Hacker News Re-Imagined

Use forums rather than Slack/Discord to support developer community

  • 1631 points
  • 12 days ago

  • @gk1
  • Created a post

Use forums rather than Slack/Discord to support developer community


@micimize 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

Hopefully we'll eventually have better bridges for going between the live discussion and the persisted artifacts. Discord has lightweight threads now, so a thread <-> issue/discussion bridge like https://github.com/zulip/zulip/issues/12340 is viable there.

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@1cvmask 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

Whats the best forum software out there?

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@rawoke083600 11 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

100% agree ! Slack/Discord is like the Medium.com for blog posts.

I dont want to start and app(even a webapp) just to get the info i need.

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@pjmlp 11 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

Yes bring phpBB back.

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@ksec 11 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

It doesn't go into issues which I think is the most important.

Slack / Discord being free?

Who is setting up the forum? Who is paying for it? Who does the maintenance? Who does the moderation with Spams?

Part of the reason why Discourse took over most of the forum for Open Source is that they are free for Open Source Project. And there are little to no maintenance involves.

Not to mention to this day, forum software still sucks.

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@mmcclure 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

I think "less capable moderation tools" is really underselling how purposefully useless and nonexistent Slack's moderation tools are for open communities. I cannot overstate how terrible Slack is in this regard.

To be clear, I really and truly don't fault them for this: Slack's always been clear that their focus is on business communication, which is a totally different animal when it comes to moderation needs. Discord is nearly infinitely better in the sense that they have any tooling at all, but it's still considerably far behind the resources I've got when moderating a large Discourse instance.

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@Saris 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

I feel like the current state of forums kind of sucks. Discourse is the common one I see and it's not that great, it loads weirdly sometimes, it's a bit hard to read threads with the layout, and it's just not that nice to use.

Figuring out notifications is still just as much of a pain as always, and they never seem to work right.

One forum I use a lot is using XenForo and I actually like that one reasonably well, it seems to get most things right.

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@giantrobot 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

Ok cool set up a forum. Who's going to moderate it to handle the tons of spam it will immediately receive? Will it be the same person keeping security updates current? They're going to be busy doing that and fielding support requests because someone forgot a password or someone is being a jerk to them.

I'd love for FOSS projects to avoid things like Discord but they choose free managed services for a reason. Unless someone wants to dedicate a fair amount of effort to running a forum, IRC channel(s), or other service it's a big ask of a bunch of part time contributors.

Running a forum is usually orthogonal to developing some software. It's a lot of extra effort for minimal benefit for a "community".

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@tmwed 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

i think this is a valid use-case for web3. wallet addresses avoid the PII implications that I’ve seen a lot of people mention.

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@techsin101 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

better idea, an easier way to convert certain conversations into forum post.

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@jedimastert 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

I think both a forum (async) and some form of IM (sync) communication are needed, but I think IM should really just be just for developers.

Mailing lists are a great option as far as async comms go, but maybe are a little intimidating for laymen for whatever reason. Other than that, they're well trodden and Google Groups is still pretty solid, although the lack of categories (other than just a ton of different mailing lists, which an option)

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@stormbrew 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

I basically refuse to create accounts on random forums anymore. They've been the source of the vast majority of breached PIID for me over the course of my internet life because:

- The software is usually poorly written - even the big guns. I helped maintain a vbulletin forum for years and oh my god is that codebase a disaster. It also for the longest time, if not still, stored passwords in plaintext in the database.

- The people who want to have the forum rarely have the tech skills to keep up to date on security issues, let alone keep the software up to date.

- There are 'forum as a service' sites but they inevitably become essentially ad spam platforms that are intolerable to use.

So you can do this, and I might even benefit from it showing up in google searches, but I'd actually still be way more likely to use discord if I have a question.

Also, I reject the idea that there even is a strict dichotomy between "synchronous" and "asynchronous" communication systems. If anything, you can always do what's usually described as async on a synchronous platform but you can't really do the opposite, so they're a superset/subset pair to me.

I don't care if the maintainer takes 2 days to get back to me on discord but at least if they do I get a notification and I don't have to keep hopping on a damn forum every day to check if they have or not.

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@sneak 11 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

Discourse (selfhosted, open source forum) > Discord (proprietary, centralized, censored spyware chat)

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@adileo 11 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

Or maybe you can do both, that's the reason behind the tool I'm building right now: https://www.channelsync.chat/ In this way you can mitigate #1 "the memory hole" and also the #2 "Google can’t see inside chats" while creating a mirrored forum version of the best content you have on Discord.

It's still in closed alpha right now. But I would love to know what you think about it.

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@simonbarker87 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

I raised this in a comment here a few months ago, so much information that would reduce support burdens is buried in slacks and discords. It can’t be found through Google, it’s hard to find information in the apps if you do manage to get in and then if they aren’t paying for the storage it all disappears after a few thousand messages anyway. Infuriating.

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@Decabytes 11 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

This is something that the Racket community has faced. We have an active discord, but the search ability is not great. We also have a mailing list, but have been getting increasing amounts of spam.

Hopefully the Discourse forum that was created in the past few days will solve this [1]

1. https://racket.discourse.group/

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@hardwaresofton 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

I think slack/discord are also bad for business, but that’s a discussion not many have had yet. It remains to be seen whether forums are the better midpoint between emails and meetings but sure wish more people would try

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@lux 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

I loathe Discord for (non-dev but still software-related) community management but we tried launching a forum and realized users don't care and just want Discord or Slack. It's now in the "familiar" zone and registering for a forum sucks. They don't care that it's hard to find answers, or any of the other reasons listed here, many of which were our motivation for starting a forum. We ended up dividing users and now have a dead forum with a banner directing people to our Discord :P

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@holler 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

I'm working on a new open discussion site at https://sqwok.im that mixes chat with topical posts in an open and accessible UI.

