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

This might be a bigger indictment of the internet today moreso than a commentary on anything Discourse is doing.


Totally agree and it is already under discussion.


And one such need is the chronic care peer support communities that I tried to raise as a topic last year … There’s some unlisted attempts at that use case… @simon R U any closer to a forum to discuss ‘the what hasn’t been envisioned yet’¿

Chronic care communities have member empathy, they don’t have as much need for discourse’s surveillance tools, would benefit from thought given to medical info handling, have more need of retrieval of ‘shared wisdom’, open avenues of monetisation from data aggregation & anonymisation - amongst other tailorings & purpose driven tailorings.

There are a few PhD topics in the sociology of curation of culture etc


I only partially agree with this. I think Discourse is best in class for detailed, considered discussion. In particular Developer communities. By making it more accessible to a general audience there is a risk of making it worse for this core user group. Then what platform caters for that user group instead? In my opinion there isn’t one.

I guess the question could really be, what does Discourse want to be in the end? An all encompassing conversation platform - chat, forum, voice and video calls, and whatever the future throws? Or does it want to focus on a particular form of conversation?

I noticed last year at CMX that there are many community platforms, but many of them are focussing on connecting people rather than facilitating them for conversation. By this I mean the engagement and interaction level is the focus, rather than a particularly meaningful discussion. Many of these platforms are design to be fun and easy and appeal to as many people as possible. Discourse on the other hand started out with a different goal - Civilised Discussion. It’s also the only platform I can think of with such prolific technical “guard rails” to facilitate this. It basically forces that to happen unless you choose to moderate it differently.

I would love to see more people take to Discourse, but I would hate to see it deviate heavily from that original course and dilute itself into becoming something like Circle. Circle already exists, Facebook already exists, Twitter is debateable. I don’t see Discourse as a Community platform, or a social media platform. They tend to focus on attention, connection, fun and engagement. I see it as a collaborative problem solving platform where community is a very nice side effect.

I love what Discourse is, and would love to see them continue to grow in the direction of Academic Discussion, Support Forums, Internal and External Developer Communities, and of course - Personal Journals :sweat_smile:

Other use cases exist, but those are the ones where I personally see Discourse as best in class. It would be very sad if those strengths were compromised and diminished as part of becoming more accessable to use cases that may be better suited to another product anyway.


Enthusiast communities too. By no means restricted to those with a developer mindset!


At the risk of seeming combative - which I very much don’t intend - I think you’re making a bit of a “straw man” argument here (and I’m sure that’s not intentional). It seems to me that you’re putting forth a number of comparisons and presumptions that create an unappealing picture of the changes being suggested for Discourse, but not addressing the very real potential for a more nuanced approach that is not so polarized.

This is not a debate between “Make Discourse into Facebook!” or “Keep Discourse the way it is!”. Nobody (I hope) wants Discourse to be Facebook, to prioritize shallow “engagement”, etc. If you go back 5 years and have the same discussion, you could very well bring up things like adding Chat or multi-emoji “reaction” features as potential ills that CDCK should avoid so it doesn’t end up like Facebook, and yet here we are: Discourse has successfully incorporated both, and for the better of the platform and all communities that run on it. If we want to make the future of Discourse better and more successful than the present, we need to think about and discuss changes like that to its features and approach that will preserve its best parts while expanding its capabilities and reach in healthy, positive ways.

We can’t just prioritize keeping things as they are or the platform and community will stagnate and die. And I think CDCK’s moves to implement some of these features in recent years demonstrates that they can be trusted to find good ways of doing so that are compatible with the underlying philosophy of the company and the Discourse project as a whole. I choose to have faith in CDCK, and at the same time I do think they need help to see some of the potential for change and the real need there is for it.

I 100% agree that this is in large part a discussion that needs to be based on what Discourse/CDCK “wants to be”. That said it is definitely not just a choice between what Discourse is now and “an all encompassing conversation platform with chat, forum, voice and video calls”. There are certainly some people that want to see Discourse integrate voice + video, and there may even be some 3rd party plugins that make this possible, but it is not a focus I would ever suggest for Discourse! Nor do I think many others here are seriously suggesting that. So I think bringing up this “kitchen sink” approach doesn’t really represent a serious option being considered here.

Is there no possibility in your mind that “civilized discussion” could also be friendlier, less technical-seeming, easier to use? Is there no middle ground between the engagement-focused approach (which I agree is unhealthy, both for users, and for the resulting discussion/interaction), and the more dense, formalized feel/approach of Discourse? Does the feedback here from people who obviously very much like Discourse, but also find it at times confusing, overly-technical, etc. not seem worth trying to understand and address?

Circle and Facebook aren’t open source or self-host. There are few if any options that do what FB/Circle/etc. do that are open source or even self-host. If you’re aware of other platforms that have the positives of Discourse, but orient more toward “ease of use”, etc., I’d be curious to know about them. I’m not really aware of many clear candidates. Forem is probably the one that comes to mind for me.

The “focus on attention, connection, fun and engagement” is a choice, not an intrinsic bundle of necessary things that Discourse has to choose to either adopt wholesale or reject wholesale. It’s also important to recognize that those factors in themselves are not necessarily bad or good, nor inherently destructive to “civilized discourse”. The approach that most commercial platforms take in relation to those qualities is financially-motivated, and in particular numbers and advertising driven, and that is what I think tends to bias the implementations (e.g. Facebook) toward the negative, toward shallow “engagement”, viewing conflict and hot takes as useful (engagement! :money_mouth_face:), etc. But there are other ways to view “engagement”, “connection”, “fun”, etc. that are, I believe, very compatible with the Discourse ethos and goals. And I think Discourse could stand to be a little more fun! In fact so it seems did/does CDCK: the rich emoji “reactions” I mentioned before are a clear sign of this.

