Using Discourse as a social media platform

I know of one Discourse instance that is massive, so maybe not? :thinking:

Instead of tapping/clicking into the post, it’s one less tap/click. I do like how Twitter does it, but it isn’t about familiarity to me. :slight_smile:

The closest thing you’ll find is this: Websites using Discourse

It seems like an awesome idea (and it definitely isn’t nonsense)! Go for it! :smiley:


Facebook has Billions of users … I’m sure ‘Roblox’ is popular but …


I don’t expect to have “billions of users” at any given time. :grin:


It has 646869 accounts registered, with about 5-6000 weekly users. But if Discourse instances were to federate, of course these figures would grow dramatically. I wish we could integrate some kind of federated simply to facilitate coordination and organization of like-minded communities. SSO + instances is good when you control the instances and they’re part of a whole, but when it’s a loosely tied community like, say, local chapters of an international organization in different cities, then it makes sense to have some common, federated topics or categories, and each user can post to any instance.

And no, Fakebooz is not great.


I personally love the idea of Federation as you know :slight_smile:

It is not without some significant technical and functional hurdles though which would require a significant investment in time to overcome.

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I proposed an investment up to 200,000 € to accomplish this earlier, but there were no takers. Actually, @erlend_sh made a proposal on the behalf of the Discourse team, which was accepted by the NGI Zero consortium. Then he left the company and the proposal was left dangling for some time until @rishabh took it over, and there was a new enthusiasm. But then the application was dropped entirely.

The offer still stands. If you’re interested in picking this up, I suggest to pursue the discussion on the SocialHub – it can be developed as a plugin. If you need any additional information about the grant, you can contact me there. See also ActivityPub Implementation for Discourse


We almost certainly would be interested in doing something. I’ll PM you and include @angus and @erlend_sh (with whom I’m doing a small bit of work at the moment, as it happens).


How about Nextdoor (which is increasingly stuffed with ads).

What would Discourse need to replace that?


Discourse for Teams might be a suitable replacement.

You’d need a sophisticated plugin to replicate that fully on a large scale.

The UVP of Nextdoor and equivalent is the way it groups and targets people by location and distance from each other.

Of course you can always build an ad hoc discourse for your immediate neighbours (I’ve done it and it worked because we were in a single, easily identifiable ‘development’) but that won’t scale.


I know for a fact that @nexo tried to do something like this at one point, but I believe it went under. I wonder if he possibly has anything to say about this?

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Someone in the neighborhood standing up a forum and dropping a one-pager in everyone’s mailbox with the url and an invite.

Discourse’s mission isn’t congruent with the business models driving social media. FB/IG/LI/etc. Those platforms are designed to manipulate users for control and profit. Discourse is designed to benefit end users

As commercial interests continue eroding trust, I suspect we’ll see the current giants struggle with granularity, as we collectively withdraw into tribes.

Are there enterprise deployments out there bemoaning a lack of performance at scale or some lack of extensibility? If not, I think the bigger question is more a function of human need than how to turn this incredible software into another festering cesspool of wanton consumerism.

That said–and I haven’t had a chance to explore the federation stuff yet–I think some kind of limited, intra-install hooks could be interesting. Like, maybe a section on the dashboard that displayed other (participating) communities you could explore by high level industry, size, and/or age. Pull in the logo and tagline, make a sort of mini directory.

I like the idea of being able to show my community members other good communities. I don’t like the idea of Discourse being associated with the forces that essentially ruined the internet over the last 15 years

Excellent Topic, BTW.

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Facebook’s evil practices can go suck an egg. I’m talking about the good side of social media.


Twitter doesn’t want any discussions. It is made, as every ”ordinary” some-solutions for fast broadcasting. It doesn’t try to hide threads, as Faceboog does with mobile users, though. There is no need because in Twitter is not such thing as threads :wink:


They happen anyway though. :man_shrugging:

Being able to mold Discourse into a social media platform is what I’m more interested in. It’s definitely possible, but I don’t know how hard it is.


I’m interested in the topic too! But I think a concrete definition of what is meant by “social media” is a critical first step to really turning this discussion into something practical to potentially advocate for and hopefully implement. As you and others point out, Discourse already has many aspects of “social media” in its native set of functionality (or in plugins):

  • User profiles
  • User activity
  • Following users
  • User discussion
  • Sophisticated content formatting, handling (better, actually, than most social media)
  • Lists of content by date/activity/etc.

I could go on, but you get the point. So what’s the difference between Discourse and social media? Identifying what Discourse does not have seems likely to be more fruitful in figuring this out. The one major thing that immediately comes to my mind, which I think you touched on in your original post, is the lack of a “feed” view.

The major difference between what Discourse has now (e.g. “Latest”) and a “feed” view, is the ability to directly view the entirety of a topic’s contents and then interact with it from the main feed. This has many implications, some good, some perhaps bad, but from a user experience perspective something it does well is to create a lower friction environment for consuming and interacting with content. One of the main benefits as I see it is it helps a user maintain consistent “context”, e.g. maintain their position in the feed. Twitter does a particularly good job of doing this across browser navigation (forward/back), while Facebook doesn’t, but lets you better interact with things within the feed (e.g. expand comments, make comments, etc. without leaving feed).

Discourse also does well with forward/back, returning to the last scroll position and highlighting the last-clicked topic briefly. But the sheer density of Discourse topic lists can still make it challenging to maintain one’s place, and more importantly the topic-only view often doesn’t give you enough to know whether you want to engage further with something.

