Starting a discourse community about science and maybe skepticism


(Caue Rego) #1

I understand this might be as well simply * “Starting a community” *, but I also wanted to talk about my specific case. I want to know about discourse and the experience some of you might have had with area 51.

I’ve spend some time building this site because I saw a need and an opening. Maybe I was wrong. Also because I love SGU, Jeff’s projects as co-founder and I’m not happy with my current options for my communication output needs in those topics, which are basically Quora, reddit and the SGU forums. I really don’t like skeptics.sen as they are way too skeptic for my league.

2 weeks into it and I don’t see a future for it anymore. I think I’ve failed into doing the hardest step, gathering a community, which comes to no surprise. Yes, maybe 2 weeks is too little to have any conclusive answer… Maybe I am way too anxious.

But now I’m wondering if you could provide some hints, for other people who want to start a discourse community like I did, on how to do it properly. If you will.

(few minutes later)

Amazingly enough, the awesome “your topic is similar to” feature I often use instead of search already got me some answers when I started this topic. I’ll keep this as a narrative for now, maybe I should edit it later…

I’m not thinking in abandoning my 2 years roadmap just yet, but that topic alone already got me thinking probably I should. Take all this as a small lesson and move on. Sooner or later someone will make this better than I ever could anyway, if they haven’t done it yet and I just didn’t find it.

Anyway, what advice could you give to someone wanting to start a community with discourse?

(few more minutes later)

It seems like “your topic is similar to” keeps getting updated as I write, and so I just found yet another awesome related topic which does give me some hope to keep going. Now I wonder about the second part of my question…

I got no popularity at all, so far found no close friends willing to participate and I’m almost positive I couldn’t make this work by myself.

Do you think I should continue?

More in specific:

  • How long did it take for your community to launch?
  • What is a good number for a critical mass? 35 active users? 100 registered?
  • Thanks again to Jeff, I do understand if I am to continue I should probably invest a lot of time addressing his points. But, again, do you think I should?

I guess all I’m asking here is some professional opinion…


No stats appear for topics with only a single post?
Where can I ask non-technical questions around here?
(Jeff Atwood) #2

Depending on what you are trying to do, it might make sense to start it as a blog first – a blog requires only one person’s effort, yours, to be reasonably successful.

Building a community is much harder, and maybe could come later, in that natural “I have a blog that some people visit, so let’s add a bit more than blog comments…” way.


(Tuan Anh Tran) #3

I started out for a year as a wordpress blog. After a year, wordpress seems insufficient for the need as the community grows faster than i thought. I keep watching discourse for half a year and decide to jump in 2 weeks ago.

So far everything works quite well except for the lack of plugins which is understandable bc discourse is young.

You may want to start out small first. See how it goes. Discourse offers importers for several platforms so switching isnt impossible later.


(Caue Rego) #4

What kind of plugin are you missing, @tuananh?

It is as you guys implied. Discourse in itself is far from enough to gather a community - it is just a tool. In my mind, I don’t use many tools because i find them terrible and I only needed a better one, like this one. I’m not even close to the usual user case.

I now realize I did want to build a community, but it’s only because I couldn’t find one I see fit. I initially thought I was just trying to grab 1 to 10% interested people from another established community who, like me, didn’t like the current tools.

At least I could prove this just couldn’t be done the way I tried to do, in this specific case, so far.

I really don’t want to build a community, though. I know I can’t. I’ll just try to keep it working down the line to the roadmap and see how far it goes against all odds.


(Dave McClure) #5

I just read the thread you linked to on the existing SGU forums.

It seems like the negative response you got there was mostly to the question “should we replace the forum with a Q&A site?”

That was the initial topic and poll. You heard the reponse and edited the initial post to suggest discourse instead, but I think that idea was kind of lost and tainted by the earlier reaction.

It might be worth trying to start a new thread, pointing to the original one that focuses peoples attention on the new proposal.

You should acknowledge their input, agree that Q&A was the wrong idea, and then focus on the main selling points of discourse and how it better meets the desires of building a community, which is exactly what the respondents there indicated they want.

Rather than point to your discourse install as a competing, forking of the existing community, offer it to the community as a playground to test out this tool you are proposing.

Do you know the people that run the existing forum?

You may want to especially focus on gaining their support and be clear about what role you are willing to play in helping with a migration if they see the value in it.

edit I see this thread too now. Seems like you’ve stepped on a few toes there :wink:


(Caue Rego) #6

You got it right. I did step on many toes there. And, as you pointed, I did try starting a new thread. It’s not the topics that are tainted now, it is me.

I know nobody from the existing forum. I’m only hoping that, like you did here, someone from there can take a serious look at it and step up. That’s why I’ve decided to give it time. It can’t come from me, not so soon anyway.