|This is a general-purpose facility to help people gather together and enjoy music, conversation, and all that goes with that, geared toward the communities around SF conventions, filk, and online music events . It began as a side project to the Arisia 2022 online community-building effort, to offer interactive audio and video communication alongside a text-only based event hub. It is a bit of an experiment -- while people often complain that Discord's audio facilities are nowhere near the quality and robustness of, say, Zoom, a lot of that comes from poor default client-side settings and inattention to server-side channel bandwidth and location. The top channel in the server contains documentation everyone should read and utilize to adjust their own settings and make it much better.|
|Conveniently, Discord provides quite a high level of service for free, without forced session timeouts like on free-tier Zoom accounts. It is possible to purchase enhanced user levels within Discord which among other things, lets a server owner set audio channels to a somewhat higher bandwidth. The 96 kbps maximum audio baseline of the free level is quite usable as is, and far more about quality rests on the client settings. Let's not blame our tools, but learn to use them better! And even that will not work miracles to eliminate the unavoidable latency between participants, so the same limitations and caveats of any virtual gatherings apply here as well. Perhaps some bright people will come up with a way to "bucket brigade" through Discord someday, or combine it with specialized super-low-latency applications.|
Joining the server
The server invite link is https://discord.com/invite/mAQamaSXvF
However, before trying to click that, if you don't already have a Discord account you should FIRST visit https://discord.com/register and create one. Usernames are email-based. (Use something approximate for your birthday; Discord doesn't need your exact one.) You should go through the email "verification dance" to receive a link from Discord and confirm that it's really you, and then you're all set! Then you can use the link, or use the green (+) button along the left edge of your Discord client to "join a server" and when asked for the "invite link", you can just paste in " mAQamaSXvF ".
There are instructions on how to proceed in the #welcome channel that you land in; the exact procedure varies based on which event may primarily be using the server at a given time. Enter the correct text, and that channel will basically lock up on you, but then you'll see all the others that you can click to "focus" on.
The very first thing is to read all of what's posted in the #documentation channel at the top of the stack. (Here is a web copy of it, for viewing convenience.) That shows you how to join and leave audio channels, how to operate the A/V controls, and how to fiddle (heh) your Discord settings. It is highly recommended to run the dedicated Discord client instead of in a regular browser, as the clients are optimized for how Discord interacts. It is freely available at https://discord.com/download .
Basically, if you click on a text channel and see a recent conversation, weigh in by typing in the box at the lower-center of your client! (Be aware that you may be seeing the tail end of a previous event's conversations, so check the post dates carefully.) Or if you see peoples' icons in a "sound space", you can click its channel name to connect and join the "meeting". What often throws people is having to click an a/v channel twice to actually jump to the big view of all the people in it. This is because while you are connected to any audio channel, you can freely wander all over the ENTIRE rest of Discord and participate in text channels at the same time, even on other servers. Your original audio path will stay connected, and you can always return to the "video view" by clicking the audio channel again or using the backarrow icon in the little floating sub-window pop-up. You can also "pop out" |↗ the entire video window separately, and have a view of the meeting there and your text channels in another window. This is what you might want to do for a running chat during a session.
When you are unmuted and speaking, a green ring normally appears around your own icon [and that of anyone else who's sending too]. This does not appear in all clients, notably some mobile browsers. If your green ring is steady-on when you're not speaking or playing, you may want to readjust your sensitivity or "gating" threshold slider up a little until the transmit indicator only flickers once in a while, but if nobody complains about your background noise, you're probably good! Please try to stay muted when you're not actually interacting, i.e. listening to someone else play. That helps Discord allocate bandwidth to those who are actively participating in the channel.
Do you or your group want to do a concert? Great! Please ask in #helpdesk about setting this up; someone with a blue "staff" status should respond with instructions on how to schedule your session, and enable you to send audio/video into the high-bandwidth "Hall" channels if needed. Those function more like a "webinar", where the audience cannot speak into the channel, and [usually] their video is hidden. That type of one-to-many setup helps them receive your best audio quality.
Staff / host manual
*Note: These instructions will change from event to event.