The issue of highlighting/indexing important messages and series of messages has come up recently and it's something I want to focus on in the near future.

While not specifically designed as forum software, I would be curious to learn if it could solve some of the issues people have brought up regarding searchability, indexing, and displaying more long-lived content.

Posted a recent dev update - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=28750996

PS If you'd like to work on something like this drop me a line.

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@jedberg 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

Oh please do. This seems like the perfect time to bring this up:

I had a piece of software that used Discord for support. They required that users be verified, which requires you to give you phone number to Discord. I gave them my Google Voice number, which is the only number I have, and they rejected it because they don't support VOIP numbers. I asked them if there was any other way to verify my identity.

They told me, "Just use a friend's phone to verify. As long as they don't try to verify on Discord in six months it should be fine, we won't check again".

Their official answer to identity verification was to impersonate someone else!

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@aledalgrande 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

Discord, Slack, Gitter all gate messages so much, they are not well indexed but search engines (if indexed at all) and very chaotic when a lot of people are posting.

Please use something like Github discussions.

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@numpad0 11 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

I still don’t understand what were the problems that Slack/Discord solved. Almost all its features can be done with IRC, admittedly not easily, which kind of answers my own question, but……

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@truly 11 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

The main issue with Discord/Slack is that it is difficult to get up to speed with the context of the discussion. You essentially have to read the entire history, and you might or might not be interested in every topic.

Email is much better, since only a select set of persons receive email on a given topic, making it more likely they are interested in it.

For documentation purposes, Discord and Slack are essentially completely useless, due to poor structuring of the conversations and poor search functionality. Anything with more structure would work much better.

The only case it works well is on small teams that are 100% into solving a particular problem together, and they can context switch every few minutes into the chat.

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@danr4 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

As discussed in a recent comment I made [0], I think the problem is that a good modern forum software simply does not exist yet. imo discourse doesn't cut it, feels almost as ephemeral as in slack/discord.

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=29016033

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@buro9 11 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

I run forums, I write forum software, I am pro forums.

However I'd also add that it's important how to engage with a forum.

My top tips:

1. Financially fund a forum, but have the enthusiasts run it so it is arms length but official. If you run it, spin it up as a distinct thing so that future independence is possible and easy.

2. Bless it fully, point everything you have at it and have your support staff answer questions, and allow your engineers to go deep on details where they can. Transparency wins, if you can't do it don't run a forum.

3. Have someone else run it... That was #1, but it means "Don't moderate away dissenting voices". You will never have a more vocal and clear line of feedback to help you improve, you might not like it... your job is to either listen and learn, or to explain why you are where you are and not going to do something, etc. People aren't dumb, "for money" is a fine argument, but don't use moderation to silence feedback you don't like.

4. Forums are great for content that ages well, know your audience... it's not only the person you're replying to, it's the 1,000 visitors who will never create an account but found this issue via a search engine.

5. Don't use moderation to silence feedback you don't like! (Also #1 and #3). Don't even use threats of "we're withdrawing support" or "unblessing"... these are your users and customers, listen to them rather than fight against them.

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@giancarlostoro 11 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

I gotta say Dlang has my favorite approach to this problem, if only we could turn their forum into a simple Debian or Linux package, I wonder if that would help. Basically, you can see t he website or you can open them up with an NNTP reader (Newsreader) client and download the entire history of their forums for offline friendly reading. I don't know what's better than that, bonus points: you can post too!

They also load blazing fast, and post to IRC and I forget what else they do. Regardless, they're not running bloated JS or anything, they just work.

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@PascLeRasc 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

This is a little off-topic, but does anyone have a good way to manage different identities on Discord? For example I'm in one Discord with real-life friends, one for a game community, and one for programming. I'd like my account to have different names and profile pictures for each. So far that appears impossible but maybe there's a way I haven't found.

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@lxe 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

Or something like StackOverflow

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@varispeed 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

Setting a forum these days is a legal nightmare and big tech is lobbying to pull the drawbridge up even higher.

I think this is already lost. Only a mad person would host a forum these days.

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@dmarlow 11 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

Not just to support a developer community, but maybe communication in general.

I've mentioned this in the past and have thought this for years and years now. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=25273869

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@paxys 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

What forum though? An intuitive, modern, free, fully managed forum software is non-existent.

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@rweichler 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

Best thing I ever did for EQE is shut down the Discord. Insane waste of my time. Now the only way to reach me is via email or the forum on https://eqe.fm

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@soheil 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

> Problem #3: synchronous communication is synchronous

I love synchronous communication sometimes. Specially if you're a builder it's invaluable to have the person right there and ask them as many questions as you want. Not having any latency in each back and forth increases the efficiency by orders of magnitude.

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@KronisLV 11 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

So what's everyone's favourite forum software? Which of the many packages out there would actually be suitable to replicate the usability of Slack/Discord, without making all of the messages disappear like in a black hole?

1) Discourse: https://www.discourse.org/

Looks pretty modern and also offers managed instances if you'd like, but i can't help but to feel that it's pretty JS heavy and there is perhaps too much whitespace, which makes navigating longer threads somewhat cumbersome. To me, it seems like a case of UI > UX, which is an upsetting trend that i've noticed ("make something pretty rather than something functional").

