Communication is key to the success of the NTUME@US Mentoring Program, so as to the continuation of the NTUME@US community. A lot of coordination and discussions need to happen asynchronously because of the time zone difference between North America and Taiwan. The old-fashioned email (and mailing lists) is the simplest way to solve the communication problem. However, more often than not, it becomes very noisy and very hard to track when more people start contributing to the discussion threads.

What we need is an alternative that is, and remains:

  1. free and non-commercial
  2. retains (searchable) history so no knowledge is lost
  3. has a modern web UI

On the one hand, there are a few popular options for managing online communities. However, they failed to meet some of the criteria above. For example:

  • Facebook Groups: for-commercial, many privacy concerns, not very searchable
  • Slack free version: not retainable history
  • Slack: for-commercial
  • Discord: for-commercial?


We ended up choosing Discourse. Discourse is an open-source discussion platform. Try the official demo here. Since the software is open source, we host the application ourselves instead of paying $100/month to cut the cost (at the expense of managing our private server at $5/month.)

For now, the email service is using my personal email service at Fastmail, so the cost is $0 as long as the usage is small. The only other cost is the domain registration fee that’s ~$7 a year.

If you have any further questions, feel free to comment below or email me at



Q. How long does it take to set up the forum (Discourse) app?

TL;DR: 1 hour.

The first time that I set up my instance The ThirdStream Forum took me about 4 hours, including reading some official documentation and writing this document while I’m at it. The next time would likely take about an hour.

Q. What’s the cost of running this forum?

$67.35 a year

Q. Can this be transferred to another owner?


Q. How do we ensure to find another System Admin to do all the nerdy stuff?

We have more and more alumni to study Computer Science / Computer Engineering / Software Development as a general trend. They will be great candidates to take over the Sys Admin stuff. We can always train more people to do this. Sys Admin isn’t rocket science.