Switch Dev Forum from Vanilla to Discourse

  • Hey folks,

    As you've likely noticed the forums have a few kinks to work out.
    This forum is created with <a href="http://vanillaforums.org/">Vanilla forums</a>, which is renown for missing basic forum tools that you've all come to expect. Although most or all of those tools can be manually added via plugins.

    But instead of manually adding all that, @RepeatPan suggested that we switch to a new and better forum framework, <a href="https://www.discourse.org/">Discourse</a>. I talked with @JohnK about it and he's for the switch. Discourse seems like an awesome update to the forum medium (that we hoped Vanilla would have been).

    There are some technical issues, as Discourse doesn't work on our "shared server" hosting, so I'll have to set it up on our VPS via command line (not my specialty). Discourse is also new, so it's install process and discussion-transfer process both look a little rocky. It's possible that we will start the forum from discussion scratch (not prefered).

    I'll have time to attempt this later this week. So in the meantime, I'd like to hear what you all have to say about the switch?

    PS: Today, @SEJBR also suggested <a href="http://discuss.flarum.org/">Flarum</a> forums.

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  • Maybe backup the existing forum before trying, give it scheduled down time, and if it doesn't work just restore?

  • If you need any help, feel free to ask me, I host servers for a living :)

    Skype: Brandon2695

    I am a Wolf-Tier backer and a Volunteer on the forums helping out with Bug reports, Support and Moderation. I am not a StrangeLoopGames Employee / Developer.

    I am the founder of DBM Hosting. High quality server hosting.

  • Looking at Discourse I'd suggest testing the Flarum (even if it is Beta right now) or some other forum software.
    There's not much point in using software no one in the team is familiar with and with more exotic language behind it, since that would make a ton of headaches once there are any technical problems.
    I have not tested Flarum, since my server has php 5.4 and 5.5 is required but looking at features http://flarum.org/features/, and the fact that code is PHP would speak towards it. Simply easier to fix/expand on.
    If you'd need help with the Discourse I could help (althou I'm not experienced in Ruby and server appears to be written in it), also there were few more people here with linux experience who I guess would be willing to help.

  • I support this idea. Also, I've been wanting to try discourse so I'd be happy to contribute what I can.

  • You make some good points @SEJBR
    I'll take a closer look at Flarum.

  • Discourse is established and has entered commercial stage already, plus I have about two years of knowledge (usage-wise, as normal user). I've got friends which are moderators though and I've already looked at the code a bit. Admittedly, it's not much.

    The popularity of Discourse is certainly an advantage that I think is important. When it comes to feature requests or plugins or whatever, because it's well established and open source there's bound to be someone having a solution for it... or in the very least, some approaches.

    Plus, Flarum has absolutely zero import at the moment. While Discourse is wonky, Flarum has nothing. For Discourse, there's complete vms you can download that contain some Unix distro plus everything preinstalled, so you can technically start immediately. For writing/debugging/testing the import script, this certainly comes as a plus. In case something goes wrong, just reset the whole VM to a snapshot and start again.

  • I'm not going to argue about the stage, accessibility and addons of Discourse since you are right in those matters.
    I recommended Flarum or some another forum software (Maybe esoTalk which is a predecessor of Flarum by the same developers http://esotalk.org/) because of them being mostly written in PHP+JS, where Discourse is Ruby+JS. As far as we are concerned, we'd always choose what we are more familiar with, which in my case would be IPBoard (Also newest version is pretty nice, but It's standard forum. Discussion based engine would work betten here I think), and Discourse in your case.
    The problem is - We don't work for StrangeLoop, we don't have any contract which would uphold us to helping with the software (Correct me if you have, but I'm not seeing "Strange Loop Dev" hence my assumption). I'm not saying that you'd abandon the project or anything like that.
    Life is life and anything can happen. If you were to stop being able to help with Discourse, you'd leave mainly PHP and JS developer alone with a software He's not that familiar with, written in language that is not his strong side. To work additional hours on his weekends to figure out what broke if there are any problems on the server side.

  • I'll make a simple assumption which applies to all feature rich CMS and forums such as Flarum and Discourse and that's the following:

    They're so extremely big that your average web dev won't have a chance of doing much himself. It's a big time investment to even understand how the whole thing works, leave alone properly adjust/add/fix something. Unless he's already investing a lot of time ahead to get to know the code better (which means you could also pick up a new language for example - <a href="http://tryruby.org/levels/1/challenges/0">Ruby is kinda neat after all!) you're in for a very, very long weekend anyway.

    That's where you get a community though, and <a href="https://meta.discourse.org/">the meta discourse is quite active</a>. From my experience, it's also quite easy to get into, even though some things are a bit harder (it is a very powerful tool, which inevitable leads to it being complicated at times).

    I don't know Flarum at all, but I can't shake off the vibe that it's radiating off some sort of "We're open source, guys! Now finish our product" vibe. Discourse is open source too, but follows a strict agenda from what I can tell, for better and worse...

  • Starting the forum from scratch is fine with me since we are so early in the project and the current forum is disorganized and deffintly needs a rework. Just be sure to "archive" this forum, lock everything down, and link to it from the new forum for reference.

  • Sounds like <a href="https://nodebb.org/">NodeBB </a>is another contender for next-gen forums.

    This looks like a useful article with pros and cons of the three types: http://www.haobinliang.com/2015/07/discourse-nodebb-flarum-notes-about-next-gen-forums/

    Note: As the person responsible for setting up the forum. I would be alright working with Ruby (although I'm not familiar with it). I have to learn new coding languages on the fly all the time! (It is a pain, but I guess it's like good for me or something. Wards off alzheimer's!) And there is supposed to be an easy installer (sounds a bit buggy though).

  • Hmm, that article actually makes NodeBB sound the best, "NodeBB feels like 'humans from the year 2200 came back in time and left their forum software'."

    It's apparently quick to setup. Although shared-server hosting is not supported.
    There is a github project for Vanilla to NodeBB migration.
    Just as sleek and near as fast as Discourse.
    Just missing Discourse's special email notification system. (Which doesn't seem like a high priority feature for me anyways.)

    So all n all, if we choose NodeBB, we'll lose the special email notifications, but gain a faster and easier code maintenance. Sounds like a good trade off to me.

  • PhpBB is a really big forum handler too.

  • PhpBB, IPB and vBulletin have all powered some of the bigger scale forums I've been on. I've also Admined at a SimpleMachines forum, and that's not too bad.

    I'd recommend avoiding Xenforo, though. Big forum I'm on switched to it recently, and it's not been a good ride.

  • I've only worked with PhpBB so I don't know how it stacks up. I will ecco Jesthar in saying that many large boards use it. I was a head mod with Admin rights/responsibilities on a large British forum (Animeleague) for a few years so I know it works well. However, I'm sure lots of forum code "works well."

  • If it helps, I have an unused vBulletin license, might come in handy here?

    I am a Wolf-Tier backer and a Volunteer on the forums helping out with Bug reports, Support and Moderation. I am not a StrangeLoopGames Employee / Developer.

    I am the founder of DBM Hosting. High quality server hosting.

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