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Using Discord for your club or organization

note: this post was never finished and was never made live in 2019. I had intended to add some screenshots showing how I set up various servers, documenting permissions settings and describe all the servers I was running but just got bored and didn't finish it. Since I deleted my account this week I'm releasing it since this post was referenced. - Apr 20, 2024

Discord is a web based service that provides real time voice chat primarily for gamers that launched in 2015. The concept of coordinating activities in-game with VOIP (voice over IP) is not new and has been possible using various services for many years. Several solutions became popular with gamers prior to Discord including Ventrillo and Teamspeak but both of these were fairly resource intense and gamers need every CPU cycle they can get to frag you. Discord uses far less system resources and their Opus audio format is very low latency and designed specifically to compress human speech well.

There had also been some big security breaches with Skype and Teamspeak so Discord's timing was good. Voice chat solutions tended to be difficult (or finicky) to set up and required that users share certain personal information (like their IP) to connect, so Discord's ease of use and relative anonymity were features in their favor. The company also published an API which allowed developers of other softwares to more easily inter-operate or "integrate" with Discord which drove adoption of the platform.

I had used Discord a bunch of times last year as a voice server for random voice chats with different folks but never gaming, so I was definitely not the target market. But it wasn't until I was invited to a server run by a fairly organized group that I realized the potential of the software. As a user, you can start your own "server" hosted on Discord's dime to which you can invite users you want to chat with. You set the rules in your server, but should it grow you can enlist the help of other users and give them varying degrees of permissions to "moderate" the comments and posts made in "your" server. In discord you can create "channels" which are analogous to forum topics and each can have its own specially crafted permissions. You might allow users to post in one channel but not in another, allow voice comms or not, edit posts or not, etc.

So, on the face of it Discord is a lot like any other forum software you may have used. However, Discord uses more modern coding techniques and works more like typical social media than older forum software, and offers a full blown live chat system with built in VOIP. Pasting in a link to a YouTube video in a comment automatically creates a tiny image of the video and includes some intro text from the video description just as you'd expect to happen if you were on twitter or facebook for instance. Discord also allows you to use simple markdown to format your posts. If you don't know what markdown is, you should probably do some quick research its a way to create basic formatting on the web in text which can be very handy. Discord is available as an app on your smart phone, or you can use it in a web browser or install the full program on your desktop. Its cross platform and will run on most everything.

I started to realize how I could use Discord as an organizational tool when working on a project with others. For my musician buddies I created a channel where we could post new tunes to learn as well as a general chat area to talk about anything else. Then I created a resources channel which I locked down so I could keep it more as a reference page and I put links to websites we need to refer to a lot in there. Then I created a voice channel called the "session" which is poorly named because you really can't session over VOIP, its pretty much impossible to play along with someone with a huge latency (which is expressed as a delay)