2+ years using Discourse as an internal social network, experience coming from Socialcast

Table of contents:

  1. Discourse for our organization
  2. Discourse vs Socialcast
  3. Discourse and chat apps

In the rainbow of Discourse :discourse: , one colour is definetly for internal network organization.

At the beginning, it seemed difficult to adapt a “forum software” to serve the needs of an organization, but we try it and time has showed us that this software is unvaluable.

Territorio creativo is an hybrid between consulting services and creative agency company, we help big brands on their process of digital trabsformation and we think about creative campaigns that boost their brand awareness. So we were used to traditional social network software such as Yammer or Socialcast, and it was difficult to convince our entire org. to the advantages of Discourse.

But we analyze and discovered that information inside the org is not about profiles posting in walls to obtain likes, but creating discussion topics around which people show their interest. More about “this week we talk about this interesting threads” than posting updates in a chaotic timeline without categories.
Too better organizing content about categories in wich some groups could be interested and give freedom to each person to choose it than divide everything in groups. Why force anybody to be in a separated place? Let it choose their interests! A consultant could be interested in the best ads of the month and a copywriter may read about analytics web tools.

Now we can say that we have the best tool to communicate internally. Notifications, integrated emails, emedded content, fast interaction…
In fact we have written a bunch of posts in our blog about the advantages of Discourse :slight_smile:


Discourse vs Socialcast

If someone is curious about how was our thinking about pros & cons between Discourse and Socialcast, here we go:

As mentioned above, Socialcast it’s like a Facebook for work collaboration, this means that it replicates the “timeline” paradigm. What’s the problem with “timeline paradigm”?

We tested it and verified that it’s inefficient managing conversations for four reasons:

  • Reading
  • In a unique view, the volume of posts and open threads results difficult to attend.
  • The divergence of interest to the first posts only for be recent generates an unsatisfying experience for users in terms of lack of control about what’s important for them.
  • Posting
    The user by his doubts about if share or not share some info because it doesn’t know if will be interesting for his coworkers, is in a dilemma with two options:
  • He shares it and contribute to a chaotic volume of posts without category
  • He doesn’t share it for fear to mess the timeline and the organization lose the info.

So, it’s critical to organize conversations around categories in order to facilitate the info flow between users, coworkers more engaged and incentive participation:

  • Categories empower users to decide what they want to read first and to what pay attention depend on the topic and his level of notification.
  • Categories increase participation because topics are more specific and it someone want to post some that he doesn’t know what category it belongs, he can post in Offtopic category until some other admin or power user categorize the topic.

You can say, ok, we can use “tags” but “tags” are horrible for users to categorize. In addition, Socialcast doesn’t offer the great features of notification levels Discourse have (unread tab, new tab, unread count, notifications…). Categories for the win! (and tags plugin to complement the info :wink:

At this point, we can agree that all we need for social internal network is a forum… but what is the best forum software in the world, ever? We have already mentioned :wink:


Discourse and chat apps like Slack or Skype

We already know that Discourse is our best choice since late 2013, but it doesn’t mean that sometimes we have some problems in our internal communication. One of this problems is the abuse of chat apps like Slack (nowadays we use Skype but some groups are already trying Slack). Why do our coworkers sometings writing too many in chat apps instead in our great Discourse instance for internal communication?

They felt conversation there more “real time”, “instant”, ok. But when someone use this argument to use chat when the topic should go to the forum it’s because he doesn’t realize that it will be a perjuice in the long term. If another person (or the same that created the conversation) wants to search or continue the conversation another day, it will find many difficulties.

So even now we have to teach the concept of asynchrony to understand that in chat apps you almost require the attention of some people at the moment, and perhaps disturbing them because is a conversation near synchrony on time; but in our social network the conversation will be asynchronus, mean that anyone can responde/continue/search the conversation when they want, better for the org. in the long term.

We can use both of tools, but we have to aware about the cases in which it’s better to use what of them.