Using Discourse as a social media platform

Probably one of the most important things on my list is this.

As you can see by the image above, Google+ allowed you to select what kind of post you wanted to make (similar to Reddit nowadays). Personally, I would love to see a theme component to replicate that in Discourse.

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When Google+ was redesigned in late 2015, they made it look a lot cleaner. I prefer the cleaner look. I’m not sure how you feel about it though.

I think it’s the approach that a Google+ #theme for Discourse should take. :slight_smile:


If any of you folks need a refresher on what Google+ looked like and how it functioned, you should definitely watch this video. It is the most in-depth one I could find so far.

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Putting Google+ to the side for now…

Wikipedia says it best.

Yeah, Discourse isn’t too far off from being considered a social media platform. That is why I would personally use it as a framework for a social media service rather than build one from scratch.

Nor is it curated by an algorithm. I think that’s a bigger factor that comes into play here.

Especially when the “feed” essentially goes on forever!

This is why I prefer how social media does it. With a vanilla installation of Discourse, you have to click on the topic itself before previewing the contents… which you cannot even preview in the first place.

XenForo has a feature like that.

A “pure” feed view doesn’t always have to consist of shallow, knee-jerk interaction though. I think it is just a matter of mastering the format.

When it was still around, Google+ seemed to do it well.

Does the user’s interests come into play (judged by likes, reshares, replies, etc)? Twitter lets your sort by latest and recommended based upon who you’re following (along with the now defunct Google+). As mentioned earlier, Twitter (and yet again, along with the now defunct Google+) uses an asymmetrical following model. Facebook does not.

For mostly obvious reasons, summaries would probably be best.

Again, when it was still around, I think Google+ seemed to do it well. As pictured below, it showed the latest/top replies to a post.

Oh, and who cannot forget that seamless sharing functionality that could either function like the way it does on Twitter or function as a “Retweet” button (you might also be able to notice the “Circle Streams” drop-down tab on the side)?

From what I can remember, Google+ just showed a snippet of a post if it was really long. If you wanted to view the whole post, you had to click on it.

Google+ only showed a few post replies on the feed. If you wanted to view them all, you had to click on the post.

I’m not convinced of such a approach until I see it with my own two eyes.

If only such a plug-in were to be expanded on…

It’s definitely a good starting point. What could we do to expand onto that plug-in? Are there any other good plug-ins that are worth recommending? How about mixing some themes and theme components into the mix as well?

I want a curated view for latest/recommended (like Twitter, the “recommended” feed should be the default feed. Could such an algorithm be implemented VIA a plug-in?

Regardless, that’s a good start you have there. There is a lot that’s missing, but hopefully we can put all the missing puzzle pieces together and find the perfect balance!

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Communities were a massive benefit that other social media services had to play catch-up to.

In the case of Discourse, they would probably be sub-communities in a community.

That is one good thing I can identify off the bat. What about you?

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And also because they didn’t use the features that made Google+ “special” in a way?

Here’s another video that’s worth taking a look at.

As for what you were discussing earlier, this video might be of interest.

You should consider taking a look at these two playlists.

I think you’re right.

Is this any clearer?

I want to capture the essence of the last design. In my opinion, that was the best one (and the one that still holds up today).

This is a more accurate video.

Twitter uses an asymmetric following model, yet it’s doing just fine nowadays.

As we’ve already discussed, the “feed” view is a somewhat massive differentiator. It could most certainly be done VIA a #plugin, a #theme, a #theme-component, etc…

Being able to sort that “feed” view by relevancy and recency is important too. Social media users want to see what’s relevant to them according to an algorithm (something that Discourse doesn’t necessarily employ in the same way), not a list of the top posts during that month or anything like that.

There’s a lot that’s different, so it’s hard to pinpoint anything specific. If we were to comb through everything and look for every single difference that matters, I think we’d be on the right track.

A lot of things that Discourse borrowed just arent as “in-depth” (per se) as the original things that were borrowed in the first place. User profiles are a great example.

The large amount of information shown on screen was a plus (no pun intended).

Well, I think it’s just a matter of figuring out how many plugins (and a purpose for each one) would we need in order to replicate the behaviors of social media. The same goes for themes and theme components.

Who would even be willing to make them for us in the first place? :rofl:

Yeah, that was another massive benefit over Facebook and Twitter. Users want control over what they want to see these days. Google+ did that very well. It would fit well in a Discourse social media platform.

