Opinion: Discord is Important

Hezekon

Minister of Music
Cabinet
Deputy Minister



A Discord Discussion
"Discourse or Discreditable?"

Written by Unmighty Hezekon



(May 31, 2019) - I remember when I first arrived in Europeia. After getting my nation on NationStates, I looked around and tried to figure out what to do. I remember posting something along the lines of a "hello" in the RMB, and I was told it was highly suggested I go to the Discord. So I did. And then I found I had to get citizenship in order to really do much of anything. So I joined the forum. And then I was at the forum. And it was confusing. I didn't know where anything was. I wanted to get involved in stuff, but I wasn't sure where to go. Do I go to "Employment Central," or go straight to the Ministries? It was organized, sure, but it was a chaotic organization. I didn't know the history of Europeia at the time. (And, quite frankly, I still have a lot I don't know.) But I eventually got it all straightened out. And now I'm a Minister.

That could be the end of it, but you know from the title it isn't. I feel I owe a lot of my success to the Discord server. The ease of asking and answering questions, and the social atmosphere arising from its instant messaging, give the Discord a sense of ease of entry communication, vital to newcomers and veterans alike. And the 'facetime' people get due to its centralized nature, as well as the visibility of governmental officials to their electorate, give Discord an opportunity for upward mobility within the region. All of these are reasons why I feel the Discord is a platform of importance to the vitality of Europeia, and certainly to my current success within it.

Of course, Discord does have its downsides. The instant messaging can cause negative relationships to form, as well as giving Europeia's purposefully measured political discourse a difficult foothold. Another difficulty for Europeian politics arising from Discord is the inclusion of more 'social' players in the Discord server, who are focused less on the region's political nature. Finally, there is the notion of activity in the Discord server pulling activity from the Europeian forum, leading to its disuse.

Certainly, the success of my ability to find anything has been the Discord server. If (and several times so) I found myself confused with something, or not sure where to go or what to do, I turned to the Discord server, cried and pled at the feet of the people there, and they kindly answered my questions. My answers were found in a timely manner in Discord, where I believed there was confusion on the forum. Speaking from a pragmatic step here, as Minister of Communications, being able to contact my staff of writers and ping them allows me to know they got my message, where I'm never sure if someone will receive a notification on the forum. I'm able to find answers from my staff much more quickly and in real time than I feel the forum offers.

There's another part of the Discord atmosphere that, however one views it, is definitely true: much more social chatter happens there. Perhaps (and most definitely perhaps, if you catch me) it is the instant aspect of Discord that allows such social interaction to flower. The ability to react in real time to the course of the conversation is one that really enhances the social aspect. It breeds friendships and discourse and allows for topics to shift on a dime, something much more akin to real group dynamics. This is something that fora, in general, have a difficult time recreating.

I've already said that Discord's social aspects, the instant chatter, breed friendships. But they can also breed enemies. It's been mentioned that Discord's instant messaging allows for things to get wildly off-topic. In certain environments, this can allow for a comment taken in the wrong way to completely derail an entire conversation into a spiral of dejected comments and snide remarks. And these remarks can cause a deep misunderstanding to deepen further to a lasting distrust or even hate between people. This sort of 'spite catalysis,' as I'd call it, is an aspect of Discord that has been brought up before in response to a special first minister post.

There's also a consideration for the ease of topic shifting to be in Discord's disfavor. In a forum, it is fairly easy to stay on-topic; in fact, oftentimes, it's a bit of an uphill battle to change the course of a conversation. The nature of a forum is one that is 'stop-motion,' subject to discrete units of time before any feedback is registered. One is given more time to consider a response before posting. Posts themselves are less easily lost, as there isn't a constantly scrolling chatlog replacing older messages. Because of these myriad reasons, a forum allows for a relatively structured and maintained topic throughout. As a politically-minded region, Europeia has great use for this. The ability to discuss a topic without too many unnecessary tangents is vital to political discourse. Without that stability and rigidity, it would be much harder to maintain a fairly logical stepwise discussion toward some sort of resolution. (See: Discord's #eurochat and #debate-and-politics, which both tend to reel from one topic to the next.)

