I tackle this point below about the effort required to provide consistently incredible user experience. Just having Slack doesn’t do that, we need to put a lot of effort to achieve it. If our aim is to provide this user experience, what tool we choose to provide it in, is really up to us.
I buy that Discourse is not for “hanging out.” It is aimed at getting your questions answered.
If a software becomes sufficiently popular, a community would grow wherever they want to grow. So, we would not need to have an official Slack or Reddit or whatever, the community would create all those mediums and thrive there. So, this is really about which medium do WE as a company, want to stand behind.
Agreed about the points that Chat has a lower barrier to entry than a forum. If I have a choice between a forum and a chat, I might just go use Chat first, and check out forum later. That’s a valid point.
But, how important is that point? If I do have a question I need to get answered, I’d go wherever I need to go to get it answered. On the other hand, if I just want to hang out, I might go to Slack.
Which leads me to think about the ONE main purpose of Dgraph team helping the open-source community? Is it to support our open source users, or to build a camaraderie? I think it is to support people, first and foremost. In turn, if they build a camaraderie, that’s great.
Side note: Typically my experience with Go Slack v/s Go Google Groups has been that Slack is okay for casual, simple questions. Email is good when you want some good answers from the team. So, over time, if I really want to actually get some solid responses, I’d personally shoot a mail to the group.
Questions to help us decide
So, I’ve been thinking how do we make a decision like this? I have come up with these 3 points:
- Can we provide a consistently incredible user experience (CIUX), based on the expectations that the tool sets?
- How much effort is it to achieve that incredible user experience?
- Can we measure engagement of our community on that tool? Can we get signals about what our community wants?
Let me try to answer those questions.
Slack (or other Chat solutions)
Slack can provide an “instant” user experience. Slack sets an expectation of quick replies, the SLA bar is strict. If you have to wait a couple of hours for a reply, that’s not incredible UX as per those expectations.
But, to provide CIUX, we would need to spend a lot of engineering resources on achieving those “instant reply” expectations. And its hard to know what’s been replied and what’s not in Slack. So, it creates a disproportionate effort to achieve CIUX.
Moreover, it’s hard to measure engagement in Slack. We don’t get much signals about what attracts our communities’ attention.
Discourse (or Forums)
The expectation set there is that the replies would come in at least a few hours. A conversation might last days. The SLA bar is lower.
Providing CIUX in Discourse, needless to say, it is a lot easier. Moreover, the search and recommendations when creating topics, allows the community to find similar topics.
We can easily measure engagement in Discourse. They have topic views clearly stated, so we know which topics are “hot” – we could then use them to write blog posts or create content. We can measure our response rates, time to first response, find unresponded topics and so on. It becomes a machine that we can crank.
If we shut down Slack
What do we lose by having Slack? Engineering effort spent on our open source community, all the past help provided and insights into what the community wants.
What do we gain by having Slack? Better camaraderie. By how much over Discourse? How much is it worth to us? What’s the practical value that it brings? I’m not clear on those.
Great idea. Let’s do it. Let’s stop signups for a bit on Slack and see if we see more signups on discourse. If we do this for a few weeks, we’ll get a sense for whether there’s more activity on Discourse, or we’re just losing those users altogether.