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Old 09/21/2016   #1
Cthulhu
Default Forum software upgrade (for real now)

All right, we've talked about this before, but, shit's got to happen now.

We're running forum software whose base version is almost ten years old now. It's sorta been patched a few times to fix critical security and compatibility errors, but besides that, not much has happened. At this time, there's a critical security error that allows malicious peoples to upload a file which allows them to do nasty shit, and since vB has a shitty license structure that requires you to pay an annual fee or be shit outta luck, it's only a matter of time before we're definitely fucked. We've already had a breach where (probably) our whole database was extracted, and I don't think it'll get any better.

So we need to change. There's a number of options, too many if you'd ask me, and I honestly don't know what our criteria should be - like, what features do we really use, what can we do without, and probably most importantly, what would be a dealbreaker and cause people to move away from TLS.

We've had a previous thread about this, the shortlist was then basically vB 5 (shot down due to performance, but same problem with the license structure; our current license allows us to download an older version which I'm sure has some security issues already), Xenforo (idk, I've played with it the other day and it's got very weird UI things going on), Discourse (the new and hip kid on the block, but vastly different in UI to the current TLS which might scare people away), and I guess the ye olde ones like phpBB (which seems to still be actively maintained), SMF which TLS started out with but which doesn't seem very active anymoar, err. Probably a billion more. I'm seeing Vanilla Forums be mentioned a few times too.

Long story short, we need to do something or TLS will suddenly be a dodgy porn site. Maybe it already is.

What do?
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Old 09/21/2016   #2
Shademp
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My primary concern is this:
What will happen to all our posts when we make a forum software upgrade? If entire forum sections will be wiped, then I will hopefully know of it beforehand so I can back-up save all the research I only have here on TLS.


Tertiary concern:
Will there or will there not be a Thanks system? A lack of a Thanks system won't be a dealbreaker, but I will certainly find TLS to be a more boring place without it.
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Old 09/21/2016   #3
Octo
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Personally as long as we can has and the smileys don't suck I'll be happy.

I mean really I'll probably complain regardless of what you guys go with, my only experience is vbulletin and whatever the fuck gamefaqs used.
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Old 09/21/2016   #4
Cthulhu
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Nah fuck no, most forum softwares offer migration scripts. Most forum software also offer "thanks" (or similar) features, either built-in or as an addon. Discourse has it built-in, as well as spoiler tags and probably a bunch of other features.

I honestly feel the most drawn towards Discourse myself, it's built like modern software ought to, instead of the generic php/mysql copies that all try and fail to be different. I was a bit worried that the home page lists recent topics, but for me that's how I browse TLS anyway, and there's a categories page which we might be able to set as the default page.

edit: also it's got lots of plugins. Signatures is not a default feature, for example. Bigger avatars / postbits is something I'm sure we can hack together ourselves if need be. Login is easier / safer too, it uses 3rd party services like google etc to provide authentication, so we should have less issues with spambots.
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Old 09/21/2016   #5
Kionae
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I agree that Discourse would take some getting used to... but from what I've seen of it, a big plus is that it's very mobile friendly. You might also give Flarum a look. It's similar to Discourse, but seems even more mobile friendly. I think Discourse is farther along in development, though.

Also... just throwing this out there but... BBPress is also a thing.

Last edited by Kionae; 09/21/2016 at 07:23 PM.
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Old 09/21/2016   #6
Flintlock
Default

I see a familiar face...

The thing that makes our forum special is not any particular software features, IMO, but the people and the posts they make. As long as we're able to migrate successfully and keep Cookie Monster, I don't really mind what we use.

From a technical standpoint, however, I think we should aim for open source software. If we pay for a Xenforo license (or similar), we may find ourselves in this exact position again somewhere down the line, having to pay for a license renewal for an upgrade that we don't want just to get X feature or security patch. Open source software is totally free, and even if a project dies, community support for it is likely to continue until someone comes up with a better alternative. Of the options mentioned so far, Discourse, phpBB, Simple Machines (SMF), Flarum and BBPress are open source. I thought FluxBB might be another option but I just noticed they're merging into Flarum, so there'd be no point going with them.

I quite like the look of Flarum but it's still in beta, so if we want something soon (which we should, considering VB's latest security issues), Discourse looks a better bet. It already has a large install base. Skinning it will probably be a case of custom CSS rather than using an admin panel, by the look of it, but that shouldn't be too much of a problem. I also like that it supports single sign-on (SSO), which means we could have a shared login process for the front page and forum (the same goes for BBPress, which I also like). But it is very different from what we've got, so it would take some getting used to. I wouldn't be against something more familiar - the Kupocon forum uses SMF and still manages to feel modern while keeping the traditional forums/sub-forums/threads/posts structure.

There are lots of good options but maybe no great options here. We're just going to have to make a decision.
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Old 09/21/2016   #7
Obsidian Fire
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As long as we can re-skin stuff and keep similar Forum/Sub-Forum structure, I think we'll be okay. I too make the most use out of the "latest posts" area of the page and wouldn't mind seeing it be moved further up the page.

