New Formum Software

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New Formum Software

Postby Tsunami3k » Sun Sep 03, 2017 9:01 am

So our hosting keeps going up in price despite our minuscule footprint and phpBB (our current forum software) remains somewhere between impossible and implausible to upgrade so we're behind on several security features and other improvements (though I don't gather that the usability has improved measurably (nor do I expect it to). Truth be told, our account creation feature has been crippled for some time as sifting through and deleting dozens of Russian accounts a day was becoming overwhelming. Modern forum software has countermeasures against that and variations on that theme.

If hosting is going to be pricey then we may as well move and get what we want besides which most viable alternatives would require a move elsewhere anyway. I've looked at several of the more popular alternatives and have narrowed it down to Discourse. Should anyone be able to spare a bit of time to look at a demo of the site, I'd appreciate any feedback regarding its usability. Also, if anyone has an opinion of any other alternatives they might know of (and like), I'd be grateful to hear about those as well.

Domo!

Try Discourse
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Re: New Formum Software

Postby bakamatt » Mon Sep 04, 2017 6:21 am

It certainly appears to get the job done; I have no feel for nuts and bolts stuff.

I'm quite prepared to help defray the cost of the site. And thanks for your efforts on our behalf.
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Re: New Formum Software

Postby Kokon Tozai » Mon Sep 04, 2017 1:35 pm

Poking around the Discourse site I realize it would take prior experience, such as yours, to evaluate properly. I can offer that some of the most enjoyable sites from my user perspective is Vbulletin. Like this one: http://www.quadraphonicquad.com/forums/activity.php

Both services charge but it seems that Discourse is monthly but Vbulletin is one time purchase? Excluding updates & accessories of course.

I second Matt's offer to defray costs on forum software or server costs. The prospect of membership dues or the such pops up every now & then but fizzles out. I see nothing wrong with club funding this forum.
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Re: New Formum Software

Postby Tsunami3k » Tue Sep 05, 2017 9:24 pm

I won't claim to have done an exhaustive review of forum software. My quick run-through of about a half dozen was just a quick check to see if they'd be familiar enough feature-wise for anyone on ASK-C, an overall pricing review, extensibility, comprehensive security and something that's actively maintained. Oh, and the ability to migrate our users, categories, prior posts and whatnot.

I like vBulletin too; I believe AVS uses it as well. Unfortunately it's $250 to buy a license, find a hosting site with a reasonable monthly fee and install and maintain it yourself and presumably pay for upgrades after a certain point.

Discourse is open source software that is free like phpBB so the only real cost is hosting. It's not part of most hosting sites' list of "single-click" offerings as it's a bit more technical to install but some do though they cost a bit more and tend to be more single-purpose (which is largely ok for our needs). The demo site I linked is just to play around a bit but there are much cheaper options than them that I'd use.

Of course, to confuse matters even more, we could opt for the "cloud" version of vBulletin (basically just hosted by them). This foregoes a licensing fee in exchange for a bit higher than average monthly fee (potentially much higher if we require a higher tier than the cheapest). Presumably they maintain and patch everything, back everything up and keep things secure but, after writing them off on price, I haven't looked into whether or not they can port the data from our forums into theirs.

It's very kind of you both the offer to chip in to help with the site but I hesitate to break with tradition as the club has always just been a clubhouse for all of us to hang out as we please; our Genshiken of sorts. Also, I'm kinda negligent in my upkeep of the site as-is when a lot of this technology is, franky, a cumbersome, fiddly pain in the ass to work with. Because of that I'm tempted to pay a bit more and/or accept a bit less for something that's much more maintainable so it seems kinda crummy for anyone else to fund my laziness.

Perhaps I'll keep poking around to see if any more viable options come up. Mr. Matt, I'm not sure what other forums you frequent but, would you happen to have an opinion on vBulletin?
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Re: New Formum Software

Postby bakamatt » Wed Sep 06, 2017 8:12 am

Tsunami3k wrote: Mr. Matt, I'm not sure what other forums you frequent but, would you happen to have an opinion on vBulletin?


