the genprog blog

ramblings from bored programmers

Patreon's Discord integration is bad and Patreon should feel bad

by obw | published 2020-08-06

I recently started supporting a few people on Patreon. The experience overall has been... not that great; the UI is slow and bloated, and the search feature isn't very good (and I really remember it not existing for a little bit, but hey).

One of the creators I support offers access to a Discord server as a reward, so I hooked up my Discord account, noting the scopes Patreon asks for (access your identity, know what servers you're in, and join servers) and promptly discovered that Patreon just auto-joins you to all available Discord servers with no prompting.

It was at roughly this point that I went "uhh... hmm", and a day or two later I saw a toot from iliana noting that it happens upon each payment cycle, and there's no way to avoid it - you will be force-joined to every server available to you.

This seems a little bizzare to me - surely you should be able to choose which servers to join. So, in the interest of sharing ideas freely, or something, I propose...

The Simple Fix: Literally just add a button

Why does this have to be an automatic process? All Patreon needs to do is add a button to the creator page which says "Join the Discord server", and then trigger the exact same flow that they use anyway - joining the server using Discord's 'Add Guild Member' endpoint.

It can just be as simple as this (fake mockup) example:

An edited example with Hbomb's patreon

This way, you can choose to join and leave servers at your leisure; none of this auto-joining business. The flow is barely different from the automatic system; all Patreon has to do is add a new endpoint.

Actually, as an aside: under the current automatic system, can you even manually rejoin a server if you leave? Or do you have to wait until the next payment cycle?

Musing on alternatives

Patreon's integration requires adding a bot to your server and giving it the "Create Instant Invite" permission, to allow them to use Discord's 'Add Guild Member' endpoint:

Screenshot of Discord Developer Docs

Using this endpoint honestly makes a lot of sense, because it means the server controls all the state, but there is an alternative: creating an invite.

Screenshot of Discord Developer Docs

You could generate a temporary invite on-request and give it to the user. Presumably the target_user parameter also locks that invite to a specific user (which would be essential!), but the documentation is incredibly unclear on what this parameter does. The only target_user_type is STREAM with a value of 1, but it's also unclear what this means. Either way, I think it makes more sense to use the Add Guild Member interface rather than this.

Wrapping up

It's baffling to me that the integration is this bad - given that Patreon gives creators the option to place a "Includes Discord rewards" banner on their pledge tiers. Clearly Patreon doesn't mind placing another company's logo quite visibly on creator pages, so why didn't they spend any more time implementing this feature?

If you're interested more in Patreon's design and business failings, I'd suggest reading Plaidophile's write up on why they stopped using Patreon.