Although, in Discord's favor, all of the digital 'facetime' I mentioned before does have another aspect -- as far as I've noticed -- that perhaps the forum can't give as readily: visibility of members in the group. On fora, it can get a little segmented, and it is fairly difficult for someone new to gain any of that visibility that is necessary to gain office. Discord, by its nature, has a main hub where people can gather and talk to each other instantly. A new citizen who walks into this hub can start talking immediately with established members, ask questions, make queries, and generally get their own foothold made. It looks like the ideal environment to get one's political persona fired up and forged.

This environment in Discord also has the added benefit -- again, because of its instant, central nature -- that those in the executive or legislative branches are more prominent to the citizens that have voted for them (for those positions that are, indeed, voted on). As a person in this position, it's helpful to be able to answer your 'constituents,' if you will, and it's nice as a newcomer to be able to talk in such an open way with those personable members of the government. As a member of the government, this is a great thing. More open, casual dialogue with the citizenry helps to establish your presence, giving you a feeling that you are personable, which is helpful in elections (aside from the ability to run a successful term).

However, the more casual atmosphere may also be one of its detractions. There is something to be said about so-called 'social players' in the realm of Discord (pun unintended), which may be 'tainting' the political landscape with their mixing of in-character (IC) and out-of-character (OOC) to create identities which are more easily personally offended by mistaken comments. As Supreme Chancellor Lethen said in First Minister Lloenflys' post, it is possible that "players that are more focused on the social aspects of Europeia are more inclined to take things personally and exacerbate perceived slights that would be seen as fair play to 'political' players in Europeia." Combine this with the presence of some players that do blur the IC and OOC, when things do take a turn down the personal, it becomes a quick spiral, where people who meant only to make a point are perceived as personally attacking, and then can't seem to pull out of the dive. I am uncertain how this would be best managed.

Finally, there exists the thought that interactions on Discord pull from interaction on the forum. I haven't been in Europeia long enough to judge that to be true. But it doesn't feel like it to me. I mean, sure, there are some sections on the forum that seem a bit eclipsed and made redundant by the existence of the Discord server; perhaps that serves as a sign that the latter works. And I think that serves as evidence toward the idea that the Discord and the forum can work together, even if that means part of the forum is made redundant. I think perhaps what would have happened for me if the Discord server didn't exist is that I wouldn't visit the forum as much, so I would argue that Discord doesn't pull from the forum. If anything, it supplements it.

I think that Discord should be kept as advertised as it is. I was told in the RMB that it was highly recommended to join, and I couldn't have achieved the level of success I currently have without it, I believe. It was the quickest way for me to get oriented, find friends, and get going on my way within Europeia. Quicker, I think, than being on the forum alone would have offered me. The interactivity is its strength. Even the reactions, however dumb or stupid they appear, are cute and funny in their own way. I doubt anyone is getting rid of the server, but I wanted to make it known that the Discord is very helpful, despite some of its flaws.
 

Le Libertie

Not a turtle.
Great article.

I really agree that Discord has significantly drawn from the forum. I remember earlier as a newcomer, Discord seemed to be solely for social purposes or as a tool for channeling activity to the forums. But, at least to me, Discord is increasingly becoming more essential for political success. My decreased activity on Discord has had a pronounced affect, with me being being completely unaware of significant political events which have occurred on Discord. And it’s so much harder to retrace those events (without being very active) compared with the forums since Discord functions at a much quicker pace with lots of content.
 

Astrellan

Siphlygon
Cabinet
Senator
Deputy Minister
I have to agree with this entire article. Discord has been the driving factor in all of my successes so far as I've kept a constant, active profile and made myself known to the active political population that inhabits it. I do think times are changing from when forums used to be the centre hub of everything and I'm not sure if that is a bad thing or a good thing or just plain old neutral. All I can say is that Discord is important and I would highly suggest everyone to start using it more if they wish to kickstart a political career.
 

Prim

Comrade Prim
Associate Justice
Council of State
Deputy Minister
I have to concur -- I joined Europeia solely because Weekend Games in the discord was advertised. I stuck around and got involved elsewhere obviously, but discord was the reason I joined. And the other points are notable as well, discord seems invaluable to politicking these days, imo.
 

