An update on our forum migration to Discourse

It’s been a few weeks since I updated you on the status of our migration to Discourse. We’re making really good progress and I’m hoping that we’ll be ready to flick the switch at some point next month, but there are a few factors relying on that so it’s not locked in.

This is what is going on:

  1. Jeff and his team are currently working on migrating our data to the new platform. We plan to move all user data (for people that have been active in the last 5 years), along with a hundreds of thousands of posts (chosen based on when they were last viewed). Threads that aren’t migrated will be archived in flat HTML so that you can still access that info. That is going well, but there are still plenty of bugs to be ironed out – mostly around usernames (Discourse has a stricter set of rules around usernames) and BB Code.
  2. Boris from our front end team is working on our reskin and I’m going to see the first iteration of that later today. The redesign was done by Pete, who designed the latest reincarnation of
  3. Our lead dev Jude is working on a tagging plugin. We plan to use a flat forum structure with tags on Discourse, rather than this complicated mess of forums and subforums. Once he has finished on that, he’ll work on a number of plugins that we need behind the scenes for moderation.
  4. My team and I are working on things like the forum and staff structure, as well as writing out specs for aforementioned plugins

So that’s where we are at from a product management perspective. From my personal perspective things are moving along well. I’m feeling really comfortable with using Discourse now, although it took a few weeks to figure out all the little nuances. We’re putting together a ‘Cheat Sheet’ to help you guys with that.

Change is a hard thing for any community, and it is made harder when that community is as big as ours. Thanks for hanging in with us while we go through this. Please make sure you ask any questions that you have and I’ll do my best to answer them.

I’ll remind you that we are not making this move in an attempt to address or ‘fix’ the social psychology of this community. We are not hoping that a new platform will stimulate more discussion or increase the quality of posts. There are several reasons for the change, some are business decisions, some are community ones. I’ll note those briefly as a reminder:

What’s in it for SitePoint

  • vBulletin is cumbersome and extremely high maintenance.
  • We are a Rails house, and Discourse is a Rails product.
  • Discourse is Open Source so we can fix and customise quickly and easily to suit our needs.
  • We have so heavily hacked our vB instance that upgrading has become unbearable and we lose functionality every time we do it.
  • Our technical debt due to vB is huge.
  • We have been experiencing ongoing performance issues that we can’t solve.

What’s in it for you?

  • More cohesion between SitePoint, Learnable and the forums. We’ll be integrating Discourse and WordPress so that comments on articles will become forum conversations. In this way we will encourage new, quality members who until now have only consumed content.
  • We will be able to turn around bug fixes, enhancements and user requests quickly in-house
  • You can create your own plugins if you’re a Ruby guy/girl
  • Discourse has some great community building functionality integrated, like the ability to Like posts and open new posts based on closed ones, both which will cut down on fluff posting
  • It is responsive without the need for Tapatalk
  • We can be flexible with the forum structure. This current structure of forums and sub-forums is inflexible. We don’t foster discussion around lots of new (and not even so new) subjects here at the moment because it would mean adding yet another sub-forum. A flat structure with tags means that we can add and deprecate tags easily in order to stay bleeding edge, so that you can talk and learn about the things that you want to, not the things that our forum structure dictates that you do.
  • Discourse encourages crowd sourced moderation – you’ll be able to flag rubbish posts. If two of you flag one post it will be hidden until the OP edits it. If they edit it and it gets flagged again, it will be removed. You’ll finally have the ability to personally do something about the low quality posts that have been dragging us down.

So, I hope that information is useful. Feel free to hit me up with questions or concerns.

Well, I guess only time will tell whether a forum built for “the next 10 years” technology will work for the current user living in today. Will also be interesting to see what Google page rank makes of the change.

Interesting; I’m excited to try it out because I haven’t really ever used the discourse platform and I’m all for trying new things :slight_smile: Good luck with the progress!

