Circle.so vs Discourse

As I think I said somewhere in this topic. … I used to be a high school “computer teacher”, and after that I was a teacher educator. My wife is a teacher educator who studies . . . wait for it . . . discourse (not Discourse). I started using Discourse because I was using it to teach a set of technology course for masters students.

I’m intrigued by the notion of creating some teacher-friendly Discourse that I managed, set up, or hosted, especially if I could figure out how to do it as part of my business.

If you can tell me what an actual teacher/department/school needs that they can’t figure out and a budget, please contact jay@literatecomputing.com and let me know.

If what you want is some education-specific theme or plugin that you want to be free, then I’m still interested. I would love to again be involved in feeble attempts to make school suck less.

I’m working on a product that will automate Discourse tasks, one set of features could be to have it install and configure a set of themes and/or categories and groups.

I think I understand what you’re saying, but I don’t have a sense of a discrete set of problems that need to be solved. If you have specific things that you need to work for your specific situation, please contact me and I’ll see if I can help.

At a meta level, instead of “I wish discourse was more like Circle” a new topic with “I wish Discourse could do X” could be helpful.

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:heart_eyes_cat: :hugs:

My teacher spouse and tenth grade son will thank you. They are in zoom and google classroom purgatory these days, now in the next room from me for the foreseeable future, no less… I’d love to see a “Discourse for Classrooms” that I could pitch to them. May be worthy of a new topic in #community to brainstorm what it might look like?

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+1 to this comment.

My confusion (and enormous amounts of internal confusion) is due to feedback here that needs huge amounts of personal interpretation:

Discourse would be better if it had a wysiwig editor like circle

100% actionable, even if we decide not to do so.

Discourse should ship with a sidebar like it has in teams and like circle has, I find it easier to navigate

100% actionable, even if we decide against.

And so on…

Make Discourse feel less techy

Impossible to act on, requires huge amounts of interpretation.

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Yes, that’s exactly the problem with topics like this. However well intentioned they may be…

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You have my vote too! I would like to see it have integration with Google Classroom, Google Drive, and other Google services, along with Chrome OS and the like.

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Definitely understand this, and it’s tough to explain! I’ve approached this before by calling designs like theirs more “opinionated.” Circle does things like round corners on boxes and buttons… their icons contribute too… they’re rounder, softer. They use more whitespace within certain elements. A little can go a long way.

Messing around with CSS for 10 minutes can get some of that feeling in place (but yeah parts of it would need bigger structural changes, maybe even changes to how things are by default).

As far as I know you also can’t change any of that within Circle. They have a strong opinion of what the UI should look like and that’s what you get.

Discourse goes the other way… we want sites to be customized, sometimes very heavily, so we don’t have much of an aesthetic opinion by default; we get out of the way so you can theme. Early on Discourse had a stronger visual aesthetic with text shadows, rounded corners, etc… this made it much more difficult to theme because you had to “undo” all of these opinions if you didn’t want them.

Anyway, I think the difference in approach is something to keep in mind when comparing. Removing theming from Discourse would make my job a lot easier (we also build themes for our Enterprise customers), and we could be much more strict and opinionated about the default design because there are fewer considerations.

We’re always improving and reading feedback. We’ve been adding features like choosing a custom fonts and color palettes when you’re setting up a Discourse site… and I hope at some point this year admins will be able to choose a full theme when they’re setting up their site (and we’ll have more theme options for sure).

I can see the appeal of the sidebar, I’ve built a few sidebars for Discourse myself… and I’d say this is a difference in philosophy. We’re fairly protective of what gets added to topic pages because we don’t want to distract from reading. Circle chooses to carry the navigation everywhere and is therefore more consistent and quicker to navigate between categories. I think there are pros/cons of each approach… one pro for Circle is that at this point the 3-column layout is very familiar and has wormed its way into everyone’s brain (largely because of Facebook). Familiar feels friendly!

I agree that markdown and the side-by-side preview feels more complicated specifically for low-skill computer users (which IIRC is most people). It’s not the Facebook input box or a Microsoft Word document, so it’s uncharted territory for many. We’ve discussed some hybrid approaches where images and formatting would appear inline with markup in one window (github and some others do something similar), but it’s a big complex change with lots of pieces. I don’t think we’d ever go WYSIWYG, but there are WYSIWYG-ish things that could probably help.

Agree here too! I’d like this to be something we can improve on within the next year. We haven’t touched the profile summaries in quite a while, and there’s not much of an information hierarchy there… it’s a firehose of stats.

I’m not sure if it was the original intention, but I think the fun part is about participating with the community and not necessarily the software itself. Are parties fun? depends on the company you keep! I’m biased but I have fun talking to people on Discourse (and other discussion platforms too)… sometimes older/broken/buggy forum software detracts from that.

The simple question can be funny… we’ve gotten “too complicated” feedback from people who primarily use social media… and “too simple/too much whitespace” complaints from old school forum folks.

Simple depends on where you’re coming from. Is Circle simpler? Yep. Are we simple compared to legacy forum software? Yep. Could we be simpler? we’re always finding new ways… (and your feedback helps, thanks for taking the time!)

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Well it’s really not even comparable. The Circle community forums are dead, a post every few days and many post go untouched by anyone. Somewhat strange for a community platforms own platform to be so hollow. I do like general asthetic and specifically the simplicity.