Reija

Citizen
I'm new to Discord, having just installed it on my phone and using it for about a month. I agree that it is a crucial aspect of region life, especially in building networks and relationships. Speaking from a culture-building perspective, the Forums remain to be my point of interest, because it is where I see the output of all the efforts put in by the members to build the community. The artifacts are here, to enjoy in the present and for posterity.
 

GraVandius

Know-er of Things
Senate Speaker
I would caution the idea that discord is imperative to succeed politically in the region. It is obviously helpful as a member of a ministry to get pings, information ect, but I don't think simply being active in #eurochat alone translates into success. If you pop out of nowhere with a solid senate platform you are more likely to get elected than someone who has just been socializing on discord. Europeia still highly values actual work and effort over familiarity. The most recent example of this is probably recombis, who despite other controversies, was initially under fire for not actually doing much in his deputy minister role. Discord "social" activity is certainly helpful in trying to rise up the political ladder but I don't think it is currently a necessary factor.
 

Hezekon

Minister of Music
Cabinet
Deputy Minister
Absolutely. And if I said that, I see I was wrong. I believe my point is only that discord is very helpful for people to get that clout they so very much want. Not that it was necessary. I see Discord as important, not imperative.
 

Pichtonia

🌈 People Politics 🌈
First Minister
Thanks for your wonderful article!

In competing with other regions, we can't abandon Discord. That's why I recognize we need it, even though I might not be its greatest friend, and recognize we need to get better in our handling of it. I still hope it doesn't become the dominant force, though.
 

Darcness

I wield the wrench
Forum Administrator
Cabinet
I generally agree with a fair number of individual points of this article. (Except for this thing about the forums being hard to navigate. I've never understood that.) But one point I just really couldn't let pass.

Finally, there exists the thought that interactions on Discord pull from interaction on the forum. I haven't been in Europeia long enough to judge that to be true.
Discord was around when I joined, but it wasn't quite the constant force that it is today. Lately (in the past year) I have seen entire discussions that are important to our region happen in #eurochat. To this, you would say 'great!'. I, however, can only be disappointed. Why? Because unless you were there, right then, you'll never find them. Sure, the small handful of people involved in the discussion will pass along the 'Cliff Notes', but now we're playing a very complicated game of telephone with our regional policy. I've seen the same argument occur 4 or 5 times in a day in #eurochat. Such a thing would only happen in extremely rare cases on the forum. Why? The rebuttal is right there on page 2 for you to read.

Discord most definitely draws from the forum, and not just from the Republic Square, but in ways that are truly detrimental.
 

Izzy

ECP Founder
Because unless you were there, right then, you'll never find them. Sure, the small handful of people involved in the discussion will pass along the 'Cliff Notes', but now we're playing a very complicated game of telephone with our regional policy.
Discord does have a search function and people should be encouraged to utilize it more often. Not that I disagree entirely with what you've said but on that specific issue, there is a remedy.
 

HEM

Grand Master of Spam, Grand Admiral of the Sea
Forum Administrator
This is a good article, not despite, but because of the fact, I don't personally agree with it wholly.

In my mind, an optimal distribution of forum vs. discord activity would be anything that would benefit from threaded conversation stay on the forum, and anything more silly or freeform be on Discord. The problem is, distributing along those lines is effectively impossible. Attempts to pull discussions back to the forum once it's become clear that Discord isn't the ideal platform have been...tricky to pull off, and required concentrate effort from some people.

Discord is also a much tougher area to moderate/administrate than the forums, where taking a threaded topic off topic to personally attack someone stands out much more than a quick swipe in an instant chat environment.

If I could wave a magic wand and make Discord vanish from Nationstates, on the balance of probabilities, I probably would wave that wand. But at this point, the game has coalesced around the platform and they are (clearly) people who get real enjoyment out of the platform which cannot be discounted.
 

Sopo

🧙‍♂️🔮 ✨🔥✨
Forum Administrator
Honoured Citizen
Because unless you were there, right then, you'll never find them. Sure, the small handful of people involved in the discussion will pass along the 'Cliff Notes', but now we're playing a very complicated game of telephone with our regional policy.
Discord does have a search function and people should be encouraged to utilize it more often. Not that I disagree entirely with what you've said but on that specific issue, there is a remedy.
It's hard to search if you don't know what you're looking for, though.
 

