So much helpful context -- thank you!
I guess I could ask very particular questions on SN (would be an interesting use case) and maybe I will, once we have subs. I admit that I was attracted to the idea of a real-time chat where people were hanging out and there could be ambient information flow.
I had concluded the hub-and-spoke thing myself; it seemed inevitable, at least in the medium term. I wanted to learn how to do the full thing, even if I did a shitty job and lost money and crashed my node a bunch of times, just to really grok the fundamentals of how this all works together. I'm technical in general, but have no expertise in the guts of LN, so it seemed worthwhile.
Thanks again for the reply, it was really the perfect answer. Getting the full perspective with the right context can be a trick.
Still, there are lots of great and active groupchats on TG, Discord, Slack, RocketChat, nostr, and Matrix. They're just more fragmented and focused.
Have a look at all the tech you use for LN (nodes, web GUIs, tooling, etc.) Most of those tools will advertise chat servers where the devs hang out and answer questions. Join them and be active and you may get invited to some more private groups where the real alpha gets leaked.