The ephemeral nature of Slack (vs forums)

Continuing the discussion from Transferring Community of Hackers from Slack to Discourse:

a few more thoughts on the topic:

Discourse vs. Slack

Finding the right place for a discussion

  • On Slack, discussions are separated into different channels. This shares many of the same problems as groups in email - it’s not clear which channels exist, which ones are still active, and where a particular discussion should take place.
  • On Discourse, discussions will be visible to everyone so it doesn’t matter as much which category you choose when a topic is created. And if it seems like a topic should later be moved to another category, it’s easy to do so.

Keeping discussions focused

  • On Slack, discussions can get interwoven when there are multiple conversations happening at the same time. This makes them difficult to follow at best, but also puts a cap on the number of topics that can be discussed at any one time.
  • On Discourse, each topic has its own thread. Any number of topics can be discussed simultaneously. There may be some natural segues in and out of tangents, but indicators and the ability to quote other posts in-line help to show the flow of a discussion in a way that makes it easy to follow.

Discussions can evolve over a longer period of time

  • On Slack, discussions are pretty much over when they scroll off the page. WIthout that context, restarting a discussion that took place a few days ago is difficult, let alone a few months ago.
  • On Discourse, it is easy to continue discussions over any period of time. New members can even pick up on a conversation that was started by a someone who is no longer with the community. Indicators show when there are large gaps in time between posts to help make it clear when this takes place.

When would Slack still be preferred?

For getting ‘Quick Answers’

  • On Slack, discussions benefit from the high-frequency model of group chat, where each participant can help navigate with clarifying questions and responses. It serves as a great tool in this regard for getting a “quick answer” from the collective intelligence in the channel.

How can Slack and Discourse benefit each other?

####There is a natural flow between Chat on Slack and Discussion on Discourse

  • Discourse and Slack can work well together though. The answers to a quick question may be an existing post on Discourse someone can link to.
  • A discussion that starts on Slack may generate deeper thoughts better expressed in a long-form medium like Discourse. After authoring a post on Discourse, a link can be dropped in the right Slack channel to inform people.

Just posted this at Meta:

Something I think worth mentioning is that Slack displays a preview of Discourse links posted, in a similar way Discourse’s onebox works. For Stonehearth, the community has access to the public Discourse, and the mods can have chats “offline” on Slack. We tend to use Slack in a similar way to how Meta staff seems to use whispers. Someone will copy a link to a post into Slack, everyone will have context, and we can have quick back and forth discussion before posting publicly on the Discourse.

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I’ve split this out into a new topic because I think it’s an important conversation.

Last week I reached out to some founding members that had been absent for a while (in another community that I manage). One responded with this:

Are you aware of Designer Hangout (the UX slack channel?)

It has thousands of UXers in one place, who are all talking about various topics. It’s quick, active, and you have access to lots of people with varying expertise. In short, I wonder if a forum is going to be much use in this climate - or whether the time/energy would be better put into other areas.

Sorry that it doesn’t sound too positive, I just fear that forums are not as important as they once were.

I agree with @mcwumbly that they don’t need to be mutually exclusive – we’re trialling private Slack channels with our enterprise clients, which we certainly don’t want to cannibalise this community – but I’m interested to hear from others.

How much value do you get from a forum in searching for existing info, vs getting an immediate answer?

I’ve been a big advocate of group chat for 10 years too in every organization I’ve been involved with. I’ve tried IRC, Google Hangouts, Hipchat and now Slack.

It amazes me how Slack has taken off recently. (And conversely how group chat never really had as much of a hold before).

I think that goes to show that people really need to see it to believe it… and that goes for Discourse or some other forum as well.

I think there is a good chance that a forum related to the UX Slack channel you mentioned could thrive. But it would take serious effort to get it off the ground before a critical mass of the participants would really see the value in it.

It’s already at that point. I’d be really interested to know what the lurker stats are like in a channel like that.

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