There are numerous discourse forums available. May I suggest googling for your favorite topic followed by discourse. Choose a forum from the results, subscribe and become familiar. You will then be ready for when SitePoint Forum makes the switch.

[FONT=Georgia]Thanks for the update, HAWK.

Still excited and looking forward to the change.[/FONT]


I like that attitude and I feel the same way.

Thanks for the update - looking forward to the change, it will be refreshing :slight_smile:

How many of you eager people have a moderator role lined up for you with the new discourse forum?

I must admit that was a brilliant PR move, by sitepoint, to offer moderator-ship to discourse enthusiasts.

I’m not quite sure what you mean. The current moderators (those with green, blue or red badges) will continue as the moderators on Discourse - and we’re not all Discourse enthusiasts; just willing to give it a go despite any personal reservations.

As HAWK explained, Discourse encourages ordinary members to share the burden of moderating. Currently, anybody can report a fluff/spam/problem post for moderator action, but almost nobody does. :frowning: We’re hopeful that may change with Discourse, because it will be easier for people to see that their reports are having a real effect.

Discourse has what is known as “Trust Levels
As you can see, as a member meets certain criteria their ability to do certain things increases.

These are still being tweaked, with some things being reserved for Staff. But some of the current Staff tasks will be available for higher Trust Levels to do.
eg. as TechnoBear mentioned, instead of members Reporting posts to bring them to a Moderator’s attention, if -x- number of members “flag” a post, instead of it waiting for Moderator action the post will no longer be displayed.

I was referring more to this thread:

I presume you know that this move to Discourse has become a topic of interest across the internet. Eyes are watching to see whether it is successful or not. In other words there are other forums sitting on the fences right now waiting to see what happens with the early adopters (ie sitepoint).

So yeah, it will be interesting to see if Discourses touted claims about being a forum that is engineered for success purely at the software level comes to pass. Maybe Jeff Atwood will write some software to bring about world peace as his next project.

Does someone need a Snickers?

I’m still confused - Discourse isn’t mentioned anywhere in that thread. :confused: That thread was started because we thought/hoped we might get a wider staff pool by asking folk to nominate themselves, rather than by waiting until somebody caught our eye and inviting them. We’re interested only in the quality of potential staff members, and really couldn’t care less whether they’re champing at the bit to get started in Discourse, or viewing the move with reluctance/trepidation/dislike/whatever.

Sigh @Kiwiheretic; – you’ve misunderstood the purpose of that thread. It has nothing to do with Discourse, it was purely an idea I had to vet new staff members and it was intended for here on vBulletin. I’m taking my existing staff over to Discourse. They don’t all know how they feel about the move yet, but they’re smart, loyal to this community, and willing to give it a go. I’m lucky to have them.

As far as our move being watched, yup, I know that. We’re a huge community and Discourse is an interesting platform. I’m cool with that.

As an aside, I get the feeling that you don’t know how far back our relationship with Jeff goes. He co-wrote one of our .NET books in the early days. :slight_smile:

This seems to have gone completely quiet. Has the data migration been more complicated than originally thought or has sitepoint hit an unexpected snag?

I was hoping the change would have happened by now, the community area in Learnable is missing too :frowning:

Not the migration actually, that has gone very smoothly. We’re currently being held up by a tagging plugin that is taking some time to write (we’re assisting, but it’s not actually our plugin so there is only so much we can do). Our reskinning is finished, and the data migration is good to go once we have tags sorted. The staff have got their heads around moderation (mostly) so we’re good to go once we have that plugin sorted.

Yeah, it is taking a lot longer than we had hoped as well, but that’s par for the course. The community area in Learnable was my baby but when I left that part of the business to focus all my efforts here it lost its focus. Rather than use resources on something that has no real direction, it was removed. In the longer term we hope to be able to integrate our communities in a more strategic way, and this move to Discourse is the first step.

Sounds great !!! I have recently visited Discourse last month and its look great. It is developed by CodingHorror (Jeff) and he is an awesome developer. :slight_smile: