Over the last few months I have noticed that more and more communities in Opensimulator and beyond are beginning to see the benefits of Discord as a useful communication tool that is slowly replacing the use of Skype (comparison of features of different communication tools and Discord). In this post I will explain my own uses of Discord and how useful and easy it is to use whilst out of world as well as in world (using the built in overlay that shows up in the corner of the viewer).
While on the Opensim Life grid I organised a monthly grid crawl and using discord to keep us connected worked really well. As people who use Opensimulator will know voice and chat range whilst in world is limited and is not helpful when exploring regions together in groups. Discord and the overlay helps a great deal as all the grid crawlers have to do is signup for Discord and download the desktop client and join a dedicated channel (voice and chat). They can then enable the overlay and you have a working voice and chat system without have to switch between the viewer and discord to stay in touch with the others.
The picture below shows a grid crawl where we are all on Discord and communicating that way as we move around the region.
Also while on the Opensim Life grid we decided to do a group build region and we used to discord for a private discussion area and used voice inworld whilst we were building. This is a great way of keeping in touch, getting feedback and posing questions about the build when we were not inworld.
Matrix and Riot app
For general grid chat Discord provides a relatively secure and reliable service however for some this might not be appropriate for example as a therapist this would not be secure enough for use and there maybe other reasons why a more secure version might be more desirable. However, do not fear there is a Discord like service that you can self host called Matrix which you connect to using the Riot app. Simply put Matrix is the server and Riot in the client (there are other clients here) it is relatively simple to install on a server but might not be worth the effort for the average Opensimulator grid and user base but for information sensitive organisations it will give you greater freedom over the flow and storage of information.
Discord is a great alternative to Skype and the inworld voice and chat and it is great to see so many grids and communities adopting this communication tool. The ease of use and overlay feature of Discord makes it a useful tool for Opensimulator and virtual worlds more generally.
There is a way to encrypt chat conversations in Discord but there are a couple of things that you need to do to get started. You need to download and install something called BetterDiscord and then once that is done you need to install the Discord-Encryption plugin (full instructions can be found here). Once that is done you may need to exit and restart Discord and enable the plugin in your settings a lock icon will appear in the chat bar. You will need to share the encryption password and recommend doing this via email rather than sharing it on discord in plain text.
The plugin seems like a recent project and may get better as there are a few issues with it, like desktop notifications and new message scrolling not working. With those working this is a great solution for encryption within Discord itself rather than having to go through setting up Matrix/Riot. The setup and installation is simple to do and user friendly which is great. Thank you Bill Blight for road testing the plugin with me on Discord.