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Designing Forums: Slack as Community Software

over 6 years ago from , Designer

I've seen this pop up in quite few places now:

http://thenextweb.com/insider/2015/01/12/growing-community-startup-founders-using-slack-exchange-tips/

This post is a few weeks old, but I would love to get the community's feedback from a UX/ UI perspective on recent phenomena.

Slack as community software.

Recently I've noticed and have been participating in "communities" that are being hosted on Slack.

I'm in the #nomads community, another for Sketch and so on.

I've noticed in the #nomads community the volume of conversation can be overwhelming. I've also noticed they are syndicating long form content from their Discourse community into Slack.

Community/ forum software has been broken for a really long time. (saying this as I type in a community - :) )

That's a personal opinion of course, but I see community/ forum software as having the curse of just poor organization, horrific UX/ UI - that is just the legacy of the low-bandwidth internet they were designed for.

I think there is something to this oscillation between rapid fire chat in Slack and long form publishing/ community discussion.

I know many forum software solutions have "chat rooms" - but they are usually just ghost towns in the ones I have participated in.

Part of Slack's effectiveness here may be their app ecosystem, and the rise mobile. Not sure.

But, I'm curious - do you see the two styles of behavior (rapid chat + long form) being incorporated into a single software solution?

How would you design a better forum?

I appreciate any feedback.

Thanks.

*Disclosure: I'm working on a community software startup.

10 comments

  • Daniel FoscoDaniel Fosco, 6 years ago

    It's a stop-gap solution.

    Although it has clear upsides, obvious one being really good real-time communication, it does not scale well.

    In fact, at some point the upsides start becoming downfalls — massive ammount of people talking at once, no way to search for content (open slack channels hit the history limit really fast), workarounds and external resources needed for a bunch of things a community will need — polls, newsletters, RSS, just to name a few.

    The reason Slack is blowing up as community software is the same reason why WP blew up as blogging software: 5-minute setup.

    Seriously, who the hell wants to set up a server and configure forum software? Setting up a community should be as easy as creating a Typeform or sending a MailChimp newsletter. Slack also hits the mark.

    Until you have that kind of simplicity for other forum software, they'll be a no-go for most people and you will have even technical ones resorting to hacks like Slack.

    2 points
    • Jon MyersJon Myers, 6 years ago

      Yeah man, thanks for your thoughts.

      I agree 150%.

      In our own conversations for the startup I am working on, we are quite fixated on a "push-button community creation solution" - and I think that is a big reason Slack is getting this kind of outlier, micro traction with creating communities.

      Slack is "push-button".

      And then, on the flip side, most community software is bolted together and waiting for the next whatever update to break.

      There is often little support.

      Finally, most community software is in one word, hideous.

      It's the equivalent of writing on a cave wall.

      Another reason in my opinion Slack may get traction with community creation.

      It has the illusion of "customization".

      Everyone loves to play armchair designer with forum software, and one of the main base points for competing is customization. Thus, most of the crap out there heavily competes on this feature.

      Obviously, a big mistake.

      You've got many forums that look like a Myspace page, screaming icons, text colors and backgrounds that have horrific legibility, and junky UX with piles of distracting ornamental graphics.

      With Slack, the team/ community owner has the illusion of customization, however, at the end of the day, you're reading text, and Slack has decided to let nature do it's thing and most discussion text is just on black and white.

      Smart move.

      Will be interesting to see how this plays out.

      0 points
  • Jeff DomkeJeff Domke, 6 years ago

    I've been thinking about using Slack in this way (to host the convos for a community I run) for a while.

    Curious how best to set this up in Slack? Best practices? Tips / tricks to make it successful? Thx.

    1 point
    • Jon Myers, 6 years ago

      Hey Jeff, I'm in three of these communities, and started one as an experiment for a location independent entrepreneur community I've been in for a while now called, The Dynamite Circle.

      So, these are simply my observations:

      Fewer focused channels is better than massive amounts of channels

      In the #nomads group, there are 150+ channels. I find it to be completely overwhelming. Especially when you have nearly 2,000 people now in that Slack group.

