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Author Topic: Discourse - A discussion platform by StackExchange's Jeff Atwood  (Read 7418 times)

wraith808

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Discourse - A discussion platform by StackExchange's Jeff Atwood
« on: February 06, 2013, 07:20:41 PM »
StackExchange's Jeff Atwood switches to Ruby on Rails and Postgres; code dumps entire new project at once -- Discourse, a platform for community discussion. (github project)

It actually looks pretty cool.

Renegade

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Re: Discourse - A discussion platform by StackExchange's Jeff Atwood
« Reply #1 on: February 06, 2013, 10:18:38 PM »
Wow. There *is* some pretty impressive and cool stuff in there. I was surprised. They've actually done some really nifty stuff and not just rehashed "yet another BBS".
Slow Down Music - Where I commit thought crimes...

Freedom is the right to be wrong, not the right to do wrong. - John Diefenbaker

40hz

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Re: Discourse - A discussion platform by StackExchange's Jeff Atwood
« Reply #2 on: February 07, 2013, 06:36:53 AM »
Interesting new product...

Not sure I agree with some of the concepts and design philosophy behind it however. They seem to be wanting to wed certain elements of "social" sites to a more traditional 'flat' discussion forum. From what I've seen, every attempt at doing that wound up producing a hybrid that wasn't as good (or usable) as either. And I think that's largely because online "socializing" and "discussion" are two separate things even if they do share many surface resemblances. To my mind it's the difference between indulging in chit-chat or 'small talk' and having a real conversation. But I'm getting old - which means I don't mind reading and I have a decent attention span - so that's probably just me.

I also can't help but wonder how well it will scale because it's written using ROR.

Fans of Ruby often argue it's not Ruby itself that's the problem (as in sloooooow) - but the way people (who don't understand it well enough) code it. I don't have sufficient expertise to know which is more correct. But my own experience with Ruby and ROR apps has been that while it seems great for prototyping, it's invariably sluggish in operation. Especially under load.

I know a few coders who sometimes use ROR to test concepts and designs before doing their actual production coding in Javascript. None of them are amateurs. So I'm guessing they have very good reasons for not using Ruby for their final deployments.

I did like one comment on the tryout page. Somebody said it "felt much like Google Wave - except the interface works." That cracked me up. ;D

And it does feel a lot like Wave now that I'm thinking about it. :huh:
« Last Edit: February 07, 2013, 07:15:46 AM by 40hz »

mouser

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Re: Discourse - A discussion platform by StackExchange's Jeff Atwood
« Reply #3 on: February 07, 2013, 07:00:20 AM »
I think it's quite interesting -- I agree with 40hz that some of the UI decisions don't quite mesh with my preferences -- but it is interesting that they are trying something different.

f0dder

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Re: Discourse - A discussion platform by StackExchange's Jeff Atwood
« Reply #4 on: February 07, 2013, 07:23:05 AM »
Looked at it yesterday and chitchatted a bit with mouser on IRC about it - but haven't looked at it enough to have any super well-formed opinion. Some ideas seem nifty, others perhaps less so. Not sure what to think of it being pageless - the idea that your "reading progress" is saved is nifty, but for really long threads you're going to have a veeeery tiny drag-selector on the scrollbar. OTOH, it's nice not having to do a page refresh (and losing contents of your edit box...) to read more - but that could be accomplished with AJAX in a paged environment as well.

Guess I'll have to play with it a bit more, and see what happens as it gets more polish. My initial impression is that it could work well for some sites, but I don't think it'd suit DoCo.

I also can't help but wonder how well it will scale because it's written using ROR.
I was pretty puzzled when I saw it was built on ROR, considering how well ASP.Net has worked for the StackExchange platform. But I guess it's a combination of only parts of the ASP.Net stack being open, and (perhaps more important) not being able to run ASP.Net gratis (you really do need to run it on Windows, MONO is not quite there yet).

Fans of Ruby often argue it's not Ruby itself that's the problem (as in sloooooow) - but the way people (who don't understand it well enough) code it.
Bollocks.

Ruby itself is damn slow and doesn't support multithreading (there's projects like JRuby, but meh), and while Ruby is a sorta-kinda-OK language it's not really that special in and by itself... if it wasn't for Rails, it would still be a niche language most people hadn't heard about. And Rails is a big effin' rats nest of vulnerabilities - stay clear!