2) Flarum: https://flarum.org/

This one is perhaps a bit better in my eyes as far as the UX is concerned and seems to have actually been developed as a mobile first forum. It does have that modern look while at the same time being reasonably functional, and the idea of putting the forum structure tree in the sidebar actually works pretty well!

3) phpBB: https://www.phpbb.com/

Personally, this is my favourite from the "traditional" forum software, since it's really usable, it keeps a good information density, doesn't lose usability and isn't as JS heavy as any of the other alternatives. Also, there are plenty of plugins and even the default functionality provides you with most of the things that you'd like in a piece of forum software and the hardware requirements are pretty low.

As someone who runs a phpBB forum or two myself, the biggest pain is perhaps updating, since you run into the very same issue of never knowing whether an update will break something or not and you might have to manually alter some config files if things go sideways. Also, admittedly, the admin UX could be better, but i guess that's just the software showing its age.

That said, old is not necessarily always worse.

4) Simple Machines Forum: https://www.simplemachines.org/

To me, it looks like a slightly simpler alternative to phpBB, with similarly good readability, slightly lower information density, but overall a very similar look and feel to phpBB. Can't talk much about its features, but some people have recommended it in the past.

Also, in regards to the free plan memory limitations, has anyone here experimented with self-hosted IM solutions? Personally i'm running a Rocket.Chat (https://rocket.chat/) instance which seems pretty nice and functional, for example, for a smaller software developer team, though others also have had good experiences with Mattermost (https://mattermost.com/) or other software.

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@johnmato 11 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

It would be great to help the newcomers browse for previous discussions compared to the chat software.

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@atroche 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

Yep, have recently had some troubles with provisioning two relatively new products (Redpanda and Materialize), and both of them relied on Slack communities and it's really not an experience I enjoy or find helpful.

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@cable2600 11 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

I used to use Yahoo Clubs/Groups but now they are all deleted. Had a lot of good developer talk in those groups. All you needed was an email address to subscribe to the newsletter.

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@bovermyer 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

There are quite a few forum options out there. Maintaining them is much more time intensive than operating a Slack or Discord group, though.

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@kelnos 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

I agree, but I don't think those things serve the same use cases, and I know some projects that have both a Slack workspace and a forum.

A forum is great for getting technical support, and is ok-ish for technical discussion and planning, but I don't think it's a good replacement for real-time chat, which is great for developing more nuanced, personal relationships (for distributed developers and users that aren't going to do things like regular video chats). Certainly real-time chat isn't going to give you as rich an experience as a video or in-person chat, but it's much better than the asynchronous back-and-forth of a forum (or email).

So I would say "Use IRC/Matrix rather than Slack/Discord to support developer community" would be a better position to take (and set up a bot to automatically archive conversations to somewhere searchable on the web), as well as "Supplement your real-time chat with a forum or email list" (which can also be searchable). On top of that, know where to capture information for the longer term: for example, if discussion on IRC or the forum leads to an understanding that the project's documentation is confusing in some areas, write up a ticket on GH Issues or Jira or whatever you're using. That way you (or someone else) will remember it needs to be done.

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@badwolf 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

This recurring discussion is very "This is the year for Linux on the desktop"

Nobody wants to register on some random weird site, and figure that sites navigation, let alone their privacy/data policies. Discord/Reddit/Slack/etc... are easy to use. People are comfortable using them. They provide a more uniform experience across different servers/subreddits/etc...

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@johng 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

Xenforo is excellent forum software.

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@far_focus 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

I cannot agree enough.

For example, in the bevy[0] discord alone, there's a remarkable about of advice, plugin recommendations, and technical help that's essentially just lost in noise.

It's a real shame; I can't help but wonder how much effort is repeated, or how much beginners needlessly struggle because they couldn't effectively find information.

[0] https://github.com/bevyengine/bevy

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@blitzar 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

Reddit + discord + github.

Be active and push real issues and bugs into the github channel and use the content of forum / chat for documentation / faq / guides.

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@maxclark 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

Forums are the ultimate in async workflow. You can post a message, and when get to control when you come back. Little features like search, threads, search engine integration, are amazing!

Slack/Discord is fine for an IRC alternative. But they should be additive not the only option.

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@Gentil 11 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

Forums are awesome for this context. It is most of the time better for privacy as well.

But is it just me or whenever I use Discourse forum, my FB container in Firefox shows it has blocked something which FB uses to track me! This is in multiple discourse forums self hosted and otherwise. So am assuming it is bundled with Discourse. This bugs me the hell out. And Discourse is everywhere too since it has an open source version.

I think Flarum is awesome and maturing! (https://flarum.org/)

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@dsfasdklgjalkj 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

People say it's hard to create a forum, but for software projects there's one built right into Github - Github issues. Yet so many times I see Github issues answered with "We answered this in Discord. Go check there." Then there's other projects where they're super anal about opening any Github issue, yet are happy to answer the exact same question in Slack.

Github issues has really really great SEO. If you answer questions there, your users will find it.

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@riantogo 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

Somewhat related, I'm looking for few good folks to start some forums of their interest at https://discoflip.com (shameless plug for my covid side gig). #developer is still available at the time of this comment.

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@wintermutestwin 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

For knowledge sharing purposes chat is way too ephemeral.

Forums have an ephemerality too as threads get too cluttered or buried under new threads. When an old thread takes too long to find or filter through, new ones are created and then redundancy sucks up everyone's time.

The answer is moderation - preferably with "elected" moderators. The other key is to have a system of escalation of key knowledge to a Wiki, which again needs moderation in the form of reviews to keep the knowledge up to date.

