New forum software and technical committee

Deskthority is unfortunately in need of a substantial software update. We are currently running on an old branch of phpBB and we need to start thinking about updating it.

During the years webwit & co. have applied some mods to the current versions making the upgrade not straightforward (I guess the theme too would need updates). As painful as it sounds this opens some opportunities.

First option would be to upgrade what we already have, keeping everything as close as possible to the current setup.

Second option, look around and see if there's a better forum engine. If so, study the feasibility of a migration.

Whatever we choose, we cannot do it alone. We need help with the migration, html, css, javascript, php, whatever. The forum master (myself) needs a technical committee that will take care of the forum migration and future maintenance. This is no joke, without this crucial step the forum may not last forever.

So what do we need?

- check forum engines
- decide if we want to upgrade phpbb or switch completely
- form a technical committee able to handle the transaction
- make a test on a staging area
- recreate all the current functionalities on the new platform
- make the switch

I'll be leading the expedition hopefully with the help of webwit.

In the next few hours I will be posting a review of some software that I personally used, but in the meantime I'm curious to understand how you feel about all this. Would you like new functionalities? Would you prefer to keep it as it is? Would you be willing to help?
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Unread post01 Feb 2017, 16:08

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I would gladly help with technical tasks and requirements management :)

Stuff that I would like to see:
- Native hashtag integration
- @-mentions for users with optional notification
- Adding "Galeries" to a Post where you just get a list of thumpnails you can click on instead of having all the pictures inlined (maybe that's already possible)
- PLEASE NO UPVOTING/KARMA/LIKES SHIT
- _NO_ signatures
- better poll integration ... don't ruin the whole poll when adding/changing options
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Unread post01 Feb 2017, 16:27

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Following this topic.... may have input/be able to contribute at some point.
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Unread post01 Feb 2017, 21:01

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I'm interested and willing to help out with any web development or technical details. I'm incredibly unfamiliar with forum platforms out there so I don't think I could help much in evaluating phpbb or an alternative, aside from my professional bias towards Python :geek:

Any custom plugins etc. that need to be rewritten I'd love to dig into. My knowledge falls short in deployment/infrastructure setup, but anything above that level I'm comfortable with picking up.

For what it's worth, I really do enjoy DT's current featureset, though I think @mentions and notifications would be quite nice. The minimal styling is fantastic. And any software that has a good Spy/Watched feature is cool by me.
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Unread post02 Feb 2017, 01:09

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matt3o wrote:Would you like new functionalities? Would you prefer to keep it as it is? Would you be willing to help?

I'd like a couple minor features:
  • Improved HiDPI support. Currently the Deskthority logo looks blurred on a 4k monitor, which sucks. :x HTML5 has provisions to fix this, but we're currently using XHTML 1.0 Strict.
  • A layout that's flexible enough to allow making the browser window fill half of a 1920x1080 monitor without needing horizontal scrolling.
Wodan wrote:Stuff that I would like to see:
- Native hashtag integration
- @-mentions for users with optional notification

I've made my (negative) opinions on these clear in the past, and I'd just like them to not be forgotten. We have searching already, octothorpe and commercial at are ugly, and PMs are cheap.
Wodan wrote:- Adding "Galeries" to a Post where you just get a list of thumpnails you can click on instead of having all the pictures inlined (maybe that's already possible)

This would be a great feature. I always find it annoying when I try to see a post in a photos thread, only to have it keep jumping away from me as more images load above it.
Wodan wrote:- PLEASE NO UPVOTING/KARMA/LIKES SHIT

So, you love Twitter and hate Reddit! :mrgreen:
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My wishlist:
  • keep the style simple, and the emphasis on full threads not individual posts
  • polls that can be edited without losing the votes
  • a tag implementation that can separate the tags from the post (more on this below)
  • ability to post without Javascript - or make the Spy treat Ctrl-clicks properly with Javascript enabled, which is the main reason I browse DT with Javascript disabled
  • I agree with Wodan, no signatures or user karma, and although post karma could have some benefits I think it's more trouble than it's worth.

