Recently I wrote about the challenge of communication tools like Slack and Discord locking in knowledge within their walls and not making it easy to find previous discussions. This makes learning less accessible and searchable.
Despite this drawback, many companies use Slack and Discord as developer communities and support forums. With Slack it's a bit easier with inline threads – that's how we managed our frontend engineering support when I worked at Target. But Discord's threads are not inline, they're separate. Is there a way to make Q&A in Discord easier to find than posts getting lost in a support channel?
I had joined the TypeScript Discord awhile back and noticed they had a novel way to manage support, through automated channels. You'd ping the bot and be assigned a channel, it was pretty sophisticated. I'd show it to you except... it's gone! It's now been replaced by Discord's Forum Channels.
Forum Channels have been a "thing" since September and the announcement post mentions a slow rollout so this is the first time I've actually seen it for myself.
Here's a little clip of it in action:
If you want to see it, check out the #help-typescript channel in the TypeScript community Discord.
What can Forum Channels do?
The Forum Channels as of right now offer:
- Threaded discussions
- Filtering and searching
If you "Follow" a post, it shows up underneath the channel in the sidebar:
As far as I can tell, you can't "officially" mark an answer but the Storybook server is using a tag to do it:
I don't think it's automated – it's up to the OP (original poster) or a community manager to mark it. Hopefully Discord gets the memo and adds that feature since it's a big miss compared to something like GH Discussions.
How to add a forum channel
As of now, 100% of community servers can add Forum Channels. It will show up in the "Add channel" dialog:
You can learn more reviewing the Help article.
But can we automate it? 🤖
Heck yes! You can use the Discord API to access Forum Channel data. I've used the Discord API to create weekly email digests of channel activity in the past so I can imagine this will let you ETL out forum info. Dare I say... sync to GH Discussions as a source of truth.
I don't think this will replace GH discussions for us with Excalibur but this is a great addition for those of you who are running Discord developer communities.
Have a lovely day,