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@smashah 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

Discord makes sense for my project due to the dynamic nature of it. I agree it's probably redundant for stable projects with minimal updates

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@rexreed 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

YES - I hope we see a return to mid-2000s approaches for web applications across the board. I'll take 2008 Google Maps over 2021 Google maps. Heck, I'll take 2008 Google SEARCH over 2021 Google Search. Things have regressed over the past decade.

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@intellix 11 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

Apollo Graphql (Meteor) moved to Spectrum chat for this reason, all conversions are basically searchable.

It seems now they've moved to Github discussions which is also nice

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@thih9 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

> Why do people use Slack/Discord/etc?

One reason seems missing: chat is arguably easier to set up and maintain.

Synchronous communication also means that messages won’t pile up.

No past content means fewer places to keep up to date; plus there are always users who ask questions without reading existing topics.

I could give more examples; to me chat seems a more lean approach.

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@gizdan 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

I just wish people would use a system that's integrated into where the code is. I don't want to have to register for a forum when GitHub has a perfectly good ticketing system (and now discussions), and yet I have to register at another place where my details can be leaked from because who knows the technical capability of this one single person who may or may not have done any security.

If it's a company, please have the forum integrated into your software.

I seriously do not want yet another login unless there is a good reason. It's ridiculous. I have nearly 700 logins in my password manager and I'd say probably 500 of those items are websites I've registered once to ask a question (quite often questions that go unanswered). Half of these forums do not even provide the capability to removing my account without contacting the admins, which is just an unnecessary hassle.

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@lgessler 11 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

Dev communities are actually primarily for writing ad hoc documentation. From that perspective, the answer to which platform one ought to use for them is very clear.

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@chovybizzass 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

all tech support interactions should be searchable on the public web.

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@kayodelycaon 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

I’ve tried to use forums so many times but I just can’t use them effectively. I don’t want to create accounts and get the notification settings correct so I don’t have to log in to see replies to my messages without getting spammed.

The only forum I’ve had success with as a user is Reddit. It isn’t the best forum software in the world but it is miles better than the usual php bulletin boards.

Having run a forum before, it’s so much work to keep anything secure and spam-free. I had to geo-ip block all of France and Russia just to stay above water. I gave up.

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@jraph 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

Please don't ask people to run non-free software to participate in your open source community. Many open source / free software enthusiasts are reluctant to use them, or flat out boycott them. What's more, you are putting your worthy community somewhere out of your control if you do this.

Slack and Discord are not cool and do not make your project cool. They make your project unreachable, now and in the future (archives). You won't be able to trace the history of your project when you will want to do it.

What's more, Slack and Discord are hype now but will probably be old-fashioned in a few years and you don't know when they will disappear. Just pick something already old-fashioned today but that somehow does not die.

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@lemoncookiechip 11 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

You can have both. One doesn't invalidate the other.

Forums are no different from instant chat apps like Discord, in that, once you reach a certain size, you'll stop being able to stay on one topic most times, unless you heavily moderate and people hate that more than conversations diverging from topics(speaking from experience in both sides). But they're also great to engage with strangers and a wider amount of people at all times.

The main issue is that one is instant messages and the other has a delay that could be hours or days even, since people aren't going to wait there for someone to reply. The instant messages have a similar problem, in that, it can be hard to follow a conversation once you reach a certain size with comments flooding the chat and comments are mostly lost (there's the log, obviously) unless you're willing to go back and read everything. Discord and similar apps, are great to engage with people who are regulars, since you're already acquainted and can have a more casual and faster conversation.

They both have their positives and negatives and there's no good reason to not use both.

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@lloydatkinson 11 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

After a long time spending my free time helping out in the C# discord before leaving due to extreme ego and staff cliques and then more recently the Vue discord and getting nothing but grief in return and zero thanks for the 4 years helping on the Vue discord after a couple of moderators unfortunately became jealous at my message count in comparison to them (yeah, immature as hell), I couldn't agree more.

What a waste of time that was. I, along with practically every other person helping out, would get little to no thanks.

A further frustration is the fact that the same poor questions get asked over and over and over it becomes totally demoralising. They don't google anything.

I would say the vast majority of "programming discord servers" are complete cringefests with people wildly incapable of helping others somehow with roles like "helper" and "moderator". It's exhausting. I think I prefer just talking to friends and spending time on smaller servers now. The above issues and people have worn down my good will and patience. It will take me a while to recharge.

When some 15 year old with a role like "Super Helper ++" starts trying to correct an experienced software developer, and then banning said software developer because they disagreed with them, something is very wrong. Unfortunately such scenarios are incredibly common, believe it or not.

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@kache_ 11 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

ok boomer

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@0xbadcafebee 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

Mailing lists (and newsgroups!) are really really really simple forums. Still used widely in the open source community. Lots of hosts out there, very low investment in cost/time/maintenance, the 'friction to post' is a feature not a bug, you don't need a weird client or server, the archives are publicly searchable, you can filter them at your leisure and use different lists for different topics.

If you want to gamify your community engagement, StackOverflow/Reddit is better. But if you just want answers to questions, a mailing list is the simplest thing in the world. If you have a lot of questions, you need to make a FAQ, and StackOverflow basically does that by sorting.

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@Fellshard 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

Format migration seems to me to be a key feature - the ability to lift ephemeral discussions into more permanent and deliberate mediums as required. Something like chat -> forum -> wiki, for example. Have set processes in place for determining when something can usefully be pushed upwards. Also encourage a culture of pointing to documentation /first/ to ensure the more permanent documents are well-maintained and robust.

Stack Overflow got close to this, but is still quite a ways off. The chat element is present but very much cut off from the site, and it lost its way over time as its focus changed. It may be worthwhile trying to assemble recommendations for how to select your own tools that give you these benefits, and perhaps to ease migrations between them.

