7

I am wondering how you guys chose the platform for you community?

I have been leading a group for a couple of years. We were originally on Skype, then moved to Google Hangouts + email for a few years, then somebody suggested Discord. So we tried it out.

The main activity of the group happens during biweekly video/audio calls. One of the reasons I thought going to discord was better, was because it had more team based tools, compared to Google Hangouts. It allowed creating various roles, easy moderation, now has integrated voice/video calling.

However, the problem, I found is that very few of our members are on Discord. Further, Discord doesn't send email notifications to people, when they receive email. So they don't know unless they login that they received a new email. Now, I could enforce that we have to move to Discord, and make it a rule. But, I am not sure whether such arbitrary rules actually help in building the community, because that is the final goal.

I could just go back to Google Hangouts + Gmail, which means we would miss out on the roles and other team based features.

What's the best platform for bi-weekly audio/video calls?

5

I think you are bumping into one of the core laws of community building: People want to be where people are.

Barring unusual circumstances (an unusually driven community that has no other options or great urgency), you are generally much better off building a community with a more limited feature set, but where people have other reasons to gather.

It is also critical to any community, online or offline, that there be ways to signal people when there are responses to discussions in which they have a stake. If there are no notifications (email or otherwise), there is no easy way to build conversations.

Community building is a lot like other things in our lives. We may want a widget with maximum features to show off to friends, but the things we actually use most often tend to be the simplest, easiest-to-use, and constantly in demand. That doesn't mean that you can't try other things; it just means that the farther you go from simple, and easy to use, the harder you have to push to get things going, and then to keep them going.

From what you describe, Google Hangout+Google Groups (and perhaps a related google drive) could be good enough to build on. Is there some feature holding your community back/itching like crazy that such a combo doesn't support?

1

It depends on:

  1. The amount of members
  2. Money limits

If money is very short, you need to choose something that does not require you to host a private server, like Skype or Discord. Skype is kinda limited when it comes to mass calls, because there is no functionality to assign roles etc. Any attempt to use it for mass communication becomes a total disaster. Also, Skype is known for its controversial updates, and if someone updates, everyone else in the conference will have to update too to make the conference even work.

If money is not very short, or if you find someone happy to share their server with you, you can use stuff like TeamSpeak, Mumble, Ventrillo (IIRC -- I haven't used Ventrillo personally) etc. Why?

  1. They all have very good functionality for managing multiple channels, roles etc.
  2. You are not always talking, they are more suited for PTT (push-to-talk) mode, which makes group calls not such a chaotic disaster.
  3. The costs of managing a server are actually very small nowadays.

In most cases when I needed to have regular group calls, we also needed some way of text-based communication. We used russian social net called VKontakte (vk.com), because many people around me use it locally, but anything would actually work if it can send push notifications and store history. You can use Discord, Telegram, almost anything.

Each program will have its own pluses and minuses, and you need choose carefully for your own case. For example, Discord seems to only save chat history for a limited time, and TeamSpeak doesn't store it server-side at all, which might be very important if you discuss important stuff in chat. Mumble has kinda limited functionality. Etc!

Now to your second problem, which is gathering everyone at one place. The only real solution, granted that one single place was not chosen naturally, is actually to force everyone to the place chosen by its leader. I mean, in my experience of participating on co-op gaming, LARP design etc. this is the only thing that works. The one who schedules a talk also says where will it be held -- as simple as it is.

Good like chatting!

1

I like to think of this as the “pull vs push” problem. Telling people to do something or there will be consequences is “pushing.” People hate that, and it creates a natural tendency to rebel.

The alternative is to “pull” people in. Figure out the ways to make them think they’re making the decision to use this new tool themselves. Sounds like, in this case, you just benefit from using Discord for things other than this one call you do:

  • How about a once a month “free for all” community text chat that’s optional to attend?
  • How about a trivia game channel, or a music channel? (There are free bots you can install that act like jukeboxes.)
  • How about reaching out to your most active and engaged members and asking them to hang out for a while every day, so others who want to chat with them will know where to find them?
  • Give your most active people moderator power and ask them to help out.
  • Tell people you’ll only answer questions via Discord.
  • show people how to install Discord on their phones and set up notifications.

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