Lloenflys

No Longer Worth Bribing
It seems to me that the experience of the newer participants (myself included) is that Discord was hugely influential in our integration into the region. In fact I think it is safe to say that I would not have stayed long if the only interaction I had with people was through the forum. NOW I find it to be compelling, but in the early days it felt like a sterile and/or forbidden landscape filled either with things that didn't interest me (because I didn't understand them) or which I had no way to understand (because they focused so heavily on internal coding - Europeian conventions, norms, memes, history, etc). Discord helped cut through that and provided me with a much-needed on-ramp. It's been said before, but I think this points towards newer participants in the region looking for a different kind of experience than Euro Classic folks were looking for when they joined.
 

HEM

Grand Master of Spam, Grand Admiral of the Sea
Forum Administrator
It seems to me that the experience of the newer participants (myself included) is that Discord was hugely influential in our integration into the region. In fact I think it is safe to say that I would not have stayed long if the only interaction I had with people was through the forum. NOW I find it to be compelling, but in the early days it felt like a sterile and/or forbidden landscape filled either with things that didn't interest me (because I didn't understand them) or which I had no way to understand (because they focused so heavily on internal coding - Europeian conventions, norms, memes, history, etc). Discord helped cut through that and provided me with a much-needed on-ramp. It's been said before, but I think this points towards newer participants in the region looking for a different kind of experience than Euro Classic folks were looking for when they joined.
You say it means you want a different experience, and maybe that’s right, or maybe we aren’t ordering things correctly to make the forum a more accessible place?
 

Aexnidaral Seymour

Eggplant Sheriff
WA Delegate
Deputy Chief of State
Council of State
Honoured Citizen
Discord Moderator
I think both can be true -- newer people get instant gratification from Discord where it's easier to meet and talk to people, and the forums are a little more sterile with less personal interaction (which imo is a good thing, since it makes our posts mostly more thought out than discord messages) and we should try to find a way to make the forums feel more accessible.
 

Lloenflys

No Longer Worth Bribing
You say it means you want a different experience, and maybe that’s right, or maybe we aren’t ordering things correctly to make the forum a more accessible place?
I'm not one to discount possibilities without evidence (and I have none), but I don't feel like it's an organization issue with the forums. For me, I just wanted/needed the connection that Discord provided to get me from the other side of the wall to feeling like I was really an "insider" in the region.
 

Ervald

Deputy Minister
Diplomat
You say it means you want a different experience, and maybe that’s right, or maybe we aren’t ordering things correctly to make the forum a more accessible place?
I'm not one to discount possibilities without evidence (and I have none), but I don't feel like it's an organization issue with the forums. For me, I just wanted/needed the connection that Discord provided to get me from the other side of the wall to feel like I was really an "insider" in the region.
You know, I actually had this exact feeling when I first found out about Europeia. But back then, it wasn't Discord, it was Skype. The huge difference is that Discord is way easier to join. Skype required you to make an account, to download a program that could be laggy on your computer, and to contact a Skype member to invite you to EuroChat. If there was an openly accessible Skype link, maybe I am misremembering. That is completely different compared to making a Discord account where you don't have to download anything (there is a browser version of Discord) and you can get the link on the WFE.

So, I think for a while, new members did want some sort of program to feel immediately connected to Europeia, it just happened we weren't using Discord to do that. So, I don't think the issue is our forum isn't really organized the best away or there is no way to feel connected to Europeia without joining an off-site web chat program. It is just that the program we're using is Discord, an incredibly fast-paced program where it is easy to join, you can fit so much content into those servers (channels, voice chats, categories), and DM people instantly. Compared to Skype where it took a while to get connected to Eurochat, you had to make multiple servers for each function (a server for voice chat, a server for a ministry, a server for gaming, etc), and you had to send friends requests first before you could DM someone. That is probably why these off-site web chat arguments feel more intense than ever.