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@hartator 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

What about an issue-only GitHub public repo?

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@drodio 11 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

For our Founder community, we went from Slack, to Discord, to Circle: https://www.founderculture.net/c/new-noteworthy/our-communit...

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@politelemon 11 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

> Problem #2: Google can’t see inside chats

Search engines seem to do well with Gitter. It's very searchable and the search results lead to the exact timestamp where the discussion happened.

I used to find decent support for Apache Airflow this way. A while ago they voted to move to Slack, not for any good reasons but because it was the popular place to be; The Slack setup was invite-only so search engines couldn't index it, and it was one with limited message retention, about 30 days I think. Very disappointing.

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@peter_retief 11 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

I just have to agree with this.

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@api 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

The problem with self-hosted forums is that you have to host them, and that adds Yet Another Thing already overworked developers and maintainers have to worry about.

Self-hosting will not make a comeback until hosting software can be installed and maintained as easily as, say, mobile apps. Install a forum on your server, set an upgrade policy, and mostly forget about it.

So much developer work goes into overwrought boil the ocean attempts at decentralization when solving this boring-but-hard problem well could lead to a renaissance in the simplest and yet most robust and most accessible form of decentralization: people hosting shit themselves. Docker could have done this but really didn't. RedHat or Ubuntu could do it, but they're not. Nobody is really doing this, or if they are they are doing it in an overly complicated way.

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@PicassoCTs 11 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

Is there a way to transcribe Discord comunity chat into php forum talk?

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@nbzso 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

I will patiently wait for the real internet to return.

RSS/Blogs/Forums.

This is the only way for archiving and communicating sustainable information repos which will serve people without a middleman.

Creating federated silos with "modern" UX is serving only the owners of this SaaS hell. It is logical for those type of businesses to optimize for "engagement" and profit.

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@WalterBright 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

Vladimir Panteleev wrote the forum software D uses:

https://forum.dlang.org/

It's all completely searchable, it works with NNTP (yes!), and I wrote a program:

https://github.com/DigitalMars/ngArchiver

to turn the message database into simple, fast loading static web pages:

https://digitalmars.com/d/archives/digitalmars/D/index.html

It has served us well.

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@ejj28 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

I find googling for existing answers on forums, StackOverflow and Reddit to be great resources when I need to solve a problem, but I really dislike asking questions myself on those kind of platforms. I hate having to write a formal post and then hope someone responds, and then if anyone responds the conversation slowly crawls along post by post.

When I need help, I greatly prefer more casual, real time environments like Discord. To me, asking on forums feels like posting a newspaper ad for help and hoping someone mails me a letter, compared to asking on Discord feeling like walking into a room of knowledgeable people and discussing my question face to face.

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@bborud 11 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

Most forums I come across when searching for things (usually obscure problems in embedded software) are slow and they have very poor layout.

Can someone recommend forum software that is fast and doesn't look terrible?

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@retrocryptid 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

you could even write documentation for your product and publish it as either HTML or PDF files.

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@b0rsuk 11 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

Have there been any efforts to make forums INTEROPERATE with each other? A big advantage of Reddit or FB is that it's consistent and works well with another subreddit etc. Oldschool online forums can only link to outside posts, but there's no trivial feature to quote a post from another forum for example. You can do something like "quote='I edited this field manually'"

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@8note 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

A stack overflow style seems better than either a forum or a discord

Support requests are usually questions, and QnA based solutions handle questions well, including search based on prior questions

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@Robotbeat 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

My favorite forum is https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com

Nothing fancy and little changed from the 00s. Works great and allows pretty in-depth technical analysis with images, etc. It uses Simple Machines forum software: https://www.simplemachines.org/

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@wodenokoto 11 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

I've only used discord as part of a MOOC, and it seems absolutely useless for such a thing.

Since discussions aren't threaded, you can't really keep track of what people are talking about.

I joined slack at work basically the week after they added threaded discussion, and I was very surprised to learn it was a new thing. The whole premise of "slack instead of emails" seems ludicrous without threaded discussions. Like, how did anyone get that idea initially?

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@ramesh31 11 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

There's a lot of value in both. I love being able to hop into a Discord for an open source project and get an immediate answer to a problem I'm dealing with. What we really need is something that logs out chats to a publicly available search indexed archive.

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@smashah 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

In reality the best solution is to mix all available tools in a way where individual interactions always have a specific place to be addressed effectively. For example, I encourage people to introduce issues in the discord. If it is fixable with the given context and I am available, I will fix it there and then + publish a new version of the package/patches within minutes. This way others don't even have the time to experience the problem in the first place.

If the problem seems more complex, I direct them to fill in an extensive issue template.

On boot of the library, I also log a link to an issue template with most of the context filled in.

If the issue has a few bits of information missing & there seems to be miscommunication, I direct them to message me on the discord.

Most projects are maintained by a single person, so the communication landscape of the project should be optimised for that person and how they deem effective to communicate. It's not for users/passers-by/etc.

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@drawkbox 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

Great article and covers all the points.

Important information should not be trapped in apps or walled gardens. This is a major problem today. People talk about worse search results today but that is largely due to information grabs by these systems locking that up to own it.

Anything not indexable is a problem.

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@elwell 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

Does anyone remember phpBB?

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@rcarmo 11 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

I could not agree more. Chat is great for coordination and hand-holding when you can spare the cycles for supporting someone directly, but it is a mess for retaining knowledge or documenting past issues/resolutions.

