hawk — 2014-02-11T18:27:44-05:00 — #1
I love this community for many, many reasons, but there is one thing I don't like about it. That thing is vBulletin.
This platform has served us admirably for many years, but it has become cumbersome, over-customised, out-dated and hard to maintain. Making the decision to move off vBulletin is an easy one. The not so easy one is where to go. There are lots of options around these days and many of them are awesome. They tend to be shiny new versions of what we already have, which makes me wonder if choosing one of them will mean we're back in this position again in the future. So we're going to take a risk and give something quite different a go. We're migrating to Discourse, which is the new platform being developed by Jeff Atwood and the guys behind Stack Overflow.
My team and I have been working with Jeff for a while now and we've put Discourse through its paces. There is a lot of work to do to get it off the ground as the basis of the new SitePoint Forums, but I'm looking forward to the challenge more than anything in my career to date. I don't totally agree with Jeff's take on the problem with forums, but I do like what he has done (and is continuing to do) with Discourse. What I like the most about it is that it is open source and Rails based, meaning that our devs can get their hands dirty and help me make these forums something that we can all be proud of.
I'm taking this opportunity to have a hard look at some of our processes, and rather than recreate exactly what we already have, I'd like to build something new and innovative.
Having said all of that, any Community Manager worth their salt knows that a great platform doesn't make a great community – I need you for that.
I imagine there will be a lot of questions. Some of you will be excited about this and some of you may not be quite so positive. That's cool... it's diversity that makes things here interesting.
The change won't be immediate. We still need a lot of time to make the logistics happen, but this is your opportunity to ask your questions and voice your feedback or concerns.
So go for it.
kiwiheretic — 2014-02-11T18:46:53-05:00 — #2
Ok, I guess thats bye bye Tapatalk. I won't be able to be on here as often once that goes. You probably all know
my reservations about Discourse by now. http://www.sitepoint.com/forums/showthread.php?1189588-Is-Jeff-Atwood-really-a-visionary
I have my own forum (on a completely different track to this one) in which I am looking to upgrade in the medium future. I have decided not to use discourse. I am evaluating VanillaForums which I feel is a better fit for my needs.
Well, I must say I did enjoy my stay here while it lasted and hopefully it will still continue to be of service to others. Best of luck.
hawk — 2014-02-11T19:22:41-05:00 — #3
I'm curious – why the need for Tapatalk? Discourse is very responsive on mobile devices.
ralphm — 2014-02-11T19:41:30-05:00 — #4
That was my question too, but Kiwiheretic answered it here:
I still think Tapatalk support is an advantage even though it may one day become irrelevant I dont believe that time has already come. Tapatalk uses less bandwidth and caches content offline which is very useful for mobile devices that are temporarily out of network range.
Maybe one day there will be internet everywhere including the amazon jungle. However I believe that time is still a long way off.
So its not just about how it looks.
Personally, though, I'll still be pleased to let TapaTalk go. I find it too clunky and limited. I'd rather be able to access the real forums on mobile.
The bandwidth issue is the most compelling one, though, so I guess that will be missed. Hopefully there won't be too many heavy ads on the new site. Sarah, has SitePoint ever considered something like The Deck? I know it's by invitation only, but there are others like it. Those ads are pretty, relevant and unobtrusive.
kiwiheretic — 2014-02-11T19:43:59-05:00 — #5
Both methods are adequate for reading posts. However composing replies is much more difficult on mobile android devices with such problems as erratic cursor behaviour and unpredictable scrolling. Its possible to compose a reply by downloading a separate editor and then copy pasting the reply across but its a lot of work and for short posts one is inclined to just give up and not bother. The experience is so much better with Tapatalk because of its excellent mobile android editor. In my opinion Discourse has a long way to go before it achieves the same pleasant posting experience and I'm not confident that the Discourse team will put in the extra effort to make that happen any time soon. (I am not even certain it can be achieved with current mobile android browsers.)
kiwiheretic — 2014-02-11T20:00:44-05:00 — #6
Did you have the paid version of Tapatalk or the free one? I've never had issues with the paid version and always considered it good value for the price. I also have a physical (not touch) keyboard for my mobile device so maybe that is why my experience has been better.
Good point raised about the ads. I guess Tapatalk users dont count towards potential advertising revenue as I imagine that contributes more to how SitePoint is funded than book sales.
hawk — 2014-02-11T20:11:46-05:00 — #7
Not that I'm aware of, but I'll certainly look into it.
airfor — 2014-02-11T23:38:35-05:00 — #8
Code School already use this, I saw it for the first time just last night coincidentally. I'm not so sure if it will be good or bad, time will tell though. It looks nice and modern so it has that going for it.
