About the Q&A category

This category is openmod’s take on a question and answer platform, similar to Stack Exchange.

If you have issues on any subject related to openmod, ask away!

If you’re not looking for a distinct answer to your problem, expecting it to become more of a discussion, then start the topic in one of our many other categories. Q&A is not for you. If a topic turns into this unexpectedly, we might have to shift it to another category at a later date.

Remember: check if the question has already been asked before asking it yourself.

This category comes with some unique functionality, which we highly recommend you use:

  • You can add tags to your topics.
    These can be used to make sure the right people find your topic and they come under the broad groups of: Datasets, Licensing, Modelling Language, Models, Solvers, Websites, Workshops, Sectors, and Technologies. To find out more on tag etiquette and to suggest new tags, head here.

  • You can vote on topics
    If you see important questions, answered or otherwise, vote for them! The most voted topics will be more visible, helping others in future.

  • You can pick the best response to your question as a "solution"
    Much like on Stack Exchange, as the topic author, you can pick a ‘best solution’, which will become more prominent in the topic thread. The topic will then be flagged as solved for everyone to see.

At or more likely after the openmod in Zurich (2018) a discussion started, if most of the openmod still agree about the aims (or the method) of the Q&A category.

See here for the original mailing list discussion.

Up to now only oemof managed to move the discussion to the common forum and the question arose that this is a subject to the neutrality of the openmod because all the other open models are not that visible for openmod partners.

To further discuss how to handle it in the future we asked 2 questions that you can answer for your models/frameworks in this wiki-post and that can be used as a basis for further discussing the Q&A section.

  • why didn’t most of the models which were part of the openmod by that time open their Q&A to the community on the forum? (@OSSeMOSYS, Calliope, PYPSA, urbs,….)

  • would the newcoming openmodels open their Q&A to the community (on the openmod forum or, if necessary to change place, somewhere else)? (@FINE, GLAES, TSAM, PyOS, AixLib, TEASER, pyam, DPSA.jl, enlopy, MESSAGEix, JuMP (@Robby, thanks for the list!))

what would be your pros and cons?

When preparing for the open-source MESSAGEix release a few months ago, we opted for a public Google group - the main reason being that it presents the lowest possible entry barrier to new modellers using this as a community forum and message board.

For PyPSA we also have a public Google group. I think one of the main advantages is that it also serves as a place to broadcast announcements to our users (new releases, bug fixes, new features, new publications, new examples - also for our users to broadcast these things to other users). So it’s dual use - technical support and broadcasting. More generally I guess I feel, like Mark put it nicely, that decentralisation is more robust and allows for variety and experimentation. Centralisation is convenient but comes at the price of uniformisation and potential risk when services go down (or get taken over by suspect multinationals :-)). With arXiv.org (for preprints), zenodo.org (for data) and orcid.org (for researcher profiles) I feel a bit more comfortable because they have big academic institutions/libraries backing them up. Here’s some thoughts on decentralised git by the way:
I would see openmod serving more Mark’s “watering hole” purpose, offering platforms for exchange, informing people about each other’s projects and fostering collaboration.

one oemof view
I am an oemof developer and I like the idea of having a central stackexcchange-like forum for open energy models and this was the reason to move the oemof support to the openmod forum.

  1. For me the border between the models is not so strict and people may combine different models or use different models in different projects.
    A joint forum shows the variety but if we are the only framework using the openmod forum as a support forum it does not make sense.
  2. Sometimes the border between specific and general question is not clear. Installation support is specific, that’s no question but how to model a heat storage can be both.

In my opinion using the forum as a general forum and (!) a support forum will increase the number of users to the benefit of all. People will be aware of all the other models and may stumble over interesting questions besides their main topic.
Altogether I see some advantages in a central forum but most of them have no effect if it is just oemof using the openmod forum in this way.
And if other users feel bothered by the way oemof uses the forum we should move away because this shouldn’t be a reason to create bad mood.

second oemof view
as I initially talked to Robbie and started the oemof-internal discussion, my two cents as one of the oemof-developers:
I.) I see Robbies and Toms arguments regarding the difference between generic and specific questions and mostly agree with them. Having own mailing lists, forums, etc. is common practice in many projects and I would also rather expect a project-specific google group rather than some external forum I don’t know. Furthermore, if I used the software in another (not energy related) context, I would wonder why the support is provided on the openmod-platform.
II.) From my point of view, the questions on how to bring open models closer together and make it easier for users and developers to know about other models are answered by the model factsheets and periodical workshops. This would also be in line with Marks water[ing] hole analogy.