I do like their showcase. Strangely i had to change my forking username here as it had my domain in it. Something about advertising. So finding community discourse iterations to draw inspiration from can be a pain. Not sure ive ever seen an open source or white labeling product with thay rule.

Whats rewarding here is the community is incredibly helpful, team or otherwise. Also doesnt hurt that discourse developers are generally very reasonable from a cost perspective.

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BitBucket also implemented this recently, and I have to say that I hate it. WYSIWYG in general is not my preferred approach for these kinds of programs (speaking as a technical user), but for me the hybrid approach isn’t any better. It adds so much noise to the post, with things becoming bold, italicized, formatted for code, etc. all inline. It’s particularly awkward when you are adding formatting during revision, as adding one backtick for example changes the formatting of everything to the right until you add the closing backtick (at least in BitBucket’s current implementation). I find the experience very jarring and unnecessary.

Personally, I prefer to see raw markdown in the editor, with a way to preview the formatted post before posting. The side by side implementation Discourse already has achieves this fine in my opinion, and explicit preview buttons like GitHub and BitBucket have are also fine.

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I couldn’t stand it, wrote. )

I don’t quite agree with this. They are for different purposes and it will be noticeable when there is a long thread of detailed conversations with photos, links, and code elements.

This is not a forum format. This is the social media model. Different behaviors and different purposes.

But I have to agree that it is this presentation of information that is more attractive to ordinary users. They look at Facebook, they look at it and they say it’s better! Because it’s just cleaner, less noise, easier.

I know that there is a desire for versatility, to mix different models, usually it all does not end well. Forum is good for one thing, social networks for another. In my humble opinion.

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Yeah, but the “noise” that Facebook hides is actually the signal. I’ve yet to find a conversation on Facebook that I want to read that I’m willing to read because it takes a zillion clicks to un-hide the messages and I can never tell—even in a single session–which messages I have seen and which I haven’t.

But maybe that’s what people want from a social platform.

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So they can use CSS to style their Discourse identically as needed? I’m not seeing the problem. What exactly is stopping them from entering the desired CSS in Admin, Customize?

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I don’t quite understand, maybe it’s a matter of translation. I wrote that if you compare Facebook and Circle and view the page, the Circle’s interface looks cleaner and simpler. This is perceived as “better”. Facebook has more features, more elements, and an overloaded interface. Circle and colors are pretty good. But in reality, the presentation of information in Circle posts is the same as in Facebook. This is a social network.

Many users sometimes want to get the look of a social network from a forum, but a forum is a social network. This is for the other.

Posting information on a social network is not intended for discussion. If there is a long conversation and it contains a lot of information, not just short comments.

If you throw short remarks in the comments, then the structure itself wins, as in Facebook. For such comments, chat is also suitable.

Many users are accustomed to a social network, so no matter what is in front of them, a blog, a forum, they want the appearance of a social network.

They will look at Stack Overflow (as an example) and talk. Why such an ancient design. We want to see the feed in the form of expanded posts. They like it. I noticed this trend. If you like something, then a similar appearance should be everywhere. But this does not mean that it must be done. The tasks are different. I only wrote about this.

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Well right, so… use CSS to modify the appearance to taste? :thinking:

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I absolutely hate click to expand conversation interfaces! Just a terrible reading experience!!

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Yes, I don’t see any problems here. The design can be changed the way anyone wants. If someone wants such a design, they can easily change it. There is no problem here. Discourse has all the intents for this.

I’ve always been more interested in what’s under the hood. And the color of the car, if you don’t like it, you can repaint it, this is the easiest thing to do.

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It’s extremely helpful to dig into specifics and use concrete, real examples.

I have no particular objection to sidebars “rezzing in” when the screen is extra wide, to make use of otherwise naked, unused space. Some people tend to maximize browsers which I’ve never really understood…

Simply disabling the preview would cover 99.99% of people’s needs in this area. They just want to type text; they don’t need fancy formatting. That’s already a per-user setting and could be made a default:

If you have any mockups to share, I’d love to see them!

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I’m using Circles. It feels more like slack or discord to me. Conversations keep getting pushed down, never to resurface. In the groups I am in there is zero moderation. I have never seen a post moved or split.

I’m having trouble making sense of the conversations.

It destroys engagement. Further it is so aggravating to click read more to see two words.

Read More

Thank you Discourse Team

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That’s a great idea. I almost never look at the preview, and maybe markdown is “invisible” enough that people just wouldn’t notice. I can imagine that many communities would like preview hidden by default. I don’t see a place in preferences/interface to say that I don’t want to see the preview.

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Right, it’s not a site-level preference at the moment. You can see how to toggle it in the GIF video I posted above, but that’s stored at the browser level, so it’s also not technically a proper user-level preference, either.

Given the drive for “simpler” out of box experiences, I think this should be added as a true user pref and a true site level pref. Same behavior in terms of expand/collapse though.

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Ah! I didn’t understand that the browser would just remember the last state.

I think that makes sense. I can’t quite tell if a “normal person” would be confused by, say, the [quote] bbtags or whether they could quickly learn to ignore/trust them. I started using LaTeX as my primary means of producing text long, long ago, so I can forget how Markdown is confusing for folks.

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