I support an internal intranet-only instance of Discourse where I work. Like most large corporate environments (we’re a nonprofit with ~ 5000 people), there are many departments, ongoing projects, and most communication is done through email. Much of the company is vertical in structure, but my group (data science) is horizontal, mandated to work with all of the various silos. We started using Discourse as a way to bring together project teams to have a “shared inbox” for project discussions. This has been very successful with some project teams, but not so much with others.
This got me thinking about trust issues and tech adoption in enterprise environments. Many people at my company are used to the IT group saying “you will now use this. period.” Like many large IT environments, there’s great distrust of open source software. They’re used to paying millions/yr for tools like Salesforce, MS Office Online, etc…
Enter Discourse. Its ability to integrate with email is the killer adoption feature in our environment. However, there’s still a lingering distrust issue related to this… Over the years, people have learned to trust email to be delivered. It’s really not common to hear somebody say “oh, i never received the email you sent.” It’s either in the Junk folder or they’re lying – at least common wisdom teaches us that. Sometimes the to address was wrong.
With Discourse, tagging other users for notification is a great way to bridge the communication gap. However, we have issues where people sometime never respond. Sure, this happens with email, but the now we don’t have the long-standing trust of the platform to stand behind. Suddenly, it’s legit for people to say “Oh, I never received the email.” Of course, the recipient could respond to the email notification, but sometimes they don’t.
Even from the perspective of an Admin, I sometimes wonder whether the person received the email, especially in light of the fact that there’s been a string of issues with replies to email not being posted back to the topics, etc. That got me thinking: would it make sense to have some sort of “message was received and read” indicator when you tag somebody? I could see this being available to the person who posted the message and to admins.
Let’s say I tag @clay in a message (that’s me). If the recipient reads the notification triggered by the tagging, perhaps a very small √ could appear next to the name, something like
√-@clay if they read it through the web or -@clay if they read it via email.
This, of course, raises a bunch of notification issues, both related to Discourse as a platform and to trust in communications. It’s similar to email read receipts. Perhaps it could be toggled on/off in settings or available only to administrators and moderators.
As a larger issue, however, I think it’s important to consider trust issues in the adoption of Discourse in enterprise environments. I’d love to hear others’ thoughts about this.