A radical suggestion

Maybe it’s time to reassess having both a forum and a discord. There’s some traffic between the two platforms, but it’s pretty minimal; mostly just a bot posting in a single Discord channel that doesn’t really seem to get much activity. It seems to me that the Cauldron is duplicating its efforts by running two platforms, and for relatively little reward. One platform gets the majority of the attention; the other gets a post or two per week. The community could make things easier on itself and free up some resources by closing one or the other.

And, sure, purely looking at current traffic alone, it looks like closing the Discourse forums would be the logical choice. But I’d like to make the argument in favor of throwing all our weight behind these forums.

The three big points in favor of Discourse are openness, organization and ownership.

Openness

Discord is a walled garden. Sure, anyone can make an account, and once they have an account, they can get to the Cauldron server and see whatever’s there. The walls really assert themselves the moment they want to show a Cauldron post to anyone who isn’t already subscribed. And that’s inconvenient to the people involved, but it also means that the Cauldron’s utility as a resource for the larger TTRPG community is severely limited. It means, among other things, that outside search never points you to anything on the server.

Discourse, on the other hand, is public-facing. If you want to show your GM a thread that explains a particular prep technique, you can just give them a link. They don’t have to sign up for Discord, you don’t have to invite them to the channel, they don’t have to wade through an endless stream of banter. The forum works better as a community resource that people can benefit from without having to buy into the platform.

Organization

Both Discord and Discourse let admins divide the server up into categories and topics, but the basic categorical unit in Discord is an endless chat thread. You can scroll back up as far as you’d like, but unless you’re really committed to finding something, or remember exact phrases well enough to wade into Discord’s search function, conversations effectively fade into oblivion the farther up the scroll they get pushed.

Threads divide conversations into more easily digestible units. Discord has options for threads, both as a sidebars to the infinite feed, and as a forum-like alternative to those feeds, but they’re implemented as an afterthought, and tend to get lost in the mix. Their centrality to Discourse makes the whole site easier to navigate if you’re looking for specific discussions that aren’t top-level categories.

As I see it, the biggest advantage to Discord over Discourse is that not all conversations need to be permanently archived walls of text and are better handled with IRC-style real-time chat. But Discourse offers chat channels, and Discourse-based chat has the advantage of integration with forum threads: If something valuable is said in a Discourse chat, the participants can surface and preserve it by quoting it in a thread. That seems like the more advantageous order of features to me: threads first, then chats, rather than the other way around.

Ownership

Discord is a closed, centralized, proprietary, corporation-owned platform. Depending on it to sustain our communities sets us up for the same sort of closure that dispersed the G+ community. Even if they never sunset the entire product, decisions about the platform will always be decided by first and foremost by their financial demands. It’s safe to expect them to routinely make changes that allow them to convert user activity into profit. (Their recent incorporation of AI, for example, may be driven in part by fear of seeming to lag behind the technological edge, but it’s almost certainly also designed to monetize communities by using their interactions to train AI models.) When it makes decisions that run counter to the good of one of the communities it hosts, the community’s options are a) take it, or b) leave it. And odds are good that communities will have to make that decision sooner or later. The longer they take it, the more times they’ll face that decision.

Discourse, by contrast, offers hosting and services, but also maintains a FOSS version for self-hosting. That makes it possible for the community to exercise greater control over the direction of the services on which the community operates.

For all of those reasons, I think the long term health of the Cauldron is better served by throwing its weight behind this Discourse forum rather than relying on Discord. Of course, I realize that making the argument for closing one or the other, I run the risk of convincing the admins to choose the other. But even if they decide to shift all their resources to the Discord, I think concentrating on one place or the other is probably better than dividing our efforts and resources only to see one of those platforms languish.

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We are not under any pressure to close either the Discord server or the Discourse forum. As of now there are little to no resources going into moderating this forum because… No one uses it. Yochai pays to keep it online but that’s about it.

But it’s still useful for archiving things like @trashed_tabletop is doing… so I’m not sure why we would close something that’s (a) still useful and (b) not causing any trouble.

If you feel so strongly about pivoting the community to Discourse then I invite you to start a conversation about it on our Discord. I know there’s some irony in that and you probably don’t want to engage with Discord, but if you want this to happen you’re going to have to win everyone to your point of view, and everyone is on Discord, not here.

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I agree! That’s what led me to make this place. Unfortunately I couldn’t get anyone to use the damn thing. If you can think of a way, I’m on board.

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I am curious to see why people frequent the Discord more than here. I would also love more activity here (Discourse’s format is pleasing to my brain).

