Discourse, the next generation Discussion Board

A few days ago I stumbled upon Discourse, a project which aims to be nothing but the next generation of discussion boards. The feature-list sounds promising, the demonstrations prove that there is more than just hot air.

As I recently started to write about how to improve communication in companies, I would like to see how Discourse fits into this environment.

The difference from systems like Skype and IRC is that Discourse does not focus on realtime-communication. It is used as a discussion board like phpBB or vBulletin, these systems provide forums for communities who want to discuss openly about certain topics. With HowToGeek there is already a quite big community using Discourse. They also wrote a blog post about that.

So what does it help me, you might ask?

  • Improve general communication: Bigger companies have problems with communication. There often are different departments reinventing the wheel over and over instead of working on new things. Imagine all employees talking to each other, everybody knows what the other does.
  • Get the right people together: Project teams can get their own categories. Want to announce the rescheduled milestone? Don’t write any mass emails, just post it into the right category and everybody knows about that. Even better, it is possible to discuss the next steps under that topic.
  • Provide support: There always is software used by others. In my company are some teams creating basic components for all the other teams. It is easy to provide support via Discourse. Not only can you help someone immediately, you also have that solution stored for others who’ll have the same questions.
  • Share Knowledge: John Doe works at Department A and knows how to create an Android App. Project X at Department B just needs to do that. With an open communication platform there is a chance that both know each other.
  • Feedback: It is easy to get feedback for almost everything: The IT administration department wants to use a new software? Are there ideas on how to use a new technology? How was the meal at the canteen? Sometimes it’s good to have feedback, of course your company needs to be ready for that (but you probably have other issues if that’s a problem for you).

Of course these points are a bigger factor in larger companies. There possibly is enough communication in a small company of 10 people to know what the others are doing. But is this still the case with 100 people? What about 1000 employees?

Discourse is still work in progress, but they’re one of the most hyped projects on Github. There are currently some discussions in the Meta Forums about certain features like LDAP authentification or general offline usage that are aimed towards enterprise usage. Seems to be some work left to do, but I guess this won’t take a lot of time. There’s a lot of potential here and I’ll be happy to see the first Discourse-based communications platforms popping up here and there.

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