Google pivoted their social network to be based around specific interests/communities in late 2015 when they realized that they weren’t going to kill Facebook. It was a last-ditch effort that didn’t save Google+ in its last days. Circles (which Google had been trying to heavily push for since the launch of their social network) were thrown to the wayside.

There was actually a third (and final) refinement though. It was introduced when Google+ was on its last legs and had an imminent death right around the corner. Then again, at least it brought back a very standard feature that Google had previously removed in the late 2015 redesign. Just as a hint, it’s similar to trending topics and trending hashtags on Twitter. :wink:


As a side note, it probably didn’t help that Google+ was originally launched as an invite-only platform. Just take a look at Google+ on the Wayback Machine to see what I mean.

Here’s what the mobile application looked like.

At this point, I’m like a broken record that keeps repeating itself over and over again. Everything you guys have said is great (especially the thoughtful queries, suggestions, and ideas). It’s just hard to digest it all. Maybe we should break this up into small parts instead of putting it all into walls of text in our replies. :rofl:

Regardless, I think we’re onto something that we’re passionate about here. Alas, I’m not very good at programming or designing (especially when it comes to using Figma). Let’s all work on this as a collaborative team, shall we?

Also, one final thing…

You cannot tell me this doesn’t look like a Google+ rip-off, right? Maybe we’re okay ripping off Google+ ourselves after all…


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Nice screenshots of layouts. There is just one but; they are all from desktops.

G+ was much like LinkedIn. Only users like it. And most of people wasn’t users, because they hated it. That’s why G+ is dead now (and LinkedIn is just for consults :wink: )

One important reason why G+ did suck was mobiles. It was really hard to use with smaller screens. It doesn’t help a bit how many nice features there is if users can’t use them (and/or don’t know how to use them…)

At the time of death of G+ mobiles were more common than desktops among Average Joes. Today every common site get’s about 80 - 90 % of visits from mobiles (sure, some more tech or business oriented gets more desktops).

I’m sure this is because I’m finn (really, from our point of view americans, north, central and south, are annoying positive and mostly without any hard reason :rofl: ) but the key factor to think is not what was cool in G+ (when using desktop with nice mouse and keybord). The most important thing is to understand why G+ doesn’t exist anymore. And avoid those elements.

Sorry all you coders. You are doing amazing job and without you any of our world digi-wonders would’t be possible. But every now and then you don’t listen user — mostly because an end user is dumb (that’s true in many cases :wink: ). But that end user pays your salary. I’m meaning that sometimes you are acting like Steve Jobs with cursor keys — he hated those, but users wanted them.

Well, perhaps a little bit bad example because Steve could keep Apple alive and growing, but, those cursor keys came back.

I’m trying to say that we can’t listen ourselves or being in a tight bubble. We can’t do things as we love or want, instead we have to do things as end users PROPABLY will, if they have opportunity to do without hard learning curve.

Life has teached to me one thing (well, many things and mostly very hard way) and one essential rule is:

  • Winner is not one that has done more right than others. Winner is the one that has done less errors

But… I enjoy when you are walking the memory line of G+. But still… it is dead because it couldn’t get any users, because majority hated it.

In the topic the most important question is: what should do differenty than Facebook? Or Twitter, but it has nothing to do with conversation and social media even we must follow persons. What are users hating in Facebook so much that they are willing to dump it — and then just do things in opposite way.

And after that, we can wonder what factors created Facebooh that mighty.

Well… there is another path too. Do you really think that Spotify wants to do things as Facebook does now and G+ then (obviously not the latter :wink: ). Or Reddit. Or all living forums that remain left after the great massacre. Maybe the topic is wrong because it tries to imitate, copying, something that has be already done.

Please, don’t expect this wrong, but Discourse can’t be a social media platform like Facebook or the best parts of G+ (RIP), ever. There is not enough resources, but the main reason is why users should move from familiar one to old one that is totally samesame? MeWe tried that and it is more or less zombie now.

Well, what should Duscourse be? I reckon be a forum with some wider options, not social media platform at all (in today’s meaning). And after that we have the real issue: why it is so hard to get average users moving to forums and how to break 99-1 rule…

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I’m not sure about this: for sure, understand the negatives. But it doesn’t exist because it was cancelled, and it was cancelled because the original aim of becoming a massive social network wasn’t realised. (And because it was so complex it had privacy bugs.)

So, I’d say better to understand the positives. (Of those people who used G+ extensively, and stayed with it to the end, how did they use it and which features worked for them? Where did they go when G+ closed, and why?)

Because network effects are such that taking on twitter, facebook, whatsapp, the fediverse, is a massive challenge.