Discourse currently looks like it has most features we need and it's got a ton of active support. I'm curious as to what it would look like in TLS colors...
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Old 09/21/2016   #8
Lex
Default

I should throw my opinion in here.

I just want the feel of TLS to be maintained as much as possible, so the best option in my eyes is one that allows us to do that. I don't know which one that is because I don't have the time to research them right now. The only thing that's certain is that the forum upgrade has become a critical issue that we need to address as quickly as possible.

Whatever we choose, I'll work hard to help out in the backend in whatever capacity I can. If anyone would like to volunteer to spearhead implementation and skinning, we'd all welcome that.
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Old 09/21/2016   #9
Cthulhu
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What I could do is install a number of those forum softwares and spend some time on giving it the basic TLS feel - font, colors, cookie monster - and then see again. I think a lot of the opinions on forum softwares isn't really about how it's made or what it does, but about familiar navigation (I think for TLS it'd be one part using the New Posts feature, the other being slow and clicking on forum categories and such - but, do tell how you use and would like to use TLS).
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Old 09/21/2016   #10
Claymore
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Out of the suggested options (I can't remember where the old discussion on this was, but I think Xeno was the leading software that was being debated there) I quite like Discourse, especially if that can be tweaked / skinned to look more familiar. Plus it has a lot of features and plugins.
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Old 09/21/2016   #11
Lex
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This is literally how I use TLS:

*clicks new posts*
*checks various threads*
*closes tls when done*

I mean, in the main that's it. More complicated stuff would be using the search feature (ours kinda sucks anyway), going on to my profile to find specific posts or threads I've made (can't think of any forum software that doesn't have this) and looking at my friends list to find specific people if I want to check their posts (I do this rarely). The last one is a feature we could possibly lose, but I'm sure there's some kind of alternative to that available.

I'd quite like the ability to subscribe to threads and maybe get a notification when they've been posted in. Or there's a feature in SMF that's like "unread posts" but it's "show new replies to your posts" and it lists threads where you've posted and people have posted after.

Obviously a biggie, fairly TLS specific thing is thanks. But I'd be happy with a simpler system (maybe a "like" with a number tally rather than a list of people's names) that a lot of modern forum software seems to have. More importantly maybe is the level of personal customisation we allow here, which most forums do not. In fact we're the only one I know of that does allow that level of customisation. So that's something we're going to have to keep in mind moving forward.
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Old 09/21/2016   #12
Cthulhu
Default

Discourse has a 'like' feature by default, including a list of who liked shit; should be easy to rename it to 'thanks' or keep it as-is, and change the icon to a cookie monster (example: https://try.discourse.org/t/how-do-i...-folks-here/51 has one)
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Old 09/21/2016   #13
X-SOLDIER
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Cthulhu wrote: What I could do is install a number of those forum softwares and spend some time on giving it the basic TLS feel - font, colors, cookie monster - and then see again. I think a lot of the opinions on forum softwares isn't really about how it's made or what it does, but about familiar navigation (I think for TLS it'd be one part using the New Posts feature, the other being slow and clicking on forum categories and such - but, do tell how you use and would like to use TLS).
I think if you can do that and then once we've all spent some time poking at them, we can toss up a poll of sorts associated with it. I think it'd probably be the best way of gauging opinion, and this thread we can narrow the list down to the few we really have the most strong interest in.

(Also, now that I've been thinking about it, I like the navigation structure here a lot - because I tend to lurk in particular areas of the forum in my free time as a way of scanning for particular topics & updates rather than using new posts like Lex does).




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Old 09/21/2016   #14
Flintlock
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Cthulhu wrote: do tell how you use and would like to use TLS).
I use the cyberstats plugin (nowadays my bookmark is set to here so I can see the shoutbox and the newest posts at the same time). I only click "new posts" when I'm on my phone, and even then it's stupidly fiddly. So I could definitely live with a category system instead of distinct forums and sub-forums; I only use the latter when I'm looking for a specific post and think I can find it faster that way than by searching.
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Old 09/22/2016   #15
ForceStealer
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Flintlock wrote: which means we could have a shared login process for the front page and forum
That would be very cool, methinks. I think it would encourage more comments on the articles. Not that that's the most important thing in the world, but still.

The Engineer wrote: As long as we can re-skin stuff and keep similar Forum/Sub-Forum structure, I think we'll be okay. I too make the most use out of the "latest posts" area of the page and wouldn't mind seeing it be moved further up the page.
You may well just prefer latest posts, but are you aware of the New Posts button at the top of the page? Again don't mean to be patronizing, I just remember a thread recently where someone said they never noticed that it existed.

Of course, you apparently wouldn't be able to take advantage of it for very long


Anyway, I do feel very comfortable with TLS' looks, so I hope a new one could maintain our color scheme and look, even if we were to lose the forum tree. Otherwise I agree with what others have said, if we can keep and the good smileys I'm down.
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