From the admin’s perspective I just wanted to say we have never and will never interfere with how people are using the forum (unless of course it violates the Terms of Service). Everyone is welcome to continue using the Q&A however they want for as long as they want. We will only ever make suggestions / brings things up for discussion.

Also from the admin’s perspective, and in light of recent GDPR compliance issues, I would warn that this site is run by volunteers and shouldn’t be relied upon for mission-critical infrastructure. We do our best to keep the site up and running, but cannot necessarily defend against sophisticated technical (or legal) attacks.

@uwe.krien wrote in one of the email threads “if other users feel bothered by the way oemof uses the forum we should move away because this shouldn’t be a reason to create bad mood”. As far as I know there is no “bad mood” and the way oemof is using the forum for model-specific questions is explicitly within the original scope written by @brynpickering when the Q&A was set up a year ago. It’s just that no other models have joined oemof in using the forum in this way, which reduces the benefit of multi-model Q&A. Maybe we should just let the experiment run for another year and see if any other models join.

Also, if any model chooses to set up their own forum based on discourse, I am happy to offer advice - you can follow the setup description, except I’d caution against using SparkPost, since they seem to be blacklisted by some mail providers (around 10% of mails from the forum to users bounce). renewables.ninja uses mailgun, which may have a lower bounce rate.

1 Like

I am glad to hear that, because I already was a little afraid of people being annoyed by oemof just because of the way we uses the forum.

The idea to move to the forum was really to join the community but I understand that most of the other projects already have their own infrastructure. We do not have one and so it is good to have some time to think about what might be the right infrastructure for us or build it up. I personally do not want to move to google instead (but this is just my opinion).

The more as I noticed how much you guys cared for data security in the last weeks, as other services such as google may have used the time to find ways to bypass the rules.

Yep, it is within the original scope and completely understandable that you’re making use of it @uwe.krien. In fact, we were not so long ago thinking of directing people to it for all Calliope Q&A. The reason it entered into existence was to provide a space with sufficient footfall, for anybody to use. If I wanted to play around with a bunch of different open models before settling on one, it would probably also be nicer to have one central space in which to ask questions, not have to search out all the disparate fora that exist.

If used enough, the tagging should allow people to ignore information they don’t believe to be relevant, and the voting system should allow questions with less relevance to the whole community to be pushed down the list. However, its under-utilisation means that both the tagging and the voting systems are not much use.

We don’t need to police it, for sure, but my opinion would be (and seems to be the general consensus) that every model has its own forum. That way, the openmod forum can have questions about specific models, but it will be less prevalent than is currently the case, as most people’s port of call will be the model-specific fora.

For Calliope, we’re intending on having our own forum (Gitter is OK for chat, less so for multiple discussion streams), instead of depending on the openmod Q&A. It’ll be based on Discourse, as it seems incredibly easy to set up and attach to our website. Perhaps in the description for the Q&A we list the model-specific fora?

@brynpickering Why don’t you just use the openmod forum? It’s fine as long as several models are using the forum, it just doesn’t make sense with only one model.

My reservation about the lack of “broadcast features” with discourse isn’t necessarily correct, because you can watch particular tags, e.g. “oemof” or “calliope”. Except that users have to set this up themselves, and that might be beyond some people - in that case a Google group or self-hosted mailing list has a lower barrier to entry.

The only other concern with many models using the forum is that “true openmod” themes become obscured on the forum landing page by model-specific technical questions - maybe this is a concern.

We decided that we’d like to be able to use our forum for announcements, feature-based discussions, and for users to showcase their models. I.e. the scope is intended to go beyond a Q&A. Also, we (and most other models) have a portion of our user-base with no particular interest in openmod. I suppose it can be offputting to come to a site where 90% of the discussion is not relevant to you if all you want to do is ask a question about Calliope.

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