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May 17th, 2022, 00:14
Ghost seems good, though I have no idea if the integration with Discourse is as complete as what I saw with WP. It's apparently much faster than WP. Discourse is very fast too, they're using a lot of async flows, with a little overhead but a very fast response overall. I suspect that the combination could be quite performant.

But I'm far from fluent with JS and I don't know Rails or even Ruby, so that's not the combination I'm most comfortable with, technically speaking.

Do you think the forum would be disorienting for the current users? Whatever we choose will be somewhat different, but a forum is a forum. I'd have to see how it looks again, with that in mind to be more critical about it. What didn't you like?
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May 17th, 2022, 00:20
Originally Posted by Redglyph View Post
Do you think the forum would be disorienting for the current users? Whatever we choose will be somewhat different, but a forum is a forum. I'd have to see how it looks again, with that in mind to be more critical about it. What didn't you like?
I think it's a bit disorientating because they use a different paradigm - categories instead of trees of subfora. I think that different concept, and the way it's presented in the default configuration, can seem a bit alien to someone expecting a forum to look essentially like ours. And also, I personally just find their default design to be quite ugly, with not the greatest use of space.
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May 17th, 2022, 10:28
We should definitely get more feedback on this forum. If anyone is willing to check the demo or even to register and experiment, that'd be great. I mean, if we have to do it from scratch; if the current deal works then it's not necessary of course.

https://try.discourse.org/categories

Don't worry about the theme, it can be changed, what's important is the functionality and how easy/intuitive it is.

Originally Posted by Ripper View Post
I think it's a bit disorientating because they use a different paradigm - categories instead of trees of subfora. I think that different concept, and the way it's presented in the default configuration, can seem a bit alien to someone expecting a forum to look essentially like ours. And also, I personally just find their default design to be quite ugly, with not the greatest use of space.
I see what you mean. It didn't strike me on the forums I saw because the categories were presented like a tree (for ex Manjaro, or Owlcat - their theme is terrible though), but on the Discourse Demo it's only one level. The structure is shown at the top, not like breadcrumbs but in a series of dropdowns (1 per level), which may look somewhat overloaded.

There's some confusion about the max number of levels by the way, some say it's limited to 2, we'd need to test if more is possible. Otherwise, we'd have to transform the forum structure when transferring it.

I totally agree with the waste of space. WP's default is the same.

I registered on their demo, and they have the discobot too You first get an overlay inviting you to check the PM given by the discobot, or to ignore that for now. It presents the basics and reacts to your your actions by sending further PMs to advance in the training. You learn little things like emojis, include a pic, formatting, using @, the 'like' button, flagging a post, doing a search… But you can skip it entirely if you feel it's unnecessary. I'm pretty sure anybody can understand how it works without it.

There's a trust system with several levels (here there's one level too). There are badges too, and some stats shown on each topic. It's actually quite a playful forum engine, which is nice for people like us It's also very easy, for ex you just press the paste shortcut to include a picture, or you select the text to quote.

Something else I like is the shortcuts (press ? to see them). And there are tags, so that could be used if my suggestion makes any sense for games / articles / news as a replacement for the DB - at least a plan B if we don't find something else. (*)

=> The differences and the unknown vs a CMS integration are the only downsides I see for now. And the language if I were to be helpful, though it would only be one more to learn which isn't a real issue (maybe it's not even necessary depending on how integrating modules works). I'm tempted to do a local install to check if we have all the features we want, and see how easy it can coexist with other apps on Apache.

(*) While I agree on the idea of using several tools rather than a 'all-inc' solution, I still believe we must make the right choice from the start, that guarantees us a possibility to get all the functionality we want, instead of having to hack it later.
Last edited by Redglyph; May 17th, 2022 at 10:38.
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May 17th, 2022, 14:02
I started to take a look at it and then got totally distracted by the prancercise video. Feel the power:

https://try.discourse.org/t/a-bear-h…-exercise/48/6

I had no real issues with the way it was set up myself. I can pretty much adapt to most interfaces.
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May 17th, 2022, 14:30
I had a look at the discourse stuff and I have to say I prefer Xenforo. It just looks so much closer to what we have now.
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May 17th, 2022, 16:21
Originally Posted by bjon045 View Post
I had a look at the discourse stuff and I have to say I prefer Xenforo. It just looks so much closer to what we have now.
What bugs you? The presentation of the threads? The controls to post/reply/…? Or is it the navigation?