Re tags: I dislike the "cool bro `#ibm4lyfe `#BuckleMySprings `#battleship `#bigM `#BlueBadge `#mykeebisolderthanmydad" kind of post where you can't see the content for the tags. Since most of the posts here are related to input devices I'd hope we could have a more exact form of tagging than the Twitter `#whatevertagsomeonehappenstothinkof style. :) Also I think it would be useful to have a way of treating a set of tags as synonyms, so searching for things tagged `#alpsskcmgreen would also give things tagged `#alpsneongreen (and the other names too!). It happens I've recently found an alternative tagging system which might be applicable; the difficulty is, it needs more maintenance than a Twitter-type system. I won't link to the site that uses the system because it's somewhat NSFW, but I'll PM you the URL tomorrow if you're interested, matt3o.
(Please excuse the ``` - I didn't want my examples to become actual hashtags. Which makes me wonder if we could choose whether hash-prefixed text is intended to become tags, as part of the composition process.)

And I'm happy to help if I can - though I suspect most of what I can help with will be things like testing which many others could do too. :)
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Unread post02 Feb 2017, 02:34

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phpBB upgrade via "make diffs vs original trunk, apply upgrade, apply diffs, if things break think a little" worked extremely well for me past million times.
As a procedural-language-agnostic with actual phpbb upgrade experience I can even try it - but there will be a problem of anonymizing the user accounts and deleting private messages. Just the code is not enough, you need to run it against the actual-ish database to see it still works.

New engine.. all external links will immediately go to the toilet unless you spend considerable resources mapping old URL scheme to the new one and setting up redirects you'll need to perpetually support. And there's not a small amount of those.
You may leave the old forum at old.deskthority.net as many do - but that just means you'll need to support two forum engines :)
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Unread post02 Feb 2017, 07:08

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The bringer of PSoC
I find the # of very little use, but I'm not against it. Maybe it would be nice to have the @ if I get notified when I'm mentioned. That would be a quick way to ping someone into a discussion for example without having to PM him or to let him know that we are discussing something possibly interesting to him (eg: "I just bought @matt3o's WhiteFox and blah blah blah").

Changing forum engine is not something to take lightly. As DMA already said the main issue is URL remapping to keep google search ranking.

There's one thing I'd like to add. In another community we made a very difficult and bold decision and we switched platform altogether for one that is more user friendly and "modern". We lost some users in the transaction (haters gonna hate) but we attracted 10 times more people at the same time.

I'm not suggesting that a change is needed, just that sometimes change is good.
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matt3o wrote:There's one thing I'd like to add. In another community we made a very difficult and bold decision and we switched platform altogether for one that is more user friendly and "modern". We lost some users in the transaction (haters gonna hate) but we attracted 10 times more people at the same time.

I am totally pro upgrade and new, modern features. I don't see a potential for such exponential growth though :)
You can see, there are very few MAJOR complaints/feature requests here, mostly integrating some newer fancy stuff.

Two of my points I would like to elaborate on.

Hashtags are not super popular with everyone but I've already tried to fight for them in another feature request. I have to blame myself for not using them more. One aspect about them I would like the haters to consider ...

The Hashtags I am thinking about are from the concept of a metadata tag
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tag_(metadata)


Then there's likes/karma/upvotes and that kind of stuff. I think that this will just promote circle jerks and close the community towards newcomers. There are plenty of ways to express your appreciation for content here and weighting certain posts more than others can often develop a hostile dynamic during arguments. Established community members will get their posts upvoted from friends and allies while new users or occasional users can be silenced that way.
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Unread post02 Feb 2017, 11:40

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I find the problem with tags in general is that they work only if everybody use them... constantly and consistently. hastags are something slightly different, mostly restricted to an event/fact/thing happening usually in a very short period. You can probably hardly remember relevant last year's hashtags for example.
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matt3o wrote:I find the problem with tags in general is that they work only if everybody use them... constantly and consistently. hastags are something slightly different, mostly restricted to an event/fact/thing happening usually in a very short period. You can probably hardly remember relevant last year's hashtags for example.

