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

That is actually quite interesting. In Nordic countries (Sweden, Norway, Finland, Danmark, Iceland is too small to compare) chat is behind high barrier. But that depends and the situation is different when there is ”real community”, as F1, icehockey etc.

I know this is going kind of to wrong direction, but generally that should keep clearly in the minds all the time: here is strong anglo-american bias when someone is talking about things like what a community means.

But global business should understand that, and they mostly don’t.

Value of Discourse is a fact that it can be tuned to every culture, because it is ”just” an editable platform.

Sorry, continue please. I don’t remember anymore what my point was :rofl:


My concern with Chat (when integrated with a forum) is it can steal content from the permanent (and search indexed, SEO improving) record. Rather than create good quality permanent forum posts, someone says something useful and interesting on chat and it gets lost. If chat is not available, the only option is to make a forum post. Dilemma!


Well, most of chat content is just noise, and it is better there than on forum. And for more valuable content we have option to start a new topic and save that chat message that way, So, there is no dilemma at all :smile:

Chat is actually quite good channel to keep topics cleaner. If users are using it. Chat is not reallu success story here (is it visible for anybody or just for us few?)


I disagree. There are unplanned conversations that happen on one of my forums that turn out really interesting and at present they are captured as posts. The boring stuff can be dropped, deleted as low value posts if you need to if properly moderated.

If I were to facilitate chat, I can imagine some valuable opinions and subjects being broached on chat, discussed, then lost. It’s not like someone’s going to decide: “oh what I just said was really interesting, i’m going to go on the forum and open a Topic about that” or “Oh what Dave said was really cool, I’m going to go to the forum and start a Topic on that”. Because they already talked about it and have better things to do than to laboriously reproduce and translate their chat conversations into other mediums.

So yeah, I believe there is a real dilemma for some communities.


On one hand I don’t think we need to capture everything from a chat. Just like we wouldn’t capture everything from an IRL conversation.

However, as a community builder you can lead by example and just start the conversations on the forum yourself, perhaps tag people in. Yes, it takes extra work, but in time other people might do the same.

I’m always taking notes or saving chats with intentions to log them in a forum or more permanent type place. I don’t always get around to creating them but the intention is there. It’s a great practice to have.


Yes I agree. (Yet I’m really glad you said that useful advice on a Post :sweat_smile:) . Moderation activity and community leader behaviour could have a real benefit in this type of scenario. The challenge is manpower, having enough motivated community leaders and enough people at hand who know what they are doing.

(PS Apologies, I’ve probably helped take this Topic, off-Topic … feel free to break this tangent into its own Topic if thought useful)


So nice to see you here @rosiesherry !

I tend to agree, but at the same time I don’t think the “low-key” presence of Discourse is confined to just those folks. That thread was sort of the triggering moment for me to start this topic, but it’s a feeling that has been growing for about as long as I’ve known of Discourse, and certainly as long as I’ve been personally implementing it.

On the one hand there are some big and successful installations in particular contexts like software support forums (Figma, Airtable, Coda, etc.). On the other hand its use in a broader “Community” context is where I see a lot less consideration of it, and my original question here was whether that is actually appropriate (i.e. Discourse is not generally the right tool for these people wanting “community platforms” to build with), or whether it was more of a missed opportunity. I.e. Is there notable work to be done in clarifying Discourse’s capabilities and potential in that area? Obviously it’s not the right tool for all those needs, but I think for some, and with the coming integration of chat it will cover even more requirements.

Agreed, this is what I see too. And I think the factors you mention are notable, particularly how easy it is to paywall. This is the kind of thing I wonder if Discourse could have more (clear) functionality for. Particularly in its officially hosted instances.

This is definitely good! :tada: (and I agree) But what makes someone think “forum”, specifically? I have my thoughts on this, of course. But I’m curious how you think of it. And more broadly, is it appropriate for Discourse to be part of conversations like the one I referenced (and many others like it where it seems, to me, to be underrepresented)? “Community” is a big buzzword and thus a goal for many companies now, so people are seeking tools. Should Discourse be more widely recommended than it is? That, again, is my principle consideration in starting this discussion.

