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Last post Author Topic: Modern forum software: Discourse  (Read 2649 times)

urlwolf

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Modern forum software: Discourse
« on: June 26, 2017, 04:34 AM »
Hi guys,

This is a 'back from the death' post after many years innactive. Looks like the internet has moved on and there's now far more modern forum software. I like Discourse, but there must be others... The thing is that this community feels like a 90's forum and this may be slowing its growth. I'm talking as a single person here, YMMV, but... DC lost me years ago, I wonder how much the software had anything to do with it.

mouser

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Re: Modern forum software: Discourse
« Reply #1 on: June 26, 2017, 04:57 AM »
Urlwolf, it's great to hear from you.  :-*

I've spent the last couple of months working on the upgrade of the website to a proper modernish cms, which is many years overdue, so I am not unsympathetic to the issue.

On the other hand, I think the forum software we use (SMF) is a good functional match for the site.

Let's face it, this site and forum is in many ways a throwback to the early 2000s.  For good and bad that's the nature of the site, anchored in some ways by the content, the established userbase, and the funding mechanism.

I'm keenly interested in making sure that DonationCoder can live on indefinitely, and that means making sure to keep the forum upgraded and running smoothly, and finally moving to a proper CMS for the website, but I'm less interested in getting everything super modernized.  It's not that I'm resisting modernization based on an aesthetic as much as the fact that with our limited resources, chasing modernity is a very low priority.

And I am resistant to changes that trade off some of the less-and-less-common strengths of this forum for strengths that are more easily found elsewhere.  So while there are some wonderful new modern community platforms (discourse, stack overflow) that are fantastic at what they do, and facilitate certain kinds of information exchanges -- it may be that our purpose in life is to maintain some of the old ways.

That's not to say that i'm uninterested in pursuing other new, more modern, website/coding projects that might be related to DC in spirit and live alongside it, so if anyone has ideas please share them!

And of course if there are functional features that you'd like to see on the forum or website I'm always interested in hearing about them.

mouser

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Re: Modern forum software: Discourse
« Reply #2 on: June 26, 2017, 04:59 AM »
ps. Here was a discussion from 2015 on new modern forum software like Discourse, and whether we should move to it: http://www.donationc...ndex.php?topic=41284

wraith808

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Re: Modern forum software: Discourse
« Reply #3 on: June 26, 2017, 08:16 AM »
To me, the forum should be based around the content, instead of the features, necessarily.  What strikes me about DC is that I go to other SMF forums, and it's night and day as far as the features.  I also use Discourse, and infinite scroll has become a bane.  I truly don't think that forum software of choice drives people away.  If anything, it is the need for a redesign of the site - it does look a bit dated.  But I don't think that anyone goes "I'm not going to sign up for that site because it uses SMF"

mouser

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Re: Modern forum software: Discourse
« Reply #4 on: June 26, 2017, 09:51 AM »
What strikes me about DC is that I go to other SMF forums, and it's night and day as far as the features.
Can you elaborate? I can't tell if you're saying that DC is better or worse  :P

mouser

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Re: Modern forum software: Discourse
« Reply #5 on: June 26, 2017, 09:52 AM »
infinite scroll has become a bane

Few things disgust me as much as infinite scroll.

wraith808

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Re: Modern forum software: Discourse
« Reply #6 on: June 26, 2017, 10:09 AM »
What strikes me about DC is that I go to other SMF forums, and it's night and day as far as the features.
Can you elaborate? I can't tell if you're saying that DC is better or worse  :P

I'm saying DC is better.   :Thmbsup: There are so many customizations that I take for granted - the ability to highlight and quote.  The hyperlink popping up a dialog instead of just putting the tags in.  Same for images.  Non-image attachments.  And those are just the beginning.  You tend to take for granted all of of the custom code that's been put in the platform.

mouser

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Re: Modern forum software: Discourse
« Reply #7 on: June 26, 2017, 10:12 AM »
Glad to hear that  :Thmbsup: :Thmbsup: :Thmbsup:

Tuxman

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Re: Modern forum software: Discourse
« Reply #8 on: June 26, 2017, 01:23 PM »
there's now far more modern forum software

"Modern" as in "broken"?

Forum software that deliberately does not let you read/write postings if you disabled Javascript in your browser is "broken by design". Forum software that deliberately gets rid of any sub-forum structure and just displays everything as a stream of unsorted data is "broken by design" as well. The success of Discourse makes me sad concerning the future of the Web. And it is viral: The formerly awesome Misago forum software has picked up all of Discourse's horrible ideas up in early 2017. :(
Last time I had to choose a forum software, I chose Woltlab Burning Board - and this was for very good reasons. (No, it's not even free to use. No, I don't care.)

