Chat rooms after events?

Hi @hugi @matthias @owen @alberto @amelia @erik_lonroth @MariaEuler - @unclecj asked about an Edgeryders chat for continuing conversations following events here. It poses some interesting methodological and design questions for me and I think it might be worthwhile discussing.

A bit of background for the newer members of the community. Edgeryders uses a combination of good community management and analysis of our on platform data to weave together seemingly unconnected threads from many different conversations to some kind of collective intelligence around a topic/problem/solution space. Example of what an output from this process looks like (for previous community event):

263421647-Can-networked-communities-steward-public-assets-at-scale.pdf (37.1 MB)

This process requires us to ensure that the documentation from the events goes on the platform, and that post event discussions of and around that documentation also happen on the platform. The questions is - how to maintain the integrity of that process, while making fast paced chat also accessible for us community members?

Any thoughts?


I think it’s fairly easy to ‘chat’ on platform with reasonable speed— people often post short comments in a back and forth way. The more we can have people’s thoughts persisting on-platform, the better— you can already see with our behaviour on riot that we are losing a lot of valuable documentation of our own process, ideas, issues, etc in the ephemeral mode of the chat (I know @johncoate and @alberto have noticed this too). A lot of things that would formerly have been discussions on platform are now on riot. So I’d be wary of fragmenting community conversation in the same way.

The question we need to answer is whether having that chat mode would increase engagement on the platform or take away from it.


I agree with @amelia.

That said, in principle a disciplined community, where people value shared knowledge, could be careful to put ephemeral-and-fast stuff on chats (“what time is the meeting?”), and weighty stuff on the forum. But we are not always disciplined.

@matthias has a nice trick for our Matrix instance: it erases messages older than two weeks. If you have anything important to say, you have an incentive to our it where it does not vanish.

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I once went to an early UI lecture at Stanford where the speaker described various media in terms of how “casual” they are, or are not. In this context, chatting is more casual and the platform more oriented toward statements that go into various records.

Personally, I prefer mixing it up a lot more because this is how people get to know each other better and develop trust. At risk of repeating myself, Edgeryders tends to do that kind of socializing and conversing in person. And I think generally that has worked. But when enlarging a network you can develop a “haves and have nots” situation where some people can easily meet up but others cannot. Unattended, this situation can tend to cause some people to look elsewhere for certain types of human contact online. Thus, Facebook and other similar places reap a benefit that I think ought to stay here. Or stay here more than it does now.


Thank you @nadia for picking up on my question and starting this thread, very considerate of you! Again @johncoate reflect my sentiment - chat is simply more casual. As an example, after our workshop I had the urge to connect and continue the conversation on how the ride home was, that peculiar rant on Truth and Falsehood etc. Even though much the same people were present there, it felt off topic to utilize the chat room of another group (Change Course Public) for that.
My bottom line, I respect and appreciate that Edgeryders want to funnel conversations to the platform, and if Mattias will grant me access to some chatroom I will join there, otherwise I’m happy to keep contributing here :slight_smile:

To elaborate, I have seen Wikimedia have very active conversations on Telegram, which can be said to indeed suffer from a greater degree of confusion than the more considered, established discussions in Talk pages. On the other hand, chats are much more engaging and may contribute to maintaining that engagement! For online meetings and editathons, Discord is being tried out. The wish for FOSS tools has been raised, but at this time the accessibility of these two tools seems deemed more valuable over choosing for instance Matrix. Edgeryders being a different community, I don’t think we need to make that compromise.

For reference, there’s Matrix and Riot Manual

Hmm … accessibility in what sense? As in web accessibility standards for people with disabilities?

Agreed, though this can also be done inside Discourse by regularly erasing the early comments in the “chat thread”. There would be one week of backlog, and that’s it.

I think that a “chat thread” here on Discourse, prominently linked from the top, is our best bet at this point. We can even have a category “Campfire → Chats” where people can start new topics, and every new topic started there would be a chat thread automatically (like a new chatroom). Noemi and Maria told me that the Discourse app has improved a lot. I think we should just try how a “chat on Discourse” experience goes.

On the other hand, creating a Matrix / Discourse integration, incl. automatic Matrix account creation for everyone at signup, would be 2-3 weeks of work. And people would still have a much less integrated user experience, and yet another new tool to learn, compared to having everything inside Discourse.

Ultimately this is more of a cultural than a software/application issue. I think we at ER have a pretty strong project formality to our approach to the platform and just shy away from “small talk” as if it is maybe a waste of our time, nothing that interests anyone…I don’t know really. But we set up the Campfire Category for general themes but also, I think, some “what’s up” talk, which we pretty much give over to data-capturing social media places. Thus, our platform is very substantial and meaty but, frankly, not exactly fun in certain ways. And if you think fun is frivolous and unworthy, well, we live on different planets…

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Good points!

I have exactly nothing against transforming the current Campfire category into the most fun place of the Interwebs. Changing the names, graphics, adding funky plugins, moving non-fun content elsewhere etc… I can’t do it as I have simply no time at the moment. But maybe somebody wants to take this on?

Also @felix.wolfsteller you might have some valuable input for us here.

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well, we could just make a “whats up with you?” topic and just post stuff. How much of an issue is story jpegs sort of like how FB does it? I know we don’t have unlimited room, but in today’s world of storage most jpegs aren’t that big…

I like the idea … in my favourite offroad truck forum, there is a similar, long-running thread “What I built today”. Welcome to start that kind of thread here, as far as I’m concerned :slight_smile:

User-uploaded images are not an issue at all so far. If we ever run out of storage, I can adjust the images that have been uploaded in way-too-high quality. At a reasonably quality for “this was my day” type JPGs, ~100,000 images (25 GiB) are not an issue …

ok sounds good…

Not really, unfortunately.

Just regarding the original question: I prefer forum-style discussions (with structure, proper quoting and reply-functionality and all that). I feel overwhelmed by chats and always have the impression that I miss some information (because … 28123 new messages in this channel :slight_smile: , some of them answers to questions many days ago). For quick interaction (e.g. in case of a serious incident where you know that the relevant people are online now) or low volume communication it might make sense.

Regarding fun:

(xkcd: Machine Learning Captcha)


I prefer forum style discussions too. I get into chats because so many like it so much. But it is not my preference. I do refer back though to the notion of various media being more or less casual. It is also true that within a forum or some format discussions can happen that are both: casual and serious, meaty and fun. But not always in the same thread.

My real goal is always to humanize the participants as much as possible given the limitations inherent to electronic communications. How you get there can take a variety of paths.