I’ve never been much of a forum person myself, but looking back on it now, I realise it’s probably because the barrier to entry has always just seemed so high. And whenever I hit a forum result when searching for something, I find myself wanting to get out of there as quickly as possible. What’s more, as the Discourse team note, the environment hasn’t improved much in a long time.
I was invited to take part in the Discourse beta over the past month or so, and was pleased to see how fresh a platform it is. One of the things which instantly struck me was how wonderfully designed it is; it’s definitely got the Stack Overflow minimalist, big-button-big-font feel to it which really works and helps in a forum context. It’s also got the care and attention to little details that I’ve always loved the Stack Exchange sites for: highlighting particular posts which are linked to on page load; the way replies and quotes in posts are handled; and the obsessive implementation of rigorous curation such as moving posts around between topics and sane post flagging.
What’s more, I’m a huge fan of the conversation scrolling implementation that’s found in threads:
Making the Internet a better place
Discourse seems like a logical progression from ideas implemented and lessons learnt from Stack Exchange, and even the name Discourse feels like a natural extension to the positive-change-for-the-Internet ambition that the Stack Exchange network has strived for: as a long-term listener of the (formerly) Stack Overflow podcast, one of the goals I heard most often (sometimes to the point of propaganda) was the goal to “improve discourse on the Internet”.
I’d encourage you to try Discourse out: you can give it a whirl at try.discourse.org. And as Jeff has finally learnt his lesson, you can engage in Discourse discourse on their meta site. What’s more, if you want to use the Discourse platform, it’s open source and available on GitHub.
As with the way in which Stack Overflow reinvigorated the Q&A platform in 2008, Discourse seems like a fantastic addition to the discussion software genre, and I’m looking forward to see how it improves online discussion.