• Phil Turmel posted an update in the group Group logo of Wish ListWish List 1 year, 8 months ago

    So, I’ve been contemplating the disconnect between what WordPress and BuddyPress make possible, and what I consider to be state-of-the-art in web interaction, inline notification, dynamic content updates without paging or reloading, and fully functioning editors for both posts and comments.
    As we are at 100+ builds on ratburger now, it seems the level of customization required to make a truly friendly website from the above components is prohibitive. And no, I’m not going to help write PHP. What little I’ve had to do for work purposes, and some past experience on personal projects, made it clear to me what I DON’T want to be using for a programming language.

    After scouring my memory and comparing experiences on various sites, I came to the conclusion that one of my vendors was using the best damn forum software in the world, and it comes closest to the ideal in my mind. And, wonder of wonders, it is open source. With a healthy user community and a nice collection of plugins.

    Example here:

    Underlying forum software here:

    And they eat their own dogfood too, using it for their community support forum.

    I’ll be experimenting with this over the next few weeks, probably under the rabbleredux hostname, to evaluate the VPS installation requirements, and perhaps also to evaluate the possibility of a scripted migration from BuddyPress to Discourse. Any and all feedback would be welcome.

    A couple of items I’ve already noted:
    1) It’s built with Ruby on Rails. I haven’t learned ruby yet, but what I’ve seen of it makes me happy.
    2) It already has a configuration option to require member logins, but I don’t know yet how it works with anonymous access to selected content.

    • Among the attractive features of Discourse is its uncanny and wholly intuitive handling of notifications. If a notification would take you to a particular comment, visiting that comment in any open tab will clear that notice without further action. If you have topic open at the last comment and a new one is posted, it will dynamically show up, right after the notification shows up. And once you scroll down to read it (or it is small enough to already be fully visible), the notice will self-destroy.
      It also remembers your place in any topic you visit, taking you back to the right spot if you click through from the topic list.

    • I’ve looked at the demos, and at least with the themes they use, the appearance to the user is much more like a traditional discussion forum than the blog with comments presentation used by most WordPress-based sites. I don’t know if it’s possible to adapt Discourse to that model, but I think it would be necessary if new users weren’t to find what they saw too different from their experience on other sites (many of which are WordPress-based).

      I’m somewhat concerned with their use of Docker for deployment. I have nothing against the container architecture, but the whole thing seems a bit black box (“no user-serviceable parts inside”), and I’ve found that a bad idea. Sure, the source code is available, but would I want to rebuild their tweaked container environment from scratch because I needed to change something, as opposed to installing a factory-stock LAMP environment and WordPress environment, then layering local changes on top of it?

      While I admire insurgent and innovative software, especially that which is more elegant and efficient than legacy packages, I also recognise that they rarely prevail. WordPress runs around 30% of the sites on the Web. Buying into a platform with a much smaller user base, however excellent, runs the risk of being orphaned if it turns into abandonware. Yes, since it’s open source, you can maintain it yourself, but can you afford to?

      Finally, after spending five months building this site on top of WordPress and BuddyPress, there is no way I’m going to rip it all up and start over from scratch (plus develop migration tools to bring over all the content). If this is going to happen, you’re going to need a new Timmy.

      My goal for this site has always been “sufficient for the requirements”, not “insanely great”. Our price point is zero, but I hope people come here not because it’s cheap but because the user base and the conversation they find here is something exceptional. If a feature genuinely facilitates the conversation (as I consider recent work on notifications, editing of posts and comments, and the ability to view users’ post and comment histories), then I’m all for implementing it. But features with a marginal gain in user experience which require a major development effort and, more importantly, a maintenance tail until the end of time are not things I believe we should undertake.

    • Yes, out of the box it doesn’t look like a blog. But there’s a plugin for that:
      As for the docker deployment setup — meh. I intended to work out the bare deployment requirements for a generic virtual private server. The docker imager approach appears to be their preference in order to make the app easier to scale to large installs. Not necessarily a bad thing.

      I recognize the pain of putting many months of effort into a project, but it seems to me to be a no-win situation:
      1) devote a huge additional effort to clean up the user experience on the current PHP/Wordpress/Buddypress stack, or
      2) abandon the stack for a platform with the desired modern functionality, and devote different effort to fill its gaps, or
      3) accept that some newcomers will be discouraged by the not-“sufficient”-for-them behavior of the site and not become active?

      While Discourse is open-source, and I intend to play with the self-hosted material, it is led by a for-profit corporation that has an impressive customer list, using their hosting of the application. Very much the way wordpress has hosting as a sponsor. Considering the fury wordpress inspires in those who have to work under the hood, I think the balance between the two is a wash.

      I’m well aware that the price point at ratburger is zero, and I’m not asking you to scrap your baby or put effort into Discourse. Well, not yet. Certainly not before I’ve evaluated the true scale of the request to scrap your baby. So to speak. (-:

      { You wouldn’t by any chance have grown to *like* wordpress and PHP, have you? }