(Initially posted in Community Building but it was recommended I post here too.)

TL;DR: Are there tools/platforms that can replace both Discourse (forums for end users) and Slack (chat for developers) at once for a small open source organization?

We're a small open source organization that started in 2009. Originally we had forums for end users (based on Drupal), a public mailing list for developers and Skype/Hangout for chats.

These last few years we've been using a combination of forums (Discourse) for end users and real time chat (Slack) for the development team.

When we introduced it to the community in December 2016, Slack had a transformative effect on our developers community and allowed the team to grow and organize in ways that, I believe, wouldn't have been possible with just forums, mailing lists and Skype.

Unfortunately Slack is way too expensive for us, and as a non-US organization we aren't eligible for a free standard plan. We're looking into what could replace Slack and are investigating Mattermost, Discord, Telegram and a few others. We've quickly discussed IRC but ruled it out due to the lack of features.

We're now wondering if we could also unify Discourse and Slack: The division between end users and developers has always felt a bit artificial and we often end up posting forums links to Slack to make sure developers are aware of our users' questions and feedback.

What we value in Slack:

  • Modern UI/UX, intuitive look-and-feel, good defaults
  • The instantaneous nature of conversations is very important to us
  • Organizing discussions in channels, spontaneously creating custom-tailored groups to discuss specific issues, etc.
  • Easily sharing files with other developers
  • Sharing code snippets with syntax highlighting...

What we find frustrating in Slack:

  • Conversations being readable by Slack members only
  • Users needing to be invited to join (although we worked around this with Slackin)
  • Hard to find old conversations or old files
  • Lack of members management (e.g. removing users that never logged in after joining, users that haven't logged in in years)

What we like in Discourse:

  • Modern UI/UX, intuitive look-and-feel, good defaults
  • Users don't need to setup an account to ask a quick question
  • Forums in general: clear topics, easier to follow, easier to search
  • Lots of tools to manage members

What we don't like in Discourse:

  • Doesn't allow real time conversations

Are there tools that combine the strengths of forums and team chats? Any advice on how we could organize ourselves on a budget (we can't afford to pay for Slack)?

Open source would be ideal but not a requirement. We would be happy to pay a modest monthly fee to have it hosted for us.

  • Define what you are willing to pay, and platform?
    – DankyNanky
    Commented Apr 2, 2018 at 6:30
  • @MichaelNancarrow If you're referring to the word "platform" in the question's title, I mean in the sense of application. Regarding what we're willing to pay, it really depends on the service but as a fully volunteers operation we have no income and limited budget so around $60/month seems like a reasonable upper bound. Commented Apr 2, 2018 at 7:10
  • Thanks, $60/m sounds reasonable. Do you need any integratation? I strongly recommend you look into Nextcloud's planner, task and chat - ticks all my needs and I dare say yours.
    – DankyNanky
    Commented Apr 2, 2018 at 12:59


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