[off-topic] Group chat vs Forums - What is your preference?

Group chat vs Forums - What is your preference?

Ever since I read this article from Jason Fried about group chat (sync communications, always online) versus forums (async, less intrusive communication) I started to contemplate one vs the other more thoughtfully.

Jason Fried co-leads 37signals, now Basecamp, and is the author of few interesting books like rework and remote. I tend to like what he writes. Here is Jason’s post:


He lists 17 reasons why Group chat as the primary method of communication across a group or organisation is not a good idea. Some of them:

  • Mental fatigue and exhaustion

  • An ASAP culture

  • Fear of missing out or not having a say

  • Over-informing everyone in real-time

  • Manic context-shifting and continuous partial attention

  • Presence, assumptions, and expectations

(expectations can kill you!)

Instead, he proposes, use something more asynchronous, like forums. In his company they work Real-time sometimes, asynchronous most of the time.

Huge points I like:

  • Stop expecting everyone to be in chat all day long

  • Announcements aren’t chats

  • Treat chat like a sauna — stay a while but then get out

  • Give people long uninterrupted stretches to get work done

  • Set expectations that it’s OK to be unavailable

I know, Slack is very cute and useful, but you’d rather want to use it in moderation. The problem I see there is that the expectations are that you need to reply quick, hence be there all the time. But if we are there all the time, when do we get the work done?

In the team I work with, we tried group chats for emergencies, then Mattermost (a Slack alternative) for internal communications, but everything changed when we found Discourse.

Discourse is one of the most advanced forum tools there is. Totally recommended.

In the team I work with we finally settled for ALL internal communications via Discourse, away from emails, away from group chats. We have a forum thread for Urgent matters, we have another for a water cooler (where we post about the fun, unofficial stuff), and we have plenty for day to day problems. We use it as a wiki, as a polls tool, as a reporting tool (our pipelines post analysis information from our tests), as a tool to share our work and organise it.

Discourse is free and is the software that powers this very community - and I’m so happy this is the case!

Have a nice one!


FYI @will @Joe