Using Discourse Forums as Facebook/Email/iMessage/WhatsApp/Twitter Replacement

Morning, Nerds!

I hope this post finds you in truly spectacular form. Although I have not been prolific in my use of Discourse, I have genuinely enjoyed the little contact I’ve had with it via MPU and Automators. It reminds me of a time when having conversations via Internets didn’t immediately induce panic attacks. How quaint!

Anyway, I was thinking about whether one could use Discourse to create a small-scale social network in which genuine friends (rather than entire populations) could post either bullshit or considered discussions.

Has anyone done something similar? Is there another platform that would be relevant or better? And, if Discourse is the best option, how to manage the cost?

Obviously, simple email or IM threads could achieve something similar, but they’re not exactly encouraging people to interact on a deeper level. And they’re hard to catalogue and search…

Anyway – the broader idea I’m thinking about is how to use this incredible thing for actual discourse - which I’m sure a lot of you have been thinking about doing to. I was listening to a great review of Ralph Ellison’s collected letters the other day, and it made me a little sad that his community managed to have extremely sophisticated conversation via pen and paper, while we have used global connectivity to compress both language and discussion down to its bare minimum.

Would love to hear your thoughts on this, so please chime in and correct me, educate me, etc.



Sure it could be done. iMessage and WhatsApp offer a level of privacy, but if you want a small forum and don’t expect complete privacy this software is pretty sweet.

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This is the part I can definitely comment on! Host yourself, use something like Linode or Digital Ocean on their cheapest plan. If your circle of friends is the sort who are likely to want to post a lot of images then research the external image hosting options (this is something MPU uses, but Automators doesn’t need). Hosting images on your server can get pricy quickly, and you want to keep the cost low.


Definitely interested in this!
About to start a discourse forum for a 1500 member gun club.

Also interested, I need to set up a Discourse forum for the Black, Chocolate and White Welsh Mountain Sheep registries as well as a private section for our Board of directors to discuss Association business.

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CERN was recently faced with this and switched to (among other things) a combination of Discourse for discussions and Mattermost for chat.

Yes, I think Discourse works well for just a few people. You can basically use it to run email-based conversations and make them searchable and archivable without risking platform shutdown as happened recently to Yahoo Groups’ archives (RIP.)

The weekly/biweekly catch up email Discourse sends is probably its strongest feature for keeping temporarily busy people in the loop, too.

Discourse would work; we have a great example of it here :slight_smile: Also worth looking at are Slack and Discord.

Do you happen to know what MPU uses?

I second that, I use DigitalOcean to setup Discourse, it’s nice and easy. Also others around looking to start their Discourse, let me know if you need any help.

I’ve set up a few Discourse installs on DigitalOcean for different topics, including my group of friends. My experience is that you need content to draw people there, merely providing the means of conversation is not enough (in my experience) to draw people away from Facebook/Twitter, etc. That’s my hypothesis at least. I’ve since shut them down.

DigitalOcean is $5/mo, so the cost to try it out is low.

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We’re using Amazon S3. You can input the credentials directly into the admin dashboard of Discourse.


Would Discord be a viable option. Set up a server and invite your friends.

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The hardest part: convince people to use something different. If it was up to me, I’d immediately delete WhatsApp from my phone. Some years ago I managed to convince some friends to use a secure messaging app (Threema). What happened: they constantly started writing in WhatsApp.

I removed FB and Twitter from my life, don’t miss anything because I use them. But WhatsApp is my own personal privacy defeat. :smiley: And since I have non-iOS friends, iMessage is not an option.

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