While some of you may be familiar with the Discord chat platform, we assume that many of you are not. Below you’ll find some basic information about how Discord works in general, and how we’ll be using it for PSST and PΦF this year.
What is Discord?
Discord creates a virtual discussion space with more of a chatroom feel to it. (There is no video component.) Every talk will have its own chatroom (“channel”), for discussions about the talk that can take place both during and after the talk. For example, audience members can pose questions to the speaker in this channel that the speaker can reply to whenever they get a chance to. It’s also a space for audience members to discuss a talk together. In addition to the talk channels, there will be channels for technical support, and a fun virtual coffeeshop, meant to invoke our beloved Princeton-staple Small World Cafe.
On Discord you log in with a single account, and this account can access multiple groups/communities (called “servers”). The PSST/PΦF server requires an invitation link to join it, which you can find at the end of this document.
(If you’re familiar with the service Slack, Discord is similar in a number of ways. The differences largely reflect that Discord was created as a social platform (originally for people playing online video games), while Slack was created for workplaces.)
How does Discord work?
You can interact with Discord via the web interface, or via a downloaded app on your computer or mobile device. By default, if you haven’t used Discord before, the invitation link for a server will bring you to the web interface. If you don’t already have a Discord account, it is probably easiest to create one before following the PSST/PΦF invitation link! The Discord website has instructions on creating a new Discord account: https://support.discord.com/hc/en-us/articles/360033931551-Getting-Started
Your Discord account is associated with an email address and with a username. The username is a text string (case-sensitive), followed by a hashmark and a 4-digit number. The text string can be changed, but the 4-digit number cannot be.
The username you create will be visible to everyone in any server you join, but the email address is not. When you join a server you can also set a server-specific nickname. This can be changed at any point—it is helpful to set it to the name you think people at PSST/PΦF would know you by.
Discord servers are organized into channels, the chatrooms mentioned above. These are usually listed on the left side of the screen. There will be a number of administrative channels at the top (#announcements and #help), then a series of social channels that match the social breakout rooms in the Zoom call, and then sections with individual channels for each of PSST and PΦF, with every talk getting its own subchannel for dedicated discussion of that talk.
You can ping people on Discord by using an ‘@’ symbol followed by their name. You can also ping people according to their roles, which are assigned by the administrators of the server. If you need technical help during the conference, for example, you can go the the #help channel and type @tech (followed by a description of your issue) to attract the attention of everyone who can help with technical issues. If you want to make a general announcement, you can type @everyone to ping every single person on the server.
Why use Discord for conferences?
One of the biggest challenges for virtual conferences is recreating the opportunity for casual and spontaneous conversation and connection that we experience in person, often over coffee breaks or meals. We can’t recreate those opportunities exactly, but we can make spaces for something similar. At PSST/PΦF this year we’re doing that partly by creating social breakout rooms in the main conference call, and partly by using Discord as a stable chat platform throughout the conference.
Please don’t think of using Discord as an optional “extra” for PSST/PΦF! This is a core part of how we’re running the conference; think about the effort it will take to set up Discord as the equivalent to the travel time to/from Princeton in a normal year (though it should take you much less time than that!). If you have any accessibility concerns, or just technical questions about how to get yourself connected, please email us and we’ll help you resolve them.
Joining the PSST/PΦF Discord
The invitation link for joining the PSST/PΦF Discord server is shared with registrants, after they register.
Most of the server will be inactive and invisible until the workshops begin. But you will be able to see who has “arrived” in the server, and there will be a small social space available for chatting before the workshops begin.
If you attempt to join and the invitation link isn’t working, please email us to let us know! Discord invitation links can expire, and in that case it is easy for us to generate a new one.
We look forward to seeing you in our virtual spaces!