Actually, :oops:, no other "little" fora, just a couple of the big commercial jobs: ANN, Facebook. Between so many sites getting blocked at work, and having so darned many things I want to do already that I don't have time and energy for, my online presence is pretty minimal.

It does appear to me that there's a minimum list of features that all platforms support: images, .gifs, links, quoting other posts, that sort of thing. That list seems to meet all my wants. I have two primary beefs with phpBB, that I can't figure out how to use some of the features (particularly YouTube links), and that we can't post images directly but have to post links to them instead. The latter because it obliges me to maintain a Photobucket logon that I wouldn't have otherwise. I'd post more images if it wasn't for that.
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Re: New Formum Software

Postby Tsunami3k » Wed Sep 06, 2017 8:53 am

Yeah, YouTube, or any smart linking in general, is a kludge in phpBB. Basically it required me to hand roll a parser to cut up a given URL to shove the bits into a template for the fancier view. The problem is that there are a bunch of ways a YouTube URL can be formatted. Why such common functionality wasn't baked in is beyond me. One cool think I noted about Discourse was that it would intercept any linked images and download them to the server locally so that broken image links would be a thing of the past. Along those lines it allows users to upload photos for use in their posts without the kludge of hosting them at an external site then linking to them from your posts. Technically phpBB can do that but only after a lot of manual configuration and trial and error with the end result being rather lumpy, akin to our YouTube implementation.

vBulletin may very well offer the same; hopefully I can explore more. If paid yearly vs monthly they're fairly reasonable but, again, if we ever grow out of the "basic" plan it starts to get very expensive. A popular Discourse host whose basic plan costs a bit more offers about 10x the resources meaning we're not super likely to run out of bandwidth (vBulleting@25GB bandwidth per month vs the Discourse host@3TB per month...my bad, I though vBulleting was 250GB/m so it's more like 120x the cap).
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Re: New Formum Software

Postby ZeroRyoko1974 » Wed Sep 06, 2017 4:30 pm

AN is one I occasionally visit, they use bulletin, but the last time they upgraded, the forum was down for close to a month and was a complete mess when it did come back. The other forum I visit uses something called Simple Machines Forum, but it has been hacked (I think that was actually a hosting problem), but we had some other problems that could never seem to get working and just gave up and started a new board
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Re: New Formum Software

Postby Tsunami3k » Mon Sep 11, 2017 6:40 pm

So I contacted vBulletin about how to migrate from phpBB to their site. Unfortunately it relies on a unsupported tool that's not actively being developed that I used on our phpBB database and a temporary install of an old version of vBulletin (that I have to stand up on my own hardware somewhere) and then they can migrate from that installation into their cloud offering. tldr; it's a major hassle with no guarantee of success.

I guess the question I haven't asked but should have is: Is it important to everyone that we keep our discussion history (e.g. "Further proof that Evangelion will never die :)") or is it more important to go with a specific forum solution and basically start from scratch? I had presumed the former but it doesn't hurt to ask.
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Re: New Formum Software

Postby Kokon Tozai » Tue Sep 12, 2017 6:04 am

I certainly would give up some niceties on the user end to keep this incredible history. The internet way back machine isn't gonna make it so easy to read all those wonderful comments on the anniversary parties or the legacy of the former founding members.

Big challenge for you Tim. I see that no one choice will be the perfect one.
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Re: New Formum Software

Postby bakamatt » Tue Sep 12, 2017 7:46 am

Fourteen years of history is a lot to turn one's back on. I'd be sorry to lose the "Eva will never die" thread, the figures threads, the Christmas episode thread. We do refer back on occasion, even dredge up the occasional necrothread.

But, a fresh start, getting shed of some of the psychological baggage, and more or easier features. These aren't bad things.

I'd be okay either way, so will defer to people who feel more strongly about it than I do.
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