Also, if you’re on a significant timezone offset, you will seldom be able to chat directly anyway. To assume otherwise is somewhat naïve, really.

Most people don’t know GitHub now has Discussions, which is enough of a usable forum to fill in that gap without turning Issues into a pastiche of random arguments, and I hope other dev platforms follow suit to spare me the trouble of spending hours sifting through random Slack/Discord channels asking for very specific things I could just search for.

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@philip1209 10 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

This resonates as true to me - chat software encourages urgency over quality in responses. The archives are mostly unusable because they're so stream-of-consciousness where context is essential to understanding messages.

Forum software is just so difficult to use and manage. It often requires setting up a server from scratch, and take some technical chops to run or manage.

I've wanted asynchronous forum software for my groups - whether professional or personal - for some time. And, I've wanted something that's as easy to set up as a Notion or Slack - meaning no domain tinkering, no custom server, and easy for less-technical folks to use.

So, I'm attempting to build it! My project is called Booklet, and I am trying to make it a better Google Groups - with a focus on asynchronous, threaded conversations alongside a robust member directory. I'm a few months into building in the open, and hope to be ready for some early testers before the end of the year. If you're interested in trying it or following the journey, check it out: https://bookl.et

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@masoodkamandy 11 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

I agree with the OP for open-source projects, but I thought I’d share what a great thing Discord has been for my first year programming students. They share questions, glitch screenshots, and interesting websites. They are also able to get help on simple problems quickly. More often than not they help each other before I can answer their questions. I know the OP is about open source projects, so I’m not sure if it’s totally relevant, but I thought I’d share how much it has helped my students foster community, get immediate help, and feel more comfortable as they learn to program. They wouldn’t feel comfortable or ready to post to a forum and my Discord server provides a safe space to get started.

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@dlsa 11 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

I'm still evaluating this myself but:

Alternatives exist in various ways https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=28830640

I still like IRC but understand why its being left behind for plenty of purposes. Yet still useful for plenty more.

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@jimkleiber 11 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

I'll throw this out: I would love to see an open-source version of Guilded.

Discord-like design, but with forum channels, open-sourced so it can be tweaked and guarantee data longevity.

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@fomine3 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

Gitter FTW. I don't know why Gitter missed for chat. It's crawlable by Google.

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@mraza007 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

Couldn’t agree more on this

Using public forums would do greater good for developer community and the future developers as it retain the knowledge and can benefit a lot more than just sharing within chat apps

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@drzel 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

FortressOne dev here. We use a Discord and it was the perfect fit for us. Since we're game focused. A forum simply would not have worked. It's a matter of the right tool for the job as usual. Though, it might be nice to publish the logs somewhere.

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@phendrenad2 11 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

Running a Discord "server" is a lot easier than running a forum.

Most paid forums suck (they try hard to not look like forums, which also makes them not usable like forums).

The alternatives are PHP (why are they all PHP?!) open-source dumps you get to install on an Apache node yourself. Or you can get a generic VPS and use tools like softaculous to set up the forum app. Most of these projects don't come with CAPTCHA out of the box, or proper GDPR compliance, or other things you'll want.

That all said, running a forum is DEFINITELY worth it, and your customers will thank you (if not in actual words, in traffic).

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@cletus 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

I like the idea of Discord in general. It certainly does have uses like making voice communication more accessible.

But I think I must be in the small minority who thinks that Discord UI/UX is beyond terrible and Discord is nothing more than a terrible walled garden where none of the content has any discoverability.

One thing we've learned in the last few decades is that hierarchical organization doesn't work. This was obvious in the days of the Yahoo Directory and probably long before. Trees are bad tools for humans to organize things because the mental model you have for how to organize things is likely not obvious to other people so to use your hierarchy requires users to take on and unfamiliar and opaque organization structure.

This is why tagging is so much better.

Think of something as simple as organizing an MP3 library. Is it Artist -> Album -> Song? What about year? What about artist type? You see how quickly it breaks down.

Discord channels are a hierarchy.

So for a developer or project Discord, what should your channels be? #bug-reports, #suggestions, #feedback? Well already you've run into problems as a given submission might be more than one of these. Or it might apply to a particular major version and someone might only be interested in those posts.

Furthermore, every time I try and do anything in Discord, I can never intuit my way to it. I have to google it almost without exception. There are multiple places where settings are, all on different parts of the screen.

I tried to use a personal Discord to organize select information from multiple other Discords. There's functionality, for example, to follow a given channel... except some owners disable that (it seems?).

So I'd go wider than the developer community: don't use Discord for anything that's meant to be discoverable or searcchable or you're going to have a bad time.

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@jumperabg 11 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

Where are the forums? StackOverflow, GitHub/GitLab issues are a good alternative?

Very rarely I just open up a question in Slack/Discord for some projects but I also get very rarely any answers, either I am lucky that someone else with the same issue there or it just stales forever or while I dig very deep and eventually find a solution.

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@robbiemitchell 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

Many people are constantly logged in to Slack in a native app. Viewing discussions is a click away, and replies will show up in the sidebar even if they aren't currently viewing that Workspace.

A website is another place to forget about.

It would be neat to merge the durability and SEO goodness of a Stack Overflow with the accessibility of Slack.

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@Bayart 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

I quite like Zulip, which is basically chat software but with great forum-like properties. Plus it's open source and can be self-hosted. It really hits my sweet spot.

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@dusted 11 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

Sooo, back when I was growing up, phpbb was the shizzles.. What is the new style of persistent/web forums?

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@Zachsa999 11 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

Chat rather than ticket based support is great for people who are more timid, inexperienced, who don't have the knowledge to peice together a good question.

