Poll: Should we switch to Discourse?

intfiction.org uses phpBB. We use Discourse forum.choiceofgames.com/ We like it. I like Discourse much better than phpBB or Vanilla, which is the forum we used before Discourse. IntFic.com also uses Discourse.

If you haven’t had a chance to try Discourse, you can check it out on one of those sites; you can also create a temporary account on try.discourse.org/ and make some posts and stuff. The site gets automatically wiped daily.

In my opinion, Discourse gets a lot of things really right, especially around ease of moderation. It has considerably better support for flagging and managing flags, including a feature to automatically hide a post after N flags (default 3, but it’s configurable).

The company behind Discourse is called “Civilized Discourse Construction Kit, Inc.” and the founder, Jeff Atwood, has very good intuitions around what makes a forum work well. Their default Code of Conduct formed the basis of the CoG CoC, which later became the basis for the current intfiction.org CoC.

Discourse is dramatically better than PHPBB - but switching forum software won’t solve problems that get down to moderator policy.

I think the mod team maybe needs a rethink, reshuffle, and reset - reconsider who wants to be on the mod team, figure out a shared set of values that works for everyone in the IF community (and not just the rump that has stuck around here or the somewhat toxic culture inherited from r*if), and relaunch the forum with those new expectations, rules, and functionality in place. Maybe that would be better than very incremental choices, and also a lot of mods don’t seem very present any more - which is fine! nobody is obligated to do the hard and thankless job of modding an online forum - but they seem to be slowing down reform by not being around. CvE has been the most attentive and involved mod in general, and maybe she should be making those kinds of decisions instead of having to wait on people who don’t feel as involved or don’t want to change direction.

phpBB was fine to me, until I realized there were more sophisticated options and I came to enjoy their ease. I like that Discourse allows likes, etc. and I think being able to tag threads further might help people looking for help know what to look for or be able to add additional questions.

So I’d vote for Discourse, as long as it doesn’t require a lot of implementation & it can save the current topics, which would be a shame to lose with all their information. Is there a generic sandbox where we can see Discourse features? Or is there a page listing them?

Discourse may not fix our differences of opinion, but it may help people find the information they want or filter out discussions they don’t. (e.g. if it’s tagged politics, someone may want to avoid that, or even silly jokes or whatever).

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Unless it’s possible to convert the phpbb data to discourse, I’d prefer we stay with what we have.

Does Discourse offer a way to block or mute specific posters?

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I’m keen. This server needs to be retired anyway.

Yes you can migrate from phpBB to Discourse. We would do that rather than keeping this one around.

I’m looking at this from the perspective of increasing the audience and getting new people to engage with IF. intfiction.org looks like it was implemented in the 80s (it may have been). It is ugly, clunky, unwieldy, overly-complicated and feels antiquated and out of touch. That’s not denigrating anything - it’s just a thing that is. This tech has had its day.

It is time, IMO, to go with something more modern. The type of thing that new users are used to interacting with and has a fresh, clean, modern interface, is mobile friendly, and much more easily engaged with.

I agree of course that this won’t solve the current issues, but that’s another topic.


From a technical, non-community standpoint, the search function at Intfic.com doesn’t seem that good to me. Like, I just went to a random thread on intfic, searched for one word that was in the thread, was told my term was too short, searched for two words, got the same message, searched for a whole sentence from one of the posts, and didn’t actually get linked to that post. The phpBB search function seems to get a lot of flak but I’ve found it really helpful for finding old posts when I can only remember a couple words that appeared in them.

(I was also going to complain that command-F gets hijacked to the forum’s search function rather than my browser’s, but I realized that I could still get the browser search function by selecting “Find” from the menu.)

I don’t know if this is intrinsic to Discourse, and it may well be outweighed by other factors.

Also I agree that insofar as the mod policy isn’t working, switching forum software alone won’t help, though the new software might help the mods. (Since I was the one complaining that the current software doesn’t allow for some of the moderation powers people were asking for, it may be a bit hypocritical for me to turn around and complain about the proposed new software.)

…one concern would be whether migrating the board would break links to old posts. If so, I think it would honestly be better to freeze this board to keep the links around.

We should be able to set up redirects. That would be a condition on migrating IMO.

I am personally willing to keep using phpbb until the Sun eats the Earth, but I won’t grump too hard about a change.

I would strongly prefer to stick with the intfiction.org domain, in case that’s an open question.

Looking at the sandbox domain (try.discourse.org/), I am not impressed by the way it degrades for Lynx/non-JS browsers. The posts are visible – you can browse them – but the post stats (replies/views/etc) are much reduced, and I think there’s no post option.

(You can say “nobody browses without javascript”, but I’m afraid I must inform you that this makes a difference to me. Specifically, the difference between reading the forum several times a day and reading it a couple of times a week.)

When Choice of Games migrated to Discourse from Vanilla, CDCK migrated all of the old posts and PMs, and also provided us with PHP code to redirect from the old URLs to new URLs. I’m pretty sure they have something similar for phpBB.

I agree with everyone saying that Discourse won’t/can’t solve moderation issues on its own. (Though in some areas it can help).

zarf, yes sadly it seems you are correct. It is possible to post by replying to Discourse emails, but that may not be any more convenient. Thanks for raising the issue, we won’t discount it.

Can you say a few words about the JS thing? Which way do you block JS? How do you enable it when you do want/need it? (Are there two materially different answers to this question on mobile/desktop?)

For example, do you use NoScript or a similar browser extension to block/allow JS on a site by site basis? (If not, are you opposed to doing so?)

If we did slide down this path, we should put a requirements list together and then find all new free software and compare features. Just poking around I found Flarum, which also looks nice and has a modern JS implementation.

I haven’t been able to confirm that Discourse supports popular screenreaders such as Jaws.

Discourse is good software. But this forum has a decade’s worth of content – thousands of users, over 100k posts – and I wouldn’t recommend migrating it to a completely new platform.

The phpBB importer is incomplete, so you’ll probably hit compatibility issues with formatting, unread status, and locked threads, among other things. You may also hit compatibility issues on the client side, as others have suggested. And beyond that, it seems like a jarring transition for users: Discourse’s UX is completely different from phpBB’s, and although I think most of the changes are for the better, I’m not sure it’s enough of an improvement to justify upending the current forum.

Discourse is horrible. intfic.com uses it and it’s the sole reason I don’t visit anymore. It’s completely useless :-/

phpBB is behind the forums I grew up in and it is imprinted into my brain at this point. I must admit the forum offers a welcome lacuna of stability in an online world that’s rapidly redesigning everything to be oversized, harder to browse and with important content hidden… but at the same time I understand that the world can’t stop turning just because I’m a grognard.