This page gives a very general overview of how Discord works, and how the WisCon Discord server in particular will be organized during WisCon in 2022. Some of the topics covered here also appear in the #how-to channel on Discord, but this document starts at a more basic level (like: “what is a channel?!”).
Table of Contents:
- Context: why a WisCon-specific guide?
- Joining the WisCon Discord Server
- Identities: Usernames vs. Nicknames
- Navigating the WisCon Discord
- Marking Spoilers
- Moderation and Safety
For a technical how-to on downloading the Discord app, creating an account, and joining servers, you may find it useful to start with Discord’s own Getting Started guide.
Kestrell has written a guide to Discord for screen-reader users, posted on Dreamwidth: https://kestrell.dreamwidth.org/320040.html
Context: why a WisCon-specific guide?
We inhabit and present different facets of ourselves in different social spaces. This can be as simple as using a childhood nickname only with close family, or speaking in one way or about one set of topics with coworkers, and in another way or about other topics with friends.
For many of us, fandom represents a particularly sharp divide in how we present our identity to others. This is true of in-person fandom spaces, where people have long gone by something other than their “wallet name”, but especially true of online fandom, where stable pseudonymity—using a name that is not connected with your offline identity, but that is the same across platforms—is the default.
Many people participate in WisCon using their “wallet name”, but interact with fellow fans online using a pseudonym. As WisCon has increasingly featured online conversations in parallel with the in-person convention—seen for example in the increasing use of panel hashtags over the years—this has raised questions for some of us about how to participate in both conversations without compromising online pseudonymity.
Starting with WisCONline in 2020, WisCon has had more official presence online, and the question of how to manage online and offline identities is particularly pressing. In particular, some WisCon members may be using Discord—the platform we have chosen for text communication during the convention—for the first time, while others may have used it previously for professional or otherwise non-fannish interactions.
Here, therefore, is a very basic introduction to Discord, beginning from the perspective of managing online identities.
Joining the WisCon Discord Server
Discord resembles other services like Slack, in that you have a single account that can access multiple groups—on Discord these groups are called servers.
Some servers are public while others require an invitation; the WisCon Discord server requires an invitation to join. Invitations will be (or have been) sent to the email address that you gave when you registered for the convention.
When you click the invitation link, you will have the option of logging into an existing Discord account, or creating a new account. By default, a new account would be associated with the email address that the invitation was sent to.
If you have multiple Discord accounts, or if you are creating a new Discord account, pause to make sure that you’re joining with the account you intend to use for WisCon! If you need the Discord invitation re-sent, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Identities: Usernames vs. Nicknames
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.
When you join a server, you can optionally set a server-specific nickname. This can be changed at any point (much like Twitter display names). For the purposes of WisCon, it may be useful to think of this as being like your badge name; if you like, you could add information like your location or your pronouns.
Your username (but not your email) is visible to everyone on servers you belong to, even if you set a different nickname. If you have an existing Discord username that includes a name that you do not want to share in fannish spaces, you may wish to create a new Discord account for the purposes of participating in WisCon.
You can access Discord via the web interface, but there are also free desktop and mobile apps. It is unfortunately not currently possible to log into Discord with more than one account simultaneously in any of these (though there are some workarounds available via paid third-party apps).
You can add other users as friends on Discord; this is independent of whether you belong to any of the same channels.
Navigating the WisCon Discord
Discord servers are organized into a number of channels. Certain channels are accessible to everyone who belongs to the server; others are private, and restricted only to people with certain roles. You might be able to view a channel even though you don’t have permission to post to it—if you think you should have access to a channel that you don’t, message someone with the @moderator role.
We have set up both general discussion channels, and channels specific to individual programming items.
- Information: #welcome-and-rules, #how-to, and #bulletin-board are where to go for general information on WisCon’s code of conduct, how the server works, and convention-wide announcements. Moderators and concom members can post to the bulletin board, if you want something announced on your behalf. #links-to-streams is a dedicated channel that gathers together all links to YouTube streams. #peer-to-peer-tech-help is a place to ask other WisCon members for help with tech issues.
- Community Text Channels: For general off-topic conversation, we invite you to join #lobby-con or #the-bar—#the-bar even has a bot that will serve you a range of (virtual) themed WisCon menu items! Everyone who joins the server will be announced in #new-arrivals. The #meetups channel is available for organizing meetups on other platforms—want to hold a video conference with other attendees? Post here!
- Events: Each streamed event has a dedicated channel, arranged in chronological order.
