A community of technology community managers, leaders, and builders.

Use of Discourse for the Community

Is there anyone who is using it intensively? Can you do a little review about it? Regarding to community involvement, handiness for newcomers, customization, gamification, etc. for example I think that @theJames knows it:-D

I have been increasingly using Discourse recently. We use it for this forum as well as http://community.badvoltage.org - we also use it at http://discourse.ubuntu.com

Overall, I feel Discourse is excellent. It provides a well designed, well thought-out forum for active discussion. More summarized feedback below:

The Good

  • Simple and intuitive user interface.
  • Flat discussion model as opposed to cluttered sub-forums.
  • Rich content can be embedded in discussions (e.g. Markdown, videos, images etc) which enrich the kind of discussions people can have.
  • Good tools for quoting snippets of discussion and replying to points. This makes discussions easier.
  • Well thought-out categories. Useful for grouping discussions or providing specific content views (e.g. I use a category here for job opportunities, so linking to that category can show all jobs).
  • Great admin interface. Good stats on users, posts, and popular topics.
  • Good user personalization (e.g. avatar, profile photo, bio, links etc).
  • Effective private messaging.
  • Responsive design so mobile ready.
  • Customizable for areas such as header, footer, etc.

The Not So Good

  • Installation is a bit complicated and you really need to use docker which is limited in some virtualized environments (e.g. when using OpenVZ).
  • Discourse is not technically finished, so be careful. I have never had any problems with it so far.
  • Would be nice to have a means of having sub-sections (e.g. sub-forums).
  • I would like to see plugins for things such as most active users, most popular posts etc that could be in a sidebar.

@jonobacon thanks for sharing! Great points!
I read a lot of topics on meta.discourse.org, it’s an incredibile tool. In that forum, moderators use all available options and you can realize the incredible possibilities that this tool offers.
I think that badge and gamification should be improved, there is already something on forums like:

I hope to use this for my community, but first I’m searching some good advice :slight_smile:

This is another great community who use this

I don’t really know anything about gamification built into Discourse - can you share anything, @alefattorini?

@jonobacon i read something here:

and they’re using yet here:


So I switched it on here and saw the badges tab, and I see there are badges for changing between user levels (e.g. going from a Basic user to a Regular user), but I don’t see how you define policy for how you get a badge in the current implementation.

It lets me create badges, but it seems I might need to manually assign them to users. Do you know any more on this?

I’d love to hear if anyone has experience with a competing platform. Would anyone vouch for another type of forum?

Probably the primary Open Source forum these days in phpBB. I used to use it years ago and to be honest, today it looks and feels like a 1998 forum. :wink:

I have also used Vanilla.

Speaking personally, I don’t think anything compares to Discourse in terms of the user experience.

Hi jono, you can read about trust levels here, I hope this helps

If anyone likes being OCD and maximizing all the options, check out http://www.forum-software.org/
It’s not even complete, but it lists a couple dozen PHP-based FLOSS forum options and some other proprietary things.

There’s other stuff out there too, but not a lot that is competing with Discourse as a more modern-style option.

Note that Reddit is FLOSS and you can host your own Reddit site or use any of dozens of Reddit-style clones as another alternative.

I’m sure there’s lots more I don’t even know about. I also have some things to say about the discussion system in-progress at my site Snowdrift.coop, but we haven’t (yet) pulled it out to be a tool others could use outside of our system, and it’s still early days. Of course, I’m totally biased but think that we’re doing some valuable things I haven’t seen elsewhere.

Oh, and the new Mailman 3 UI being worked on by RedHat / Fedora folks is pretty nifty and makes Mailman work like a forum in many ways. I think that is a modern option that looks really promising! Check that out too!

Not exactly a Discourse competitor, but the product that I’ve been working on is more of a hybrid discussion list + forum with an emphasis on the email discussion list side of the blend :smile:


For most of our customers’ community members, the killer feature is how GroupBuzz is kinder to their inboxes while still letting them stay “on the pulse” of who and what is going on in the community.

We’re designing our notifications specifically around the needs of high-engagement communities like learning communities and alumni groups, masterminds, and coworking spaces. These tend to be tight knit online communities of practice, as well as offline communities who are active online.

I’ll be at CLS in a couple of weeks if anybody would like to see a demo of a Groupbuzz list in action!


Very cool. I can’t quite picture how this works in my head, so would be great to see it. It would also be awesome to see a post with an overview (and screenshots) of how it works, explaining the problems is solves. Would you be interesting in creating this?


I can’t quite picture how this works in my head, so would be great to see it.

This is precisely why we’ve been doing concierge-style demos. :wink:

I’ll share a bit more about the problem set in a new thread, and reference this one!


whaddaguy. :slight_smile:

Look forward to reading it! :slight_smile:

Would be nice to have a means of having sub-sections (e.g. sub-forums).

Why? or can you please explain what you mean by ‘sub-sections’?

I’ve always believed that most forums are unnecessarily complicated for new comers when there are too many ‘topics’ to choose from on the home page. I have a problem with my laptop, where should I go: is that a General problem, or is Networking or what? I think that one entry point helps make that distinction clear. For readers and responders, tags are what will help filtering areas of interest.

The reason I like where Discourse is heading is because it’s removing that old, lame, so 90s approach of ‘classic’ forum software.

Now, the main drawback of Discourse is proper threading visualization (that almost nobody does right…but old Identi.ca got very close to) :smile:

Today Discourse is an excellent solution for a singularly themed forum that can use tags as a means to differentiate between types of content.

As two examples:

  1. On this forum the theme is community management/leadership and the tags are used to differentiate between CLS, Session Ideas, Interviews, topics etc.
  2. On http://community.badvoltage.org (the podcast I do) we use tags for General Discussion, Show Feedback etc.

This works well, but limits scale.

For large communities with hundreds of teams, it is difficult to do this with Discourse. Everyone is essentially thrown into the same ball pit and has to drill down to their discussion. I do believe that this will be something that Discourse upstream will start to improve more and more, but the separation of content is not as crisp as the shitty 90s forums we all hate so much.

Another limit that I see is the classic language sub-forum, I can’t use tags for reproduce the same behavior :-\

I have to say, one thing that is neat about Discourse is that if you point people directly to a Category (http://communityleadershipforum.com/category/cls-session-idea) and then the user clicks the Create Topic button, it auto-fills the topic, so this could be a solution for pointing people directly to areas of interest.

You’re right, it’s a cool feature . I love discourse … But in this way, without selecting any category, people could see a flat main view with a miscellaneous of languages ;-(
Discourse guys suggest to create multi forum like it.myforum.org and en.myforum.org… Or something like this

Part of this is the visual design of the /latest topic list. Fortunately, there are alternatives that the user can select, or the admin can choose the default view for the site.

The Discourse category view /categories is not bad for this separation of content when there are lots of active categories and people arriving aren’t sure where to browse. See http://communityleadershipforum.com/categories or https://talk.openmrs.org/categories for some examples.

For more frequent visitors, there are also views such as /top for the most popular posts for the day/week/month, and views for new/unread/starred topics.

Thanks to for being the kind sponsor for this forum!