Why isn't Discourse more frequently recommended as a "community platform"?

I just ran across this lengthy Twitter thread:

There are more than 100 replies, but the summary is basically a ton of votes for Circle.so, a good number for Mighty Networks, some reference to “why change from Discord?”, and then literally 3 or 4 mentions of Discourse, most of them without anywhere near as much conviction or endorsement as those espousing Circle and others, or heck, even those saying they use Telegram for community. That concerns me. I almost jumped-in and added a recommendation for Discourse to the meager total, but then I had second thoughts. Is Discourse as a system the same kind of thing people are typically thinking of when they look for a “community platform”, should Discourse be more widely recommended in a topic like that? And note that I don’t think it’s so much about real time (chat) vs. asynchronous (forum). Circle does have chat, but it has been recommended in a similar way since even before it did.

I am reminded of a lot of recent (and not-so-recent) discussion about Discourse and CDCK’s goals, the capabilities and intended uses of the platform, potential competition like Circle.so, etc. It’s possible I missed some recent clarification on this, but personally I still feel there is a bit of a lack of clarity as to what Discourse should be/is planned to be in the medium and long-term (this is especially so with the new addition of Chat features). I know it’s intended to be flexible and be able to achieve many different things, but I honestly don’t know for sure if CDCK actually intends Discourse to be a community “platform” in the way that, say, Circle is.

Of course there has been lengthy prior discussion about Discourse vs. Circle in particular and Discourse vs. other tools like Facebook, too. Despite those discussions, I remain a bit unclear on what Discourse’s long game is here. I did also read the recent blog posts on community vs. audience, etc., but while I found them clear in what they covered, I’m still not so clear on what Discourse wants to be.

There are new tools like Circle, Forem, and others arising frequently. I know I’ve raised similar concerns before, and I don’t mean to beat a dead horse. But it seems to me as if Discourse is losing potential mindshare to many of these, and may have entrenched itself in a relatively small niche, just when “community” is all the rage. The upcoming chat plugin might have some notable effect on this, but I also wonder if it’s partly or even largely a matter of positioning or “branding” that keeps Discourse out of such conversations.

If this topic seems redundant or not useful, then I do apologize. But these questions are still open for me, at least, and I hope to be enlightened. Even if it’s with a blunt instrument. :wink:

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I concede to be pretty confused by these questions! We don’t have any plans to be anything other than what we currently are – a community platform that encourages healthy discussion.

What do you mean by Circle being a community “platform” in a way that Discourse isn’t?

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It depends. The term community should define first, because it can and will mean what ever.

For me and my circle any of mentioned aren’t part of community, because no one is using them. Not even Twitter (that is more or less only platform for monoloques…).

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I’m confused too: CDCK sees itself as developing a “community platform”, but I see a lot of people that don’t seem to. Or at least many people don’t seem to feel it is a platform that is as good as or applicable to their needs as other, seemingly similar ones. And if CDCK sees Discourse as being a reasonably similar platform, does it concern you that it’s often not considered in some of these conversations?

Keep in mind, this is a topic based on the public perception of Discourse. I am not saying “I don’t think Discourse is a community platform” so much as I am saying “It seems like a lot of people don’t consider Discourse to be a viable option for community creation for some reason and I wonder why”.

A totally valid answer could be “Those people are wanting to start a type of community that Discourse isn’t appropriate for or meant for.” That would be fine, except I’d then want to understand specifically what makes Discourse not appropriate or intended for that purpose. That, ultimately, is where I think I get confused: what is the distinction, intentional or otherwise, between what Discourse is meant for and what e.g. Circle, Forem, etc. are meant for?

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I’m, still, totally confused with terms. When a forum is something as community, and when it is just a forum?

I’m really sorry, but for me it sounds just another hype :rofl:

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It’s certainly disappointing when there are misconceptions about our product, but I think it’s a little dangerous to make assumptions based on one Twitter thread. As far as we’re aware, the majority of people know what Discourse is and what it’s used for. Our growing customer base supports that supposition.

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There is no doubt I am going partly on anecdotal evidence here. But I am part of a number of large and active groups and resource sharing efforts focused on Community Building, including Rosie Sherry’s various activities and many others. That feels like a reasonable sample size of - if not the broader internet - then at least an important segment of it. And while Discourse does occasionally get mentioned in those places, it is talked about and recommended far less than other platforms. It feels like that should be of greater concern to CDCK than it appears to be, at least from public discussion that I’ve seen thus far.

I’m glad to hear that your customer base is growing, and that success is well deserved. But it still quite disappoints me that the official CDCK response to “You guys aren’t in as many conversations around community platforms as you could be” is basically “Yeah, we’re fine though”. On the one hand you’re in a better place to assess your overall success as a platform and a company than I am, and hey, maybe you are fine (for now, at least!). On the other hand it feels like it’s all too easy to be complacent and “stay the course”, and perhaps wake up one day like vBulletin: replaced for most major customers by some other platform that had some better way of doing things (in vB’s case a lot of that replacement was with Discourse :smile:).

I want to try to make clear that I am raising these concerns and asking these questions because I like Discourse and your success - that of CDCK and the platform you build - is important to me. I am recommending and implementing Discourse as much as I can, where it makes sense. And precisely because of those activities I frequently come into contact with people and organizations who want to know why they shouldn’t just use e.g. Circle, which they’ve often already heard about (and in many cases, if they’ve heard of Discourse at all, it is in a context of it being a bit of a previous generation or more limited solution). I want to understand what the Discourse team thinks about this stuff.

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After reading through your posts I get the sense that you personally feel that in the circles you hang out in online, not enough discussion on Discourse the software is happening.

Perhaps a better title for your topic should be “Why aren’t more people talking about Discourse online?”

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Thank you so much for these insights, we will dig in some more here and try to make sense of it.

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Yes, I’d say spot on. All I see usually is ‘Join our Discord’ which gets a bit repetitive! I also cringe and think of all the information that will be exchanged and then lost … and how much better it would be if those groups had their own Discourse instead.

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I see Discourse more as a discussion platform while as much of the “community platform” conversation seems to be about engagement.

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You need to consider the fact that Discourse has a quite strong white-label game, so I have a customer with a community that saw over 100k active users this month in a single instance, but over 99% of those doesn’t know that they are using Discourse.

It’s harder for us to make our brand more recognizable when we don’t force every customer to use the exact same domain/design as, for example, Discord does.

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But that’s about how you use the platform, not what it is intended for.

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For me, I think some people talk of “community” platforms in the sense of small talk, ephemeral conversations, chat back and forth. Whereas they may see Discourse as more discussion, at length, long-lasting conversations.

I started using Discourse much more over the last few months because chat could bring some of those elements. However, as I type this on my phone, I feel some hesitation over what to say and how long to say it, knowing that it may stay on Meta forever and be easily searchable and public. I also think of how I can struggle to do long-form on the phone and how while the mobile web view is one of the best I’ve seen, it still doesn’t have some of the UI interactions as a native app.

Conversely, some of the other communities seem to have lower barriers of entry and participation for me, especially from the phone.

So maybe it’s that some associate “community” with the chit chat that happens at a bar or at a family or friend gathering, nothing too in depth, conversations that end within a few minutes, a lot of “hi how are yous.” And that Discourse has catered to a different community, the ones who almost want to write letters back and forth or get into long discussions about potentially more serious topics.

As for me, I hope to use the topics as longer lasting, more formal discussions, and the chats as shorter, more informal interactions, maybe even using other platforms for different flavors of community interaction.

Just as not every venue or gathering is good for all types of conversations, maybe the same applies to digital venues and gatherings. And I think how a lot of people like to hang out at bars and clubs where conversation has its own constraints, but some of us also like to go to academic talks or conferences where we talk in depth about different topics.

Anyways, I hope that helps a bit!

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I think it’s important to remember that at the end of the day, Discourse is a tool. People use it in different ways and we don’t purport to dictate what those ways look like.

Some communities use Discourse to support their products or brands, some use it to have long form discussions about beliefs or interests, others use it to manage their remote teams.

Some brands care more deeply than others about how they are perceived by the market or the competition than others.

When we sell Discourse we sometimes get asked how we compare to other brands. That’s not our job to answer.

Feedback from the market is important, but there will always be groups of community practitioners that favour different platforms, generally because that is what they know. The only unfortunate thing about that is how much time they’re wasting trying to hack things together when they could be using Discourse. :wink:

TL;DR there is value in listening to what other people say about your product, but unless they’ve used it and chosen another one for specific reasons, it’s a rabbit hole that diverts attention from making your own product better.

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Five star comment @jimkleiber! I actually visited meta today to see if there is a solution / feature for this issue. Quoting another community manager, “after long hours of work community members find it easier to go to WhatsApp than use their laptop and login to the community platform.” For their community they had to include WhatsApp in the equation!

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Yup, that works very well for some communities, but if you’re a brand and you want collective knowledge and SEO value, WhatsApp isn’t very useful.

As always, different use cases, different solutions.

@oshyan - thanks for raising this, I appreciate the intent. I suspect that the main reason that the groups that you refer to in your OP don’t have a lot of experience with Discourse, is because most of their history is probably with big brands that source their software via huge RFPs that until relatively recently we opted not to participate in. They are a huge amount of work for a gamble.

Now that we’re growing and are no longer in startup mode we have space to reevaluate our place in the market and how we position ourselves.

But at the end of the day, Discourse is open source software and we’re a hosting company. That makes us fundamentally different and we’re very proud of that.

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This is how Discourse promotes itself:

For comparison, here’s the value proposition of Luma:

I think Luma is a good example because it doesn’t even offer a dedicated discussion platform. It’s all about engagement and building a sense of belonging. And that seems to be the gravity center of much community building conversation right now.

I’m not suggesting Discourse should move more into this direction. But I think it’s helpful to see the range of options and recognize that Discourse puts the focus on discussion as the main building block of community.

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One question: for you, are community = social media true?

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What would we solve with this equation?

To me community is a big and growing field. To build meaningful solutions it’s important to have a good overview and be able to position your use case accordingly. The way I understand @oshyan’s concerns is that in his impression Discourse is not offering a first-stop solution for many current use cases. I’d share this impression and I think it’s because long-form discussion is not the main building block of many community strategies now.

But should Discourse put less focus on long-form discussion? Idk :disguised_face:

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