You should be using Discord to manage your team
Yikes, it really has been a year hasn’t it? The “new normal” has just become normal and, while the end is in sight (get vaccinated!), the impacts live on for now. Thankfully, our output at Gravitywell has remained the same and we’ve delivered a large number of projects in the last 12 months, all of which we’re immensely proud. A lot of this is down to hard work, flexibility, and our ability to lean on one another to give us the strength to punch well above our weight as a team.
Through this year, however, one tool has stood out as being central to keeping us working well together and we’re always surprised that many partners, clients, and other studios don’t seem to have looked into it. That tool is Discord - let us tell you why we love it so much.
Originally developed as an alternative to VoIP for gamers, Discord has grown into a wide-ranging chat client for many different communities, both public and private. The concept is simple - groups can set up “servers'' that act as central hubs for their community. Within a server, you have channels for either text or voice chat. These can be grouped into topics to make it easier to find your way around. At Gravitywell we have channels for project teams, meeting rooms for breakout discussions, AFK (Away From Keyboard) channels for silent work and taking calls, and one catch-all Office channel for our standups and general open conversation.
The beauty of this setup is that it allows us to see who’s around and available to talk at any given moment as well as what they’re focusing on, letting us manage our presence in more useful ways than just “online” or “away/busy”. The concept is so effective that Microsoft is even rumoured to be considering acquiring it to run alongside their Teams platform for over $10billion.
So why Discord?
We hear you - another meetings app? For external meetings, Discord probably won’t replace your other platforms. Internally as a competitor for Teams and especially if you’re spending all day in call-based apps like Zoom, however, it’s well worth considering. While still developed with gaming and streaming communities in mind, Discord’s features are still a great fit for everyday business use.
Emphasis on audio quality
Nothing is good enough to replace face to face conversation but Discord at least makes online chat a bit easier to live with. Paired with a half-decent headset or microphone, you get enough control to set your incoming and outgoing sound levels and some handy tools to suppress background noise like cats meowing or keyboards clacking. Your colleagues will thank you for turning these on. You also have the ability to set when your mic is active - either with an automatic noise gate (just start speaking) or with a push-to-talk shortcut to prevent unwanted oversharing.
Streaming and screen sharing
By default, everyone should have the ability to share what they’re looking at whenever they need. Discord allows you to “go live” in any channel and choose either the screen or specific app to broadcast. Other uses can then view it in full screen or as another participant on a call. Some apps even incorporate streaming modes to make it easier to run a call. Plus it can be fun to stream a game during breaks to relax.
Easy group sessions
To set up a group call you simply drop into a channel and start speaking. Anyone who is there already will be able to hear you and join in. You can even pull people in from other channels if you have a quick question or want them to participate. Take care with that one though - dragging people around against their will isn’t a way to win friends!
Zoom and Google Meet have come a long way this last year but they still bring with them a cacophony of cooling fan noise as they eat up whatever resources are available. Discord’s gamer-centric approach means it was designed with keeping a small footprint in mind. When you need an app or game to perform as well as possible, you don’t want it being bogged down by anything else, especially your voice chat. This means Discord can be left on in the background of almost any device, phones and tablets included, and not be a huge drain on battery or responsiveness.
While there are paid upgrades, Discord doesn’t place limits on the number of users or length of sessions like some other apps. This means that meetings can run for as long as you want without having to drop out and start up again if you don’t want to pay. Integrations and bots are also free. If you do want to upgrade, you get access to better quality audio and video streams, larger file uploads (but you really should be using a dedicated, secure tool for file sharing instead - more on that soon), and some additional cosmetic upgrades like custom emojis. What’s important is that none of these things are essential. The default video quality matches that of a standard laptop webcam and streaming documents or browser screens doesn’t need to be in crisp 4K for the most part. This means that, out of the box, the free tier of Discord is all you need to get started and actually enjoy virtual meetings again.