Transferring Community of Hackers from Slack to Discourse


(nick morin) #1

Hello FeverBee community! My name is Nick and I am the marketing director for Hack Arizona, the largest collegiate hackathon in the southwest united states. My team has hosted two hackathons year to date, and we are interested in transferring our community of hackers (attendees of event) from Slack over to Discourse, which would be hosted on our website.

Goals:

  1. Increase the amount of communication with our attendees between the annual hackathon (next hackathon is in Jan. 2017)
  2. Grow our community of hackers beyond the students that have attended our hackathon, to include students interested in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.
  3. Offer more resources to our students (educational tech talks and job opportunities with our sponsor companies)

Current Status: we have researched the discourse platform, interviewed attendees on what they look for in an online community, and now we just need to put everything together and launch.

Resources: we have the team needed to put together the discourse and manage the community (myself!), and it will be hosted on our website.

The Problem: we currently communicate with our hackers on Slack, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and Email, but we have trouble reaching everyone on one unified platform.

The Ask: how can we unite all of our hackers on Discourse in order to increase the communication and grow our community beyond only previous attendees of our hackathon?

Thank you for all your advice and support!
NM


(Sarah Hawk) #2

Hey @nickmorin – welcome on board. There are a number people here that will be able to offer advice around Discourse launches (@erlend_sh works with Team Discourse, @jomaxro is a CompSci major working in a relatively recently launched Discourse community, among others), but I think perhaps it might be smart to check in around your goals and objectives first.

It looks like you have the basics already. Technical capability, a group of founding members, and a tech savvy audience.

What do you perceive the core objective of the community to be? I ask because if the objective is to streamline communications, that will serve the business but not necessarily your audience (who are already on Facebook, Slack, Twitter etc for other reasons and may not want to add one more habit to their day). You could potentially hit a wall with buy in. What is it that would motivate them to move to another platform (and to continue to engage)?

Perhaps a more direct way to ask the question is have you asked your audience if this is something that they want?

If your objective is to open the communication up to a wider audience that may not use social media, or to stimulate deeper engagement – say with conversations and support around the events, then Discourse sounds like a solid plan.

How did you get to this point in your decision process?

It’s important to establish a clear concept (and motivating factor) before you start building.


(Joshua Rosenfeld) #3

Thanks @HAWK for the mention, and welcome aboard @nickmorin! While I can give all sorts of tips and tricks about Discourse, I am not actually an admin on my site (just a moderator), so you will know just as much about the server side stuff as I do. That being said, if you run into any issues, be sure to post over on meta.discourse.org and there will be many people who can help.

As for using Discourse as community platform, I think it is a great system to use. Some advantages of Discourse:

  1. It’s modern. Both in design and looks. As a college student I know how much we all, particularly CS majors, hate poorly designed and looking websites. The Discourse devs are top notch, and very open to feedback, especially security related. Being open source, they frequently accept pull requests from community members to fix problems, improve performance, etc.
  2. It works everywhere. Discourse was designed with mobile as a feature, not as an afterthought. Discourse works in any modern web browser, both on a full sized computer, and a 4" smartphone.
  3. Email works too. If you have students who don’t want to both creating another account, Discourse supports reply by email, and will automatically create a staged account for them. If they choose to log in later, all their email replies are already theirs.
  4. Extensible. Almost every visual element in Discourse can be customized with a little CSS (look at the difference between feverbee, meta, and Stonehearth), and custom plugins can be added to extend features. Being a hackathon, you might want to look into adding custom user profile fields for things like team, or college.

Hope this helps!


(David McClure) #4

I have been using Discourse for 3 years as a user and off and on Admin of a couple instances. I also use Slack on a number of projects.

I don’t think they are mutually exclusive. I think they can actually complement each other fairly well.

Discourse is great for longer posts, being searchable, and linking to existing content.

Slack is great for high-frequency back and forth discussion that is more fleeting and ephemeral.

Consider what kinds of content and interactions you think belong in each place and encouraging people to move to the appropriate space when a conversation goes to far in one direction or the other on the “wrong” platform.

For example

In Slack:
“Hey, this is a great conversation. When you figure things out, it’d be awesome if you could post a summary over on the forum: http://ourforum.ourdomain.com

In Discourse:
“I think we might be misunderstanding each other and there’s a lot of chatter right now that others might not be interested in. Maybe we can take this back and forth to Slack for a few minutes and then bring it back here when we get closer to the same page.”


The ephemeral nature of Slack (vs forums)
(Erlend Sogge Heggen) #5

I was gonna write super helpful things but everyone else beat me to it :stuck_out_tongue: In short…

This is the #1 challenge when adding yet another platform to the mix. You’ve established a lot of overlapping channels of communication vying for users’ attention. There’s nothing inherently wrong about this, but it demands a very effective onboarding strategy if you want to establish a central hub for all this distributed activity.

That’s a good goal. Hopefully your reason for trying to solve it with Discourse is that you’ve spotted trends like:

  • Users are posting long form content on short form mediums
  • Users are coming back to recurring threads of conversation
  • Users are exchanging tips & tricks with their peers

(Sarah Hawk) #6

Hey @nickmorin – how are you progressing with this? Any new challenges? Any interesting insights?