      The frequency and volume of conversation is of course, huge, but I find the quality to be weak, and the exchanges superficial.

      In contrast, the Sketch group has fewer channels, and I find the quality to be better in there. That could also be because it is very focused on a niche, Design + Sketch.

      In the DC Slack I started, we have about 65 members, and so far in the first month we have exchanged about 3,000 messages. So, I would say there is a high frequency of use. However, we all sort of know each other and there is a lot of inside jokes, information, etc...

      Lock down many administrative functions

      In my opinion you do not want just anyone in the group adding channels, customizing the SlackBot and so on. I would lock down most of those options.

      Take advantage of Slack integrations

      I don't see this happening as much as it should. However, for something like the Sketch Slack group, where we might have files or other assets that are valuable to the community, Slack's integrations could be valuable for that kind of thing.


      As I mentioned, I am watching these things closely, and we will likely have rapid chat in the product roadmap for the community software startup I am working on.

      Hope that helps dude.

      Cheers.

      0 points
  • hadiya barakah, over 2 years ago

    Actually, sooner or later the upsides begin getting to be ruins — gigantic measure of individuals talking without a moment's delay, no real way to scan for content (open slack channels hit as far as possible extremely quick), workarounds and outside assets required for a pack of things a network will require — surveys, pamphlets, RSS, just to give some examples. and we have the best website for designing Dubai based http://www.escape-advertising.com visit one time I'm sure gonna love that

    0 points
  • Sudharshan Tamilazhagan, almost 5 years ago

    Nice post & informative :) Also found a couple of best practices & Tips on using Slack here: http://fastandclean.org/how-to-use-slack/

    0 points
  • Janna Djon, 5 years ago (edited 5 years ago )

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    0 points
  • Josh RaelJosh Rael, 6 years ago

    I think it's interesting that no one has mentioned Reddit as a community platform. Granted, some communities are higher quality than others, but I feel like the good ones are really good. Reddit has a good mix of dynamic and longform content and I have found the search to be reliable. What makes Slack or a traditional forum a better tool for online communities?

    0 points
    • Elite Towing, 2 months ago

      If you are looking for one of the best software where you can chat or write something then you need to follow some online tips which provide complete information about the writing content as well. Most students can easily choose the https://personalstatementhelper.com/ site option where you can easily get the complete statement help related to the college work of assignment writing.

      0 points
  • Olivier HeitzOlivier Heitz, 6 years ago (edited 6 years ago )

    I've started a forum for Sketch users in December as an experiment.

    Sketch Talk on http://sketchtalk.io

    My 1st question was: Can I find a free forum software that I can setup myself (being a designer and not a developer), plus tweak the templates and CSS so that it doesn't look hideous?

    2nd question was: Can it become a place where Sketch users want to contribute and come back regularly? Can it fill the gap and become a place to discuss things in a longer form? Is it of any use to the community and new Sketch users?

    How does it compete with "push-button" chat-like solutions like Slack, Facebook and Twitter?

    These are my findings so far:

    1st: Yes, it was fairly easy to set up the forum with Vanilla (an open-source solution) and host it on my server. It was also quite easy to make it pretty (disabling or hiding a lot of unnecessary stuff).

    2nd: Yes, probably. It's a side project without any money or company behind it. So I haven't had much time/energy to promote it yet or spread the word, apart from posting it here, on Product Hunt and tweeting about it. Currently, we are 330 members and about 100 visitors/500 page views a day. Personally I think it's a success, because it does fill a gap that exists in terms of longer discussions that are not possible on Twitter, plus it's easier to search than in a Slack channel and it's not as ugly as FB.

    But it's still just a forum and doesn't have the chat-like liveliness of a Slack channel. But then again, a Slack channel with lots of people talking at the same time can easily become overwhelming.

    I love my little Sketch Talk forum and really hope that it will grow and more people will know about it and enjoy it's benefit. But I'm aware that it is just a forum, and not as "hot" or interesting for some people, because it lacks the instant chat-like "in the same room feeling" that Slack provides. I personally think that this is it's advantage! We'll see where this is going...

    0 points