Yes, that's a good point. The system I found works pretty well (in contrast to some on other sites), but that's because on that site tags are essentially viewed as a publicly-curated feature rather like a wiki - people can log in and change the tags on other people's stuff, and there are some fairly active mods for doing things like synonym requests and resolving conflicts. Whether DT's got enough active users / mods to do that is another question - we might prefer something simpler but more error-prone. The trouble is, an ambiguous tagging system could be worse than none at all...

Thinking now, it occurs to me I do have something a bit unusual: several old but working phones and basic mobile browsers which I could test site designs with.
  • Blackberry 8520 with Opera Mini 4.4 (and also 5) and standard BB browser
  • HTC Touch2 (Windows Mobile 6.1) with Opera Mini 5 and Opera 9 (I think)
  • Nokia E71 with Opera Mini 8
  • Nokia N97 with Opera Mini 8
  • Samsung ... erm... S3650? With OM 4.5. scratch that, it's locked to a network I don't have a SIM for
  • and also Opera Mini 4.5 running on PC, if screenshots are needed.
Last edited by citrojohn on 02 Feb 2017, 12:42, edited 1 time in total.
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Unread post02 Feb 2017, 12:36

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Wodan wrote:I would gladly help with technical tasks and requirements management :)

Stuff that I would like to see:
- Native hashtag integration
- @-mentions for users with optional notification
- Adding "Galeries" to a Post where you just get a list of thumpnails you can click on instead of having all the pictures inlined (maybe that's already possible)
- PLEASE NO UPVOTING/KARMA/LIKES SHIT
- _NO_ signatures
- better poll integration ... don't ruin the whole poll when adding/changing options

I would prefer $-tags. #-tags look like comments.
:roll:

It would be nice to have the ability to upload more than one photo a time.
Code: Select all
This [attachment=0]:P[/attachment]-thing is really bad

What about an image gallery for each user and an easy way to insert a photo into a post with the img-tag. This avoids the trouble with uploading the same picture over and over again. Bonus points if these photos can be linked to from the wiki.
:o

Carrying on with no signatures and no upvoting is a good idea.
:-)
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Unread post02 Feb 2017, 12:40

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Ratfink wrote:This would be a great feature. I always find it annoying when I try to see a post in a photos thread, only to have it keep jumping away from me as more images load above it.

This could be easily avoided if the size of the photos would be memorised the first time the post is made (or edited), so the browser can reserve an area for the photo.
:roll:
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Unread post02 Feb 2017, 12:45

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7bit wrote:What about an image gallery for each user and an easy way to insert a photo into a post with the img-tag. This avoids the trouble with uploading the same picture over and over again. Bonus points if these photos can be linked to from the wiki. :o

This would save me a serious amount of time and would probably encourage the posting of more keyboard pics in the Wiki. I have lots of ideas for this.

Happy to help if I can.
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Unread post02 Feb 2017, 12:48

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Agree with the no signatures, no upvoting/likes sentiments.

One other thing: Maybe it's just me, but I find the DT CSS not particularly smartphone-friendly. Text is quite small and the left-hand column takes up precious horizontal screen real estate. Most importantly, menu items and links are too small to hit with a fat fumbly finger without first zooming in. In fairness though, these things are all about CSS and not really related to the underlying forum software.
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Unread post02 Feb 2017, 18:06

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Wodan wrote:- Adding "Galeries" to a Post where you just get a list of thumpnails you can click on instead of having all the pictures inlined (maybe that's already possible)

This! The forum software should create a thumbnail for each attached image and post that instead of the full image (unless the full image is already small). Then if the user wants to see it in detail he can click on it to get the original.

The problem for me is not so much bandwidth as much as the browser having to rescale huge images to screen size on the fly. Some image-intensive threads bring some browsers to their knees, making scrolling really slow, especially on less powerful machines.
Ratfink wrote:[*]A layout that's flexible enough to allow making the browser window fill half of a 1920x1080 monitor without needing horizontal scrolling.

