How Discord Is Useful for Creating a Vibrant Online Community through Community-based Chat Rooms

Recently, I’ve been getting more and more involved with various organizations and have been strongly recommending West Coast Chinese Christian Conference (WCCCC) to replace their current messaging app, WhatsApp, with Discord. Many of my colleagues, however, are hesitant and skeptical about switching over to a completely new and unfamiliar messaging system.

However, I believe that Discord is currently the best cross-platform messaging app available for a non-profit religious organization such as WCCCC.

What is Discord?

Discord is a chat software that organizes chat rooms into categories called channels. Discord is highly adaptable, user-friendly, and streamlined. It has rich in features that are commonly only available in paid-subscription apps (e.g. Slack, which can cost upwards of $6000/year or more for comparable features). Discord also can be integrated with popular project management tools such as Trello and Github through the use of WebHooks.

One major reason why people are hesitant to use Discord is that its major target audience is gamers. However, this does not take away from Discord’s community-based and highly sought after channel-based discussion rooms. And in reality, the gamers-in-mind design of Discord actually for the benefits of online discussion groups because it was built with low latency, white-noise cancelling audio, and clear/crisp audio even with low internet connectivity.

What sets Discord apart?

[Note: There are other features that that are not discussed in detail in this article. Some of these features include DDoS protection, WebHooks, and ChatBots.]

What makes Discord amazing? Here are some of its unique features:

Channel-based Discussion Chat Rooms

Here is an example of different channels from the WCCCC Discord Chatroom

One problem with using chat rooms such as WhatsApp, Text Messaging, and Facebook is that is first-and-foremost designed to be a private chat room. Yes, you can have group discussions but the more complex the project becomes, the more difficult it is to separate and organize each working part.

Discord fixes this problem by organizing text chat rooms (#) and voice chat rooms (🔊) under major categories. Voice chat rooms are like virtual rooms that people can enter in at any time and converse with people who happen to be in that room as well.

Community-oriented Chatroom

Also, many not all projects contain sensitive information. Often times, certain projects require the input of a larger audience to help build a sense of community and involvement. Opening up certain project to the entire community as a whole helps turn an organization to a movement. Private chat rooms (even private group chat rooms) bottleneck projects to only a select few people; community-based chat rooms, on the other hand, openly invite people to join in larger projects whose scope, vision, and mission are larger than any one person or group of people.

Moderation tools

One problem for non-private discussions is breaches in privacy, inappropriate language, or misuse of the chatroom. Therefore, such discussions need moderation tools. Discord has different tiers of moderation tools to help delete, change, emphasize, and organize comments and chatrooms to help correct, guide, and redirect discussion.

Privacy and Tiered Roles

One amazing feature that Discord has is its use of private chat rooms and roles.

Here is an example of different roles from WCCCC’s Discord Channel

For example, in West Coast Chinese Christian Conference there are multiple projects tiers of leadership. Here are just a few:

  • Board of Directors (BoD)
  • Work Group 1-14 (The “hands and feet” of this ministry.)
  • Jubilee Celebration

The Rooms can be organized like the following:

  • Theme Proposal (Private: BoD only)
  • Work Group #12 (BoD and WG12)
  • Cabinet (Private: BoD and WG3)
  • Communications (Public)
  • Jubilee Celebration (Public)

When organizing chat rooms, you can assign specific people a certain role or with multiple roles. This allows large groups of leaders and volunteers to contribute to projects without all the concurrent projects getting jumbled together and becoming confusing. Most importantly, people who are interested in the organization can see many of the projects being worked on and decide for themselves whether they what to contribute!

Streamlined, Content-centered, and Simple User Interface

This program is extremely simple to use. Anyone with the basic knowledge of text messaging can easily pick up Discord and begin to contribute. Also, the design is built so that people can see large amounts of content without wasting any space. In specific, Discord does not use speech bubbles which waste a lot of white space, interfere with extended reading, and discourage the expression of complex thoughts. In addition, Discord is available for every major operating system: Android, iOS, Windows, Mac. They even have a web version so you do not even have to download a program to use its features, (However, if you want to use noise cancellation and push-to-unmute, you need to download the program.)

Also, the WhatsApp app on your phone has to be running and actively connected to the WhatsApp servers to use WhatsApp on the computer. That is so annoying.

One amazing feature that Discord has that other chat room apps lack is the ability to edit a message after it has already been sent. Many times, entire Text Messages, Facebook Messages, and WhatsApp messages have to be deleted (if they have that feature) because a single word or phrase was accidently sent. In Discord, messages can be edited after the fact which makes it useful for clarity of thought, grammar, and content.

Markdown Syntax

However, even if it is simple to use, that does not mean that it is limiting. Discord employs an important but often unused User Interface technique called Progressive Disclosure. On the surface, every user has the bare essentials. Most people do not need to know how to display block texts of programming languages (C, C++, SQL, Java…) or web markup languages (HTML, CSS…).

Want to make tables? You can do it in Discord (using Text Tables). Want to bold, underline, strikethrough, or italicize text? You can do it in Discord (using Markdown). Markdown is easy to learn; you don’t even have to take your hands off your keyboard to format your text!

Clear audio even with poor internet connectivity (VoIP)

As I discussed before, Discord was made to be used for gamers. Why is this important? Because modern games use high amounts of internet bandwidth and processing power. If Discord voice and video chat rooms slowed the computer down by any noticeable degree, people would stop using Discord; if the sound of the keyboard or background noise distracted others in the chatroom, gamers would stop using Discord.

For this reason, Discord automatically reduces the white noise of people not talking and filters out any sound that is not within the typical range of a person’s voice (low thrum of people’ footsteps and high pitch from a fan or light bulb). The noise reduction of Discord and its clever use of video compression is why many people have begun to leave more popular VoIP programs (e.g. Google Hangouts and Skype) which do not have these features.

Discord combines, in one neat little package, the best of what text messaging and audio/video conferencing have to offer.

Interested?

I understand why people would be hesitant to try something new and unfamiliar. However, to anyone who is interested in improving communication through text, sound, and video over the internet, I strongly recommend considering Discord. Everything described above is free to use, and if you don’t like what you see, then you can just delete your account. There is nothing financially stopping you from checking it out!

Additional Resources

Paul Materum

Hi, my name is Paul Materum. I have B.S. Chemistry, Cal Poly SLO, but I decided to dedicate my life to becoming an elementary school teacher. I like reading God's word, reading old philosophy books, going to the gym, and watching Star Trek.

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