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Discourse 1.1 and Release Schedule

Jeff Atwood November 10, 2014

In September, the entire Discourse Team had our yearly world meetup in Toronto. It was a blast!

Robin and Neil (not pictured, he has a thing with heights) hosted us and made sure a fun time was had by all in their home city. We rode segways, we climbed the tallest tower, we were trapped in puzzle rooms, we even killed a hobo. We also discussed the Discourse roadmap post V1, and how we decide what goes into future releases of Discourse.

The next stage of that plan is now complete. As of late last week, we shipped Discourse 1.1!

The complete release notes have a detailed summary of the hundreds of fixes, UI improvements, feature tweaks, and new features in Discourse 1.1, but here are a few highlights:

Improved Search

Search now provides a lot more feedback, including dates, category, and bolded matches in context.

There’s also finally a help link on search which describes all the custom operators and orders you can use, as well as providing general search tips.

Custom User Fields

You can specify custom boolean or text fields for user profiles, including fields that need to be captured at sign up time.

New User Cards

New user cards with customizable backgrounds and selectable badge images, if you hold a badge that has an eligible image associated. The user profile page also got some design updates.

1.1 is a polish release and reflects a stabler, faster, more secure Discourse. It’s what 1.0 should have been, but open source software is never “done”. Upgrade your instance today via our easy one click admin panel updater!

We’d like to thank the entire Discourse community for all their contributions toward this release, whether it was in pull requests, feedback on meta.discourse, or feedback on your own Discourse instance. Heck, we even listen to our customers, sometimes!

For insight into what’s coming up in future releases of Discourse, keep an eye on the releases category at meta discourse.

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Introducing Discourse 1.0

Jeff Atwood August 26, 2014

Today we are incrementing the version number of Discourse to 1.0.

We’ve been working on Discourse in public for about a year and a half now – since February 2013. Turns out that’s about how long it takes to herd an open source project from “hey, cool toy” to something that works for most online discussion communities.

It’s a bit like building an airplane in flight.

Version numbers are arbitrary, yes, but V1 does signify something in public. We believe Discourse is now ready for wide public use.

That’s not to say Discourse can’t be improved – I have a mile-long list of things we still want to do. But products that are in perpetual beta are a cop-out. Eventually you have to ditch the crutch of the word “beta” and be brave enough to say, yes, we’re ready.

So that’s what we’re doing.

In working with the community, in working with our 3 initial partners, in working with our early customers, we’ve gained a lot of confidence that we’ve refined Discourse into something that is safe, complete, has all the rough edges smoothed, and is finally ready for use by everyone:

discourse.org

We’re also, at long last, unveiling our hosting service and install service:

discourse.org/buy

If you’re looking for a world class host to get started with Discourse, why not choose the people that know Discourse best?

As an open source project, we wouldn’t be where we are today without our community, so many thanks are in order:

  • Thanks most of all to the people who believed in Discourse enough to operate and maintain an active Discourse instance. You’re closest to the metal and we always, always highly prioritize your feedback.
  • Thanks to our early customers who saw value in Discourse and were willing to take a leap of faith with us and help build a beta product. Money is the ultimate form of support, and it’s essential to the survival of the project. It’s also amazing how many things we learned when really digging into setups with our early customers.
  • Thanks to everyone who participated on meta.discourse and provided feedback, reported bugs, or discussed features with us. Discourse is better because you spent the time with us to help improve it for everyone. We appreciate that.
  • Thanks to our many contributors and collaborators who submitted pull requests to the Discourse project on GitHub. Any open source project is only as good as its contributors, and one of our continuing goals is to make it easier and easier to contribute to Discourse as we go.
  • Thanks to everyone who used Discourse. Ultimately Discourse is a platform for having fun while communicating with your fellow human beings – building a simple, satisfying user experience has always been our number one priority. There’s no party when nobody shows up!

We’ve come a long way, and we’ve worked hard to get here, but we still have a very long way to go. Here’s to the next 8½ years of our 10 year plan to raise the level of discourse on the web. Join us. We’d love to have you.