So my remarks from 2015 are still valid: "Modern" approaches to bulletin board software always suck. Still waiting for an exception to this rule.

IainB

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Re: Modern forum software: Discourse
« Reply #9 on: June 26, 2017, 07:51 PM »
I reckon @Tuxman makes a good point and one which he substantiates quite well, viz: If the more modern forum technology is broken ("sucks") in some manner, or (say) has too many technological dependencies, making it potentially flaky/fragile and thus non-robust in operation and unsustainable, or difficult to sustain in a dynamically-changing internet browser environment, then of what use is it really?
That is, whilst being "modern" as an objective may be (say) an apparently virtuous/desirable/aesthetic  principle or objective for some, if the implementation of modern technology in practice is not satisfactory/effective (i.e., this is the pragmatic reality/outcome), then that would presumably make it less useful/desirable and possibly/probably even an unsustainable headache for the webmaster who was required to support it.

What exactly are we talking about when we use the words "modern"/"modernisation", anyway?
modern
· adj. of or relating to the present or recent times. Ø characterized by or using the most up-to-date techniques, equipment, etc. Ø denoting a recent style in art, architecture, etc. marked by a departure from traditional styles and values.
· n. a person who advocates a departure from traditional styles or values.
– DERIVATIVES modernity n. modernly adv. modernness n.
– ORIGIN ME: from late L. modernus, from L. modo ‘just now’.
Concise Oxford Dictionary (10th Ed.)

So I can quite understand it when @mouser says:
...but I'm less interested in getting everything super modernized.  It's not that I'm resisting modernization based on an aesthetic as much as the fact that with our limited resources, chasing modernity is a very low priority.

Thus, if "chasing modernity" was even currently an objective of any priority for the DC forum webmaster, I would be very surprised.
Surely the pragmatic objective (for optimum user benefit) would be based on the principle of incrementally improving the existing DC forum CMS (Content Management System) to a steady/robust state and with a decent/usable and ergonomically sound GUI before considering "modernising" it further. We are already witnessing problems/issues around the recent implementation of the latest CMS changes - e.g., where making forum posts now seems to not work properly for some browsers or under certain conditions, whereas it worked fine before (e.g., using some Chrome-based browsers with the LastPass extension).

"Chasing modernity" for its own sake could be a mistake, especially if it could potentially risk adversely impacting ones' fundamental business outcomes. If we needed a sobering example of the truth of this, then we need look no further than Microsoft's Windows 8 "modern" Metro fiasco. What were they thinking?    :tellme:

Target

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Re: Modern forum software: Discourse
« Reply #10 on: June 26, 2017, 08:34 PM »
curious to know a bit more about the context of the OP, i mean are we talking about the platform from a technical/support perspective, or is it the content, or the 'look and feel' of the site (as a 'user'), or are they just disappointed to see the same old faces.

What is it that's expected of a forum (any forum)?  AFAICS its all about the content and whether or not its relevant to you.  Of course the community can (and does) have a big impact but seems like this is the point where DC differs significantly from a lot of other forums (cos we have a good one :Thmbsup:)

mouser

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Re: Modern forum software: Discourse
« Reply #11 on: June 26, 2017, 09:35 PM »
The one thing that I have gotten increasingly more uncomfortable with as I get older, as a general concept in all areas of life, is "clutter".  And it's fair to say that DC has accumulated a lot of clutter over the years. It makes it hard to find stuff and hard for new users to feel comfortable.  Unfortunately, for better or worse, DC is an eclectic place and it's hard (for me at least) to figure out ways to substantially reduce the clutter without causing real harm.

IainB

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Re: Modern forum software: Discourse
« Reply #12 on: June 26, 2017, 11:26 PM »
@mouser: Where you wrote:
...Unfortunately, for better or worse, DC is an eclectic place and it's hard (for me at least) to figure out ways to substantially reduce the clutter without causing real harm.
___________________
"Clutter" might not necessarily be the correct term, if it is referring to forum content.
What DCF currently seems to be could be regarded as not just a CMS, but rather a self-contained treasure-trove - a valuable/useful "knowledge base" - consisting of various content - including discussions which, in many cases, lead to improved definition of the knowledge documented.