Like you I love the core ethos of Discourse and CDCK. I am here because I see Discourse as one of the few available options for a discussion/community platform that operates in a truly ethical, user-oriented way, and does so at a professional level such that it can be relied on by companies and other orgs who understandably want to know that their platform of choice isn’t likely to just be abandoned tomorrow. CDCK walks the line between financial needs and community needs very well as a successful open source project. But Discourse can also be more enjoyable and easier to use for its current, core audience, and in the process of becoming so it might even be able to reach an even greater audience. If it could do so, without compromising its core values and the ethos behind its interaction model, that would - I think - be a benefit for CDCK and for all of us! I hope you can see the potential for that too.


Ok, but CDCK definitely does. It’s the main things on their home page.


I like this take :slight_smile: (even if not everyone will agree)


There must be some perspective effect whereby our own use of a product (or platform) seems to us to be the typical use. If so, it must be worth overcoming it. It’s a platform for topics and responses, which supports categories and restricted access, which has search but does not have an algorithmic feed. It can be used in many ways. It can be a support platform, or a collaborative platform, or a discussion platform, or a community platform. Or more.


True. My view is admitedly wrong in this, it is a community platform.

What shapes my view is the people around me in big corporate who attribute the term community to:

  • social media - share anything with anyone, minimal/no moderation
  • audience - tell people about our stuff, marketing.

These are very different flavours of community, which facilitate a much cheaper, short term, disposable form of engagement.

I get upset by this because I feel like putting Discourse in the same bracket as audience tools like Twitter, and social media like LinkedIn and Facebook, really doesn’t do it justice. For example, I’ve spent more time considering this single response, than any other response on any other platform.

Hence this belief:


In a previous discussion, I found these words to express my thoughts:


For better or worse, “community” is the term that non-technical people use now. Previously forum, bulletin board, message board, discussion board, bbs… The product has gone through many name changes as it has evolved to become more mainstream.

I think it’s very possible to facilitate healthy discussion and still be simple and easy to use. That is what the community platform I build does. But Discourse, from the beginning, has taken a different path of being extremely feature packed. Cramming tons of features and options into a software inherently makes it more complex and harder to use. One can’t have it both ways.


Thank you so much for taking the time to share a bit about your experience here. It’s also certainly brought new life to this discussion.

I’d be happy to talk more about it with you, and you’re also welcome to share more here, but this post alone so far has already been valuable, so thank you.

Yes, we certainly value making Discourse flexible enough to meet a broad variety of use cases. That said, we think there are reasonable approaches we can take to reduce complexity. There are some low hanging fruit here where things are unnecessarily complicated that we can simplify with some straightforward time and effort. The idea @bloomexperiment shared is another example of the kind of thing we’re thinking about:

I have been thinking along very similar lines, for what it’s worth.

Some things we’ve (re-)discovered in our recent research around use cases is that communities don’t fit in a box.

Moving some of this setup from being whole site setup to being setup for a smaller space within the site (a group or category, or some combination of the two) can help address that. A given community could have a space for more social stuff and another for working on a project and another for answering support questions.

This would also allow communities to experiment more.

We can certainly continue this in the topic you started, but wanted to acknowledge it here first.

I appreciate your taking the time to share a few example of things that you think may be worth improving for the overall user experience for community members in Discourse. @lindsey and the team that was formerly focused on chat are now looking at this space more broadly and there is plenty of overlap with what you’ve listed here and what they’re starting to look at more closely.

:heart: thank you for highlighting this. It is something that we also revisited recently. Along with civilized discussion, we place particular value on enabling communities to get lasting value out of their conversations and the content they collectively create.

:bowing_man: always nice to get your insights here @oshyan. We are certainly continuing to invest in making Discourse something people really desire to use (admins and community members alike). We know there’s plenty to do here and always will be!

We talk about this on occasion as well. There are times when I see Discourse more generally as a communication platform. We use it ourselves for collaboration and are always happy to see topics like these: Why you should use Discourse internally for your company/team instead of Slack (4 years use case)

An interesting framing for this is broadening the value of community itself. @HAWK gave a great talk recently about using Discourse for collaboration, framing it in terms of the value of building an internal community.

I strongly recommend watching it if you haven’t had a chance to do so.

(She’ll also be at Running Remote in Portugal in a few weeks to tell a similar story).


I think this is very much the case. I would suggest that it appears to be a natural human tendency, and it takes conscious effort to see things with less of this natural bias.

Yes, precisely!

Sadly I think the real problem here is corporate interests coopting the “Community” term in arguably unreasonable ways. If you follow Rosie Sherry (Rosieland) this mischaracterization of what “community” means is widespread. I think in some cases it’s just ignorance, but often I think it is a somewhat intentional attempt to capitalize on and gain control over what is otherwise a more user-centric, independent phenomenon by nature.

So while I definitely share your concern there, I don’t think the answer is to try to define Discourse’s purpose more narrowly, or with different words. Instead I hope we can all push back against the commercial interpretation of this important word! We all, as humans, need “community”, and we can’t let companies decide what that means!

And thanks @mcwumbly for that in-depth reply. That’s very encouraging. :slight_smile: