The first “NILM in London” workshop was held on Wednesday 3rd September. It was a lot of fun and we had some great conversations. In this blog post, I’d like to try to summarise the discussion around building an online discussion forum for NILM. There was strong support for having an online venue (e.g. an email list) to discuss NILM. Use cases cited included helping folks to stay up to date with new papers, workshops, software releases; to discuss technical challenges etc.

How ‘open’ should the community be?

If I remember correctly, everyone at the workshop agreed that mailing list content should be readable by everyone.

Everyone also appeared to agree that a risk with online communities is that they can become noisy and/or high-traffic and so require some level of moderation. We didn’t discuss this in much detail.

I wrote a blog post almost a year ago with a proposal to start an online community for NILM. Why hasn’t it happened yet? The honest answer is that I’m afraid it will guzzle up too much time with noisy questions. But, after seeing the enthusiasm for an online community, it definitely looks like we should go ahead and do it.

Which platform?

I think we agreed that we should first look at Google Groups. If that isn’t sufficient for our needs then we should look elsewhere.

After the event, I had a quick look at the permissions settings on the Google Groups support pages. It seems that they have sufficient controls.


Please let me know if this plan sounds OK (I’ve also added some specific questions…)

  • we set up a Google Group called “NILM” (or “energy disaggregation”? or something else? Or should we use a different platform? Google+ communities?)
  • new users can subscribe instantly, without requiring moderation (we had discussed the idea that new users would have to request entry to the group and then moderators would accept / reject the request. But when would we ever reject a request? There just isn’t enough information available at this point to judge. We can always change the permissions later.)
  • a user’s first few posts will be moderated. Once they get into the rhythm of the group then they will be able to post immediately (without moderation).
  • One big question is whether to have ‘sub topics’. e.g. we could have sub topics on ‘New research papers’, ‘upcoming events’, ‘NILM algorithms’, ‘datasets’, ‘validation’, ‘jobs’ etc. I don’t think we discussed this at all on Wednesday. My hunch is that we should start with a single discussion forum (i.e. no sub topics). Maybe the community is sufficiently small to mean that we don’t need to subdivide the forum? Later, if we need to, we can subdivide the forum. Also, if we start with a single forum then this will also help to clarify which subforums are required!

Does that sound OK?


We also briefly discussed building a NILM wiki (building a NILM wiki is something I blogged about almost a year ago. The general feeling on the NILM workshop on Wednesday was that I should just get on with building it and present it at the next meetup! At the NILMTK workshop on Thursday 4th, we discussed how useful it would be to use the wiki list details and quirks of NILM datasets.