I wonder if someone would be willing to run a poll on Discord to see what attracts people to that platform. It could be with the new discord built-in polls, or a more in-depth google form. It could be official or unofficial. I could set it up if the mods don’t want to do it themselves, e.g.

To throw another hat in the ring, I have always admired the setup of https://lobste.rs/ which is a computing-focused link aggregator website. Their entire tech stack is available on github, and just needs a host and someone to manage it. It gives a place for links to be mixed in with text posts, a la Reddit, but is invite-only to prevent brigading, etc.

I’m not actually suggesting another site, but I just wanted to show an example of a site that has maintained a community and a consistent internet location for 12 years. It could serve as a place to see what they did right. (Plus I just love the site format :stuck_out_tongue: ). I worry about using that site’s code directly, as I personally do not have the know-how to keep it running (not webmaster-savvy enough) and don’t know if anyone else does.

I agree with all the concerns brought up. I think Discord has serious issues for longevity of the community. I would love to see what a poll would say.

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At a guess, I would say it’s because that’s already the more active space, and they already have an account there because practically every game or hobby has a discord. But I’d be interested to see survey results.

I’ve certainly talked to a few people who prefer the format, but that doesn’t seem to be the case for everyone, or even the majority. Mostly people who grew up on IRC and AIM channels, seems like.

And then there are people like me who hang out mostly to play in the occasional pbp game. (Invite me to your pbp games; I’m fun!)

One practical suggestion for drumming up some attention: An ActivityPub bot that posts new topics to the fediverse.

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I do have the vague outlines of an idea: Run a game. Nothing draws gamers like a game.

I think you could pull it off by using a thread as ICC, and chat as OCC. So the GM posts the situation, the players huddle in chat to talk it over, then they return to the thread with their actions for that turn.

Dice is an issue, so maybe the GM handles all rolls on an honor system basis. And rather than a traditional party adventure, it would probably be best to run it as kind of an open table concept. Either that, or no one “owns” the characters in the party, and everyone gets to debate what they think should happen. But that may be too out there.

If nothing else, it would be an interesting experiment, and a way to get people onto the site. And once they’re here, it’s a short step to reading some posts and maybe replying.

We do have the NSR Camp event coming up.

If I were to run a poll, what would be the right discord channel to post it to? #general-rpg-chat?

As much as I would prefer spending my time here over Discord for all the reasons mentioned, it it because Discord already pre-built an audience with all the other games AND the lower bar of entry exactly because of that structure.

I am definitely more a fan of this “slower pace” here, but it is also very quiet because I do think folks prefer (for all sorts of reasons) Discord.

Note, however, this is from a person that hasn’t said much in EITHER platform.

I think for me, Discord is just too fast, I miss things, and just don’t have the time to catch up on many servers…so just mark 'em read more often than not.

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Server-feedback would fit the bill, I think.

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I definitely think there’s still value in keeping the forums (though I’m mostly a lurker lately because I forgot my password until just now). The Discord is much faster paced to the point of being overwhelming, as all big-ish discord servers are, and as a result of that there’s a lot of interesting conversations that can get lost in the shuffle. The Forums are a really good place to have that

I agree on games being a good way to stir up interest in the forums, though I actually personally find PBP… much easier to run on Discord, LOL. So I’d probably recommend more RPG-adjacent forum games and events over something like a West Marches. One of the main benefits of forums over Discord servers is that they serve as more permanent records for long-form content. Hosting events and challenges like Dungeon24 on the forums could be a much better fit for the community than discord’s own threading system, though I’m not entirely sure what the image hosting situation is like on the forums, or whether that could be wholly viable

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Poll here: Discord

I much prefer a forum, but, despite the FOSS of Discourse, I think that software is incredibly onerous and user unfriendly (I think its hyper-focus on authenticity and retention is a negative). But I think the problem is that there are two platforms; Discourse cauldron was much more active pre-Discord as I remember. If the ephemerality is desirable, perhaps a Matrix room or IRC chat room would better free us from Discord’s clutches, but I also hardly know how Matrix and IRC work :thinking:

Matrix is pretty similar to Discord, AFAIK. It also allows sign-in using outside accounts, like Google, so the bar to entry is slightly lower than a service that requires brand new credentials.

I want to evangelize for Matrix, I really do. However, I think the high bar is with other aspects of Matrix. My bread and butter is with identities and authentication and whatnot, but also keys/secrets management. That side on Matrix, while getting better will blow most user’s minds.

IIRC, I could swear there were options for implementing oauth2 action in things like discourse.

shufflies through internet

Yes, here we go!

EDIT: Noticed they want you to have an Enterprise or Business hosting plan. Not sure we are doing that here.