+1 for GSoC, although the chat project would need a reliable mentor or two that could devote a couple hours a week to working with the student. OpenMRS would be happy to vouch for Discourse as a new GSoC org (which is needed) when applications open up.
We are inching towards this, but only in a way that is mindful of our core principles. For example, in 1.9 we added live reply indicators, so you know in the composer and at the bottom of the topic, when people are currently replying to a topic.
@sam is also looking at adding a bit more presence features in messagebus for performance reasons as well, perhaps he can elaborate on that.
The big thing here is around adding “native” presence support for message bus.
At the moment there is a fiddly 50-100 lines of code you need to add to create a “presence” channel, the plan is just to have this native so we don’t need to carry all this luggage around.
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