[27 March] What are you working on this week?

Welcome to the new week.

It’s our last week of daylight savings here, which means carnage while I re-establish all my meetings with people in other timezones. Ugh.

This week I’m

  • working on a redesign of our blog page
  • building a sales page for our next course
  • trying to get my superuser project finished before new projects land on my plate

What are you working on this week?

We’re still working on our new community platform proposal. We’ve identified some 70 user stories, have solidified our mission statement, values and description of our purpose. So this week we:

  • Rate/score Workplace (FB) and Ning (our existing platform) against our user stories
  • Identify around 5 other community vendors we want to include in our analysis
  • Start scheduling demos
  • Work on some ROI language for our proposal

We are a non-profit, online educator community, and still have to overcome the budget/ROI question. Are the features and community experience we want for our 2000 online teachers worth the additional cost? For the last 5 years, we have been using a community product (Ning.com) for only $60/month. From the business perspective, why do we need a new platform?, and assuming we do, why can’t we just use Facebook Workplace (which education gets for free) and everyone already knows how to use it?
No matter what platform we go with, I ultimately have to answer the question of why the additional expense. (Currently $750/year; possibly $20-30K/year). It’s not an unreasonable question for our business office to ask, but I’m having a hard time quantifying the value in language they understand.

This sounds interesting. What do you mean by user stories? Do you use them in the way you’d use personas?

Just thinking on other options that won’t cost more than Ning – you and I spoke privately about the disparity between Discourse for community and the blog for content. Is tight integration a requirement for you? It would seem that neither Ning or Facebook would address that either.

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Yes, tight integration is important to us, and in todays scoring activity, I hope/expect that it will become very evident to those we’re trying to convince (and ourselves) that what you say is true. It will also serve to underscore why we are seeking a different platform in the first place.
There are many items in our user stories that FB does really well (features to connect people and easily drive engagement) , so I’m also hopeful that somehow we can clearly demonstrate that while FB reflects many of our core values, it fails to meet some show stopper needs.

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This week I’m spreading some international love and opening a Russian language area on the forums.

If it all goes swimmingly, we’ll probably be launching more language categories.

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Unless Facebook Workplace’s forums are dramatically different from the discussion on Facebook, because it’s freaking impossible to read them. I regularly give up on reading discussions on Facebook that I’m genuinely interested because it takes a zillion clicks to be able to see the discussion. And those are discussions with only a couple dozen messages.

Have you used the Ning downloader recently? For a client I’ve been working with, it’s been nearly impossible to get a working download of the Ning data. If your site gets upgraded to whatever the next version is, you won’t be able to get your data at all, so to me, that’s reason enough to move elsewhere.

With only 2000 members, you could conceivably self-host Discourse for $10-$20/month.

Thanks Jay. Good cannon fodder.

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For my social media class, I’m working on a blog post. My current idea is to talk about badges and gamification. I’m having trouble bringing all the information I’m gathering down to a blog type level.

It’s not that I have too much to say, it’s that I’m reading and learning so much that I can’t choose what to focus on. If anyone has any ideas, even if it’s not on my current topic, I’d love to hear them.

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@Piper_Wilson try and pick the top 3 or 5 learnings… blogs always should be focused on a number of something tangible

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I am getting ready for our internal launch next week, so we are segmenting our target audience, writing email copies and recording a >1min how to video for the new community members. Also working through some last minute UX issues and Content finalization so we actually have something on the community for people to read or engage with.

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I agree with Niki.

I’d pick one primary focus – perhaps intrinsic/extrinsic motivation – and then communicate the 3-5 most important points.

Generally having practical takeaways is useful, but it’s ok to go philosophical – just choose one or the other.

I’m working on figuring out how to do billing with BrainTree (PayPal’s credit card processing branch). Once that’s done, I’ll have all the pieces in place to build a fully automated version of my Discourse install.

Another project that’s in the planning stages is a Discourse hosting site for small/private communities. It’s easy to, say go to wordpress.com and start your blog at myGreatIdea.wordpress.com, but there’s currently no analogous solution for Discourse. With above installer in place, I want to start a service where people can build their own communities on my domain name. The initial pricing would probably be $20/month, but I’d hope to cut that in half down the road a ways.

I keep working on coming up with a better domain that’s something like mypersonalcommunity.com that’s available and under 10 or so characters.

Oh, but this week, if I get a proof-of-concept page on my little app created, I’ll be pretty elated.

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Wow, that’s looking great Jay. Love the clear step-by-step walk through of the steps.

Basically, my script does a standard cloud-install.

The magic is that if you provide it with API keys for Digital Ocean and Mailgun, it goes to Mailgun and

  1. Creates the domain for sending mail
  • gets the SMTP password
  • gets the DNS settings needed to get mailgun to approve sending from the domain

Then on Digital Ocean, it

  1. Creates the droplet
  • puts in all of the required DNS changes (for people who use DO for their DNS)

Then it builds a script to

  • install docker
  • set up automatic updates & reboot automatically when it’s required
  • run ./discourse-setup and spit in all of the answers to its questions
  • reboot

And then it sends an email (that looks something like this with detailed instructions about what you need to do (set up DNS, get Mailgun to check that DNS is set up) and handy links (e.g., to mailgun’s logs so that you can see you failed to give them a credit card number).

Right now, what happens when someone purchases a US$99 install from me, I get an email that I paste into a terminal. I’m hoping that Real Soon Now, I’ll be taken out of the loop and reduce the price (by half, maybe?) and increase sales (by 4X? 1000X?).

OK. Back to trying to figure out BtrainTree and Rails.

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This week I had the time to work on a new project, yesterday I launched the first conference for my community :slight_smile:


Looks great, you may be competing with cheaper Discourse providers.

Indeed. Discoursehosting.com has a $20 per month offering. Reclaim hosting has a $10 per month offering.

Whether I can find a niche that they aren’t filling remains to be seen.

I use DiscourseHosting for one of my installs. Their service isn’t very good, so if your support is excellent then you’ll be ahead of the game.

They are also slow with updates and seriously limit the plugins that you’re allowed (which Discourse also do unless you’re on an Enterprise plan), which I find frustrating. Supporting people to self-host will resolve that.


@Nikoletta_Harrold and @HAWK - Thank you. :slight_smile:

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Some great things happening out there this week, sorry I missed the beginning of this weeks post.

I know this will be fairly retrospective now but my week has predominantly been focused on the offline angle of our Community in terms of drumming up registrations for our main Community event in the UK in May time, Community Live.

I’m also just on the train on the way back from our first ever UK User Group meet up which went really well and tomorrow will be mainly following up on that in the online version with meeting notes, slides welcomes, thank you’s, connections etc.

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