Oh, this is an interesting comment! I’m curious how you might define that different kind of content. As a community builder, if you were working with a company or organization that wanted to “build a community”, in what circumstance or with what set of needs/goals might you recommend Forum vs. Discourse?

Yes, I think this could be more well-promoted (and perhaps further fleshed-out in functionality?).

Most definitely! And I’m glad you are approaching your role with all that in mind, I’m excited for the future in this regard. :slight_smile:

These are definitely big concerns that to me speak very directly to the problems with the current state of things (e.g. separate Discourse forum and Discord chat, etc.). However I’m excited that the pre-alpha chat plugin seems designed to at least help address some of this, to the degree that a technical solution can solve the problem (short of AI trying to figure out what is good content and auto-move it to a topic :smile:). I’m not sure either of you have experimented yet with the chat plugin, but essentially Staff users (or anyone with appropriate permissions) can select one or more messages from a Chat and copy them into a new or existing topic It’s very quick and easy, actually. I believe with an appropriate permissions config the author themselves could do it as well, at least for their own message(s).

Now this is the technical side of the solution. By itself it’s not going to get people to move their content into a more archived location. But at least making it significantly easier should, I hope, encourage the more dedicated participants to highlight some of their content in that way. I actually think some incentive to do so can come from having the ability to sort of “promote” things they say. They may not set out to post a notable chat message, but at least in some of the communities I am part of (e.g. Obsidian), you will often see these really epic single messages (or set of messages from the same user), that very well could justify being a Topic. So I’m hopeful people might actually use that capability if it’s given to them.

Even if that’s not the case, though, there is good potential for a well-moderated forum + chat setup to have staff that can do this. If a community decides to enable/allow chat, presumably it is with an understanding that there will be some level of moderation (to maintain whatever community standards are already maintained in the forum). This could increase the burden on staff, to be sure, it remains to be seen, and so a rebalancing of staff resources may be necessary in some or many cases. But if that is done effectively, moderators should be there to see and “promote” good content into the appropriate places a good amount of the time. And with Discourse + chat they will have good tools to do so!

Whether or not all that happens, at least having the integration and tools available to very easily and quickly copy content from chats to more permanent content is a big step forward. It remains to be seen whether it will be enough to start some notable number of communities/orgs adopting Discourse as a single platform for chat + forum. But I am hopeful.


I’d say it’s about more direct ways of connecting. Like jumping in on a chat and joining an event. Now you can build an online community that has events as it’s main offer for connecting. That’s how the field has widened and Discourse seems to be placed less central as a solution.

Well, I do talk about Discourse, but I believe it’s often not the best solution for two main reasons:

  • the frontend doesn’t offer a modern look out-of-the-box. That has been brought up repeatedly, so I don’t even want to get into it much. But yeah, rounded buttons etc make a huge difference when people scan for potential solutions.
  • I do custom designs for Discourse. So personally I even don’t bother much about the frontend. With the right budget you can make Discourse look almost any way a client wants. I still don’t always recommend it and that’s because the backend is overly complex. In my experience Discourse only makes sense if there’s resources for at least 1 FTE community manager position. But I’ve seen managers struggling even after 1 year with Discourse. To realize some setups, you need to navigate the backend in intricate ways.

At least me I’d recommend Discourse more often if the backend would offer

  • a simple and an advanced interface
  • an interface that’s directed to who’s actually using and working with communities. Discourse is built around moderators, admins and users - but nowadays it’s Community Managers looking for solutions for their members - and that’s not just terminology.

By this I mean places like Forem, and Indie Hackers (which is custom built) the content generally steers towards educational content rather than ‘help or discussion’ content. Often it is more sharing content to build an audience and reputation over things like community, helping people or real/deeper discussions.


I appreciate you sharing this. It’s not quite how I view this term, but it’s useful perspective.

Yyyep, same. Fortunately it is at least very well setup for customization. Even I, a CSS illiterate, can do OK. :laughing:

This is really important and perhaps even dismaying feedback.

