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Free Private Forums in 2019

 ·   ·  ☕ 3 min read

I was setting up content for a professional training company that I consult for. We have to do “something different” as compared to many others in the space. One such idea was to setup a closed user group for the course students.

The said forum will enable students to discuss the course, ask questions, and connect with other students/faculty.

The company is profitable but bearly and had its share of expenses lined up. Being a small, bootstrapped company has its advantages, but strong finances is not one of them.

There are more than few options to setup a forum for free/ or with minimal costs -

  1. Use Yammer (or Chatter)
  2. Closed facebook groups (hmm) / private LinkedIn groups
  3. Host forums on my own server - we already host the site, so this should not be an issue
  4. Just go with Microsoft Teams or Slack, and avoid the idea of full blown forum software
  5. Host something like a StackExchange for Enterprises (we don’t have money), or look at Reddit
  6. StackExchange for enterprises

The Completely Ludicrous Evaluation

Although Yammer is still under consideration, we wanted to use something that can be exposed to students. Yammer will want us to create business email ids for everyone. This is an unnecessary burden. I found out later that Teams had a similar requirement, and so does Chatter - all of them were pushed off the table.

My quick scan of the many PHP-based forum software was satisfying, but not exciting. I am lazy - wanted to avoid maintaining an additional forum software when necessary. Also, none of them really looked appealing to the millenial generation walking in to the course.

Facebook and LinkedIn have their appeal. Almost everyone have the apps on their mobile phones, the groups are really accessible, and that would give us more than enough cred. The main reason to not consider them was to align to the inherent developer syndrome.

I’ve been part of LinkedIn and Facebook since time immemorial. Although we could easily sell this, it will still be difficult to showcase that as a differentiator. LinkedIn and Facebook groups are numerous - one was started by the friendly neighbour dog recently.

Although StackExchange really appealed to the developer in me, the logic of using a business email and why pay for something when it can be free stuck.

So, Reddit it was.

Pros of Reddit Private Community

  • I also had this strong, completely unjustified opinion about developers gravitate towards Reddit. Open, democratic, community-driven, and exuding a charm of its own, Reddit appeals to the internet crowd.
  • Students can enroll with any email id. Even use the forum at work (he he)
  • Absolutely no doubts about how the platform can scale. All I need is more moderators

I do have my reservations though.


  1. Reddit is a bit old school. I can get people by droves and make them excited about using Reddit, but whether that can be sustained is another story. Reddit UI does not help at all.
  2. Difficult (= no) integration with in-house platforms

The Decision

Well, I told myself - screw the cons. I am from the largest democrazy (yes, ‘z’), and I support democratic forums like Reddit.

Setting up a Private Community

It is nothing really.

Click on the white button on the Reddit home page. You are off to, filling in fields and stuff. Just mark the community as private, and you are done. You are the default moderator - so congratulations.

If an anonymous user, or a Reddit user with no privileges navigate to your community URL, they will see a glorious message.


All I have to do now is to wait for the zombies to come in. Will it convert them to humanity and/or enlighten them? Watch this space.

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Prashanth Krishnamurthy
Prashanth Krishnamurthy
Technologist | Creator of Things