44 Replies

Building a Discourse Community

Jeff Atwood August 1, 2014

Anyone can set up their very own Discourse in 30 minutes or less. But how do you get people to go there?

I often describe Discourse as an interesting dinner party. Or, depending on the community, just a party.

The dinner party analogy is helpful – think of categories as rooms, topics as tables, and replies as conversations. And every dinner party needs guests! The goal of the dinner party organizer is to take Discourse and found something like their own restaurant, a fun destination for guests and regulars to socialize, a place people want to go.

What is your community’s purpose?

Every community has a purpose. What’s yours? If you haven’t set up your pinned welcome topic, or banner topic, do that now.

It’s the first thing new arrivals will want to know: what is this place?

Think of it as the menu you post outside the restaurant, or maybe the sign on the top of the building outside. It lets people know what to expect – Italian? Fast food? Dress codes?

This is prime real estate; it will appear for every visitor, forever, and people are busy. So:

  • Keep it brief
  • Put your very best copy here

That pinned or banner topic should be at most a few paragraphs, an elevator pitch or mission statement describing what your community is and does. For those who want to learn more, it can link to a deeper explanation of your community, the benefits of joining, and so forth.

Where is the conversation?

Your very first order of business is to seed your site with interesting topics and replies. This is so important there’s a global banner we display to staff members until your site has reached a minimum threshold of content.

The worst thing you can do is open with a blank site. That’s like trying to get people to sit down at an empty restaurant!

Those initial topics are critical:

  1. To further explain what your community is. The topics you see on the front page right now? These are the kinds of conversations going on here; this is what we tend to generally talk about. This is what our community is.
  2. To provide examples of the sort of content you want. To let everyone know that yes, topics like these are welcome on our site. Create more discussions like these!
  3. To invite participation. Have some getting to know you topics for people to share about themselves, and some topics that are open ended and encourage replying with opinions, stories, or pictures.

Recruit friends, recruit colleagues, recruit early beta users, do whatever it takes to build out an initial solid base of content. You can’t launch your community without it.

Who’s here?

Leadership comes from the top. The presence of staff speaks volumes about whether your community is alive and thriving. Don’t just say you believe in this community, demonstrate that through your personal participation and enthusiasm. Lead by example. Reply to questions people have, help your community learn the ropes, gently guide and shape the community as you go.

If you are lucky enough to have celebrities on your staff, or in your community, take advantage of that! When someone notable – the owner, the sponsor, the founders, the developers, the artist, the author, the MVP – pops in and responds, that is a huge draw. It says this community is important because it’s on the radar of cool, interesting, busy people too! Even a little participation by celebrities goes a long way, so try to schedule that.

Half of any community is showing up regularly. There’s no substitute for simply being there, each day, every day. Welcome and respond to new users as they arrive. Listen to their feedback. Encourage everyone else to do the same over a period of months and soon you’ll have a core of regulars that form the heart of your community – maybe even a few members so engaged they could eventually become community moderators.

Imagine a restaurant with a bustling, visible, helpful staff, where the owner periodically checks in from table to table to make sure everyone is having a good experience. That’s the kind of place that, over time, earns repeat customers … maybe even fans.

How do we find it?

Once you’ve done that, make sure people can find your community. Start by linking it everywhere:

  1. From your website in your main navigation.
  2. In newsletters and email.
  3. From your blog.
  4. On Twitter, Facebook, and other social media.

Have some special launch fanfare when your community opens. This will drive an initial rush of new community members, some of whom will stick around and seed early growth. Configure Google, Facebook, Twitter, and other social logins to make it easy to sign up and participate.

As they say in real estate: location, location, location. Half of every great restaurant is easy access (including parking), and a convenient location.

Start with yourself

Be patient. Building communities is hard. It takes months if not years.

Although we strive to make Discourse as fun and engaging (and as free and open source) as possible, software alone can’t guarantee the success of a community. But you can! Integrate your community into your daily activities, strive to regularly create unique, interesting conversation among friends – and your community will be off to a solid start.

Stick with it and see what happens. I promise we will too.

5 Replies