Yes, I’d love to see this, and have been thinking similarly.

Interesting, yeah. I think I agree with this but would be curious to know more of what you mean when you say “that’s not just terminology”. Maybe off-topic for this topic though? Up to you.

I feel a bit like the title change has made this topic a little vague or confusing and as a result perhaps been missed by some other voices that could be interesting to hear from. I know I can change it again myself, but first I’m curious if any other participants here feel the same. It’s probably too late to make much difference anyway. :smile:


10 posts were split to a new topic: I’m considering moving a writing community to Discourse

I’ve never heard of Circle before, and from what I see on their website, it’s a paid service w/o a self-hosting option. So, I presume most users start using it by purchasing a subscription.

When similar users open discourse.org, they see the pricing of $100 upwards, which is unaffordable for small users & communities like the people here describe. Let’s also not forget that for most regular users, the word “open-source” is an empty fancy buzzword, so they cannot follow the implication open source → I can run it for free. I personally know quite a few people who, after hearing about Discourse, visited the website and quit thinking, “it’s a $100+ service”.

I don’t blame CDCK and don’t even want to argue that they should make the idea “you can self-host it for free” more explicit; this is only to provide some additional context/perspective.


Well I think it is quite obvious


I should have said “make a fourth column which says free in bold” because as you may know, regular users nowadays don’t read text and only occasionally read titles/bold.

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But of course hosting it yourself is never ‘free’: it requires some paid infrastructure. It requires some work and some learning, both of which take up your time which is in lieu of other potential paid work.

Running a community well is particularly time consuming.

But as I’ve said before, it’s a very rewarding pursuit and a gateway for learning a lot of online, engineering and commercial skills.


How would you rewrite the first column then?

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And it looks like it is also without a take-your-data-to-another-forum option as well, so if you community starts there, it will also die there.


What would you assume is affordable for small users and communities like the ones being discussed here?


I’m sorry, I’ve just noticed that the pricing block at the bottom of the landing page differs from the one on the pricing page[1]: Discourse pricing | Discourse - Civilized Discussion. Any reason why the two differ?

Of course! That’s why I said I don’t want to argue for that because for many (many) people paying someone to make things work™ is preferential over figuring things out.

My experience with US users/customers is very limited; I’d guess ~$20-30 as a starting plan in Europe and $10-20 in Asia[2]

On a related note, some people who I worked with and who considered having an online platform for discussion rarely had a clear vision of what would make their users want to contribute to the community (i.e. why the forum will live and grow) and/or whether it’d really be suitable in their case. Those were small companies/groups and the way they approached any software/web solution wasn’t too different from: “X sounds cool, why don’t we try X?” and both self-hosting and $100 plan require a bit more commitment than just desire to “test it out”[3]

To reiterate, my main point is: Discourse is an ideal (and maybe even unparalleled) tool for people who clearly understand why they need a community and are ready to dedicate themselves to growing those communities. But most startups/small groups are not like those people, so it shouldn’t be surprising that most people don’t talk about Discourse.

  1. and I thought by obvious you referred to the “whether self-hosting” part, but also lol on me not noticing this :melting_face: :melting_face: :melting_face: :melting_face: ↩︎

  2. Just to be clear: I totally understand the business model of Discourse, and again I don’t say it’s a bad thing that there’s no cheap plan. ↩︎

  3. the 14-day trial is enough to test if discourse solves your clearly formulated tasks but not enough to see if discourse can contribute to your general goals if you don’t have a clear understanding of what you need ↩︎


Better late than never, a response here to @hiddenseal’s very helpful post:

We fixed this - thanks for pointing it out!

In case you missed it, we recently launched a new basic plan at $50/month, available at 50% off for a limited time. See Our new Basic Plan is now available. Try it out today!

This is a helpful insight. I think I agree with you. Let’s see if this changes with the new basic plan which puts discourse in reach of these kinds of people, changes we’re making to discourse to try to improve the experience for new site owners, as well as changes we’ve been making recently to the website.