Any big boards here switching to Discourse?

007

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I run a big board (1.3M posts) that has slowed down a lot over the years. I've blamed everything from Facebook groups to my own lack of time to run the site (I know the latter is more likely, haha). Anyway, we are on XenForo 2.1, which I love and see used by many big boards. However, I managed to set up a development site for Discourse recently to test it out and so far in this non-production environment, it seems like a dream come true.

Now, a little about my background. I was with vBulletin from 2001 through 2015. I'm pretty sure I was on vB 2.x all the way to 4.x, but I don't remember for sure where they were in 2001. In 2015, like many vBulletin users not happy with the direction of the company, I switched to XenForo and have been with them for the last 5 years.

Now, don't get me wrong. I think XenForo is excellent software. It captures the experience of vBulletin's better days and expands upon it. The Admin Zone itself uses it, so I'm sure many here feel this way as well. What I don't like about XenForo is the lack of a development community. For business and tech boards, XenForo makes a ton of sense, but I won't lie, I've looked the other way a few times since looking more into Discourse.

I used to program my own plugins for vBulletin and had built up quite the roster of gamification plugins to spur engagement in my communities. XenForo was so different when it came to coding that I never really rebuilt any of my custom plugins after making the switch. I became much more of a marketer than a developer during the past 10 years and don't really see myself going back to the level of development I was doing back then.

So I'm looking at Discourse for a few reasons.

A) Some of the biggest gaming company boards use it and from browsing those sites, it seems to work very well for their purposes. Granted, one of the biggest gaming sites in the world uses XenForo (Not sure if I can post links here, so I won't).

B) The mobile version of Discourse is second to none and the app is a huge benefit for those wanting to avoid Tapatalk.

C) The gamification features built into Discourse are very much on par with stuff my members loved in the past. Trophies in XenForo are very basic and don't get the job done IMHO.

D) There is a strong developer community and it's all easy to work with through GitHub.

E) They have native integration with Zapier (albeit limited Zaps at this point) and Wordpress, two things I feel many other forum platforms are way behind on.

And yes, there are downsides. As a traditional forum user, I don't love the default styles, but with a little tweaking, I'm not going to let that be the biggest of my concerns. I also think Discourse brings some unique features to the table that aren't yet being utilized by other boards. It's easily the most user friendly to the social media generation that doesn't know what to do with classic forum tables. As for being written in Ruby on Rails vs PHP? I can live with that. I do love PHP/MySQL though.

So, all that said, I'm genuinely curious, has anyone here switched to Discourse? If so, did your users like the move or did you get pushback?

And most importantly, did YOU as an admin end up liking the move or do you regret it?

The grass is always greener, right?
 

Abizaga

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I don't see why anyone would never wanna go from good software like xenforo to a hard to navigate mess (imo) like discourse...
 
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007

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I don't see why anyone would never wanna go from good software like xenforo to a hard to navigate mess (imo) like discourse...
I'd have said the same thing a week ago, but after using it a bit, I've found there's a lot you can do to make the navigation experience very similar. I've had many people who have never used forums but use a lot of modern social media tell me that XenForo and traditional forums are hard to use too. So in that regard, maybe it's a question of target audience. Personally, I like the traditional feel, but I'll be the first to admit forums have not done a great job of keeping up to speed with what social media sites are doing.
 

TLChris

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I think the target audience is a big driver for the forum software.
When I was in charge of migrating https://www.homesteadingtoday.com/ - the users are sensitive to changes as they were a mature audience and enjoyed the vB3 interface. So took a lot of care with Russ to make that look just right.

That said I think https://www.thcfarmer.com/forums/ has done a great job and has more of a Discourse feel to it.
 

007

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TLChris, those are both excellent examples of forums that are designed to reach their target audiences. I agree the THC Farmer one has a Discourse feel, while also maintaining the good parts of XF. Homesteading Today is an outright masterpiece considering the fact that you basically cloned a classic vB look. I bet the users were very pleased with the familiarity of the old while moving to the speed and added functionality of XF.
 

Abizaga

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I'd have said the same thing a week ago, but after using it a bit, I've found there's a lot you can do to make the navigation experience very similar. I've had many people who have never used forums but use a lot of modern social media tell me that XenForo and traditional forums are hard to use too. So in that regard, maybe it's a question of target audience. Personally, I like the traditional feel, but I'll be the first to admit forums have not done a great job of keeping up to speed with what social media sites are doing.
I suppose it's ultimately up to taste. As long as it could be made to look like an actual forum and not just a jumble of threads...
 

eva2000

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So, all that said, I'm genuinely curious, has anyone here switched to Discourse? If so, did your users like the move or did you get pushback?
Depends on your target audience/topic and it really isn't about what you use (software wise), but how you use it that matters. I've a few heavy customised Xenforo forums do well some of my clients have a full time team web developers just dedicated to coding addons and features for Xenforo and Wordpress.

Personally, I am too old school and can never really get into using Discourse despite some forums I frequent using it i.e. Cloudflare community forums https://community.cloudflare.com/
 

l3ta

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@00 you made a compelling case for switching to discourse, and in a very persuasive way. Heck, I will also look into it :D
 

007

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@00 you made a compelling case for switching to discourse, and in a very persuasive way. Heck, I will also look into it :D
Brace yourself. I’ve set up a demo site to test it out and it requires Linux sever admin skills from command line. Much more advanced to get up and running than a php/MySQL platform.


Personally, I am too old school and can never really get into using Discourse despite some forums I frequent using it i.e. Cloudflare community forums https://community.cloudflare.com/
I am too in a sense. I run an entertainment forum though and I’m wondering if Discourse is going to appeal more to the social media generation.

