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GSoC 2017 ends – Outreachy winter round begins

Erlend Sogge Heggen September 14, 2017

Since May this year we’ve been working with a handful of incredibly talented students. Google Summer of Code 2017 has now concluded, and we have some kick-ass new features to show for it. If you’re interested in a similar type of program, you should read about Outreachy further below, which is an internship for people from groups traditionally underrepresented in tech. As for Rails Girls, that is still ongoing; expect an update some time in October.

Four students entered – Four students emerged victorious

Out of the 4 students we worked with this year, all of them passed with flying colors. Not only that, but the projects they worked on were far from trivial.

David Taylor – Discourse Chat Integration

Bianca Nenciu – UX improvements; PMs to email addresses; Canned Replies v2

Jakub Macina – Search filters for tags, images & filetypes; Infinite scrolling in search results

Erick Guan – Login by email link; UTF-8 improvements; Improved Chinese-Japanese-Korean search

A big warm thanks to our wonderful students! We’d be happy to keep working with all of you, so hopefully we’ll still see you on Meta from time to time.

Outreachy – Winter Round

We planned to participate in Outreachy this summer, but with 4 GSoC slots and a Rails Girls project, our mentors were at capacity. We opted to defer our Outreachy participation to this winter.

However, we did in fact get to work with an Outreachy applicant this summer as well! Bianca originally found out about us through Outreachy, but when we realised we didn’t have the mentors available for it we recommended that she apply for GSoC instead, and the rest is history (of kickassery).

Would you like to participate in Outreachy this winter?

Learn all about it here: https://github.com/discourse/discourse/wiki/Outreachy

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Who is Discobot?

Jeff Atwood August 29, 2017

As of Discourse 1.8, every new user who joins will get a welcome PM from discobot:

discobot greeting

Discobot is a natural extension of our original, static welcome PM. However, Discobot is much more than a greeter; it also offers to interactively “play” the Discourse game with each new visitor.

The goal here is to teach people Discourse by inviting them use Discourse, interactively replying to a PM in the same way you’d reply to a real person. If you’re curious about how it works, watch the video above, or create a temporary account at try.discourse.org and give it a shot live. Why require people to read a boring old wall of text when they could try their hand at replying to a real PM topic in Discourse instead? Learn by doing!

Note that @discobot has a complete profile, so if anyone wonders who it is, they can learn more by visiting that profile, just like they would for any other user:

discobot user profile

If you’d like to customize @discobot for your site, please do! You can edit the bot’s username, full name, avatar, about me and other fields in the same manner you’d edit it for any user. Just visit discobot’s user page, select the preferences tab and begin editing!

discobot user preferences

Note that the “About me” field is on the Profile subtab, and contains this text by default

Hi, I’m not a real person. I’m a bot that can teach you about this site. To interact with me, send me a message or mention @discobot anywhere.

Feel free to edit all the profile fields, the profile picture, and the about me; changing any of this won’t interfere with the interactive narrative at all.

Although you can’t (yet) build your own interactive narratives, every single bit of text in the narrative can also be customized from Admin, Customize, Text:

editing discobot gretting text

We typically recommend searching for a specific word or sentence to find exactly what you want to change. Remember all text in Discourse can be customized — search for narrative_bot to find just the text associated with discobot.

Discobot will also reply when someone mentions @discobot the name in any topic, public or private. The bot has a few parlor tricks up its sleeve:

discobot topic commands

This is mostly for fun, but there are two badges associated with completing the new user tutorial, and the advanced user tutorial. So you may want to ask @discobot to begin the tutorial narratives if you want the badge, but joined a Discourse before discobot existed.

There are also a few other ways to customize the behavior of discobot in Admin, Site Settings. Just search for “narrative” to locate these settings:

discobot site settings

Here in the site settings, you can:

  • disable the bot entirely :(
  • disable the welcome post sent to new users
  • switch the welcome post from an interactive narrative to a non-interactive quick start guide
  • add a delay to the time the first PM gets sent to each new user
  • disable public replies when someone mentions @discobot

We hope Discobot is helpful as a live, real world tutorial and onboarding for new Discourse users. We also have plans to build an interactive moderator narrative in the future for new moderators, to complement our moderator guide. Give it a try and keep your feedback coming —
we’ll continue to refine and improve our narrative bot experience as we go.

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Boost your Patreon campaign with Discourse

Erlend Sogge Heggen June 22, 2017

Interest-based forums are perhaps the ultimate community experience. These oases on the internet are where you realise that geeking out big-time on knitting, robotics, fantasy football or what-have-you is totally a thing, and there’s no shortage of likeminded enthusiasts out there ready to geek out with you. Unfortunately these communities are also the most difficult to support, because general interests are hard to monetise.

That’s where companies like Patreon come in with crowdfunding for creators. Content creators and community builders are often the one and the same, which is why we’ve made it easy to use Patreon and Discourse together.

A few weeks ago we quietly rolled out our Patreon integration to all of our hosted customers. Along with the self-hosted early adopters (thanks so much!) there are plenty of live examples to look at already:

Here’s how it works

Let’s assume you already have a profile on Patreon and the integration with Discourse has been set up. This is what the integration does for you:

1. A user on your forum decides to give a monthly donation to your project through Patreon

2. Discourse detects that this user (email) is a Patron and adds the user to the patrons group

This group membership comes with a lot of added “cosmetics”, which admins can customise to fit their brand. Patrons can get a custom Title, Avatar flair and Badge.

With the right incentives in place you can take this one step further and give patrons access to a private category or even an exclusive forum for paying members only, like the Video Creators community is doing:

3. Increase patronage through visibility

While that extra flair is a fun and rewarding way to recognise your patrons, it also doubles as advertisement for your Patreon campaign.

Donations is a numbers game, and you want to remind your users as often as possible that their support is needed, without becoming an annoyance. The patron flair accomplishes that by being ever-present in daily discussions, serving as an unobtrusive but daily reminder that donations are a thing. It’s a positive feedback loop.

Ready to start collecting money? Follow our set-up guide and you’re all set. Self-hosted users must install the plugin first. If you’re using this integration on a live site, we’d love to hear from you!

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