One major thing social networks have, because they have a feed which shows only some fraction of a percent of the universe of posts, is a mechanism to boost, share, retweet or repost. In the case of G+, such a reshare carried a post text too, and its own comment stream, which allowed a person to reshare something they disagreed with and to comment on it. Or to comment on only one particular aspect of a post.

Indeed, important questions - but not necessarily for this thread.

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With the exception of one image! :wink:

Also, take a look at this. This is a slightly older version of the mobile application for Android. “Discovery” didn’t exist at the time, so that tab isn’t there.

They hated it because Google made the decision to deeply integrate it into YouTube (and other Google services for that matter) in late 2013. That was the crushing blow for its reputation.

Who cares? I want to try it anyway! :wink:

Yes, precisely.

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It looks like Discourse has a plug-in that behaves a lot like the Google+ “Circles” feature.

Oh, and here is a Discourse community that looks similar to Google+ at face value. What kind of plug-ins and theme components does it use (or is it a full theme)? Is anybody willing to ask them about it?

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That’s a slightly modified Topic List Previews (and actually a fork of an older version judging by the text labels).

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Thanks for the links! You made some interesting discoveries that’ll definitely help out.

How customizable is that #plugin/#theme-component? Do you think it could allow for users to “like” and “share” posts directly from their feed? Maybe even a dedicated “reply” button? :thinking:

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TLP comes in both plugin and TC flavours.

Currently supports like and bookmark actions from topic list. For that you need to have a plugin to modify the back end, either by using the plugin flavour or adding the small “sidecar” plugin to complement the TC.

Replying would only make sense if you could see the last reply? The excerpt is as per the native discourse approach: from the OP regardless of the length of the topic.

I had thought about integrating Babble directly into the Topic List on individual Topics but that plugin is no longer supported and in any case would be very tricky, especially since, for performance reasons, the Topic Lists are currently powered by hbr templates which have minimal javascript support (helpers only?)

A major challenge there would in any case be funding: quite a sizeable piece of work initially and quite expensive to support. If a third party were to develop it it would probably have to be a subscription based product. There would likely need to be a business case.

So currently the only pragmatic solution for interaction with the discussion is to click into the topic view. I appreciate the option of an in-place interaction could be really nice.

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Maybe forums should be different from social media, as well as from strict Q&A sites? I don’t know, I’m just thinking. What if, for example, a feed is added to Stack Overflow, or discussions are allowed? I think about WP a lot. What happened to him. And do shops on it, and forums, everything. He almost stopped doing well what he started with. However, this does not prevent him from remaining popular.

Maybe forums should remain a forum, social social networks, social networks, and strict questions and answers by them. Let Wikipedia remain, I don’t think there is a desire to make a forum out of it. What happens if mix everything.

I just want to say that they are all different tools. They have different tasks, you can of course make a plane and a submarine out of a tractor, but the tractor will be a bad submarine and a bad plane. The forum (like everything else) can be remade, but it loses focus for what it was created for.

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Replying to the post topic from your feed wouldn’t be possible?

Isn’t Discourse planning on creating their own implementation of Babble?

Yeah, it would need proper business funding (and a lot of it). Besides, where would you theoretically get the funding from? Investors?

They become more and more similar by the day. Forums will always remain separate, but doesn’t that limit their future?

I don’t think all forums need to be converted per se, but it would be interesting to see what happens if somebody were to build a social media network on top of Discourse. How successful would it be? Well, I guess that depends on a couple different factors… :slight_smile:

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My point was the excerpt only shows the OP so it’s not possible to provide a sensible reply action if you can’t read the last reply, let alone the entire topic.

Anything is possible but within the context of how Discourse currently works and the performance trade offs this is a tricky piece of work. Definitely possible though.

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I was thinking of something in line with Twitter.

The Google+ approach might be a good compromise though.

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Yeah that was my understanding. Moving even a good subset of post controls to a topic list view is far far from trivial, however. It would be the ‘ultimate’ customisation though, so there’s that! :sweat_smile:. If someone is prepared to put up the significant funding to do it you can approach us at Pavilion.

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Well… :kissing: :notes:

How much would it cost? :sweat_smile:

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Some more information on that subject (which is worth taking a good look at)…

Here’s my source…

As a side note, Google+ was a social layer, not a social media network (according to Google themselves).

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One of these themes would probably serve as a great design basis. After all, they both have that little “post” button in the bottom right corner (just like Google+ from late 2015 onward), which can actually be poached separately anyway!

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