This point is perhaps best appreciated when, during a discussion on (say) "SubjectX", some research using the (rather kludgy) forum search function or (better) a search using <site:donationcoder.com/forum/ SubjectX> can rapidly turn up relevant links within the forum and which can then be sifted through to see what's new/old information to help better-inform the discussion.

Once I decided that I might be able to contribute something that could be useful - for myself and to the forum - I started doing the various "Mini-Reviews" of different software, so that relevant new knowledge could be related/attached - which is why I update the reviews with cross-posts to the relevant post/comment where someone has made a fragmentary post/comment about the same subject as the review.

What I effectively did there was make a unilateral decision to assume the role of a kind of unofficial curator - i.e., having created a review, I would then try to keep it current, updating the review from time to time, with new/additional knowledge relevant to the software being reviewed.

I did this deliberately, because I saw how some really quite good/useful reviews had been done by forum members in the past, but many of these seemed to just peter out with the passage of time, sometimes starting up years later in a separate, disconnected thread with people attempting to re-invent wheels. I'm not saying that there should have been, but there was no implicit discipline upon the authors (or the admins) to keep the things they wrote about updated/consolidated and relatively current - which seemed potentially a great waste, to me. If there is any "clutter", then I suspect that that is where the clutter lies - i.e., as fragmented bits of seemingly unconnected knowledge scattered across the knowledge base - but these bits of knowledge may well be relevant to each other and could be usefully interconnected if there was a librarian involved, using some kind of artificial framework of reference - e.g., a structured taxonomy (scheme of classification).

The question then might well be"What sort of taxonomy?", but I don't have the answer, though I do have some thoughts on it.

Returning to the OP, therefore, I suspect that "Modern forum software" isn't the issue/problem - in fact it probably isn't an issue/problem at all. The real issue might be better phrased as (say) "addressing what the requirements are for this forum in the future, given that where we have arrived at today is arguably a self-contained treasure-trove - a valuable/useful 'knowledge base' ".
However, it might be that, on reflection, the general consensus is that this base is not actually as valuable as one might have argued, and it should therefore (say) be scrubbed clean of detritus/clutter and a fresh, modern, new and empty CMS implemented with a provisional index to the historical and static archive of the old content - i.e., no "halfway house".
« Last Edit: June 26, 2017, 11:32 PM by IainB »

4wd

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Re: Modern forum software: Discourse
« Reply #13 on: June 27, 2017, 12:51 AM »
... using the (rather kludgy) forum search function ...

Got to agree with this, I have yet to have it return the item I want when sorted by the default Relevant, always have to go into Advanced, sort by date, and quick scan the results.

urlwolf

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Re: Modern forum software: Discourse
« Reply #14 on: June 28, 2017, 05:48 AM »
I thought there was not a single human in the universe that thought that the 'old guard forums' were better than Discourse. But @tuxman proved me wrong. Ok, no need to go any further on my side :). I'll go back under my rock where I have been the last 5 years :) :). I do think the content of DC is also somewhat 'stuck in time'. I think the time when finding cool desktop apps (on windows) was a thing. There were discounts, great reviews, interesting people thinking about usability... They are probably still here, but the paradigm is just not interesting to me at all. Not only because I'm on linux: web apps kinda made desktop apps redundant in all but a few use cases IMHO.

Tuxman

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Re: Modern forum software: Discourse
« Reply #15 on: June 28, 2017, 06:08 AM »
web apps kinda made desktop apps redundant in all but a few use cases IMHO.

Unless you prefer efficient code.

IainB

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Re: Modern forum software: Discourse
« Reply #16 on: June 28, 2017, 06:54 AM »
web apps kinda made desktop apps redundant in all but a few use cases IMHO.
Unless you prefer efficient code.

Yers, that's probably another valid point worth making. It does seem to me that there is a lot of software out there - especially Windows apps and web apps - that is badly-designed and sloppy as all heck, in terms of efficiency of use of computing resources, never mind the cringingly bad ergonomics one sometimes finds in the GUI. However, it may be that that is a product of poor (or nil) training in programming - where efficiency and/or ergonomics are not even considered.
I was thinking about this issue when I made this post: Program performance optimisation just as relevant today as it was years ago?

mouser

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Re: Modern forum software: Discourse
« Reply #17 on: June 28, 2017, 07:49 AM »
I'll go back under my rock where I have been the last 5 years

I hope you will decide to move your rock closer to us so you can visit more frequently.  You have friends here :)

As you say, the technology and computer world has changed a lot since 2005 -- web apps and mobile apps have taken over huge amounts of market share and attention, and those are areas that DC only dabbles in (I hope you've seen my suite of android apps).

