- Paul Mestemaker II
I've moved a lot in my life. Whenever I move to a new city, I have an unwritten playbook on how to connect with others and establish some sort of community. One component of that is to start recurring events as a feeder system to give adults an excuse to meet others.
Of all the recurring activities I tried to set up, a poker night was the most successful. With a buy-in of $20, it was affordable enough for everybody to participate. But it was expensive enough that if you ended up winning, you'd end up with a nice bonus.
I started branding it West LA Poker Night and then during the pandemic eventually into West LA Social [Distancing] Club. In the beginning of the pandemic, we had no idea what we should or shouldn't do in-person, so everything moved online. Poker nights went to virtual poker nights. People started adopting WhatsApp because a few people were on Android and iMessage was garbage for reactions over SMS. But WhatsApp was terrible at threading and large group chats. So I took the plunge and set up a Discord server.
Most people in my group were skeptical of Discord. "Oh, look at Rule Boy over here trying to get us to use a Slack knock off". But I created a few channels to facilitate topic-based discussions. Whenever there was enough discussion about yet another topic, I'd moderate and encourage people to move the conversation to a different channel. This ended up taking off and all of my core friends started using it. After 6 months of lockdown, we had started inviting other people into the group. I didn't want to open this up to just anybody. Every person who is invited needs to meet at least 2 members in real life. And every member needs to send at least 1 message per year otherwise they'll be removed. We are hovering around 40 people and there are discussions every day.
Based on this experience, I have put together a Discord wishlist:
Allow a moderator role to move messages from a channel into a thread
Allow thread updates to syndicate back to the main channel
Better bot marketplace
Draw on each other's screens when screen sharing
Multi-person video quality?
Allow servers to publish Discord content to forums that can be searched online
Discord Threads Wishlist
Bulk Move Messages to a Thread
I think threads were one of the best additions to Discord since we started using it daily a few years ago. They help further organize from a topic associated with a channel, to a specific threaded sub-topic. It can really help reduce the amount of notifications that people get. Thus, the notifications that are received should be a higher signal.
However, most people in my social club do not think in threads. They think, "I have a question I want answered" or "I'd like to share this article". And then one person responds in the channel. And now you have 8 messages about one topic only relevant to two people polluting the channel for the rest of the members. If I were around, I'd create a thread on their behalf and encourage any follow-up conversations to happen in that thread.
Discord already acknowledges how this happens organically because if you reply to a discussion multiple times, it will encourage you to create a thread to continue the conversation. But now you have 3 or 4 messages in the primary channel and then the rest is in the thread. So anybody who looks at the thread now also has to look into the channel around when the thread was started to get the full context. Or the people who create the thread need to re-create the context when starting the new thread.
As a moderator, I'd love to be able to move all the messages from the channel into a thread and automatically add all of those people to the thread. There would also be some type of trail that would indicate that some messages were moved into a thread.
There's a Discord plugin that helps with this: Needle (auto-thread creation for Discord). But it's not perfect. It does auto-create threads, but the naming of the thread is just a truncated version of the first message. I think it would be great if the thread was auto-named using a GPT-powered model that can summarize intent. ChatGPT does a pretty solid job now of naming the prompts you have with it.
I'd love for threads to be more discoverable. When someone creates a thread, you don't really know it's there unless you were reading a channel and then click into the thread and contribute to it in some way. Once you do, it shows up in the sidebar nested underneath the channel it came from.
I'd love for active threads to show up in my sidebar, so I can see what discussions are going on at-a-glance. This would be especially helpful if someone resurrects an old thread. I may not have been subscribed to it, but I'd like to see that there was recent activity. This would only work for smaller servers like mine and could be a disaster for larger servers.
Another potential approach to the discoverability of active threads is to leave it in the hands of the people contributing to threads similar to what Slack does.
Slack thread send to channel
Bots are pretty helpful and the Discord community has a lot of them. They were quite confusing to me at first because it seemed like they could listen to all messages. But now it seems like there have been some important cleanups to the API and bots can leverage
Some members of the West LA Social Club make really specific predictions about the future of the world (read: terrible stock and crypto market advice). So we set up a Discord Reminder Bot to shoot us a message in the future when to reminder us to check the validity of a specific prediction. The bot works... fine. Except it doesn't support threads. When trying to find alternative bots, I'd pore through different bot marketplaces and then have a sub-par experience. So I'd love for Discord to have a dedicated marketplace with a reliable rating system.
I became a Discord Nitro subscriber to try to get higher quality screen sharing (and to support Discord). But Discord never really worked nearly as good as Zoom.
The biggest missing feature for when we tried to use this at work was the ability to draw on each other's screen.
Syndicate to Web
There are a ton of incredible open source projects that are very dependent on Discord these days. These communities become the de facto support and Q&A mechanism, but all of that knowledge is locked inside of individual Discord servers. There's no easy way to search across servers. I'd love to see Discord allow for communities to have posts syndicate to a webview so that it can be indexed by search engines. This would help people find the answers to their questions and perhaps even discover Discord and start contributing themselves.
If it is strategically important to Discord to keep the data locked away and not syndicated to the web where it can be indexed by search engines and LLMs, I think it would then be incredibly valuable to offer a service that allows AI models to be fine-tuned on the conversations in your Discord server. This would enable semantic search, creation of chatbots, simplify Q&A, et al.
If anybody from Discord ends up reading this: you've made an amazing product. It helped my friends and my company feel more deeply connected and a sense of community during the pandemic. I'm also more than happy to dive more deeply into my feedback if it can help make it happen.