Of course, there is no way we're going to go back to Skype nor will NS universally adopt a new chat program that is slower-paced compared to Discord. You could hypothetically get rid of all of the different channels in Eurochat and just have one to emulate Skype but that won't do any good. So instead of mainly talking about how we can change the forum or make people feel more included, I think we need to focus on changing Discord culture. Essentially, making political discussions derive from flashpoints on the forum, not from Discord as we have seen lately. We shouldn't have an EBC article based on something that happened on Discord that we're discussing on the forum, it should be an EBC article based on something that happened on the forum that we're discussing on Discord. I don't know what the solution is. I don't know if we should have moderators actively telling people to stop arguing and take it to DM or should we encourage people to post threads in the Grand Hall about a topic before a political discussion gets out of control on Discord or we should just...tell people to have all Euro politics argument in another channel. I don't know, I am not proposing any solution. But as it is, I think the root of the problem is the culture we have cultivated on Discord when it comes to how political discussions originate and how we withdraw from discussing at least 90% of it on the forum.
 

Hezekon

Minister of Music
Cabinet
Deputy Minister
I don't know if we should have moderators actively telling people to stop arguing and take it to DM or should we encourage people to post threads in the Grand Hall about a topic before a political discussion gets out of control on Discord or we should just...tell people to have all Euro politics argument in another channel.
I see these as fairly decent ideas at the moment. I'm quite tired of seeing the same people get mad with each other over the smallest things on Discord.
 

Astrellan

Siphlygon
Cabinet
Senator
Deputy Minister
You say it means you want a different experience, and maybe that’s right, or maybe we aren’t ordering things correctly to make the forum a more accessible place?
I'm not one to discount possibilities without evidence (and I have none), but I don't feel like it's an organization issue with the forums. For me, I just wanted/needed the connection that Discord provided to get me from the other side of the wall to feel like I was really an "insider" in the region.
You know, I actually had this exact feeling when I first found out about Europeia. But back then, it wasn't Discord, it was Skype. The huge difference is that Discord is way easier to join. Skype required you to make an account, to download a program that could be laggy on your computer, and to contact a Skype member to invite you to EuroChat. If there was an openly accessible Skype link, maybe I am misremembering. That is completely different compared to making a Discord account where you don't have to download anything (there is a browser version of Discord) and you can get the link on the WFE.

So, I think for a while, new members did want some sort of program to feel immediately connected to Europeia, it just happened we weren't using Discord to do that. So, I don't think the issue is our forum isn't really organized the best away or there is no way to feel connected to Europeia without joining an off-site web chat program. It is just that the program we're using is Discord, an incredibly fast-paced program where it is easy to join, you can fit so much content into those servers (channels, voice chats, categories), and DM people instantly. Compared to Skype where it took a while to get connected to Eurochat, you had to make multiple servers for each function (a server for voice chat, a server for a ministry, a server for gaming, etc), and you had to send friends requests first before you could DM someone. That is probably why these off-site web chat arguments feel more intense than ever.

Of course, there is no way we're going to go back to Skype nor will NS universally adopt a new chat program that is slower-paced compared to Discord. You could hypothetically get rid of all of the different channels in Eurochat and just have one to emulate Skype but that won't do any good. So instead of mainly talking about how we can change the forum or make people feel more included, I think we need to focus on changing Discord culture. Essentially, making political discussions derive from flashpoints on the forum, not from Discord as we have seen lately. We shouldn't have an EBC article based on something that happened on Discord that we're discussing on the forum, it should be an EBC article based on something that happened on the forum that we're discussing on Discord. I don't know what the solution is. I don't know if we should have moderators actively telling people to stop arguing and take it to DM or should we encourage people to post threads in the Grand Hall about a topic before a political discussion gets out of control on Discord or we should just...tell people to have all Euro politics argument in another channel. I don't know, I am not proposing any solution. But as it is, I think the root of the problem is the culture we have cultivated on Discord when it comes to how political discussions originate and how we withdraw from discussing at least 90% of it on the forum.
This here is definitely onto something. The quick dynamic nature of social interaction has created - from what I perceive - as an entirely new culture on Discord. It links to the forum oddly and in weird places, which can leave to the issues people say (heated messages, conversations which should be forum threads, etc). If Discord itself could be a social platform AND be as you say here, changing how political discussions originate (or at least, worthwhile discussions - like this thread, actually!) having them be on the Forum but still allowing people to feel integrated and involved. This is idyllic - i'm not sure if its unachievable, but I'd suggest whoever is doing integration in Interior to work with Mods/Admins to at least try some systems like this.
 
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