Enable the chat channels

I think the Discourse chat feature is intended for contemporaneous, short-form communication. The screenshots look a lot like Zoom’s chat feature but with Slack-style threads in the sidebar. But I’ve never used it before. Like @darkonus, I wonder how mature it is. Maybe someone could set up a test instance to try it out?

Now I’m wondering how we’ve lived without MediaWiki’s IRC chat extension for so long. :stuck_out_tongue:


There are only so many people in the OSM community willing to put in the effort to keep congregation spaces healthy, positive, and welcoming to new users, and if we splinter into too many venues with too many different formats, then we have a higher chance of making someone’s first experience with an OSM community really negative. That’s why I worry about splintered comm platforms, anyway.

If we want to encourage people to move to Discourse Chat, then we should come up with a plan to move folks from some existing platform(s) to the new one. The work behind this for Forum → Discourse worked fairly well, but it was a lot of effort by a lot of people.


I understand your concern, but I see the chat channels as an incentive for new members to get hooked here on the forum, so that they can then participate in more serious discussions and better understand how OpenStreetMap works.

I don’t think we should actively encourage participants to move to these chats. It will be natural — a person with an OpenStreetMap account will get both the forum and the chats at once. Those who want to use it will use it, those who don’t want to use it won’t.

I see the benefit of having platforms for people to chat on Reddit, Discord, Telegram, Slack, IRC, and such. Those are places people already use, and coming to the places they use to make communities is good for outreach.

However turning on a chat feature on the forums doesn’t really help in any way like that. The only people here on the discourse are people who are already extremely invested into OSM stuff already. I don’t think it’s really necessary, and furthermore every new avenue opened is another place moderators and power users have to splinter their attention in order to engage with the full community.

I already see a ton of the big power users in pretty much every corner of the OSM community, and I’m surprised at how they handle it (I can barely keep my attention on the OSM US slack and the OSM World Discord.)

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That’s a good insight. For some local communities, even maintaining a beachhead presence in this forum’s forum categories is enough of a challenge. But other local communities live and breathe the forums.

When I look at this table of all-time longest topics, some stretching tens of thousands of posts long, I have to wonder if some local communities have effectively been using the forum as a chat server. No wonder they’d chafe at guardrails like the minimum post length, topic similarity warning, and repeat link warning that only make sense for slow-paced, long-form discussion. If that’s the case, then tweaking the forum to behave like a chat server would be less disruptive to these communities than expecting them to use the forum like a forum. Just a hypothesis.

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If there are communities that already use the forums like a chat room, I say it wouldn’t hurt for them to have an option to actually use a chat room on this site, but I think OP’s vision of trying to encourage other communities that aren’t already using it to use it might be a bit too lofty of a goal.


Discord is reasonably active for Oceania, where a lot of the regular users appear to be fairly “young” i.e. early 20’s (to me that makes them young! :grinning:)

A few times I’ve made mention on there of subjects being discussed here, & suggested that people may like to join in, but the usual response is “You can stick the forum”! :frowning:

So I think you may have issues getting “everybody” to join on here as one big happy family! :roll_eyes:

There are some FOSS purists in the OSM community and an interesting thing the OSM World Discord did was bridge the Discord server to Matrix so people could participate there without a Discord account. No offense to the OSM world Discord mods if they see this, but they don’t do a very good job of promoting it. :stuck_out_tongue:

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There are English-speaking global communities and several very active foreign-language communities. They have many members and many discussions. I understand that it’s hard for moderators to keep track of everything and many people don’t see the point of an additional chat room here for already quite active communities.

But please pay attention to the communities of other countries here. They are not as active and there are fewer discussions. In some communities, there are long periods of silence in the branches of this forum. Some communities have no representation on this forum at all. When I proposed this idea, I was thinking about such communities.

Here’s a discussion thread on the main Discourse forum: Matrix protocol for chat - #21 by dan - feature - Discourse Meta

Me personally, I ‘bridge’ all OSM communication channels I’m interested in (IRC and Discord) in my Element installation.

