Navigating the Open Source Community Chat: Linen vs. Slack vs. Discord vs. Discourse

Albert Wong
3 min readFeb 15, 2024

Open source communities thrive on collaboration and communication. But choosing the right platform for your community’s chat needs can be a daunting task. Four popular options stand out: Slack, Discord, Discourse and the newcomer, Let’s dive into their strengths and weaknesses to help you decide which platform best suits your open source community.

By the way, I’m Albert, and I’m Head of Community and Developer Relations at CelerData. CelerData is a $60 million VC-funded startup that is building StarRocks, an open-source replacement for Snowflake, Big Query, and RedShift.

Slack: The Familiar Friend

  • Pros: Polished interface, robust integrations, familiar for many developers, freemium model with decent features.
  • Cons: Closed platform, limited message history on free plan, can be expensive for large communities, not ideal for discoverability.

Slack is the veteran, offering a user-friendly interface and a wide range of integrations. Its freemium model makes it accessible, but the limited message history and cost for larger communities can be drawbacks. Additionally, Slack is a closed platform, making community content invisible to search engines (a problem that was created to solve).

Discord: The Gaming Giant

  • Pros: Free, real-time voice chat, large and active user base, highly customizable, ability to gamify community participation, you see all history (unlike slack).
  • Cons: Can be overwhelming for newcomers, primarily geared towards gaming communities, limited search functionality.

Discord offers free voice chat, a vibrant community, and extensive customization. However, its gaming-centric design might not resonate with all open source communities, and its search functionality is weak. The New Kid on the Block

  • Pros: Open-source, search engine friendly, focus on knowledge organization, unlimited message history, free tier for communities.
  • Cons: Newer platform with less established user base, limited integrations currently.

Linen is built specifically for open source communities. It’s open-source, search engine friendly, and prioritizes knowledge organization with features like threaded discussions and tags. The free tier for communities is a major plus, but being new, it lacks the established user base and integrations of Slack and Discord.

Discourse: The Forum Veteran with Powerful Tools

  • Pros: Open-source, structured discussion, great reputation, and moderation tools.
  • Cons: Forum-style interface might feel less modern, and setting it up can require technical expertise.

Discourse is a well-established forum platform offering threaded discussions, advanced moderation tools, and extensive customization options. Its open-source nature allows for self-hosting, increasing control and privacy. However, Discourse has a steeper learning curve compared to chat-based platforms and might feel less modern for some users.

Choosing the Right Fit:

  • For established communities: Slack offers a familiar platform with integrations and a freemium model.
  • For communities with a strong gaming culture: Discord might be a good fit with its free voice chat and customization options.
  • For communities prioritizing knowledge sharing and discoverability: Linen’s open-source nature, search engine friendliness, and focus on knowledge organization make it a compelling choice.
  • Albert’s Favorites: I’d go with Discourse first, then, followed by Discord and Slack last. There’s a wide range of reasons why, but it’s due to open source monetization strategies and community expectations. At StarRocks, we use Discourse, and Slack.

Ultimately, the best platform depends on your community’s specific needs and priorities. Consider factors like budget, user base, desired features, and focus on knowledge sharing before making your decision. Remember, the open-source community is all about collaboration and innovation, so don’t hesitate to experiment and find the platform that empowers your community to thrive!



Albert Wong

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