I'm giving a comparison (should have done that before), hoping XenForo's own forums are version 2 too:
- ex (Discourse)
- ex (XenForo)
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May 17th, 2022, 16:33
Originally Posted by Redglyph View Post
What bugs you? The presentation of the threads? The controls to post/reply/…? Or is it the navigation?


I'm giving a comparison (should have done that before), hoping XenForo's own forums are version 2 too:
- ex (Discourse)
- ex (XenForo)
When compared side by side I prefer Xenforo between the two of them by a big margin. But, as I said, I can adapt to whatever.
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May 17th, 2022, 16:54
XenForo has a nice setting for users

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May 17th, 2022, 18:01
Originally Posted by wolfgrimdark View Post
When compared side by side I prefer Xenforo between the two of them by a big margin. But, as I said, I can adapt to whatever.
Same question as for bjon045, what don't you like? The presentation of the threads? The controls to post/reply/…? Or is it the navigation?

Just to see if that's something that can be modified.
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May 18th, 2022, 00:18
With regard to theming Discourse to make it more like a traditional forum, it could definitely be done, but I think it could be a headache. I've been following the development of Discourse for a long time, as I like what they're trying to do - I just disagree with some decisions. My impression is that Discourse is quite opinionated, in a technical sense; they have a clear idea of how it's intended to be used. I remember early on, they only had categories - no subcategories. The lead guy, I think he's called Jeff, was quite adamant that having too much granularity in your subdivisions of categories becomes more of a hindrance than a help, in the context of a discussion forum. They compromised and agreed upon subcategories; keeping the taxonomy two levels deep.

My impression from discussions on their forum is that trying to make it present a more traditional forum layout would involve work that goes deeper than the theming system, and that, IMO, is the sort of thing that can bite you come upgrade time - they make some changes, and you need to do some work to address them.

It is great software, though, and it would definitely be possible to make it a lot more appealing (at least to me) through simple theming. I just think it could be a mistake to try to force it into a shape that is not intended.
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May 18th, 2022, 00:51
I think *any* switch could be a nice refresh and could make the site more maintable. Its an exciting time. I also like the idea of splitting out the database / knowledge management stuff into a separate wiki or something.
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May 18th, 2022, 01:42
I think so far xenforo is the best one in the comparison.
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May 18th, 2022, 07:09
Originally Posted by Redglyph View Post
What bugs you? The presentation of the threads? The controls to post/reply/…? Or is it the navigation?
Just that it doesn't look like a normal forum so I guess it is the look and feel I don't like. I like to be able to see the lastest post in each forum and discourse just shows "all the latest posts". Not sure if that is configurable or not?

I use a desktop pc and never use mobile except sometimes i check the front page on my mobile. Discourse does look like it is more mobile "friendly" which I guess is good in a way.

The more I look at Discourse the more I think it might be okay - my current mindset is that it should be as close as possible to what we have currently and I am not sure whether that is the right way to think or not? Maybe newer/younger members are less influenced by the older traditional forum layout.
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May 18th, 2022, 10:09
Originally Posted by bjon045 View Post
Just that it doesn't look like a normal forum so I guess it is the look and feel I don't like. I like to be able to see the lastest post in each forum and discourse just shows "all the latest posts". Not sure if that is configurable or not?

I use a desktop pc and never use mobile except sometimes i check the front page on my mobile. Discourse does look like it is more mobile "friendly" which I guess is good in a way.

The more I look at Discourse the more I think it might be okay - my current mindset is that it should be as close as possible to what we have currently and I am not sure whether that is the right way to think or not? Maybe newer/younger members are less influenced by the older traditional forum layout.
The latest posts is also something I need in a forum, that's a good point (my bookmark here is "new posts" and the presentation by thread is very helpful). I've seen that XenForo had all the necessary requirements (there's a 7-day hosted demo and you can admin a site to test it).

I think for Discourse it's "Unread", which only appears in the top bar when there are new unread posts, or "New", depending on what you want to see (see doc for more info).

Discourse doesn't have as many preferences as XenForo.

We should be able to customize the style to make it look more like an "old-school" forum - I think you're right that younger users may prefer the default, while most of us like the Watch's current format (both are fine for me though). But as Ripper said, it has its limitations, we can't easily add, remove or move items around, just change the format.

EDIT: Well, I *think* anyway… When I see the template definition of XenForo, it's possible to do a lot (like adding extra info or hiding it, conditionally), maybe Discourse has something similar? No idea.

EDIT2: more category levels
Last edited by Redglyph; May 18th, 2022 at 11:00.
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May 18th, 2022, 14:46
Just something else I wanted to throw into the pot, though I don't think it would be the solution for right now, and it shouldn't distract from looking for the right forum solution. It just might be something that people could look into, because I think the potential is interesting.

