Volunteer Team communications: Email? Slack? Discourse?

I’m hoping the start of the year comes with splitting into executive groups (nothing’s been decided but I think many agree) – forums, instructors, website, IT, workshop, finance and others are already healthily operating independently.

Right now these various teams are using closed mailing lists or email chains, which hampers cross team activity and means a new volunteer starts blind.

I’d like to propose centralizing communications to and among executive groups into sub forums on the YO – it can serve as a mailing list for those who wish it, and as a close-enough-to-slack for folks who turn notifications on.

It makes it straightforward for regular members to find the group they should contact, and to see the types of questions asked and maybe even the answer. Most of all, it shows a public record of people actively creating our community and models volunteerism.

If private Comms are important for a team we can create parallel website/website-internal, finance/finance-internal, etc forums, with the -internal one restricted to the corresponding teams, or make channels on our internal slack.

This isn’t a formal proposal, just looking for a temperature check esp from regular members and folks serving key officer/volunteer roles

1 Like

Just want to acknowledge this post and say I’ve been stewing on it trying to figure out what I think about this.

I think for quick chatting amongst the executive team, Slack has worked well and is by far my preference over Discourse. It works better as being more like a chat room and is a much more developed product that will beat out Discourse on notifications and response options every day IMO (even just the nuance in emoji responses I find helpful in quickly communicating with each other). For me personally, it integrates really well in a way that makes it equivalent to instant messaging but with searchability and a lot of other features.

When it comes to updates on projects or developments, that seems like something that belongs on Discourse, but if we were to get rid of the few email lists for working groups that we still have and convert to only Discourse for that, I would want to make absolute sure we’re got Discourse notifications well figured out to ensure the experience is basically the same. It’s definitely not there yet for me and I regularly stumble upon old posts I somehow missed and never got notified about. It seems like in Discourse there is a lot more noise (simply defined here as “other stuff being discussed”) so it’s really easy to miss things, especially if you are someone who has your hands in lots of different things. I haven’t had this issue with email (I also have my email heavily compartmentalized to cut noise).

I also like maintaining email lists for working groups so that it’s easy for us to maintain sharing on items like Google Docs/Google Drive with permissions set to the appropriate group of people.

I think my vote would be to maintain current approaches (Slack, email), but also define more what would be the kind of thing to put in Discourse instead and establish where it would go. One recent example of an item I emailed about that should have gone on Discourse – updates on some IT projects I had been working on and website changes. This especially would have been better served on Discourse because I was also asking for help with HTTPS/SSL issues, so it would have been much better to have this somewhere all members could see. We may want to spend a little time figuring out the best place to put those kinds of conversations. I can see it living in a number of different places. I’ve also heard one of the potential downfalls of community forums is having too many categories, so don’t want to jump too quickly and fall prey there. We have so many categories already, I kind of wonder if we’ve already fallen victim on that.

FWIW, I set up Discourse in “pretend-its-an-email-list” most right off the bat and it’s been working quite well for me. I’m a compulsive email-checker so I see Discourse posts right away. I can fire off a quick reply via email or click the “visit topic” button if I need to do something more Discoursey.

I still find the Discourse web UI somewhat awkward in general, but the email-primary/web-secondary workflow seems to be pretty OK. Better than Google Groups, that’s for sure.

I agree we should use public comms for all committee stuff, even if it’s only so the membership in general can see what’s going on. I think it’s reassuring to see things are being talked about, even if it doesn’t seem like much is happening. For example, when I was thinking about joining ATXHS, I read through the workshop history in Google Groups to get a feel for the goings-on.