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Slack's Retirement & Our Transition To Discord


Calum Towers

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Hey all,

Some of you may have seen some of our work in recent months to explore the possibility of setting up a Discord server for VATSIM UK members.
This followed suggestions by members that Discord could be used within the Division as a replacement to Slack and, potentially, TeamSpeak.

It has been nearly 6 years since we started with Slack. In that time, we have exchanged over 1.1 million messages between nearly 3000 members.

We are pleased to announce that we are now ready to transition from Slack to Discord.

Following a short beta testing period, you can now join our Discord server - click here to register.

 

Why are we moving to Discord?

When we started reviewing Discord, we wanted to see if we could take advantage of some key benefits that Discord appeared to offer;

  • A permanent message history that never expires
  • Better API (application interface) for us to automate tasks that are manual on Slack (e.g. adding people to channels)
  • A familiar interface for our members, given its use in other areas of the network

After I had tinkered around for a little while, it became clear to me that the offering from Discord would be far superior to Slack and we should look to transition to it.
At a recent DSG meeting, we agreed that we would do this as soon as reasonably practical.

Then Slack threw us a curveball last weekend.

We used their legacy tokens to allow us to link Slack accounts to VATSIM UK accounts. This also allowed us to automatically invite new members to our Slack workspace.
Given we were using our token regularly, we did not anticipate that they would revoke it for a while, giving us time to transition to Discord.
Last weekend, Slack revoked our tokens and gave us no ability to invite members without paying for one of their Enterprise accounts.

Within a few hours of this happening, and thus our registration process breaking, we were receiving queries from new members saying they could not sign up to Slack.
With the release of Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 on the horizon, and an expectation that our services are about to get busier than usual, we realised this was only going to get worse if we didn't accelerate our move to Discord.

In under a week, we have taken our "tinkering around" with Discord and built out an automated registration process that has been tested successfully by over 150 members of the Division.
We started the test with the DSG, expanded to our entire staff team and then to mentors, examiners and the Web Services Focus Group.

 

Some other questions you may have!

  • How long does it take to register?
    • If you already have a Discord account - less than 30 seconds.
    • If you do not have a Discord account - around 2 minutes to setup an account, verify your email and then join our server.
  • Does this mean Slack is being removed?
    • Yes, as no one can sign up to our Slack any longer, we will be closing Slack on Sunday 16th August.
      We strongly recommend signing up to Discord before then.
  • Why are you removing Slack for existing members? Can't we stay there?
    • We do not want to segregate our community between two services and believe we can offer a better experience on Discord.
  • Could you not pay for Slack?
    • The price will have been upwards of £10 per member per month - we have around 2000 “active” members on Slack.
      Slack charges this premium as its product is primarily aimed at businesses. Discord is aimed at communities like ours.
  • Why did you use Slack in the first place? Why not Discord from the start?
    • VATSIM UK started using Slack in December 2014 - at first just for the Web Team, and later for staff, to collaborate in real time together.
      A trend that appears consistent across the internet is less activity on traditional forums and messaging boards, and more activity on instant messaging applications.
      When we sensed that this was the case in our own community, Slack was opened up to the wider membership using a registration process through Core.
      Their API gave us what we needed, we didn’t need to host it ourselves and we were already using it in the Division.
      Discord didn’t launch until 2015 and didn’t come onto our radar until a year or two later. At the time, we found here was no compelling reason to transition our entire community from one platform to another. The feature set was near identical, we had already put a lot of work into setting Slack up and our members seemed to enjoy using it.
      Fast-forward nearly 6 years and, for the reasons I outlined above, the landscape has changed. Slack is very clearly a business product and Discord is very clearly built for online communities. The features Discord now offer align much better to what we do in VATSIM UK.
  • I don't have a Discord account!
    • Neither did some of our beta testers, and their feedback was that the process was still really easy!
      Click the link above, follow the instructions and let us know if you have any trouble.
  • What are your plans for Discord?
    • Whilst I don’t want to commit to timelines on any of the below, here are some of the things on our radar;
      • Automate some more of our processes that were manual on Slack, just as they are automated on our other services like the Forum.
      • Automatically invite newer division members to join us on Discord when they sign up to VATSIM. We did this for Slack and it was a great way to get people straight into our community.
      • Review how we can use Discord’s voice rooms in conjunction with TeamSpeak (screen-sharing for seminars has been mentioned).
      • Review whether Discord could replace TeamSpeak for our voice needs.
      • Consider how we could channel notifications for members through Discord (replies to tickets, training place offers, waiting list positions etc)
      • Add emojis. Lots and lots of emojis. Your suggestions are welcome!
      • Listening to feedback that comes through on this announcement, directly to us via the Helpdesk or in Discord.
  • Will TeamSpeak be closing? Will there be voice channels?
    • The immediate need was a replacement to Slack, we will be reviewing other functionality on Discord (such as voice channels) soon.
      For now, TeamSpeak remains the place to go for mentoring, exams and voice chat.
  • Some people have different coloured names on Discord, how come?
    • We have given roles to people that align to our Forum to try and maintain a consistent experience across our services. We also want to highlight those people that are available to help, especially for our newer members.
  • Slack had desktop and mobile apps, does Discord?
  • Why did you make such a long forum post when all you wanted to do was give us a link to sign up?
    • I feel it is important that we share the rationale behind such a big decision, especially when it is happening so quickly and affecting so many of our members.
  • I have some feedback or a suggestion.
    • Great! Either comment below or let us know by email - [email protected].
      We are working hard on a number of projects and can't guarantee that we'll be able to accommodate everyone's requests.

I would like to extend my thanks to the Web Team who have supported this rapid turnaround; from our issues with Slack to a functioning proof of concept in under 48 hours, a beta test within 72 hours and a full rollout within 7 days.
I would also like to thank those that have taken part in the (very short) beta test to ensure the signup process worked.

I look forward to seeing you all on Discord!

Thanks,
Calum

2 Comments


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George Peppard

Posted

Amazing job by the web team - well done and thanks to all!

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Kye Taylor

Posted (edited)

On 08/08/2020 at 14:35, George Peppard said:

Amazing job by the web team - well done and thanks to all!

Agreed ^

A very quick and smoth transition, Amazing job. Credit where its due!

Edited by Kye Taylor
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