Thank you for coming to help run things! The people doing online music have demonstrated ability to generally organize and regulate themselves, but you can help facilitate a few things for them. First, you should be familiar enough with Discord to answer any usage questions, monitor the #helpdesk, and gently point people at documentation if they need it. If they want to schedule a session and either perform or gather a specific interest group into a space at a given time, it will be your responsibility to either set it up, or carry that information back to a central scheduling authority to get the information added there. Once a schedule time-slot and a "venue" are established, if the performer/group has not already been roled as "Performer", you can add that for them and then they can transmit into the "larger" spaces.
There is a #staff-ops channel for staff coordination, usually with further operating instructions and commands in pinned posts. Procedures may change somewhat for each event, so it's worth checking those periodically. The #backstage text channel is magic, and must be publicly visible in the list even if its content is not. (Most people will want to mute the channel so that it doesn't keep "lighting up" for content they can't access.) As a staff person, you will be able to see the previous content there, find any semi-automated scheduling request traffic, and issue bot commands that only work from that channel. There is also a special Green Room audio channel, where you can bring performers for sound checks.
Other than that, there's not a lot to do. Join the sessions, chat, enjoy, and keep an eye out for problems! Technical resources for this are primarily Hobbit, but other people can likely help address things as well.
Session facilitator / Moderator
This is a slightly different function from general "Staff", and includes interactively coordinating participants within a single session. On Zoom, one approach toward queueing up those who want to sing or play for the rest is renaming one's self to include prepended run-order numbers, or being renamed by the host. The host can also mute participants who are issuing stray noise when needed. This functionality can be duplicated on Discord for the most part, and a person who's going to run and moderate a session should have the additional Mod (moderator, == host) role during that timeslot. This adds the power to rename (change nicknames) of other people, as well as server-mute them if needed. Just like a Zoom host! There are no co-hosts; someone is either a "Mod" or not, and can pass that status to someone else. It also pops their name up to the top of the stack on the right in red, so everyone can see who their "hosts" are at present.
To change your own nickname, right-click on your own avatar or name and select "edit server profile", and find the "Nickname" box. All normal users can do that for themselves. To change someone else's nickname, right-click their icon or name and select "change nickname". Nicknames tend to show up in the right-hand user column in alphanumeric order, so the Zoom-based tradition of adding a numeric tag to the beginning of one's nickname will work fine here. Of course if there are overlapping concurrent sessions in different spaces, that could get a little confusing! Adding a session or hall number before the order number in creative ways could help with that, at least grouping the folks in a given session together in the user column and still showing their run order, a la 1_18_Bob Jones and 2_08_Mary.
Another way to coordinate sing-arounds is for people to sequentially post requests to be queued up in a concurrent text channel, and the session moderator can maintain a list and even visibly post it, by re-editing a single [pinned?] post in the channel. That may be a more desirable alternative to changing nicknames. There are likely several other clever human-level solutions because we have options!
[For now, to have various role management done that is beyond what's currently documented for staff, ask @Hobbit . We may come up with more streamlined / self-service methodologies later. Updated instructions will be maintained in #staff-ops.]
The mute system on Discord is a little confusing. People muting and unmuting themselves is straightforward, but a "server mute" state imposed by a moderator/host cannot be un-done by the user. In that state, the target user's microphone icon turns *entirely* red, not just the red line through it, so it appears as a bit of a penalty state. As long as a host remembers to un-server-mute appropriately when someone's turn comes around it can still work. A victim of this can also chat in a parallel text channel, or use direct messaging, to ask a host "sorry, I got rid of the noisy thing and am paying attention now, @host can you please unmute me again" and then they can mange their own user-level muting thereafter. The really tricky moderation thing is that right-clicking on a target user brings up various options a host can use, including "server mute" and just "mute". The white "mute" changes only what the HOST would hear in that case, and changes nothing for everyone else.
In other words, everyone has an option to mute someone else's audio *in their own view/perception*, but that still lets a noisy source spam the rest of the group so it doesn't help them much. In fact, everyone can also set the volume at which they hear every other individual user, almost like having everyone feed in your session on a personal mixing board! Thus, the mute system is a bit different from Zoom, but knowing how it works can help everyone competently manage their sessions. It may also help in ferreting out a noise source in the meeting -- try bringing a suspect's volume level all the way up momentarily, to sort of "solo them out of the mix" for yourself.
For a very general look at what Discord is, start here:
If you are using Discord on a mobile device, this video gives an
introduction to the app.
For an overview of Discord on desktop, watch this video.
Discord's own general starting guide