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@pavel_lishin 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

I wish I remembered what it was I was searching for, but I found a github issue where a repo admin directed folks to some chat website about a year ago; naturally, in the year 2021, the whole thing was completely defunct, and more recent threads pointed people to Discord.

I wonder what'll happen next year, if/when the Discord community fractures, or starts making certain channels private, or it's just abandoned and closed down.

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@muglug 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

Slack developer here, views are my own.

Prior to Slack I spent many years as an OSS maintainer. I also participated in a Slack channel that discussed my OSS tool's general problem space. That Slack workspace was on the free plan, so messages older than 6 months were memory-holed.

In practice that wasn't too big of an issue. Most developers understood that GitHub was the place for concrete actionable things and long-term discussions, whereas Slack was the place to build relationships and address burning questions quickly. Most developers understood this distinction, though occasionally some would have to be steered towards GitHub when discussing potential bugs that benefitted a proper write-up.

I also worked at a large company that paid for Slack, and it was much more of a long-term memory resource. But as always, whenever I found myself repeatedly searching in the message history for a particular piece of information it always made sense to put it somewhere more defined — in a readme or some other sort of document.

At Slack we have the same basic breakdown — Slack (the software) provides a really useful context for why certain decisions were made, and in a pinch the search feature is great for finding particular nuggets of information, but that doesn't stop us using Quip, GitHub and Jira for tracking longer-lived information.

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@dangus 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

The poll results show the real sentiment, that close to 30% of people actually like synchronous chat. That is a significant chunk.

Perhaps there's an unmet market need for a product that both excels at synchronous and asynchronous communication.

I could see potential for a feature in a chat program where a message or series of messages could be selected and enshrined in a search engine-indexed synchronous knowledge base page, working something like a more powerful version of a pin in Slack or Discord.

Overall, though, I felt like the article was kind of bossy.

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@ljm 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

What if you don't need a community? Why does everything have to be a community now?

To that point: slack/discord/irc/whatsapp/pub conversations are a great way to bootstrap a community before you invest in something longer term, if it's needed. Find your like-minded friends and then grow it out.

In fact, I can use my own experience in the mid-2000s as an example: we used existing forums like Gamesradar and rllmuk and neogaf to bootstrap our offshoot forums. Most failed, some succeeded for a while (one was PoopGang IIRC).

Discord servers aren't really so different from that.

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@ansarispot 11 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

I often see people just outward disregard the value of chatting softwares and compare directly, cant we talk about co-existing of both?

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@admin787 11 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

Thanks for visiting

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@imwillofficial 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

I used the OpenPhone app to side step many of these checks as a Google Voice alternative.

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@sudotechie12 11 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

The benefit of a forum is searchability. Answers from a forum can be indexed in Google SEO which ended up driving a ton of traffic.

I think forums struggle when you're building a product that is changing/evolving quickly. The information becomes dated and can even end up misleading users since workflows, terms, feature implementations are always changing.

The success of a forum or any place where interaction occurs depends on engagement. Is there enough activity? Are people responsive? Is it discoverable? If you're not seeing traffic in your Slack/Discord server, then a forum will most likely not do much better. I also think empty forums feel like a graveyard, so I wouldn't expect my question to get many eyes. If you do go with the forum route, you'll need to seed content.

One thing you can do is run both and see what happens. There are tools now out there that help you see all interactions across your various community channels. I work for a company called commonroom.io that shows you all activity, categorizes it, and enriches the user information, making it easy to see what's going on in your community and quickly segment for reporting or segmentation.

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@Andrew_nenakhov 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

Discord is great for developers who provide support, because all incoming issues are instantly drowned in the noise, and you can pretend that they don't exist.

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@micropresident 11 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

I've been working on an interesting concept precisely for this sort of thing. It's pay-to-post and DM authors in a decentralized and unmoderated way (moderation happens via the micropayments).

I cross-posted this blog over there:

https://web.stampchat.io/#/forum/014ad3ec1c9c5488af76abf68c7...

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@teawrecks 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

Don't think #2 should be so Google-centric, just like dev communities shouldn't be slack/discord-centric. "Web crawlers can't see inside chats" is just fine.

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@muhammadusman 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

Yes, 1000% this. I've found reddit and stack overflow to be way easier to search for content than slack/discord. Creating a subreddit for your app/service/topic is trivial and moderation tools are decent as wel.

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@ronenlh 11 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

Forums are the obvious right choice for a developer community. But chats feel friendly while forums are formal and cold.

Developers need a chat tool alongside the IDE. I was saddened when the ReasonML/ReScript community closed their chat for this reason.

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@qwerty456127 11 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

Classic forums never actually felt convenient. IMHO the best could be a StackExchange-like UI + HN-like hierarchical comments + allowance and convenience of repeating similar questions as the time passes (as the old answer may be inapplicable to a newer version or just not complete enough for a new person facing the same problem even why satisfactory for the previous one) + more permissive policy in regard of opinionated questions and answers.

The best engine for this I have seen so far in Reddit (I men Old Reddit of course) and IIRC it has its source code open so anyone can run their own.

From the pragmatic point of view I can see nothing comparable to GitHub Issues + Pages. A problem would have to be hell of importance to me to motivate me sufficiently to register on another website like a specific project's BugZilla but on GitHub everyone can find everything at one place and participate straight away as everybody apparently has a GitHub account nowadays anyway.

