How do you use the Discourse Groups feature to create sub-communities?


(Joel Zaslofsky) #1

Unlike almost all communities who bring people together around a specific niche, the community I run (the Puttytribe) is unified by members who want to build a life around all of their interests. We have passions, skills, and creative outlets that cover just about everything you’ve ever heard of and many that you’ve never heard of before.

At the same time, we have large member segments who want to go deeper together on specific things like graphic design, nutrition, psychology, or yoga. I want to provide a space to connect about these individual topics within the Puttytribe – effectively giving people an environment to pick and choose sub-communities – and I believe the native Discourse Groups functionality would work for us.

However, Discourse doesn’t have documentation (that I know of) about how their Groups feature works and I don’t have any case studies of a community successfully using the Groups feature to break members into sub-groups/sub-communities. I need to be intentional about my design for establishing sub-communities because we did it so poorly on our old platform (Ning) and there are potentially limitless groups that could be created in a community of multipotentialites.

So, my big question is: Do you use the Discourse Groups feature in your community?

If yes, what resources did you lean on to plan how your groups would work? What has worked the way you hoped or continues to frustrate you about the available Discourse Groups features?

Even if you don’t use Discourse Groups, I’d also be grateful for any case studies or resources you can point me to about how to meaningfully and sustainably divide a community into sub-communities. We’re a member-led community and I want to decentralize the creation, administration, and activity in each group if possible.

Thanks in advance for the help!

(Sarah Hawk) #2

I have very recently started experimenting groups at UXMastery – firstly for our bookclub.

It’s valuable for me because I can group @ tag everyone at once and the avatar flair gives them visibility and makes others curious.

I like how you can have closed groups and groups that people can request to join.

Thinking about your use case (as I understand it) there could be a couple of potential things to overcome. Firstly, visibility. The groups aren’t immediately obvious to a new user so you’d either need to customise a homepage, make your primary CTAs go straight to the groups page, or add obvious indicators to the navigation somewhere.

Secondly, dedicated space. Will the groups have corresponding categories or topics? In which case why use groups rather than categories or tags?

I see groups as a great way for people to identify with others with similar interests, but to have visibility they’d have to choose one primary group (the avatar flair only works if you set a primary group).

(tophee) #3

Great question and interesting use case! I asked a similar question on meta recently, maybe it helps:

On my site, whose main purpose is to bring together people who are interested in meetings from different perspectives (rearchers, facilitators, team leaders, event managers,…) and I use groups as a way for people to identify with one or more of these different perspectives on meetings.

One reason to use groups was that this makes it possible (via badges) for people to choose a title (displayed under their name) based on their group membership.

Another reason is what @HAWK already mentioned:

For that to work, you need to make sure to set the default notification status for new group members at least to “tracking”.

When it comes to communicating within the group, it’s probably better to use categories with group specific access settings rather than group messaging.

(Joel Zaslofsky) #4

I agree that visibility is an issue the way Discourse has de-emphasized groups in their base UI. I could easily add a “Groups” main navigation link in our header to draw attention to it.

Or, if it became important enough, I could make joining/viewing a group one of our three CTAs above the folder on our home page.

I think of each group as a category itself. For example, there could be a graphic design group who wants to talk about main topics like 3D animation or tools of the trade like Adobe Photoshop.

Any main topic within a group could be a group specific category, but the maintenance of potentially hundreds of group specific categories is enough to have me rule out the idea unless I have some major blind spot someone wants to point out.

Intriguing. With a community of multipotentialites, it’s almost impossible for a member to pick a primary one of anything.

You bet it helps @tophee! I read the thread and using groups to give members access to specific categories, as a quasi-support ticket workflow, or award specific badges doesn’t appeal/apply to what I have in mind. The group messaging function is important, though.

Is this done at the individual group level or via a Discourse admin global option?

After some more research and absorbing what you and Hawk said, I’m not too impressed with Discourse Groups for our specific use case. I think a small pilot of 2-3 groups is in order after I can work out more of the process to join, create, and administer each group.

I’ll definitely save the WordPress integration for later (or never). :wink:

(Sarah Hawk) #5

So in this case do they create a topic in a catch-all category and tag each other in?

[quote=“JoelZaslofsky, post:4, topic:6313”]
it’s almost impossible for a member to pick a primary one of anything.
[/quote] That’s cool – in a group based community it may not be necessary. You just couldn’t use the flairs.

(Joel Zaslofsky) #6

That’s my plan.

(tophee) #7

It’s in the group settings (for each individual group).

(Janet Swisher) #8

I haven’t used Groups myself, but I know there are some on our Discourse instance here at Mozilla. For example, there is a public “Reps” category for people involved in the Mozilla Reps program, and also a closed group for Reps leadership, because they often need to discuss private or confidential matters.

If your use case is mainly topic areas of interest, it seems like categories would be a better fit. But I don’t know the details of your community or your Discourse setup. I am far from a Discourse expert.