Now, I think a “pure” feed view that reproduces how existing social media sites work is not necessarily desirable. It is arguably opposed to some of Discourse’s ideals, e.g. avoiding shallow, knee-jerk interaction, etc. But I don’t think the feed view concept is necessarily inherently opposed to those ideals, or rather, I think it’s worth contemplating how one might gain some benefits of that model, while maintaining the benefits of Discourse’s current approach.

There are a couple of ideas that spring to mind. First, let’s assume we have a familiar “feed” view like Facebook or Twitter, ranked by some algorithm/model, perhaps as simple as recency or popularity. It shows “posts”, which in Discourse would be Topics. Whether full topics are shown or just summaries, and whether comments/replies are shown by default or not are a couple of important details of the implementation that deserve consideration.

Showing full topics by default is problematic because it can make for an extremely long scroll, and somewhat defeats the purpose of the feed view since you have to fully scroll past at least the topic starter for each topic to see the next one. So summaries seem advisable. There’s no easy way to generate good post summaries that I’m aware of (this is different than Discourse’s ability to summarize a discussion), so a naïve “collapse body contents beyond X characters/words” approach seems likely, and is most widely adopted probably for that reason. Maybe not ideal, but I don’t know a better alternative yet. As with most other implementations, it could be simple click-to-expand (e.g. “show more”), though ability to either jump to the bottom from any point (i.e. “next topic in feed”), or re-collapse and bring you back to where you were in the “feed”/stream, would be ideal. Facebook doesn’t necessarily have this (and it’s irrelevant for Twitter since it has extremely limited “post” length :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:).

Comments/responses could similarly be click-to-expand, though I think popping up a full composer from the bottom in an overlay (like it does now when viewing a topic) would be the ideal behavior there, rather than in-line reply authoring like Facebook. This, I think, would help encourage longer, more in-depth replies. You could also quote from the in-line topic view as usual. The only difference really is that if you scroll up or down past the topic contents, you’d see other topics immediately (at least in a collapsed view).

An alternative to expand/collapse, which might also better serve the desire to show comments and ability to interact with topics with a more sophisticated and spacious writing area (thus avoiding some of the negative incentives of small comment boxes, e.g. shallow interaction), might be pop-up topic views, i.e. a modal window, dimming the background, but dismissible with a click outside the window. This is like the Reddit model. I don’t love everything about this approach, but I think most of my concerns with it are UX-related and could be improved with e.g. better interpretation of user intent with clicks (I find myself clicking out of Reddit threads too easily). The benefit is you have a lot of space to present your content, it encourages reading through the topic and interacting more deeply.

I think the overall feed approach, and the “Reddit” model in particular, is especially interesting to compare to Discourse’s existing approach. There is an argument to be made that the existing topic lists are more shallow/skimmable than e.g. Facebook’s feed view, where you can at least see some of the content beyond just a Title. Of course the Topic List Excerpts Theme Component takes care of this to some degree, but still it’s not the same as a real “feed” view. That said, perhaps it’s a good starting point, and then the only thing you might want to implement is this “modal” topic view idea (or click-to-expand in-line, but this seems like a more significant challenge to implement to my naïve, non-programmer brain). @Joshagos do you think such a setup would meet more of your desire for a “social media” version of Discourse? I.e. Discourse with Topic Excerpts, Latest topic View, and a modal pop-up topic view? If not, what else is missing?


When I was typing my original post, I was actually thinking of Google’s (now defunct) social network, not Twitter. I actually much preferred the former over the latter! :slight_smile:


Hah! Good old G+. I liked many things about it too. But again I think it’s important to talk about what specific benefits and differentiators there were. It’s good to know you prefer G+ to Twitter, but to implement what G+ did well we have identify those things. I liked G+ more than Twitter as well, though a big part of that would be the character limits and poor threading on Twitter. In any case I do think this thread is a more appropriate place to continue that discussion than as a reply to the Fakebook theme thread since the scope of necessary changes is probably well outside what can be done just with a theme (AFAIK).

I’m also curious what you think about the more specific ideas I proposed above. If you prefer something else, what about those approaches doesn’t work for you, and what might work better?

Well, you’re going to have to deal with me geeking out about Google+ for the next few replies or so… :joy:

For long posts, did Google+ show the entire post or did it only offer a summary (unless clicked)? My memory of Google+ has slowly eroded over the years (and details are scarce online). :slightly_frowning_face:


Hah, I have zero problem with this.

I have no idea either. Ironically, in researching this, I came across a link to a Vine video, that might have helped shed some light, had it not been on… another service that died some years back. :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:

Here’s a screenshot in an article which shows an “expand” link:

There was a point where Google changed the “stream” design to multi-column, which may be relevant. But according to this video, everyone just used G+ like Twitter, i.e. less than a couple hundred characters. :roll_eyes: Probably done this way because it’s prettier/cleaner for a demo…

The lead image here shows a “read more” in one post, but the length of it is much shorter than other images showing posts in the stream, so I’m not sure if it’s just a link to the external article/link, or what.

You’re right that most of what you can find is only fragments, mostly indirect references. Here’s a Chrome extension that seems to imply something about how the stream was, at least at a certain point in time…

May be tangentially related, but this also shows some interesting examples:

Ultimately I think it may depend on what iteration of the G+ design it was, but at least some iterations seemed to have a “read more”…

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