Ruby follows the old crappy UNIX notion of "let's spawn a process per request! Processes are cheap! :D :D :D", so to get any kind of decent speed, you need a load balancer that dishes work off the one of several spawned Ruby processes (which need to be restarted every now and then because of memory leaks). There are hacks to reduce the impact of this, but... meh.

I really don't get why one chooses to do anything but prototypes in Ruby/Rails, really. You've already moved beyond the "Runs on every cheap-ass host" PHP and into the domain of having to pay at least a bit for the hosting, so why Ruby?

Go Scala - and if you need fast turnaround, go Play around (despite the name, it's ready for production use).
- carpe noctem

urlwolf

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Jeff Artwood, from StackOverflow/coding horror, tries to fix forum software
« Reply #5 on: February 07, 2013, 08:25:53 PM »
You can try it here: http://meta.discourse.org/popular/more

What I like:
- Tech stack is better; Rails + ember.js
- The team really understands communication, having made a big product in the area

Mouser, would you be brave enough to move DC to discourse? :)

wraith808

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Conversation already going on here.

IainB

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Re: Discourse - A discussion platform by StackExchange's Jeff Atwood
« Reply #7 on: February 08, 2013, 06:24:19 AM »
Talking about it will only get you so far. Why not join in for a trial "suck-it-and-see" exercise?
As it says at: http://www.discourse.org/buy/
Quote
Our immediate plan is to find three great partners willing to live on the bleeding beta edge and run forums with us, so that we can be confident we've built a discussion platform that works for a variety of different communities. We promise to do everything we can to host your forum and make it awesome for two years. In return, you promise to work with us on ironing out all the rough edges in Discourse and making sure it scales successfully – both socially and technologically – to those three very different audiences.

Once we've accomplished that, which will take anywhere from six months to a year, we want to make it super easy for anyone to start a Discourse forum, at any scale, for any reason. Let a million discussions bloom!

tomos

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Re: Discourse - A discussion platform by StackExchange's Jeff Atwood
« Reply #8 on: February 08, 2013, 07:11:53 AM »
Why not join in for a trial "suck-it-and-see" exercise?

Iain, do you mean for dc?
(If so) I thought the same initially but wonder how the showing full threads would work. Something I definitely wouldn't like is that replies to a post are collapsed under that post. Under the post is maybe okay if marked new - but collapsed as well means very little chance of being read except by the author of the post.
Tom

40hz

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Re: Discourse - A discussion platform by StackExchange's Jeff Atwood
« Reply #9 on: February 08, 2013, 07:17:19 AM »
Talking about it will only get you so far. Why not join in for a trial "suck-it-and-see" exercise?

My sentiments exactly.  :Thmbsup:

So I did...

And so far, I don't really like it.

Although maybe once it gets out of sandbox mode and gains some persistence it will be better? I don't really see how since their design is what it is. But hope springs eternal.

FWIW I have yet to see anybody handle community building or discussions better than The WELL.  :-* Which is somewhat amusing in that they were the first to do it. And not much has really changed since it began. It's still all text and no bling. And it's still all about substance.

In many respects, I think the people doing Discourse may be seeing a problem that doesn't actually exist and are now in the process of reinventing a wheel to address it.

Quote
getting us out of the 1999 design rut we're stuck in.

Seriously?

Most people who are habitués of forums don't have problems with the so-called 90's look of standard forum platforms. As long as it's not constantly getting in their face, they usually won't care. Which in turn means - the more minimalist it is - the better. At least as far as most will be concerned.

Quote
Today's forum software has a default FAQ that tells you how to make bold text, but absolutely nothing about how to moderate your forum, deal with trolls, appoint moderators, or even how to get people to visit your forum in the first place. The hard-earned sociological lessons of these 10+ year old forum communities are not being baked into their forum software at all.

Right now when you install a brand new forum, what you get is a virtual tin shack in a wasteland. It's up to you to build up civilization from scratch every single time. Of course most fail miserably, which actively makes the web worse, turning into spam filled ghost towns.

But with better forum software:

    100% free and fully open source.

    All the sociological and technical lessons of 10+ year old forum communities baked into the design of the software.

    Sane, safe out of the box defaults, but a million dials and knobs to tweak.

    A built-in immune system from trolls, spammers and bad actors.

    A comprehensive forum culture support hub at discourse.org.

We could build something closer to a Civilized Discourse Construction Kit, freely available to everyone in the world.

