What do you think about Circle's update?

Circle just announced a new chat feature for their communities (and a new look) https://community.circle.so/c/product-updates/circle-is-getting-a-fresh-new-look-and-chat-spaces

In their announcement they mention that they’re now a real alternative to Slack and Discord.

I love their fast execution but I don’t know whether mixing async conversations and real-time chats in the same place can work.
To me the only thing that is scarier than an unanswered forum post is an empty chat.

Would love to hear your thoughts!


I feel the same about adding chat to a forum without giving it some serious thought, either from a design POV from the platform dev team, and from the POV of the community leaders.

It can be huge benefit to some communities, but you do risk a moderation nightmare in terms of keeping track of conversations, ensuring quality content is not lost in the scroll and ensuring people still use the forum parts to preserve the conversations.

It’s something that needs planning and thought for sure.

I can see why products are adding it though, and for communities that already use Discord and forums, then it makes sense to bring it all under one platform.


My main concern is whether it will put an extra emphasis on circle’s biggest weakness (IMO) which is not being where your members are. It’s okay to not be in everyone’s pocket when your community’s main form of conversation is async, but it’s a different story with chats.

There will be some migration horror stories but if anyone can pull it off, it’ll be awesome

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Very interesting to see this, and I wouldn’t have without you posting about it since I don’t actively use or admin Circle. :pray: In general I am keenly interested in the sync/async (chat/forum) divide, how to solve it, whether it can be solved. So it’s nice to see Circle’s work toward that.

Discourse is taking a big step in this direction as well, and without knowing more about the Circle approach I wonder if they’ll be doing enough to mitigate some of the downsides of chat that are raised here. Discourse’s chat (which you can try right now, if you want!) has a key function of being able to copy chat messages into Topics and start more long-term, async discussions out of them, discussions that interlink with each other (chat to topic, topic linking back to chat). Maybe Circle already will have this, I’ll certainly be curious to see. But it does seem to me that it’s likely to be problematic (at least for some communities) to just put chat and forum in the same space without more thought and attention given to integrating them in various ways like this.

I also think the decision of whether to enable chat should probably depend on whether both chat and forum already exist in a given community. In situations where you have Circle or Discourse and Discord/Slack, it makes total sense to me to try to get those into one space, even without extra tools to better integrate them. But if a community is just one or the other, I’d say I’d be most inclined to add forum to a chat-only community for that long-term archiving and slower discussion option, and maybe just accept that it might be a slower, less active space (but have a purpose for it that gets at least consistently if not frequently serviced). For forum-only I do somehow feel like it’s more of a risk to add a chat, it seems like it could divide the community, or just be really empty/quiet, and for chat to be quiet feels more problematic than for a forum.

More of my thoughts (and those of others) in this topic focusing on the sync/async divide:

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It doesn’t work. The best of both worlds is adding threads to a chat, but it doesn’t solve the problems forums are out there to solve. So one should decide between async and real-time communication, and build a space in a user’s mind with that approach.

For example, Reddit is forums, Discord is chat for gamers.

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I agree with this. The two aren’t even remotely comparable. Also don’t forget - Discord was created to solve voice chat for gamers, first and foremost, which had been previously dominated by very clunky self-hosted and cloud-hosted instances with Ventrilo and Team Speak. The fact that it has all of these text channels, direct messages, and branded communities, is just fluff on top of its primary use case. Gamers want to chat with other gamers outside of the games that they play for a myriad of reasons.

Here’s an example: in Sea of Thieves, Rare offers all players in-game chat which is transmitted in proximity to other players. For a pirate game based upon subterfuge, this introduces a serious level of risk (which Rare gives pirates objects to obfuscate / whisper, or broadcast even louder). The roleplaying that Rare gives you is fun, but anyone who is even remotely competitive in Sea of Thieves gets their real-time voice conversations behind a private Discord server, that the enemy / competitors can never penetrate or listen to. This, of course, is an extreme use case. Most of the use cases are just for convenience and coordination.

Right, but also, Youtube is an async “forum” for gamers, while Twitch is a real-time chat + video for gamers.

I think if you establish the right context and interaction “modes” or expectations, they could all work. The participants need to be in the right headspace though or it it won’t work.

I think the analogy is like if you expect a shot of vodka and it’s water, it’s equally jarring as expecting a glass of water and it’s vodka. Or trying to combine extreme action sports with a meditative relaxed mindfulness experience all in one.

But those could work if they were broken up — e.g. if some team building weekend had Saturday as a “sportsy event” and saturday evening to be a reflection, or if a game event started as real-time broadcasted over twitch and ppl chatted about it, but then the recaps and highlights were uploaded to Youtube and ppl could reminisce on those moments, or analyze the strategy/gameplay etc.