I don't really enjoy the forums in their current state, so I don't come here all too often. I frequent Whirlpool forums because they are simply amazing to use with WP+ script.
ralphm — 2014-02-11T23:55:57-05:00 — #9
Ah, it's interesting to see another example of it. They've styled it nicely.
hawk — 2014-02-12T02:27:35-05:00 — #10
Come back in a few months and give us another chance.
cheesedude — 2014-02-12T09:14:24-05:00 — #11
The main reason I dislike StackOverflow is because of their board. Can't stand it.
The state of forums has been unchanged for so long that forums are considered unworkable and undesirable; few sites want forums any more because the software is so poor.
I am glad to see they have no preconceived biases. :rolleyes:
Like WordPress, we plan to be the best possible host and service provider for our own software, and grow into an entire ecosystem.
For small businesses, we want an easy $49.99 to $199.99 month hosting plan so you can just click a button, enter your credit card information, and set up forums.example.com in 15 minutes or less on our world-class hosting service. Sure there will be other hosts, and the more the merrier, but we'll always know how to host Discourse best because we wrote it.
Ah, a profit motive behind this wonderful "open source" software. That should be reworded to read: "We are pushing our crappy bulletin board so we can make $50 or more a month hosting it for you."
Discourse launched at version 0.8.0.0 which was my off the cuff estimate of how “done” we were with our first public release on February 5th, 2013...
As of this week we will be incrementing to Discourse version 0.9.8.0 with an eye on making it to version 184.108.40.206 sometime in the next few months.
Seems a little risky to dump a forum script that has a proven track record for something still in Beta.
Just an opinion.
asp_funda — 2014-02-12T09:24:23-05:00 — #12
It says they're rebooting the forum software as it hasnt changed in last 13 years. One might have to wonder where has he been living all this time. In Discourse instead of different sub-forums you get categories for different conversations. Maybe I'm dumb but how is that a reboot? And there're already different kinds of forum softwares available, some even do it the same way. Minimalist design has been the thing for quite a while now and many embrace it. esoTalk readily comes to mind. Unless he has something radically different which he's holding back and hasnt released it, Discourse just looks to me yet another hot air balloon which claims to reach Moon.
kiwiheretic — 2014-02-12T14:21:17-05:00 — #13
Ok, I've inserted a reply to another thread here as I feel it is more "on topic" for this thread.
Firstly I believe any success Sitepoint is having is due to its community, not it's software base. Of course really bad software may be an impediment to community building but that never occurred to me about vBulletin. Sure I understand its not perfect but I don't think you are magically going to build a better community just because you're got a prettier, more shiny forum. Also people are not robots and neither are moderators which is something Jeff Atwoods doesn't appear to understand.
To use the ship metaphor above, if you believe your ship has sprung a leak the first thing to do is keep your head and not just run for the lifeboats. Making calm, rational decisions is always more important. Can we fix the leak should be the first question we should ask ourselves, not run for the lifeboats.
Sadly, one thing Sitepoint seems to have done, is undervalued its community. We have some very good SEO sections on here. Since I'm not an SEO expert I find these posts quite helpful. Admittedly some of its nonsense but some of it is good also. What I'm saying is maybe we should be using our most important resourse here, those that come and bring their wisdom to this forum, and we should have at least consulted them to address the issues that we have here.
After canvassing the internet with Google search I found a number of posts which talk about the friction incurred from prematurely changing forum software. You are always going to lose some members by doing it. It ought not to be a decision made lightly.
Also I see people signing up on these forums, often daily. Surely that counts for something.
It's not just a Tapatalk thing. Sure I find tapatalk incredibly useful but even if I'm the only one who uses it I still feel the decision to move to Discourse was made prematurely without asking the community what they thought. Ok, they were sort of asked, if you count my Jeff Atwood thread, but not until it was pretty much a "fait accompli". The politicians in my country are experts in that kind of "consultation". I would have thought a public poll would have been the bare minimum in this process.
I used to know someone who had a flair for building vibrant chat room communities. She really knew how to draw people in. However she could never settle on which plsatform she wished to use. One week it was IRC, next she got dissatisfied and moved the room to Paltalk. After a while she didn't like that and moved it to Teamspeak. It just went on and on and everytime she moved she lost members and at the end of it all I remember her bemoaning sitting in a room by herself.