Wouldn't that be nice?

It would.

They have.

It's called The Well.  ;D

A "complete" membership will set you back $150 per year or $15 per month. That gets you access to an incredibly vibrant and long established community; access to all non-private conferences (some may require an invitation to participate); and the ability to start and host your own conferences - which can either be: private, by invitation, or open to the Well's membership at large.

If you just want to participate in the discussions and not host your own conferences, an "essential" membership will get you access for $100yr/$10mo.

I only mention the above because I think Discourse's proposed $19-$99/mo "small business" hosting price is a little on the steep side. Especially considering how I don't see that much else being put on the table that the current incarnation of Discourse has a sufficient enough USP to charge premium prices.

I could go on and on...

Oh well...I wish them the best in their endeavor. Hopefully they will eventually create something truly unique and usable. Genuine innovation is always welcome.
 8)
« Last Edit: February 08, 2013, 08:21:40 AM by 40hz »

f0dder

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Re: Discourse - A discussion platform by StackExchange's Jeff Atwood
« Reply #10 on: February 08, 2013, 09:09:04 AM »
I only mention the above because I think Discourse's proposed $19-$99/mo "small business" hosting price is a little on the steep side. Especially considering how I don't see that much else being put on the table that the current incarnation of Discourse has a sufficient enough USP to charge premium prices.
OTOH, that's a one-off price for hosting, whereas the $10 is per individual user on the Well?

Also, given that Discourse is open source, you can choose to host it yourself if you don't mind the hassle, and think you can do it cheaper?
- carpe noctem

f0dder

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Re: Jeff Artwood, from StackOverflow/coding horror, tries to fix forum software
« Reply #11 on: February 08, 2013, 09:10:22 AM »
- Tech stack is better; Rails + ember.js
You can't be serious - RoR better than ASP.Net? Now that's the best laugh I've had today :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D

- The team really understands communication, having made a big product in the area
They understand how to make a Q&A site work - and work extremely well. That's no guarantee they'll be as successful with forum software, it's quite a different goal.
- carpe noctem

40hz

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Re: Discourse - A discussion platform by StackExchange's Jeff Atwood
« Reply #12 on: February 08, 2013, 09:35:18 AM »
Also, given that Discourse is open source, you can choose to host it yourself if you don't mind the hassle, and think you can do it cheaper?

And we all know how well that works out for most people with little experience and no money whenever they expose a server to the internet. ;D

They understand how to make a Q&A site work - and work extremely well. That's no guarantee they'll be as successful with forum software, it's quite a different goal.

Thank you for pointing that out. You are 100% spot on. :Thmbsup: Because a discussion is not the same thing as a Q&A session. Q&A is a much easier thing to get your head around and administrate than an open discussion will ever be if more than two people are participating in it.
 8)

-------------------------
@f0dder - did you see this? Ruby on top of Python on top of RPython ala PyPy? Wonder if this project will ever see the light of day - or last more than a year if it does?
« Last Edit: February 08, 2013, 09:44:22 AM by 40hz »

urlwolf

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Re: Discourse - A discussion platform by StackExchange's Jeff Atwood
« Reply #13 on: February 08, 2013, 10:52:17 AM »
f0dder, can you conmpare RoR and ASP.net?
Just on the size of community alone, ruby has a big advantage. But I've never looked at any ASP.net code, and the only 'serious' site I know built with it is SO.

I have some experience with Django. There, we can talk :)

urlwolf

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Re: Discourse - A discussion platform by StackExchange's Jeff Atwood
« Reply #14 on: February 16, 2013, 11:27:32 PM »
F0dder, can you say what makes ASP.net better than rails? This is the first time I hear this.

wraith808

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Re: Discourse - A discussion platform by StackExchange's Jeff Atwood
« Reply #15 on: February 17, 2013, 08:58:09 AM »
If you are trying to get his attention, it might be good for you to PM him. :)  Just a suggestion.

f0dder

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Re: Discourse - A discussion platform by StackExchange's Jeff Atwood
« Reply #16 on: February 17, 2013, 03:51:58 PM »
F0dder, can you say what makes ASP.net better than rails? This is the first time I hear this.
I've already outlined why in posts above :)

But to recap: Ruby is dead slow (and can't handle threading, so you kinda need one process per request - this makes it even slower), and rails is a rats nest of vulnerabilities.
- carpe noctem