Embeddable chat that stages users

Continuing the discussion from Element launches an E2EE embedded chat:

I was just thinking how much I’d love if Discourse could replace something like Intercom. Imagine landing on a site, entering one’s email and joining the help chat, and then with that same email being able to join a fully-fledged forum with other chats and forum topics. It seems as if it could really help bring new people into a forum, as if the embeddable chat could be a very low friction way to start the engagement.

Any thoughts?

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I do think this idea has a lot of potential and is worth exploring further.

When you say that you’d love it, is that with your “community manager” or “site admin” hat on? (where you imagine having visitors to your site be able to initiate chats with you)?

Or are you wishing that certain sites you visit (that may already be using Discourse) would allow you to contact them in this way?

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Ahh I appreciate that question. I said it with my community/site admin hat on. I may also like it as an end-user, but that wasn’t the initial impetus.

I was thinking about how if people land on my webpage, they could start chatting with me there and then I can basically bring them into the “house” (forum) to meet the other people and join more conversations. I see this helping with my podcast site for example. It’s Wordpress and if someone lands there, can chat with me 1-on-1, and then I can say “Hey you know you can continue with me and join others chatting in the community / on the forum.”

But also for a way to integrate things like Intercom/Zendesk into Discourse so it flows more smoothly.

I think as a community manager, I may feel more comfortable asking them to start their engagement by chatting with me in a small embedded chat box on the site rather than seeing a whole new app with all the Discourse UI that one needs to learn.

Oh and to add a question to ponder: what might be the chat equivalent of reply-by-email?

Is it website embeddable chat? Matrix integration? Something else? Should we allow people to participate in Discourse Chat outside of the Discourse site? If so, how?

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I would personally love this as a site admin as well. It would be a great way to consolidate user interactions—rather than have chats in the community and separate chats as part of a customer support solution such as Intercom, have everything in one place.

As an end-user, I would say it depends on the interaction. If I am having a small interaction with a website that I expect to be a one-time conversation, I wouldn’t really care much about what technology is backing that interaction. However, if I am interacting with an entity with which I communicate regularly or in which I am genuinely interested, it would be wonderful if that initial chat interaction led to a community which I could explore and join. Perhaps chats could then turn into PMs or topics for longer-term communication.

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I feel like two unlocking features would be to allow “staged” users and “group” personal chat.

Bringing them in as full forum members would require term-of-service, sign up and so on. But “staged” users don’t need any of that cause they are not real users on the forum.

So the flow, could be:

  • Stage a user
  • Discuss stuff in an “isolated” way with staged user in a 1-on-1 basis with #support-the-product group.
  • At the end of the conversation…
  • Was this helpful… why not join our community at …
  • User joins community
  • User can see the 1-on-1 discussion with the group.

Bringing staged users to a #support channel that is available to all site users would be a recipe for disaster imo. Hugh spam vector. At least in the #support group you mitigate by only allowing a small subset of users access and you shield spammers from other spammers.

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Yes, I really like your idea, Sam, and agree that allowing staged users to interact with all site users would likely be a disaster.

How I see your idea is that it would closely mirror how Intercom (I think) allows multiple people from the Staff (or whichever group) to reply to the 1-on-1 chats in the embedded widget. Gosh, I think I’d love this for Discourse.

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