Interactive remote meetup using Discord

Quentin Menoret
Nov 3, 2020 · 5 min read
Illustration by Gaëlle Malenfant

In this article, you’ll learn more about how we used Discord to organise a successful online meetup.

For the last six months, and because of the current situation, we’ve had to give up on inviting people into our office for meetups. As much as this breaks our hearts, we can’t take any chances, especially as a HealthTech company! Does it mean we have to stop organising meetups? Of course not : A lot of them have gone online using tools such as Zoom. Which of course, works very well…as long as your meetup doesn’t require too many interactions between participants.

One of the meetups Doctolib organises is called Contribute. The pitch is easy: first, anyone can present an open source project and some good “first time issues”, then we let people assemble interest groups so they can work on issues and create pull requests. Finally, we come all together to share about what we achieved during the evening.

It is a highly interactive meetup, where people talk to each other, work together, and quite often, change groups along the way. It’s difficult to achieve this fully remote.

With Hacktoberfest upon us, we thought it would be a shame not to organise something to help developers build their first PR remotely.

We considered possibilities such as :

  • Zoom: great for the breakout rooms, but not that easy to organise
  • Google Meet: lack of breakout rooms
  • Remo: a bit expensive for a POC
  • Streamyard: nice for the initial presentation, but harder for collaboration

In the end, we decided to go for Discord! Let’s see how you can do the same, and we’ll show you it went for us. Disclaimer: this was the first time we used the tool!

Preparing the meetup

To be honest, creating a discord server is about as complicated as clicking a + button. I’m not going to walk you through it, I’m pretty sure you can do it on your own! Once you’re there, you will be able to share an invitation link. Just press “invite”. You will need some custom settings for this to be suitable for a meetup:

Server invite settings — 6 hours, no limit, temporary membership

Here, we make sure the link will expire after 6 hours, so that you can have as many users joining as you want for the duration of the link, while making sure the people don’t have access to the server after leaving. The link you get here is what you will need to set in the Meetup event.

One of the things you might want to do is to help people identify the organisers of the events. Here is what you can do:

  • Make all of them admins
  • Prefix your names with the event name, or your company name (for me, docto_quentin)
  • Add a specific role, then make sure you check the “Display role members separately from online members”
Enable setting “Display role members separately from online members”

Now, you’re ready to start!

Running the meetup

When the meetup starts, people will start joining your Discord server. As some people are not used to the tool, keep spamming your main channel to tell people to join the general voice channel. They will get there.

One of the things we did not anticipate is how people from everywhere joined. We had joiners from a lot of different cities in France, Germany and even India!. We actually managed to get more people onboard than on a regular onsite edition! We went up to 35 people (vs 20 onsite). Nevertheless, there were 2 drawbacks we identified:

  • Some participants had stability issues due to their internet connectivity.
  • As it’s online, some participants left in the middle of the event, but that was a minority.

This is what the meetup looked like 3 minutes before starting:

Once you’ve got enough people in, well it’s like any other meetup, you can share your screen and present whatever you want! For this specific case, someone from Doctolib first introduced the meetup with slides, then Benoit Tigeot presented the Rspec project and shared some of the open issues that were reported on the project. All of this went very smoothly.

The real challenge for us was to make sure that people would join groups after the presentation and work together on building PRs! One of the very nice features of Discord is the ability to create channels (written or voice). Anyone can join and leave them as they want! It allowed us to create a channel for each discussion happening. For instance, we had one for each of these topics:

  • How do you fork a repository?
  • How do you start the rspec development environment?
  • I am handling issue X on repository Y, join me if you want to help!

And this is where the magic happened! We saw people taking ownership of issues and building a channel, others going around to meet people and discuss. We had more people going from one group to the other than in an on site edition. It’s way easier to move around if you’re just one click away.

In the end, communication was really clear and focused as people could create a group to discuss any topic they wanted!

And as for the onsite edition, we managed to open few PRs:

The feedback

In general, the feedback we got was positive. We all enjoyed the Meetup, and we are already working on the next one! Discord really seems like a great tool for the communities to meet and share on any topic and such meetups are a very good use case for it.

Still not convinced? Then maybe you should join our next event to test it yourself! After Hacktoberfest, we thought it would be sad not to try again, and what’s a better occasion to help the open source community than the Winter celebrations? #makeAGiftToOpenSource

So feel free to opt in for the next session or have a look at our Meetup page for other exciting events! You can also subscribe to the Tech Life newsletter, where you will find our selection of the best blog posts of the week and a link to the many events we organise!

Doctolib

Improving Healthcare for Good

Doctolib

Founded in 2013, Doctolib is the fastest growing e-health service in Europe. We provide healthcare professionals with services to improve the efficiency of their organization, transform their patients’ experience, and strengthen cooperation with other practitioners. We help pati

Quentin Menoret

Written by

Engineering Manager @Doctolib

Doctolib

Founded in 2013, Doctolib is the fastest growing e-health service in Europe. We provide healthcare professionals with services to improve the efficiency of their organization, transform their patients’ experience, and strengthen cooperation with other practitioners. We help pati

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