Bringing Icebreakers into Discourse

Originally I’d had this idea for Discourse for Teams which was well suited for it, but with it being sunset, perhaps this kind of things could find its way into Discourse (either core, or as a plugin).

This feature is entirely inspired by Know Your Team here. On a regular basis their service asks a question of employees, sending each person an email, then aggregating the replies.

I’ve always felt like what they do is cool—but as a feature of a bigger communication channel.

Culture Questions

Asked once a week at a specific time this is generally a question specific to the company, its culture, performance, and goals. Examples are:

  • Do you think we’re a quality-driven team?
  • Have you been confused by any recent decisions by this team?

Questions can be answered publicly, or privately (which is then shared with a subset of users). The questions can have polls, and are asked one-at-a-time. The goal is that it provides a space for people to open up about what’s going on, and for leadership to be transparent. With Discourse, this could be easily done, and having the topics close when the next question is posed may be interesting.

More here: Culture Questions | Know Your Team

Social Questions

These are the “ice breaker” type questions. They’re asked once a week on a different day than the Culture Questions, and are generally lighthearted, intended to enable the team to get to know each other. Examples include:

  • Have you ever met anyone famous?
  • What are you reading right now?
  • If you could pick up a new skill in an instant what would it be?
More
  • Who’s someone you really admire?
  • Seen any good movies lately you’d recommend?
  • Got any favorite quotes?
  • Been pleasantly surprised by anything lately?
  • What was your favorite band 10 years ago?
  • What’s your earliest memory?
  • Been anywhere recently for the first time?
  • What’s your favorite family tradition?
  • Who had the most influence on you growing up?
  • What was the first thing you bought with your own money?
  • What’s something you want to do in the next year that you’ve never done before?
  • Seen anything lately that made you smile?
  • What’s your favorite place you’ve ever visited?
  • Have you had your 15 minutes of fame yet?
  • What’s the best advice you’ve ever heard?
  • How do you like your eggs?
  • Do you have a favorite charity you wish more people knew about?
  • Got any phobias you’d like to break?
  • Have you returned anything you’ve purchased recently? Why?
  • Do you collect anything?
  • What’s your favorite breakfast cereal?

What’s different about these is that they’re left open, and allow anyone to come in and answer at their own leisure. This is nice for new employees who join later—they can add in their answer which then is seen by all other employees. Again, something that would be trivially easy for Discourse to do.

More here: Social Questions | Know Your Team

Icebreakers

Their version of ice breakers asks an individual the same six questions upon joining the team. Those are aggregated together under individual profiles, so that each person has a little home to get to know you by. These are the same as the “Social Questions” so the six answers are just their first foray into answering those.

See more here: Icebreakers | Know Your Team

How Discourse could do it

I think that you could enable admins to create one or more kind of “Q&A” type (Social Question, Culture Question, etc.), each with its own bank of questions, and a designated time that it will be asked on a regular basis. Those topics could have a pre-configured category and set of tags associated.

And as @Justin had previously seen this idea when it was about Discourse for Teams, he had a great idea:

Another option is to monitor for #icebreaker topics, and if none are posted in a set timeframe, then notify admins saying “Hey have you thought about posting an icebreaker?” and giving a suggestion to choose from (and then a quick link to post one).

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Thanks, Matt! Great to have this conversation up on meta. This would be a pretty neat use of Discourse-automation! As of now there is no script to create new topics using automation, I think.

I like the idea of using topics in a category, with all the benefits and privileges that come with categories. So you can stage a series of new topics to be posted in a specific category that come from another category. This could be useful for icebreakers but also for other activities, like an asynchronous forum-based course, or onboarding.

I believe this idea has been suggested for canned replies as well. The current canned replies UI kinda falls apart when you have many canned replies, or when you want to give people in specific roles access to managing and using their own canned replies.

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There used to be a #plugin that offered the functionality you’re looking for, but it’s been broken for a while now.

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