There's a new system known as Matrix, which was started to develop a more modern, secure successor to email. But, the technology is much more interesting than that, because it can be extended to provide chat rooms and communities, and all sorts of other possible applications. There are many public rooms and spaces you can join, and many organisations now using it as their discussion platform.

The key thing is that it's decentralised and federated - in that sense it's exactly like email, where you can go and sign up for a matrix address with a provider, or even get your own domain and matrix server. Then, you communicate securely with anyone else with a Matrix address, and participate in whatever rooms and spaces you wish. The experience it provides is something like Signal crossed with Discord. The benefit is, you own and control your data, rather than some proprietary silo that makes money out of profiling you.

The beauty of it is that being an open system, there is no one entity in control at the top - as long as people have their addresses and choose to participate in the spaces, a community becomes effectively unkillable.

Another huge benefit is that anyone can create rooms, make them public or private, and invite others to join. Then, if we are not finding a conversation on a certain topic interesting, anyone can say, "Screw this noise - let's discuss this over here." And whomever creates the room owns it, and can set their own terms, appoint their own moderators, etc.

As I say, I don't think it would be wise to try to use it as an alternative to a forum at this stage - in part because it's more like Discord, and threads are still in beta. But it does strike me as a very interesting way of democratising discussion, in a way that could evolve and survive over time.
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May 18th, 2022, 16:59
Originally Posted by Ripper View Post
There's a new system known as Matrix, which was started to develop a more modern, secure successor to email. But, the technology is much more interesting than that, because it can be extended to provide chat rooms and communities, and all sorts of other possible applications.
It looks very interesting, thanks for sharing! It would be fun to try. But shouldn't this be in a separate thread? I'm not sure to see the link between this and building a new site, perhaps I misunderstood.

It sure deserves its own discussion though.
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May 18th, 2022, 17:19
Originally Posted by Redglyph View Post
It looks very interesting, thanks for sharing! It would be fun to try. But shouldn't this be in a separate thread? I'm not sure to see the link between this and building a new site, perhaps I misunderstood.

It sure deserves its own discussion though.
Well, I mention it in the context of adding to possible solutions. We definitely could go that way, which would have many benefits, and would then reduce the work of recreating the rest of the Watch to a simple CMS linked to a Matrix space. Much greater simplicity, and lower costs, with the provision of the forum now taken care of by an independent federated system.

So I think it's worth tabling it, even while saying that I probably wouldn't go that way right now - I think it would be too much of a drastic change at a crucial time, and could lose the community. But I also think that if we could get people interested, it would make for a really good side channel - better in many ways than Discord or Steam Groups, etc. We're still in the dark about what will or won't become of the existing Watch, and if a new site is required, there's no guarantee it succeeds. I just think Matrix is interesting as a way of keeping the community in touch, that maybe we should run alongside it.

So it sort of half belongs in here, and half in the thread for other ways of staying in touch beyond the Watch.
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May 19th, 2022, 03:48
I've not been following this thread closely but I see Discourse being discussed. I would add something like Ning to the mix if consideration is being given to using a SaaS platform vs hosting and maintaining another site like this one. Ning's core mandate is primarily about making it easy to host and build communities online - regardless of subject. It's worth a look - and it's pricing is pretty reasonable.
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May 19th, 2022, 13:21
Nothing more to discuss then. It was fun and instructive.
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May 20th, 2022, 01:37
Originally Posted by Redglyph View Post
Nothing more to discuss then. It was fun and instructive.
Well, I'm going to continue with the stuff I've been tinkering with, the bulk of which has been looking at theming the various solutions, so I could lay things out as we'd want them to be. I've learned a few things, and want to see it through. It could be quite useful to have a CMS and forum solution that I understand how to work with, in case I ever want to start the Teacup Poodle Fanciers' Gazette and Agora.

As I said a while ago, I thought it was overwhelmingly likely that this would be the outcome, and a simple transfer and continuation would always please the most people. But I wanted to reassure people that the community could continue, and I had to be ready to back that up.

I'm also really interested in looking more into the possibilities of Matrix as a platform for a community or communities, without any point of central control. I'm sure it would not have worked out at this point (way too much of an ask for people to adopt something new and unfamiliar when you're trying to keep a community together), but I think it has a lot of potential for the future. When we could have a community discussion platform, for whatever we like, without worrying about having someone bear the hassle of hosting a forum, or having a veto on whether a community continues.
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