Code for Philly hosts our Discourse instance among several others for open source/nonprofit projects on a single $5/mo Digital Ocean VM and I handle backups/updates. Discourse has a sort-of-supported multisite configuration that was a bit tough to figure out initially but lets me host any number of forums within the same installation. They all run the same Discourse version and have the same plugins installed but are otherwise totally independent.
We’re thinking of introducing one at Open Charlotte in the near future. I too ran with a $5 Digital Ocean box (+$1 for weekly backups) using the pre-built Docker+Ubuntu image they offer. I installed Discourse via Docker and I also host one other application on the box.
For SSL, if you’re running multiple apps on the box, there’s a super handy pair of containers for setting up an nginx reverse proxy with automatic Let’s Encrypt registration:
I was kind of thinking that it might be nice to do usability testing and figure out if there are small changes we could make to improve the experience of our users. But that wouldn’t be worth it if we couldn’t actually do anything!
It would be useful to identify any recurring problems, but we’d then have to look at each issue case-by-case to determine the best way to address it. The more we change outside of config and plugins the more we have to maintain, and without running our own version entirely those sorts of changes will be limited to cosmetics and some content.
I think it will be a totally worthwhile exercise and we should be able to find some way to improve any major issues
Thanks @miklb and @chris. Got any questions you think would be good for usability testing? I’m thinking something like:
Find all articles relating to [some particular topic]
Find [some specific old post that is important]
[Use the wiki feature somehow]
What do you think? What else is important that folks be able to do? I figure we can either ask people to report back, or use our usertesting.com subscription available through CfA (free I think??), or both.
The use cases are a bit different. Slack is more of a chat application and is good for synchronous or slightly asynchronous communication. Brainstorming or asking a quick question for “right now”. Discourse tends to be better for questions with answers or discussions with information that might be long lived. In some ways they’re converging on each others spaces (Slack now has a pretty good search facility) but in general each has its own strengths, but also requires people to seed it with content to keep it interesting.
Another way to put it is, if you want to speak to the whole network for years to come – you just really can’t do that through Slack. Your audience is limited to whoever isn’t overwhelmed with notifications today. If the answers you seek are only helpful if they’re immediate (e.g. “where’s the bathroom?”) then Slack is perfect and you shouldn’t bring that question to Discourse
On the other hand, Discourse posts will come up in Google searches, and things are structured around longer-term knowledge building (e.g. everything under a revisable topic/subject with topical tagging, the top post editable by authors and is convertible into a community wiki, a hierarchical category system you can continuously evolve and reorganize topics under)
While Slack is quick and easy, if your goal is to share knowledge with a wide audience it’s ultimately a lazy and ineffective path vs organizing a readable post under a searchable topic. If you want to maximize for reach, post in Discourse first and then promote a link to your post in Slack to get the best of both worlds
Consider how, right now, we’re building on a conversation started two years instead of just having it again from scratch for the 18th time, and creating a semi-centralized discoverable destination for someone to gather what the network thinks about Discourse
The one challenge with linking to Slack is you have to be in the Slack community to reach/read the linked post. Probably best to quote or summarize the relevant question/issues once you make a discourse post.
The Discourse plugin we have installed in Slack facilitates this, but it’s not really helpful. Here are a couple examples of Discourse threads that spun out from Slack convos:
I think what’s important for these to be successful is that someone take ownership of creating a quality topic that sums up the Slack conversation, rather than just pasting a transcript. Slack is scattered thinking and chatting, and just pasting that into Discourse doesn’t turn it into discoverable+digestable knowledge. Of the above, I think the first is a poor example and the second two are better examples. It’s kind of akin to “reporting out” from a group brainstorming session