This too. I usually browse with at two windows side by side + some border, and often a few windows more, divided by task or site or just so that I could see both at once.
My next screen is going to be wider ... and that means three or four windows side by side.
7bit wrote:What about an image gallery for each user and an easy way to insert a photo into a post with the img-tag. This avoids the trouble with uploading the same picture over and over again. Bonus points if these photos can be linked to from the wiki.
:o

Heh... On another forum which has that, I sometimes find images in the "Manage Attachments" box's list of images that I seem to no longer have on my harddrive.
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Unread post02 Feb 2017, 20:14

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I did a little bit of research. The situation hasn't changed much since the last time I checked.

The most "modern" is probably Discourse. It would require a complete new infrastructure and I'm pretty sure we would end up loosing some pieces of information here and there. As much as I would like to use it, I find the transition to a completely different platform a bit overwhelming and I'm not even sure we actually need it.

If we want to shift to a paid platform, we have: IPB, vbulletin, xenForo and WoltLab Burning Board. Of all I like the Burning Board (it's an European project and it seems very well executed) and XenForo. The latter seems relatively easy to customize and it has a bigger user base, which is good.

In the open source realm the one that I like the most is probably Vanilla Forums, despite being around since some time now it's still relatively small. A new version is about to be released and I'm pretty sure half of the plugins won't work anymore.

Possibly the two phpBB contenders seem to be SMF and myBB. I like them both more than phpBB, but they honestly offer little to none advantages against it.

If I had to start a community from scratch today I would probably go Discourse if I want a kind of community chat/feedback, XenForo for a more traditional solution and Vanilla for something very basic but well executed.

Speaking of Deskthority... maybe the wise course of action is to just upgrade phpBB and refresh the interface. What I probably miss most is the possibility to upload multiple files and a decent gallery presentation. Also maybe would be nice to be able to sign in through facebook/twitter/google/github accounts.

Ideas?
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Unread post03 Feb 2017, 07:01

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Did you mean Discourse or Discord? The Daily WTF moved over to Discourse not too long ago, as part of an ongoing irony that the site software is always more broken than the products made fun of in the articles. It seems that it was so bad (and constantly mocked and ridiculed), they've already ditched it and moved to NodeBB, which is the same infinite scrolling disaster, and still spews worthless entries into your browser history as you scroll down a page, but I guess less bug-ridden.
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Unread post03 Feb 2017, 08:34

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discourse, sorry wrong link (corrected)
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Daniel Beardsmore wrote:Did you mean Discourse or Discord? The Daily WTF moved over to Discourse not too long ago, as part of an ongoing irony that the site software is always more broken than the products made fun of in the articles. It seems that it was so bad (and constantly mocked and ridiculed), they've already ditched it and moved to NodeBB, which is the same infinite scrolling disaster, and still spews worthless entries into your browser history as you scroll down a page, but I guess less bug-ridden.

Discourse is bad in that it doesn't give much choice on how to use it (must use Javascript, modern browser or newest smartphone, a decent-bandwidth connection and you must like infinite scrolling), and any deviation from that was just met with a sarcastic response from the software developers behind it (admittedly, TDWTF members are a rowdy crowd).

It does offer some features not seen often in any of the "classic" forums but it's so full of opinionated decisions that I'd give it a pass (e.g. new members can only post once in their first 3 hours and can't post a link without getting auto-banned; people who are more active can earn "privileges" like getting access to restricted groups and soft moderation things; ... - none of it can't be easily turned off).

NodeBB is modular and can be setup to do mostly what you want, but it's still full of Javascript and needs a NoSQL database (those are notorious for their reliability and weird ways in which they need to be prepared for a backup).
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Right, so what you're saying is, 7bit would be locked out if we used one of those contraptions ;-)
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matt3o wrote:If we want to shift to a paid platform, we have: IPB, vbulletin, xenForo and WoltLab Burning Board. Of all I like the Burning Board (it's an European project and it seems very well executed) and XenForo. The latter seems relatively easy to customize and it has a bigger user base, which is good.