I also saw that CloudFlare uses it but I don’t love their implementation. I think the video game development company Blizzard knocked it out of the park though.https://us.forums.blizzard.com/en/wow/
 

Ingenious

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I like Discourse but this is based on their own support forum which I like for its minimalism and focus on content. Once you get into highly graphical and customised gaming forums I really can't see a lot of difference between it and classic forum platforms though. There are some features I don't like, such as the infinity scrolling of content rather than pages, though having never installed it I wouldn't know what can be customised. Discourse would certainly be on my radar if I was starting a forum from scratch but I don't think it would be a good fit for my existing community, most of my members might struggle to "get their heads around" such a large change ;)
 

Alfa1

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E) They have native integration with Zapier (albeit limited Zaps at this point) and Wordpress, two things I feel many other forum platforms are way behind on.
Could you explain what Workflows you would like to have with Zapier? Discourse has only 1 simple trigger and 1 simple action: new post.
With the 3000 apps that Zapier supports, this trigger & action seems disappointing to me. It seems more a proof of concept for others to expand upon than a really useful implementation. What do you think?
 

Dragonchilde

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We made the switch back in August. WE're VERY big (one of Discourse's biggest clients now, at this point.) There was definitely some pushback from our users. Some justified, some not, some of that was related to other issues with our main site's development, some the nature of a community that's been established for two decades and does NOT like change. From an administrative perspective it is a DREAM. Moving things takes seconds, the review process is amazing, and we can do more with fewer people. I went from a team of 40 volunteers to half a dozen with more power. The software is very customizable. The styles are no big deal; they have a ton of themes available (I've got like 10 installed for them to use?)

The plugins available are great. Sometimes the Discourse team can be acidic around certain discussions (just... don't ask about threading) but I've had great support from them as a hosted customer.

It hasn't been a bump-free transition, but now, several months after installation, the vast majority of users have adapted and our site is busier year-round than we ever have been thanks to a very robust and customizable notification system.
 

R0binHood

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Could you explain what Workflows you would like to have with Zapier? Discourse has only 1 simple trigger and 1 simple action: new post.
With the 3000 apps that Zapier supports, this trigger & action seems disappointing to me. It seems more a proof of concept for others to expand upon than a really useful implementation. What do you think?
I agree, the zapier implementation is only as good as the triggers and actions that it can link into. I've used zapier a fair bit with google sheets, survey monkey and woocommerce and they all have a good selection of actions and triggers. I looked into the Discourse ones once and was surprised to see how limiting it was. A good comprehensive forum implementation ideally needs a ton more options than what Discourse offers.
 

Alfa1

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What I am interested about is which triggers, actions would you want to see for which workflows in Zapier? What would make such integration useful for you?
 

007

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Could you explain what Workflows you would like to have with Zapier? Discourse has only 1 simple trigger and 1 simple action: new post.
With the 3000 apps that Zapier supports, this trigger & action seems disappointing to me. It seems more a proof of concept for others to expand upon than a really useful implementation. What do you think?
Yeah, it's more of a proof of concept right now for sure. What I'd like to see eventually would be implementation into major email marketing tools such as Active Campaign, MailChimp, etc. That seems like a no-brainer.

Connecting to CRM's such as HubSpot would be helpful too.

I could even see implementation with Google Sheets being a big win. Not sure of exact use cases yet, but that always seems to come in handy with other tools.

Dragonchilde, what software did you migrate from if you don't mind me asking and what was your daily activity before the switch? What about the notification system on Discourse do you find the most helpful? The reason I ask is I'm on XenForo now and their notification system is pretty decent. What I've heard is that Discourse has built in emails that show users popular threads and other things like that. That's intriguing to me, despite there being third party support for that in most forums now. Something about having it native just adds that extra flexibility sometimes.
 

Dragonchilde

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We had a custom forum developed from scratch that was... pretty terrible. (Seriously, reinventing the wheel in so many places.) I can't say daily traffic; we didn't track that granularly. We did average around 200k daily users in our peak months. Notifications are great because users can choose how and what they're notified about. Want every single post in a forum? Got. Email? Desktop notifications? Replies? @mentions? You choose what you want to be notified when.

It's good at improving discoverability. There are several views, one that mimics traditional forum structure, another that is a list of the latest posts. You can also choose which forums to exclude from that. We have a newbies forum, for example. Now, it's rare for a new member to go ungreeted more than an hour! USed to be you had to specifically go to that forum. And we have a games forum that is excluded from badges and featured topics so that good content isn't crowded out by the nonsense posts. Here's our consolidated page views (we run an event in November, so our numbers tend to be very cyclical.)

Discourse provides SO much data for you. That has been nice.
 

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Alfa1

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This seems a nice implementation of Zapier integration:
It's initially only available for IPS cloud though.
 

Greg

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I've been mulling what to do with an old, large IPB 3.x forum for a few years now (I don't have a ton of time for it these days). I like the guts of Discourse, but it definitely feels like it's philosophically opposed to things that make it feel like an old school BB (nested categories, post count on the side, signatures, etc.)

I'm starting to play around with the idea of a migration again, but still looks like I'm going to have an easier time making NodeBB be what I want it to be than Discourse.
 

007

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It's initially only available for IPS cloud though.
Exactly. I prefer to host and have full control of my forums. I saw that the other day though and it definitely is a step in the right direction for forums as a whole. There's so little competition in the Forum/Zapier integration space. I hope Invision's offering spurs a catch-up for the entire industry.
 

haqzore

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Exactly. I prefer to host and have full control of my forums. I saw that the other day though and it definitely is a step in the right direction for forums as a whole. There's so little competition in the Forum/Zapier integration space. I hope Invision's offering spurs a catch-up for the entire industry.
*Initially*

IPS has already confirmed it is coming to self-hosted installations.
 
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