- Gathering: The Gathering is the traditional opening event for in-person WisCon conventions, with a variety of activities spread out around the hotel ballroom. The channels in this section are intended to play a similar role, providing a space to gather at the beginning of the convention, immediately after the Opening Ceremonies.
- Panels, Readings, and Academic: Each panel has a dedicated channel for discussion during and after its slot, organized by day. You can use these channels for discussion, during and after the panels.
- Gaming: Sign up for games in #game-scheduling, talk about games in #gaming-chat, or try to find other people to play specific games in #want-to-play
- Safer Spaces: The safer spaces have channels in this section. To gain access to these channels, visit #requesting-access-to-safer-spaces in the Information section.
- Spontaneous Programming: The #spontaneous-coordination channel is for announcing or planning upcoming Spontaneous Programming items; the other channels are pre-made spaces to hold spontaneous discussions within the Discord. These can be used without reserving them on the Spontaneous Programming Google Doc (linked in Discord), but priority should be given to someone who did reserve a specific channel there.
- Birds of a Feather: Want to talk about something a bit more focused than #lobby-con? The channels in this section are for more focused discussion; we’ve pre-created some very general topics, but you can create new ones on as specific a topic as you want! To create a new channel, message someone with the @concom role.
Links to Zoom meetings and YouTube streams will be posted in #links-to-streams. They will also be sent out to registered members by email.
In general, all channels on the WisCon Discord are text-only; you cannot request that a new voice channel be created.
Some channels, including #lobby-con, have slowmode enabled. This means that you can only post once per a certain time interval—we’ve done this to try to ensure that everyone gets an equal chance to post.
Discord servers allow people to be associated with multiple roles. When you first join the server, you will be asked to acknowledge the Code of Conduct, which grants the @member role, which will reveal other channels in the server.
If you encounter a problem, you might want to contact one of the following roles:
- @admin: Members of our Online Con department
- @co-chair: The co-chairs of the WisCon convention committee (concom)
- @moderator: Discord Moderators manage the Discord server, can create new channels, change people’s roles, and ban people from the server (among other permissions). You can think of them as being the online equivalent of WisCon safety volunteers.
- @concom: Members of the WisCon organizing committee.
- @covid safety team: Members of the COVID-19 Safety committee, who you can contact if you have questions about our policies or need support after a positive test
You can ping everyone who has a certain role by typing ‘@’ followed by the name of the role. It is possible to ping everyone on a server by typing @everyone, but we have restricted the ability to do this to certain roles on the WisCon server.
- To send a message via ModMail, send a message to the ModMail bot—one way to do this is by selecting it in the list of people in the server, and typing your message into the “Message @ModMail” field at the bottom.
- If you haven’t interacted with ModMail before, the ModMail bot will ask you to allow it access to your Discord account.
- Once you send your first message, someone from the WisCon staff (probably a Discord Moderator) will reply asking if you have a Discord tech question, a Safety issue, or a COVID-19 issue. Depending on your response, a different member of WisCon staff will take over responding.
- If you prefer, you can always contact WisCon departments by email or (in the case of Safety) phone! ModMail is just another tool for reaching out within the Discord server itself.
While it’s easy to get excited about your favorite new media that have just dropped (we’re looking at you, She-Ra!), please be mindful when sharing possible spoilers. Fortunately, Discord has two ways to mark a section of text as a spoiler:
- 1. After you’ve typed your message but before you send it, select the text that’s spoiler-y, right click, and choose the Eyeball icon.
- 2. Type two vertical lines (pipe characters: ||) before and after the text that’s the spoiler in the chat box, such as: Can you believe the protagonist’s fridge is taken over by ||sentient mold||!
When you’ve marked text as a spoiler, using either method, it will appear as a greyed-out box. When another person clicks the box, it will show your original text. You can’ t un-see a spoiler, although if you leave a channel and come back, all of the grayed-out boxes will reappear.
Moderation and Safety
Throughout scheduled portions of the program, there will be Discord Moderators available on Discord. If you have concerns about something happening, whether in a WisCon space or elsewhere, please feel free to contact them, either by pinging @moderator or by sending a direct message to ModMail.
You can also contact Safety anytime, by email (email@example.com), phone (608-268-8306), or the Safety reporting form (wiscon.net/safety-report/).
On a personal level, you may also choose to mute or block other members of the server. To do this right click on their name, and select either ‘mute’ or ‘block’ from the dropdown list.
Anyone who is found to violate our Anti-Harassment Policy or the WisCon Statement of Principles may be removed from the Discord server by Safety or by others in the Moderator role, either temporarily or for the remainder of the con, and may also be asked to leave the in-person con if attending there as well.