To allow or not to allow video?


I’ve built and managed 4 communities for software startups, using Jive-x, Telligent, Discourse, and Higher Logic, then another using Discourse again (which is become my fave… for a lot of reasons!). With their millions of dollars of funding, they often had a mentality of “money isn’t an issue…” just do what it takes to make it work and create the best customer experience.

I would think that customer experience should always be the highest priority when we’re trying to address a challenge.

A few days ago I launched my 6th online community, again using Discourse (3rd time). I’m running a private beta and have created a “Founder’s Forum” where an exclusive, hand-picked group of about 70 people are collaborating as we collaborate and prepare for the public launch.

Since this is a passion project I’m fronting the costs for my servers and all the space/badwidth that we’ll be using. Right now it’s cheap, at only $10/month. As the amount of storage space that we use, increases, so does my cost.

I plan to monetize eventually but the initial focus is just on providing value and giving folks is this particular community of practice and interest, a place to talk, and share things.

Historically this group of people have been used to using a Facebook group as their “forum” and are used to posting tons of pictures and videos. But to be honest, a lot of the video content is stuff of low value and a lot of it may not ever be watched after the initial post.

I want to encourage posting images and discourage videos from being uploaded, so I’ve restricted files types to the following:

Monosnap 2020-03-02 14-13-26

In the Founder’s Forum, we talk about, as forum founders, setting the stage for the community culture and engagement.

I have a couple of people who have posted a new discussion topic asking if there’s a way to upload iPhone videos. (I could allow additional file types and change my file upload limits) and then another person chimed in and said that allowing videos would be cool. He also went on to suggest it would be great to share a 30-second clip to show off a certain skill, etc.

The Conundrum

So my conundrum is this… there are already great tools out there for hosting the video. They work flawlessly. They have best-in-class video players. And they embed perfectly on Discourse forums. I want to set the precedent that users upload vids to their favorite video service, and then embed them in our forums.

But we all know that’s not a great user experience, compared to just being able to directly upload from your phone, into the forum.

These types of decisions become a lot harder when you’re in control of the community, and the money it takes to sustain the tech stack you’re using.

I’d love any insight from my fellow community leaders out there!

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If money is your concern, you might move your assets to S3 or Digital Ocean Spaces.
Also, moving your backups to S3/spaces will save you a bunch of space (by default each backup has all of your uploads too!). If you do that, then your current 50GB should be enough for a good while.

The bigger problem is that increasing the upload limit to a size where you can upload video of much size is not very easy. Making people upload stuff to something like YouTube is probably the way to go, though for one community I contrived to have them upload video to a Dropbox folder that I’d then manually create topics for. Another thing that I’ve not tried but looks really interesting is I’d love to see a plugin for their product that would upload to S3, but that’s probably several day’s work at a minimum (and I mean for someone who already knows how to do it).


Wow, this is great feedback, Jay! :raised_hands: If someone ever has a Discourse question, they can always count on a thoughtful and accurate response from you. Thanks for taking the time to reply.

I’m currently on a DO droplet. Idk the difference between that, and “Spaces”

Here’s my current plan:

I’d be interested to know more about your Dropbox upload workflow @Jay_Pfaffman. and this MASV looks sweet but I prob wouldn’t have the resources to pay for that custom integration for video uploads, right now. :thinking:

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My site is very media rich, and I can tell you that while Amazon AWS S3 is not bad for storage of digital assets, it can become expensive for bandwidth (especially for video). Amazon S3 is not bad for static storage, but it’s really not for dynamic streaming.

It is absolutely not easy to do video … modern users expect YouTube: a custom video player, GIF’s and or moving thumbnails, encoding at different sizes for different devices, adaptive bitrate streaming, immediate streaming and cloud processing, etc. I’ve investigated this with my platform (Invision Community), and I keep coming back to the solution that you’ve done: make users use a third-party video service like YouTube, Facebook, Vimeo, Google whatever, and then link to the video on my community. I personally hate it because content is stored offsite and it’s a horrible user experience, but video’s complexity is significantly higher than images.


This is exactly the type of response I was hoping for. Somebody who has kind of been down both paths and what their journey has been, and what has led them to do what they are currently doing. Your personal experience here is invaluable. This is the way I’m leaning.

I’d love to hear if any others have had similar experience.

If someone feels differently, I’d love to hear why they have gone a different route and chose to favor user experience over the types of pointa @joelr meantioned

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I have no experience specifically integrating video with a site, but I think it’s probably a valuable engagement tool. With that, I can recommend cloudinary. I worked with them in a non-community aspect in a previous job and really liked the people there and I think their product is nice. Not sure how you would integrate it specifically but their apis are pretty nice.

Its highly recommended to integrate videos with the site has they help to increase the engagement and clarity about a website