Do we really have to make the same mistakes here?
cpradio — 2014-02-12T15:09:33-05:00 — #14
We agree with that, but vBulletin has been a hindrance to allowing us to build the community where it needs to go for years! Making it more friendly is expensive, adding the features we feel it needs to help the community evolve is outrageously expensive and hard to maintain. The structure behind it is becoming brittle as we continue to get larger amounts of data causing server errors, etc.
It isn't simply the community falling around us, it is everything falling around us.
We have been trying to patch the leak for years. We have enough patches now that the boat barely has any metal left in it (I can't begin to tell you the large list of issues we have with the current software and ecosystem, but it is long and extensive).
On the contrary. We know how great of a community we still have and can have future going. We are working diligently to migrate the content over and the users to make a smooth transition (granted any new interface will be met with challenges; let alone a new system). We won't be abandoning anything, just giving the community a better chance to thrive and grow in ways that we can't with vBulletin. vBulletin has been a strain to allowing us to improve and implement community oriented goals.
Please take heart in knowing we didn't make this decision over-night but ultimately realized, we couldn't take the community to where it could thrive without getting off vBulletin. Don't forget to look up the success stories too, we are realistic. We know some members won't move with us, others will, and we'll hopefully continue to attract new members all the while.
Signing up and contributing/participating are two very different metrics. We'd rather have the latter. We see a TON of registrations a day that ultimately end up spam, banned for being bots, or just sit idle for years... We also see new members joining and asking questions, starting discussions, etc. I don't see that changing just because we've moved to a new platform and hopefully we can generate a place where we see more of the latter than the former.
Unfortunately, we can't disclose a lot of the reasoning behind the move. You'll just have to trust us that strategically, it makes the most sense for this community to thrive. That's really all we can ask, is that you continue to trust us.
We don't believe we are. We've thought about this long and hard and debated a LOT. We've looked at a few different products and found favor with Discourse for various reasons. Yes, it is a bit of a gamble, but there are certain amenities it provides that others don't and we won't feel restricted in how we build the community and what features we can add to it to help it thrive.
What we do know is the statistics have continuously declined for the past couple of years and we need to turn that around, otherwise, we will end up in a room alone (by just doing nothing, or sticking with a platform that we can't change to help turn us around).
ralphm — 2014-02-12T17:27:48-05:00 — #15
Despite all the talk about the software changes, this move is mostly about the community. In reality, despite the user accounts, the community here has become quite flat on the whole. Most members stop in to get something they need and then disappear, talking little interest in the site and where it is going. Looking at other sites, it's clear that there is still an important place for forums of this kind, and it's clear that they can be hugely active and dynamic places—so our main focus is going to be on reinvigorating the forums to increase member engagement. One key factor seems to be giving members a bigger stake in the running of the place, which is something that Discourse facilitates nicely, and which can be further enhanced.
kiwiheretic — 2014-02-12T17:43:59-05:00 — #16
Are you sure about that? Or do you have a documented Discourse API that I don't know about?
ralphm — 2014-02-12T17:51:49-05:00 — #17
The clue is really in Hawk's initial comments:
SitePoint isn't wandering around in the dark on this.
mittineague — 2014-02-12T17:59:40-05:00 — #18
I think what Ralph is referring to isn't the API (or lack thereof) but "trust" levels https://meta.discourse.org/t/what-do-user-trust-levels-do/4924
That is, when a member has "proven" themselves they are able to do more.
kiwiheretic — 2014-02-12T18:31:54-05:00 — #19
Well, I hope you are right but everything I'm hearing is sounding alarm bells in my head and goes against what I believe in in my "doctrine of community building". Obviously I can't convince you otherwise. All I can do is sit here and watch and see if Discourse is really the magical wonderland of high Google page rank that everyone seems to think it is.
hawk — 2014-02-12T18:44:14-05:00 — #20
One important thing to note here is that I'm not a volunteer moderator with another career. I am a professional enterprise Community Manager and it is my job to make this kind of decision and drive this kind of project. I have done a lot of research into both the software options and the social psychology of communities and I'm confident that while this will be a long and hard road, if done right this is exactly what our community needs. A chance to refresh, reevaluate and rebuild.
I hear your concerns and I appreciate you taking the time to put them in words. I hope you hear me when I say that the health and survival of this community is my top priority.
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