Slack vs Discourse and when to use each


#1

With the introduction of Discourse to our community, a common question given that Slack is already well-established is when you should use one vs the other

TL;DR: Would a better answer tomorrow be helpful, or is right now all that matters?

If you need feedback or help finding something, and quicker is better than better, use Slack. If you want to keep collecting more and better answers for months to come, use Discourse.

Overview of each

Slack

  • Content is not visible without logging in and will not come up in public search engines
  • Logging in requires going through an invitation process
  • Threaded conversations are supported, but the default way to use Slack is to post short messages in a channel that flows with the group’s stream-of-consciousness
  • Users engage by joining channels and then scanning through all the new messages since their last visit
  • Search is difficult as all posted text and documents are equally indexed
    • Related messages must be manually teased out from the channel by searches
    • The ultimate conclusion of a question or conversation can be unclear or hard to find

Discourse

  • Content in public topics is visible without logging in and will be indexed by public search engines
  • Anyone can register for an account on the spot or sign in with their existing Twitter or GitHub account
  • Messages also begin with finding or creating a topic statement that defines a scope for long-term conversation. Short replies are supported but the UX steers people towards long-form, edited responses.
  • Users engage by searching for what they’re looking for, or getting notifications for new posts in topics they’re subscribed to.
    • Topics can be subscribed to or unsubscribed from manually, but are also automatically subscribed to when you create or reply to a topic
  • Search weights topic titles heavily, which are crafted to describe well for search what will be found within them
    • Related messages are all grouped within a topic
    • The first post of a topic can be turned into “wiki” by the author or a moderator, making it a place that everyone can contribute to and document an ultimate conclusion or answer for future readers

Use cases

Slack

  • Aggregate notifications to create a single timeline of what’s happening in real-time for a given project
    • Helps people scan through everything happening for a project and see in one place how everything is sequenced together
    • Add notifications for to GitHub repositories, trello boards, or Discourse topics to a channel
  • A good place to say hello, meet people, and socialize
  • Ask questions that will only be relevant for < 24 hours
  • Get hot takes on current situations
  • Find help from experienced community members when you’re not sure yet what questions to ask

Discourse

  • Ask a question for which you want to collect responses from the widest possible audience over a period beyond the current day
  • Share documentation or an outline on a topic that you want people to find in the future
  • Share content that you want to open for others to contribute to over time
  • Solicit feedback on a proposal