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@xakpc 11 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

I do agree, slack and discord become way to heavy and bloated. Forums might be the best way, but it need a new iteration or something. phpBB is way too old

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@einpoklum 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

My stance on interaction mechanisms "to support developer community":

For any project size:

1. Issue tracker.

2. Mailing list (or similar mechanism) for announcements (not discussions with the users).

For a larger project:

3. Forums

4. IRC/Matrix channel for chatting ... if core developers are chatty enough to sustain this.

For an even larger project:

5. A publicly-editable wiki and/or a Q&A platform

6. Multiple chat channels, mirroring them on different chat platforms

I'm not saying nothing else works, only that this ladder seems to work well on the projects I have encountered.

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@CreepGin 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

It seems to me Github Discussions does the job for a forum (for open source devs at least). Are there significant advantages to setting up a standalone forum suite like Discourse? I imagine you do have to spend quite a bit of resources to setup and maintain such thing.

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@DantesKite 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

Is there a product that lets you effortlessly build a forum? Can’t think of one off the top of my head but I’m sure there’s one out there.

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@dmart 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

No, please don't. I don't want to make a separate account for a random forum, and I especially don't want to use Discourse.

Just use GitHub Issues and Discussions, please - it's so much simpler for everyone.

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@novocaine 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

Dev teams also benefit a lot from having an async way to discuss bigger issues that require thoughtfulness and long form answers, especially remote teams. There's a reason mailing lists are still somehow alive and well in open source projects that have been remote first for decades.

We're using discourse internally for this (in conjunction with matrix) and it's allowed us to have discussions I don't think we would have otherwise had.

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@l33t_d0nut 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

Agreed. We see about 25% of our traffic come from our forums.

https://forums.ironmansoftware.com

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@thefedoration 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

There are pros & cons of both the forum & chat based communities. Really, it should be determined by the kind of community you're managing and how you want your community members to interact.

Forums are great for debugging & keeping a record of information. If your community works together on projects, chat is the way to go.

I've been curating lists of online communities at the Hive Index. For example, here's my one for programming https://thehiveindex.com/topics/software-development/. In this case, it's about 50/50 split between forum & chat. There are also community platforms experimenting with both forum & chat in the same place, for example circle.so

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@a-dub 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

i've always felt like synchronous chat was best for operations, incident response and realtime help where long form communications like forums and listservs are best suited for deeper discussions and designs. chat can be fun, but it's really lossy!

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@kevinmgranger 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

This continually comes up.

It doesn't matter. The people who don't already agree aren't on Hacker News.

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@black_13 11 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

Slack is essentially a way for your management to spy on your communications with your coworkers. Lets say you don’t know a subject matter and you wish to ask and you have to ask about tribal knowledge. This is great for those who wish to hold on to it if you work at toxic company. The holder just says „ask the slack channel“. Now everyone knows what you dont know including your management. You know this so you dont use slack instead you figure if its obtainable from Stack Overflow you go that route and just go home and just work unpaid like everyone else. But tribal knowledge is where this breaks down. I worked for company that used a home grown linux arm system where at times you need to be root and you needed to a specific user and the packages were based on the slackware packages. It had grown over many years and had an overlay of git and being split between the us and europe. slack was great was of telling ppl to get lost. The better alternative would be office hours but the company was like all American companies lets trim everything to nothing lets be lean to point of Anorexia and thats ficking slack

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@monksy 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

The discord/slack as a means of communicating technical questions is a great example how an entire generation refused to accept a solid solution because it didn't fit their impediment desire. (Need is wavy here because the responsiveness isn't the original need.. it's the answering of the question that's a need.. being instanteous is just a convenience )

What am I saying: We've had technical mediums to discuss technical problems asyncly for a while now. (Usenet, reddit, phpbb, hackernews) Instead lots of younger people in the industry decided they weren't obligated to use those and foolishly decided to move to a more transient form of communication for everything.

In doing so we're losing technical knowledge, misinformation is spreading, and we're running into development of technology that has a limited set of experience behind it.

What I suggest: Figure out how to enhance async communication to switch to syncronous and store the results of that. (in other words identify deficiencies and try to solve the problems there rather than completely scrapping them)

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@thrdbndndn 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

I prefer forums due to similar reasons, but I found asking questions as a user on Discord more "successful", so to speaking.

On a forum, the chance of your question being totally ignored is much, much higher. Some do have some staffs that seem to be obligated to reply, and they will just.. copy and paste some templates.

On Discord, even the devs and staffs are not always there to answer questions, there are often enough other users that can help you, and they are willing to discuss with you if details are not clear (as soon as you're polite). Even though they don't always solve the problem, you can tell someone actually looked into it. And all these happen in real-time, without at best half day delay between each exchange (it helps that Discord is hella popular so lots of people are online all the time, and the chance to notice your message on a server they're in is much higher. Can't say the same for any random forum.)

I still prefer GitHub issues, but after that, Discord. Forums (or the communities it normally forms) really don't cut it.

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@323 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

To paraphrase an old saying, there are two kinds of community software: the ones everybody complains about (Discord, Slack), and the ones no one uses (forums, IRC).

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@mooreds 12 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

Author here. Thanks for submitting!

I wrote this a year ago as my employer was starting up their forum[0]. While we have since added slack, the forum is the main support mechanism for our community (people who pay us money get support tickets).

I still stand by that choice for:

  * SEO
  * durability
  * question quality
I can't recall the exact numbers, but something like 5-10% of our overall traffic is to the forum.

0: https://fusionauth.io/community/forum/

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@smokey_circles 11 days

Replying to @gk1 🎙

The title makes me want to respond with "OK boomer". I'm glad I read it though.

This is a great write up about community building on asynchronous, public forums vs private, synchronous chat.

I notice IRC avoided a mention here though, but it suffers the same problems as discord (namely not being searchable)

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