Using Discourse instead of Slack for the community

I’ll state it again, as it’s important: this is not really an issue of the used chat tool. The problems I discribed persist because of the chat format and its more closed nature.

This doesn’t change if you use Discord, Mattermost, Slack, RocketChat, IRC, XMPP, Matrix or WhatsApp. The problem is to focus on chat as a community priority in the first place, imho.

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I can’t agree more. While the Elm slack is super helpful (really amazing), i also like to be able explore google and stack overflow on problems i encounter. It is what i do for other languages and platforms. But for Elm, it doesn’t work.

It makes Elm look insignificant.


Some reflections in the hope that it adds value to this topic:

  • There’s something to be said for the immediacy of chat. For example, when you’re blocked you want to get unblocked ASAP, and the perceived average response time is higher for chat. What is the average response time here on discourse? Is it high? If it is maybe that’s something we want to highlight?
  • Average response time for a search engine is even higher, so making Elm more searchable should probably be something to strive towards. Googleability (insert your preferred search engine…) is a factor in choosing tech for some teams.
  • Would it be possible to persist chat logs publicly so they become searchable? There are public tools for this, e.g.
  • I really like the idea of the Reddit weekly beginners thread as a way to invite people to take part. And I see no real reason why discourse couldn’t adopt this, perhaps run an experiment? (If inclusivity is actually a problem…?)
  • There is a slack integration for Discourse that would allow sending conversations directly to discourse. Security considerations probably apply but it may be worth looking into. I think there is something similar for stack overflow.

Data points:

  • #jobs on slack gives me insight into who/where Elm is being used. It sucks at persisting job postings over time however. There is no overlap with discourse currently since jobs aren’t posted here afaik.
  • #news-and-links is nice for tracking what’s happening, much like an rss feed. There is some overlap with discourse.
  • Specific channels such as #elm-ui, #elm-with-elixir, #sweden and similar allow me to track certain topics or regional areas (in other languages than English), that I’m interested in. As far as I know I cannot get the same “filtering” in discourse with the current intents, I must rely on each poster to include sufficient data in their topic. Honestly I don’t know if that’s an issue though. There is support for tags in discourse which could help.
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@stoft is this something you’d be willing to do the work to find out? Even a little insight would be helpful in knowing where to dig further to make improvements.

Unfortunately the only time I have is during my commute, so very restricted. There is a data explorer plugin for Discourse that may be able to give us more data:

And here:

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In Discourse you can make a category not publicly accessible. On the other hand you can’t make a Slack channel public.

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@Hector I also said:

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Members-only areas are great for discussing the forum structure, deciding internal issues and developing draft topics. Discourse defaults to a lounge that is open to any TL3 (trust level) member.

Right now I’m using this at to setup some manually curated lists of plug-ins which will fill a short-term hole in the documentation. This way the issues and risks can be discussed before opening access to the people who are most likely to break their forum site by installing incompatible plug-ins without first testing for compatibility.

Chat (e.g. Slack) encourages rapid-turn dialogue. Forums (e.g. Discourse) encourages longer-form writing (monologuing.) Compare the average comment length above to Slack conversations. They are complementary forms. I, for one, don’t want to go to a forum when my question is one sentence that can be answered with one sentence.

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I don’t know how relevant my comments will be, so please feel free to disregard.

I’m a “hobbyist” [wannabe pro :star_struck:], that loves playing with Elm. Started off teaching myself Flash in the Macromedia days, then Ruby/Rails/Javascript, and in the last few years Elixir/Phoenix/Elm. I’ve always enjoyed coding and learning.

I’ve never really taken to Slack, only used it once for help.

Personally I prefer the more formal approach of SO and Discourse. Mainly because, over the years, I’ve found that the formal approach forces me to think through a problem from the perspective of the potential reader - more so than I might do on a more relaxed chat channel such as Slack.

“I have this problem I can’t figure, and I need to explain it to someone who has no idea of the picture I have in my head.”

If I’m asking for help, I want to give the potential helper all the help I can to help me. Therefore, typing out and structuring the question in a way to accomplish this forces me to consider the problem from a different angle - when previously I might have been stuck staring down a tunnel and struggling to find another route.

So, I’ve found that going through this process has, on a number of occasions, helped me find a solution myself, and I don’t end up posting the question.

When I do post a question, I like to be able to bookmark the answer, no matter how trivial the question may seem. It may be a problem I only encounter every now and again, and if I was to ask on Slack, I wouldn’t be able to bookmark it so that I can go back to it the next time it’s a problem.

This question I posted is one I’ve gone back to a few times: Json payload now traces out as <internals>

It’s a simple question that could easily have been asked and answered on Slack, but the fact that it’s a permanent resource on Discourse has made my life simpler on a few occasions over the last year. I’ve revisited it enough times now that I shouldn’t need to again, but if I’m having a thick head day, it’s there should I need it.

As a final thought, I’m not worried about posting a ‘dumb’ question. If I get to the point of posting, it’s because I’ve gone down all the research roads I can to find a solution, so if/when I get to that point, I wouldn’t consider it to be a dumb question - it’s just something I’m struggling with, and this community is friendly enough for me to feel comfortable posting what others may think is ‘dumb’.

I guess there is a place for Slack, but my preference is likely to be Discourse for the foreseeable future.


In case it’s helpful, Mozilla just announced that they landed on Riot/Matrix for their chat needs, highlighting its safety (both moderation and self-protection) and accessibility.


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