Big Changes Coming to the Forums!

(Hanon Ondricek) #1

Happy 2019, everyone! The forums have been slow and in need of an upgrade for a while, and the site often crawls, making browsing and searching unresponsive or sometimes impossible during peak usage. We hope to address this issue:

  • In conjunction with the IFTF, we are upgrading the board to a new server which should be able to handle the user load, making browsing and reading the forums easier and error out less frequently.
  • We are also going to test Discourse as the new forum software. This is a huge change for end-users. We hope it will be an overall improvement, especially for mobile forum use. We understand there have been accessibility issues with Discourse for screen-readers, and we are interested to recruit volunteers to help us evaluate the accessibility options for it as they stand currently.

These changes should be happening in the first half of February, but please be patient with us during this process. We welcome your feedback.

You can check out the two test instances to see what we’ve been up to. Please remember that both instances had data imported from a previous date and will not include the most recent messages posted here on the live forum. Also, feel free to test logging in (you might need to change your password on Discourse) and the board functions.

Feel free to try out all the features, but be aware any new posts, settings, and PMs you update on the test servers will be wiped when it goes live as all up-to-date posts from here will be re-imported. Make sure you copy any significant discussions that need to be retained here or keep a copy of them yourself to re-post after the changeover.

[The Mod Team]


What phpBB style is this forum based on?

Great news.

Several boards I frequent have converted to Discourse. Too much bling, less user friendly, suggest Xenforo. is probably the best server option available.

This is one of the best forums available. I would be willing to pitch in for its operation, consider a donation option.

Thanks, fos1


(Dan Fabulich) #3

A big +1 on Discourse.

I also worried that there would be accessibility issues with Discourse, but we have a number of screen-reader users on the Choice of Games Discourse forum, and they’ve all said it works fine.

Re: donations, will become an IFTF project? Presumably in that case donating to the IFTF would also be a donation to the forum?


(Hanon Ondricek) #4

Good to know! Most of the research I did about accessibility for Discourse seemed to consist of forum discussion from 2015-2016 and then nothing more recent, so I hope that’s a sign that everything has been fixed.

The intention is for this forum to be under the IFTF “umbrella” with regards to the technology. The foundation will be mostly hands-off, providing benevolent oversight, only stepping in when necessary such as for emergency server administration.

Donations to IFTF (I am assuming) would indirectly benefit the forum in the occasional cases where funds are necessary (like the server upgrade) and to maintain the domain registration.


(Andrew Plotkin) #5

Hosting the server will be a small ongoing cost (on the order of $7-$12 per month, depending on how much juice the forums need). That will be covered out of IFTF donations.

Right. We’ll come up with some official statement, but the summary is “The forum is not an official IFTF publication; it’s a public service provided by the mod committee; IFTF provides resources to keep it running. IFTF board members are not mods. The mods will do all the server maintenance once things are set up. Since IFTF provides the server, we have the ability to log in and see all the server data, but we won’t look unless the mods request it or there’s some emergency which requires it.”



The server upgrade is excellent news. I’m a little sad about losing the old-school phpBB style, and a little concerned about some of Discourse’s “features” like endless scrolling, but eager to see the new look.


(bg) #7

With the change in forum software, will old links to existing posts/threads still work, or will they break?



We’ll get HTTP redirects for the old forum links.



Discourse is horrible, IMO. uses it, and I gave up on that forum in the end. I can’t make any sense out of it. Trying to follow a discussion there is like searching for a needle in a haystack. The same posts are repeated over and over again, you can’t tell what’s new and what’s old, everything is just merged and mashed together in an incomprehensible chaos of posts. It’s confusing and horrible :-/


(Dan Fabulich) #10

What do you mean by this?

In my experience, the main complaint I see about Discourse is that it uses automatic page turning (“infinite scroll”). Automatic page turning makes it more convenient to scroll through an entire thread, but manual page turning provides a stronger sense of place (“here I am on page 7”).

Users who strongly prefer manual page turning can disable JS to get a surprisingly traditional forum experience on Discourse.



When someone posts a reply, that reply is repeated over and over again as you scroll downwards. So you see the same posts over and over again.



FWIW, the main problem I’ve had with Discourse is that it’s very spongy as to what you’ve read or not read. As far as I can tell there is no equivalent of the “mark forums read” button: the site software decides when your last session was according to some erratic, undocumented heuristic or other. It’s not a big problem for active threads because new traffic will soon cause them to pop up to the top of your view again, but I fear it’s not that hard to miss individual posts on low-traffic threads.

Still, a site that works beats the heck out of one that doesn’t, and has mostly not been working for me lately (lots of “unable to search” errors instead). So I hope this changeover goes well.


(Dan Fabulich) #13

You mean, in quotes? Like this? ^^ That’s the same as phpBB, right?



Yeah, that too.

The problem I mentioned above is from 2016. It could be this has been improved by now. It’s just that the initial impression Discourse gave me was very negative. It also looks like it’s not just friendly to viewing on mobile devices, but primarily focuses on them and as a result feels off on desktops.

That is true.


(matt w) #15

One issue I’ve had with Discourse is that it hijacks my web-browser’s ctrl-F function to do a forum search. Sometimes I want to search for something on the page I’m on rather than get a list of posts containing the string that I’m searching for, even if that list of posts is restricted to the thread I’m looking at.


(Doug Orleans) #16

In my experience, Discourse works great with RSS, even better than phpBB does. So if you don’t like the web UI, I recommend using an RSS reader like Feedly.



There’s a couple of other forums I use running on Discourse, and I think it’s improved significantly in the past couple of years. But we don’t expect it to be perfect, we just hope it will be markedly better than what we have now.

Discourse also has the option of behaving like a mailing list, with posting via email. If we can get that working it will give another option to those who find the forum hard to navigate.



If I remember rightly, the now defunct website IFANSWERS.COM used DISCOURSE (Or at least an earlier version of it). If this is how this forum will be, then I will drop off altogether. I didn’t like it then and having just had a look at it on Github, to me it doesn’t seem to have improved at all.
I’ll reserve my final judgement until I see what happens, but it doesn’t look like I’m going to like it any better than last time I tried to use one of their forums.


(Brian Rushton) #19

Will we make new accounts? I could finally change my name back to mathbrush.

Thanks for updating the forums! Will you also change the “An Interactive fiction website…eventually” tag line?


#20 used a Q&A software - completely different to Discourse.

I think you’ll be able to change usernames. We could manually change it for you now as well.