It's not that we are uninterested in such things here as much as we are one of the few places that is still focused on desktop apps, and I think there is still a need for such sites even as much of the world moves on..

Keeping a foot in both worlds makes DC a bit more eclectic and "cluttered" than other sites, but we try to make up for that in friendliness :)

I think the best thing folks could do who want to see DC content reflect the projects they are interested in is.. surprise surprise.. share with us the projects you are involved in and interested in on this forum!  I know I would like to hear what more of you are up to and to support your projects and talk about them..

wraith808

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Re: Modern forum software: Discourse
« Reply #18 on: June 28, 2017, 07:53 AM »
web apps kinda made desktop apps redundant in all but a few use cases IMHO.

Unless you prefer efficient code.

There's also paradigms that you can't do in a web app.  Web apps are definitely a good tool to have in the toolbox.  But just like everything else, it's situational.

Tuxman

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Re: Modern forum software: Discourse
« Reply #19 on: June 28, 2017, 08:02 AM »
That's yet another problem: You can't have a "web app" in your toolbox. If it's gone, it's gone. No shiny USB thumbdrive will catch it for you.

wraith808

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Re: Modern forum software: Discourse
« Reply #20 on: June 28, 2017, 08:20 AM »
That's yet another problem: You can't have a "web app" in your toolbox. If it's gone, it's gone. No shiny USB thumbdrive will catch it for you.

When I said toolbox, I meant the developer's toolbox, i.e. options when deciding what the format of the project will be.  And as far as your actual statement, that's generally true, but not universally correct.  I run a couple of my web apps from a USB drive currently.

Deozaan

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Re: Modern forum software: Discourse
« Reply #21 on: June 28, 2017, 12:15 PM »
I thought there was not a single human in the universe that thought that the 'old guard forums' were better than Discourse.

For what it's worth, I think I'd prefer Discourse over SMF.

I say think because DC is pretty much the only place on the internet that I regularly participate in the forums, so I have very little, if any, actual experience with Discourse. But it looks nice and useful to me. :Thmbsup:

wraith808

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Re: Modern forum software: Discourse
« Reply #22 on: June 28, 2017, 12:41 PM »
I thought there was not a single human in the universe that thought that the 'old guard forums' were better than Discourse.

For what it's worth, I think I'd prefer Discourse over SMF.

I say think because DC is pretty much the only place on the internet that I regularly participate in the forums, so I have very little, if any, actual experience with Discourse. But it looks nice and useful to me. :Thmbsup:

It looks cool, and is very tempting.
 
But once you get involved (at least, once I got involved), I realized that change for the sake of change is not necessarily for the best, no matter what kind of cover they put on it.  First of all, its ruby on rails, which is only a consideration for the admin, but from someone that tried to implement it, unless your server already support RoR, you're in for a hard row to hoe.  It has some really compelling features- but I think most of them are build into this iteration of SMF on DC, in some shape.  One of the things that people tout is the inline conversations, but I think with DC's ability to highlight and quote, and no infinite scrolling, it's not really needed.  I do like the look at feel of the front page a bit more, but it gets overwhelming with the infinite scroll.  To me, the delineation between boards and such are a lot more nebulous- it's made a lot more to be a flat forum, which I personally dislike.

The biggest thing to me, is that when you ask people why these new forums are better, it's not about the features, it's the glitz.  Because when you look at it, a forum is meant to be a place to facilitate discussion, and none of those features are standouts that would make them truly a different paradigm.

Target

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Re: Modern forum software: Discourse
« Reply #23 on: June 28, 2017, 04:16 PM »
The biggest thing to me, is that when you ask people why these new forums are better, it's not about the features, it's the glitz.  Because when you look at it, a forum is meant to be a place to facilitate discussion, and none of those features are standouts that would make them truly a different paradigm.

exactly - so much focus on 'appearances'.  And I feel that a lot of 'web app's' fall into this category as well (it's 'the thing to do')

IainB

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Re: Modern forum software: Discourse
« Reply #24 on: June 28, 2017, 10:45 PM »
Potentially relevant regarding modernity and code: I just read about an interesting talk given at PyCon 2017. The video and transcript are on a blog, here: MAKE THE WORLD BETTER? REMOVE SOME JAVASCRIPT.

Might be worth a look/read.