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I’m a big fan of group chats. The current app I use the most for group chats (and direct messages as well) is Telegram. I even created some group chats for topics I like (mechanical keyboards, note taking and productivity, Books and audiobooks, Money and investing, etc.).
I take group chats (and communities) more seriously than I should and I make sure chats are moderated and following their topic, otherwise, it wouldn’t make any sense to have chats split by topic. 🤷
Throughout the years, I faced many interesting situations and I’m going to use this post to let some opinions free to face the outside world. I may update this post at my own will to reflect my current opinions. 😉
The case for focused group chats
I’m doing focused group chats for a while now. People tend to create “friends” group chats. These groups are usually people who know each other and want to stay in touch. Nothing wrong here, but it’s usually not for me.
These non-focused group chats are usually noise with a variety of different topics which is not interesting to everyone. When people start to complain about random topics being discussed, someone usually asks:
Hey, why not using [Slack, Discord, Zulip, etc.] to be able to separate topics?
Although it may solve the problem, I tend to ask:
Why not creating many public group chats here [usually on Telegram] instead of restricting this conversation to a specific set of people?
That’s what I’m doing in the past years and it’s been a successful experiment. Even if the group is mostly the same when it starts, it’s nice to see other people joining and the group becoming heterogeneous.
Public group chats should be communities
I have a strong sense of community, probably because I’ve been organizing meetup since 2007. To me, a public group chat is just another community and must be treated as such.
I still remember when I was into board games and decided to participate in some group chat from “board game communities” in my country. There was even a buy/sell group that seemed pretty interesting. I still remember when one member (the owner of the group) pinned his own sales ad to the group chat (over many others). I asked why he was doing this and many people just said: “It’s his group, he does what he wants”. That’s when I realized this is not a community and I was wrong for being there.
Instead of creating my own board game community, I just gave up interacting with people from “the board games community” 🤷
If you have public group chats, please, be welcoming and fair to everyone. You may not know it, but you are a “community” now.
What to do if you’re attending focused group chats
- If you’re going to talk about off-topic, don’t.
- If you really want to talk about off-topic, check if the group chat already has a off-topic spin-off. People usually do that to keep the main group focused so people can talk about whatever they want in the off-topic spin-off.
- If someone complains that the current topic is not on-topic, just stop. There’s no need to argue. If someone is complaining, is because it’s not on-topic enough. On-topic would just be naturally accepted.
- You don’t know if “topic X” is on-topic? Start your message asking if it is on topic enough and someone will tell you otherwise.
- If you have a question for someone in the group but you don’t think the answer will be useful for other people, just send the question via DM.
What to do if you’re an owner and/or moderator of a group chat
- Make sure to write what is your group about and what is acceptable. If the description of the group is simple enough, you don’t need to describe further.
- You may assume the best from people but if your group is growing to dozens of people, it’s inevitable to have a code of conduct to maintain a safe environment.
- Kick/ban must have a warning prior to it. A simple warning may do the job. Point to the code of conduct being violated. If the behavior continues, kick/ban is necessary. Not warning people about this before banning is just bad.
There’s no right or wrong (as usual), but I wanted to make sure some of my opinions about this are public so I can show it to people when they ask what I think about certain behaviors.