Nevertheless, it’s important to recognize that not every community possesses the necessary resources to establish their own chat instances or similar communication platforms. Moreover, the emergence of independent community chat rooms stems from the absence of such a feature on the OSM platform. This circumstance has resulted in the fragmentation of communities based on geographical and linguistic factors.

The prospect of fostering interest in neighboring community events notably rises when such interactions are just a single click away. Even accidental clicks have the potential to mend the rifts that were inadvertently created by the proliferation of chat platforms on alternate mediums.


I don’t have a strong opinion either way about whether to enable chat, however, with regard to:

This will not centralize discussions, sorry.

The people that chat on Slack or Discord (two channels in which I participate) do so in those spaces because of the culture that exists in those spaces.

The community forum too has a specific culture around it that’s different from other spaces on the project. I don’t see enabling chat here to have much if any impact on the chat that happens in other places, it would just be another place where people can chat, but with the culture and demographic of the community forum.


I would like to remember again in this topic that a potential connection discourse-chat to matrix is in the works, and would allow to connect discourse-chat to any other existing chat out there (matrix, irc, telegram, slack and others)


Be aware that while bridging is “good”, this is not a comprehensive solution because of differences between chat platforms. While there is usually minimum interoperability, in my experience, bridged users generally lack access to all spaces within a chat channel and lack access to all the features.


The longest thread come from Polish forum where yes, they basically acted as chat threads (but with split by topic). It worked well, though at some point activity in large part moved to Discord server.

Definitely. That can be safely ignored as potential benefit.


Okay, maybe I wrote the first point a bit categorically. But I’m glad it provoked a discussion!

I understand that users of existing chat rooms are unlikely to want to change their comfortable platform immediately. But I still think it makes sense to at least try chat channels, even before it’s possible to connect them with matrix via a bridge.

If I understand correctly, the chat channels will be linked to the respective category and its moderators. I suggest asking local communities for their opinion if they want to try this feature. The worst thing that can happen is that the chats won’t work and there will be no activity in them. If that happens, well, you can always disable them.

Here’s a quick overview of the features of chat channels: An overview of features in Discourse Chat - users - Discourse Meta

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I am in favour of turning them on, if the user experience is reasonable. I attempted to use them on meta, but they seem to be disabled there.

I view this similar to how communities have established Slack, Discord, Telegram and other channels, even though there were other existing real-time chat options for OSM. People were still interested in them, and I think some of the current use shows that people are already using Discourse for real-time chat, just poorly.

We just need to sort out moderation setup, and it would be good to see how they are in action at a different Discourse instance. Does anyone have any suggestions for the latter?

This could also help with Federating OSM communities' rooms through OSMF-hosted Matrix servers · Issue #380 · openstreetmap/operations · GitHub, where the OWG is looking at OSMF-hosted real-time chat.


If you register on https://try.discourse.org, you can get an idea of the chats from the point of view of an ordinary user. I don’t know how to look at chat channels from the moderators’ point of view.

Hello everyone,

We discussed this request at the last @forums-governance team meeting.

Although we understand the desire from some people to have chats directly on Discourse, we also think that the problem to solve has a wider scope than these forums.

People want a modern, easy, welcoming and safe platform for OSM chatting, integrated with their existing accounts, where conversations can be centralized and don’t require different platforms.

That’s why we think that enabling chat channels on these forums without a global strategy behind will do little to solve the identified problem, and we won’t be doing it for now.

We encourage everyone here to continue and kick-start a separate discussion over General talk on how to modernize and connect OSM chat conversations that can be proposed to the OSM Board to take a decision on.

Thanks everyone for the feedback.


I would also like to see such a platform for OSM, but I doubt that such a platform will ever be available.

Nevertheless, I would like to thank all the participants in this thread and the forum governance team for considering the idea of enabling chat channels.