I know this post looks sponsored because I am writing nothing but praise for 1,619 words, but I promise it's not lmfao.
Every once and a while I come across a piece of software that reminds me that computers are not just terrible portals into ridiculous discourse and nazi ideology. I boot it up and go “wait, computers are awesome, actually.” My mind gets taken up by all the interesting ways I can use it, and I end up not being able to shut up about its implications.
The last time I felt that way was about the blogging service Ghost. The most recent is Guilded.
I Wanna do Non-Ephemeral Things with my Friends
If we’re friends, you probably know a couple of obvious things about me, like that I love my OCs and that I think Gravity Rush is greatest series in videogame history (it is). One thing that’s only obvious about me if you’re in my FFXIV Free Company or Tabletop Group, though, is that I’m extremely passionate about creating communal spaces for my friends online. Part of this stems from my dissatisfaction with the current state of internet community, and part of it stems from the fact that I inherited the sometimes annoying trait from my mom of needing to make sure everyone around me is having a good time all the time.
The latter is genetic, but my dissatisfaction with internet community is weirdly personal, conflicting, and probably a bit overthought. I like to micro-blog on places like Twitter, but I’m also not happy with the idea of all interaction with my friend groups being ephemeral. The natural rebuttal to that would be Discord, but it’s not satisfactory to me either, especially with how the siloing of information has quickly gotten out of hand. If you’re in the Fighting Game Community, you probably know what I’m talking about here. Join a Discord for a game or a character to check a pinned post to get a google doc link…it’s a pain, and a waste of time.
Even beyond the FGC, I don’t particularly enjoy Discord. It’s fun for live-chatting at times, but it, too, can become too big for its own good, turning my discussions with my friends into one-off moments that are hard to go back to and find. Maybe this is me being a boomer, but I’ve always been more fond of the structured nature of forums, which create a long-term, shared history between you and the people you care about, that you can go back to whenever you want.
I also think Discord (and Slack, to be frank) have only scratched the surface of what’s possible with persistent chat apps. Running my Free Company on it is...doable, for example, but it certainly hasn't ever been ideal. I spent more of my time DMing with Bots to get things done than I did in the server itself, because the bots were handling all the features i wished Discord had in the first place. This lack of innovation has only become infinitely more apparent after using Guilded.
Wow! That's Neat (Repeat ad nauseum)
What makes Guilded so awesome to me is that it feels like a fusion dance of every community platform I’ve ever been on: Discord, Discourse, and your favorite blogging tool got together to have a cute, knight-looking baby. There are so many features to get through that make my life better as a Free Company leader, as a person who runs a community, and just as someone who likes cool tech, that it’ll probably be impossible to get through them all, but I’m gonna try.
First is the fact that servers in Guilded are a lot more in-depth than Discord, because you can create groups under a server home. My main server is Mint’s Café, but beneath it are groups for FFXIV, Among Us, Apex Legends, my Pokemon tabletop group, and Monster Hunter. Each group is its own separate server beneath Mint’s Café, with their own channels. Some members of the Café are part of some of the groups, some aren’t, and some are in all of them. This already creates a level of organization that I appreciate. Whenever I spin up a new group, I don’t have to redo my system for a previous one, like I would making multiple Discord servers.
That isn’t what drew me to Guilded initially, though. No, what pulled me in right away was Calendars. Every week I set up a schedule on the stuff we plan to do in Eorzea. In Discord this was just an @ in an announcement channel, with the hope that people will tell me if they’ll be there (which they usually do, the Sailers are a good crew).
That said, planning bigger events, like new content, was a pain in the ass. It was all bot-based, and it was hard to make sure timezones were working properly for the entire party. Guilded goes above and beyond. You can simply create a calendar channel and input events, setting the time (which syncs to other's timezones), add a description, and you're good to go. People can then RSVP to the event, and it all shows up on an event page.
Want to get more granular? You can restrict events to specific roles, and even have users fill out a form when they RSVP. Each event even has its own separate chat and voice chat, keeping everything super tidy.
Want to see when everyone’s available for an event? Have them fill out their time in the Event Scheduling channel, then pick the best time for everyone. It makes prepping so much easier in every conceivable way.
That’s all well and good, but maybe you’re not wrangling a bunch of cat boys in a fantasy MMO. You can still find tons of use from Guilded. Which brings me to what might be my favorite feature: forums. You can literally make a channel that works like a forum, complete with new topics and threaded replies. My mind literally exploded when I found out this was possible. The white-space could use some work, but it’s still incredible to me that I could have my cake and eat it too in this regard — long-form and short-form communication, united under a single server. Wanna wax for a while on your favorite game? Make a forum post! Wanna live-chat about an event? Use regular text.
We’re not even close to being done. Guilded also has what I can only describe as a “Media Wall” channel. It’d probably be better to just show it to you first:
The media channel takes all of your pictures and videos and arranges them into a beautiful, long-lasting collage, undisturbed by text (although you can still leave comments on individual media). Now even your art uploads will no longer be lost to time. Sick.
Question: remember when I was talking about how Discords have this annoying as hell issue when it comes to retaining long-term knowledge in a community, especially in fighting games? There’s a ||app|| Guilded channel for that. The Docs channel lets you create documents for anyone to read and comment on. They're extremely well-formatted and auto-embed pretty much most links properly.
And if you’re like me, and hate joining a Discord server just to get some information, Guilded has you covered here as well. You can make any channel public, so for anyone on the internet that wants to just look up some bread and butters for Djeeta in GBVS, they could read a post about that on a Guilded server without ever having to join.
Even profiles on Guilded feel a lot more fleshed out than on Discord. They can become a homepage of sorts, with information on all the games you play, and come with the ability to make posts on an individual feed (which you can then publish as blog posts that anyone can read, because hell, why not??).
And then there are all the little things in Guilded that make my tech-brain happy: like the fact that you can make persistent threads under comments, a feature Discord should have stolen from Slack 300 years ago. Or the fact that you can pop a server out into a separate window. Or the fact that Announcements are just their own type of channel, which can also be turned into a blog. Or the fact that you can set-up tournaments right in Guilded, even able to compete against other servers. Or how you can whisper to a specific person during a voice chat. Or even how voice lobbies have text channels built into them for anyone not using mics, which you can see that I was very happy to learn.
I can’t claim to make a judgement on Guilded staff. They didn’t pay me to write this and I don’t know them on a personal level. But damn, does using Guilded make me feel like I’m using software created by people who really love making software. Diving into Guilded felt like uncovering gold, digging deeper to find more gold, and then finding some more gold on top of all that. It just feels real good to use, whether it's for planning events or chilling with my friends. It's not perfect: it sometimes needs to hard refresh to update, the mobile app needs some work, streaming isn't where it needs to be, and frankly, the constant "we're better than Discord" marketing can get a little grating, personally. But I'm confident it'll smooth these issues over with time.
I also can't claim if Guilded will be right for you, especially if your group isn't willing to make the switch over. Luckily, mine was. And I’m thankful for that, because if nothing else, Guilded is perfect for me.