discussing a policy change wrt private sub-forums at the same time.

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There is some kind of difference between administrative categories restricted to members of administrative groups/staff and user categories imho. No need to talk about the former but in regard of the latter I would still support an open project to have a forum open to every user.

I agree that a change of the platform does not inevitably require a discussion of the forums policy but the question has been put in this topic. Talking about it is part of the process opened in one of the initial topics to this new forum:

Under this aspect I do not see any reason not to discuss such an issue.