I'm administrator of a pretty large forum that uses the Woltlab Burning Board. I like it, it's good software, relatively well written, many well thought-out features and a good community of developers making plugins for a commercial software product, but it has a major drawback: every three or four years, Woltlab brings out a new major release with a plugin API and styles interface that is incompatible with the older ones, and upgrading a forum that has custom modifications or is using plugins to the new release is a major PITA for the admin (just did it over christmas, which is basically why I was so inactive here lately). Also, in every iteration, they change the UI so much that to the users, it's basically a new software. Two years after each new release, they stop supporting the older ones, so if you want security patches, you are forced to upgrade to the newest version after some time.

Also, the community is mostly German, it's hard to find in-depth information on plugins and APIs if you don't speak German.

If possible, I would rather stay with phpBB or look for another well-supported open source solution, even though it means less features.
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Unread post03 Feb 2017, 17:28

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thanks for your feedback, Halvar. we can safely rule woltlab out :)
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okay let's proceed with a phpBB upgrade then.

who is serious about entering the technical committee please contact me in PM.
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So I had a look a phpbb 3.2. We are going to upgrade from 3.0 to 3.2 which is HUGE. Finger crossed.

The overall look n feel is more or less the same. A very welcome change is the possibility to drag'n'drop attachments ("s", plural) into the post, but still no "gallery" option. I believe they also added emojis (and I couldn't care less).

The templates changed quite a bit. Good luck to us...
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Unread post05 Feb 2017, 15:51

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matt3o wrote:...
Speaking of Deskthority... maybe the wise course of action is to just upgrade phpBB and refresh the interface. What I probably miss most is the possibility to upload multiple files and a decent gallery presentation.

DT is about perfect, just the file upload thing is not.
:mrgreen:
matt3o wrote:Also maybe would be nice to be able to sign in through facebook/twitter/google/github accounts.

Ideas?
You mad!!!
:mad:

We should not encourage people to use the same password etc for all platforms. If you really want a facebook account, use the face of your neighbours dog and a fake name and a dedicated password.
:evilgeek:
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Unread post05 Feb 2017, 16:14

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Infinite scrolling is for hamsters. I'm an ape.

I'm pretty old-school, I'm not on any social sites, and quite happy where DT is now: nostalgic, pleasant, quiet oasis of focused info and interaction without the bothersome rush of constant updates and distractions.

Other than that, when I browse the marketplace, sometimes I wish there was a way to catalogue buy%ell offers, so that we can put in permanent offers/interests to buy/sell (rare) X, and be automatically notified when a matching offer for X is posted even years down the road. (And I'm not saying this would be easy, or would make sense in the world of people trying to move stuff fast.)
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HuBandiT wrote:Other than that, when I browse the marketplace, sometimes I wish there was a way to catalogue buy%ell offers, so that we can put in permanent offers/interests to buy/sell (rare) X, and be automatically notified when a matching offer for X is posted even years down the road. (And I'm not saying this would be easy, or would make sense in the world of people trying to move stuff fast.)

this would fucking awesome!
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The only way I have found to accomplish this is to implement some type of ecommerce system, where users can register and then request to be notified when an item comes back in stock. Ecommerce was vetoed before, but I agree, it is an awesome feature :-) Maybe if you are going to upgrade/replace the phpBB, you might think about ecomm again. It can also handle registrations, club memberships and renewals, etc.
elecplus
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Unread post05 Feb 2017, 19:00

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elecplus
 
Posts: 2855
Joined: 24 Jul 2014, 20:25
Location: Kerrville, TX, USA
Club member: 0082
 
Daniel Beardsmore wrote:Right, so what you're saying is, 7bit would be locked out if we used one of those contraptions ;-)

I'm not alone!
:roll:

We have members who are in countries with not so fast internet and maybe also not so fast computers etc.
:shock:

Nothing against 400+ pages threads with a lot of photos in one page, but give us an alternative to click through pages.
;-)

Guess why papyrus rolls have been replaced by books!
:o

They are easier to handle!
:cool:
7bit
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Unread post06 Feb 2017, 07:24

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7bit
 
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Main keyboard: Tipro / IBM 3270 emulator
Main mouse: Logitech granite for SGI
Favorite switch: MX Lock
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