Discourse logoWhat do you do when you want to share specific information with your company, or solicit feedback on a certain project, or ask a question of your colleagues? You could email your entire company, but these days, people are pretty sensitive about extra emails cluttering their inboxes and interrupting productivity (and if you work with developers, you know that can be annoying and costly). Depending on the topic, it might even feel spammy.

For communications that don’t warrant a company-wide email memo, we’ve turned to the online, open-source discussion platform called Discourse. It allows for asynchronous conversation, so anyone can join and contribute at their convenience.

Discourse is a free, modern forum, message board, and chat room, all in one. You can post and categorize topics, which others can then read, like, share, and respond to. The text field has formatting options and there’s no word limit, so you can write long posts, create lists, attach files, and link to URLs, among other features. Here's an example of what a conversation looks like:

Table XI Discourse Conversation

We use Discourse for a variety of topics, ranging from business-related items to “fun and games,” including:

  • Project Updates: Keep employees up-to-date on new projects or other work happening at Table XI that they may not be directly involved with;
  • Industry Chatter: Report and discuss new innovations, standards, and practices in software development, sales strategies, and marketing;
  • Business Strategy: Outline Table XI’s plans and sales updates;
  • Blog Articles: Solicit knowledge, opinions, and feedback on upcoming articles for the Table XI blog;
  • Employee Spotlights: Interview Table XI staff about what they’re doing both inside and outside the company, and other things co-workers might not know about them;
  • Brain Teasers: Post weekly mind game competitions, just for fun.

Table XI Discourse Dashboard
Employees can check in on Discourse when they have a lull in the workday to view activity, rather than have their inboxes assaulted with a barrage of emails that might not be high priority. Topics can spark lively conversation—anyone can post a topic, and anyone can respond to the thread. You can also send direct messages to a specific user. We’ve found Discourse to be a good research tool, too, since it gives people a chance to collect and share valuable information in one place.

In fact, we’ve liked Discourse so much, we built a free mobile app for the platform that’s now available for iOS in the App Store.

Give it a try and let us know what you think.

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