Which platforms are best for what exactly?

As I write, 2024-07-01, this seems to me the most important issue we have to face connected to forums and other information and communication methods.

On the Second Renaissance Discord “server” (Discord “servers” are absolutely not servers in any real sense) over the last few days we have seen discussion under the heading “Discord vs Discourse as a forum …” which if you are on the 2R Discord you should be able to find easily. This could be an important question, but to me there is a much more fundamental question that has priority. It is the question I have given in the topic title.

Two principles I will give here for community communication, which I hope are not controversial in nature, though applying them most likely is controversial.

  1. (In the style of Occam’s razor…) It is vain to do with more platforms what can be achieved with fewer. Or, in more normal language, the fewer systems you need in order to satisfy your community information and communication needs, the more likely they are to be used effectively and without confusion.
  2. For any system or platform to be effective for general community communication, in a community that is not particularly technically sophisticated, the user experience needs to be as simple as possible. If it is not simple enough, people will not engage.

In my view, the vital needs are these.

  1. Given that a large part of 2R communications will not be face-to-face, there is a need for services that allow synchronous communication. My preference is strongly for video over just audio, as much more non-verbal communication is available. We already have Zoom and Google Meet; people are familiar with these, and there seems little pressure or desire to change. If we needed to change to something open source, there is Jitsi and BigBlueButton, both of which (if I am not mistaken) are open source.
  2. We need a messaging system to coordinate these calls, and there is a strong motive for this to be available on smartphones and not just desk computers. E-mail, while that in many ways has better ethics, seems not to be as immediate or convenient for most people; and nearly everyone is familiar with WhatsApp and/or Telegram. So, despite WhatsApp’s questionable ownership, we will probably be making do with that, as we are at present.
  3. I see very clearly the need for an easy-to-use repository of useful information, or all kinds. Personally I tend to refer to this as a knowledge commons, and support the use of wikis for this; but other people have other preferences. Google Drive is a widely used alternative, including Docs, Sheets, Slides and Forms. However, there is more functionality there than is strictly necessary for holding useful knowledge in text form, and some people are unhappy feeding the Google empire. We have started an experiment using Mediawiki for this , https://wiki.secondrenaissance.net/ though personally I prefer Dokuwiki as it is simpler to manage. The interface for contributors is not very different in ease of use. They are both open source.

The question is then, what exactly is the need for a forum like this one or like Discord? I don’t want to weigh in heavily on this, though my preference between the two is this one, Discourse, as it is open source. But others prefer Discord, or some other platform. But asking which we prefer is avoiding the question, what exactly do we want to design it to support? The more clearly we answer this question, and the more agreement we have on that answer, the easier I see us agreeing on which platform is best, or if (another answer I rate highly) we don’t actually need a forum at all.

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This is a bit subtler: the key question is who is the community for a given tool (even within this community), how sophisticated are they and how sophisticated is the tool.


For “pure coordination” whatsapp is good.

For anything resembling more group-y chat it has limits (e.g. threads are limited etc.

This is the big question.

My personal sense so far … and just my 2c atm

Why a forum (as well or instead of initially) a wiki

IME personally and for others there is something very attractive with the “sense” and affordances of a forum vs a wiki for a community that is beginning, that mixes knowledge collection with assistance etc.

There is a sense that i don’t have to work out where i should put stuff to start with, that i can ask questions as well as write things etc. This flexibility of use invites in use.

In addition, just in terms of experience discourse is markdown-based, it is very quick to post etc.

Aside: Sure, i can use talk pages or the like in mediawiki to accomplish this but it is kind of painful, not the standard ux etc.

Re the wiki (tool) itself

For a wiki/knowledgebase (which i can imagine being an active contributor to) i would really want a) markdown b) something obsidian compatible if possible as i find the that incredibly attractive for writing, linking etc. I’m a bit put off by mediawiki as an experience compared to what i’m not used to with local editing with obsidian then push to publish or similar. This isn’t an insurmountable obstacle and e.g. mediawiki live editing is now quite good.