Merging two active forums

Karll

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The goddess of fortune is smiling at me - I'm taking over the ownership of another forum in my niche!

The new forum is smaller in terms of posts, but has a better domain name. (More on-topic, better from a SEO perspective, I guess.) Both forums are on XF2.1.

At some point, I would like to merge the two forums.

I'm a relatively technically abled person, but I've never done this sort of thing before.

There is also the human factor to consider. I don't want to upset the members too much, but obviously there will be some changes going forward!

Does anyone have experience in this area or tips for success that they'd like to share?
 

zappaDPJ

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I've done a couple of test 2.0 to 2.0 imports using the Xenforo 2 importer. I'd check first but I don't see any reason why this won't work for 2.1. There are a few steps to consider most of which can be found here: https://xenforo.com/xf2-docs/manual/importing/

Member issues are likely to give you much more of a headache. Obviously you'll need to keep the two groups informed but the biggest issue in my experience is one group is going to suffer a loss of identity while the other has to endure an invasion of new members. All I can advise is to keep up a dialogue with both groups, especially the staff on both forums and don't waste time on minor issues.
 

Kevin

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Does anyone have experience in this area or tips for success that they'd like to share?
Make sure you give careful thought about if you'll be merging Site A into Site B or if you'll be merging Site B into Site A since those imported threads/posts and member profile IDs will be changed and you'll have to use some redirects on them. You'll also face a few bumps like embedded attachments in posts.
 

mysiteguy

Migration Expert
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Feb 20, 2007
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You can merge them with XF 2.x and if your current forum used to be something other than XF, you can still have URL redirection work for both forums. :)

The newly merged forum will not keep the same thread/forum ids, since they will conflict with the current content, but the redirector can handle that easily.

Here's what I generally do when merging (if it's not a huge import, if that's the case then I use some of the custom import tools I have to speed things up, but the process is similar):

Backup first. :)
Import the new forum using the regular Xenforo importer.
Do not retain content IDs, it should have this option greyed out since you already have an active forum, but if it doesn't don't be tempted to select it.
If your current forum was previously another software package and you're using URL redirects, give the import log a different table name than the current import log table name. For example: new_import_log is the new table and xfvbulletin_1 is the existing table.

After the import, in myphpadmin, run this query:

INSERT IGNORE xfvbulletin_1 SELECT * FROM new_import_log;

This will merge the two import logs, and on the off / slim chance there are any URL redirection conflicts, your current forum's URL's take priority. If you want the NEW forum's URL redirections to take priority if there's a conflict, use this query instead:

REPLACE INTO xfvbulletin_1 SELECT * FROM new_import_log;

Then in the root HTML directory of the other site in .htaccess, this should be the first rule:

Code:
RewriteRule ^(.*)  https://www.yourforumurl.com/$1 [R=301,L,QSA]
If it gives you a server error, use this rule instead:
Code:
RewriteRule ^(.*)  https://www.yourforumurl.com/$1 [R=301,L]
I've been through this process before, as recently as this week. I merged an existing VBulletin into an existing XF forum, and had URL redirection work for both, both forums based in India on the same site (long story as to why they did that!).
 

mysiteguy

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Also, don't forget to import smilies from the generated XML file it makes. It will prompt for which smilie graphic to use if there are any conflicts.
 

mysiteguy

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Actually, don't use those .htaccess rules, I pasted in the wrong rules. I'll go grab the correct one's and will paste that in next - but I need to know this:

1. Was your current forum ever on VBulletin or anything else other than Xenforo?
2. Do you know if the new forum you want to merge in was ever on VBulletin or anything else other than Xenforo?
 

Karll

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1. Was your current forum ever on VBulletin or anything else other than Xenforo?
2. Do you know if the new forum you want to merge in was ever on VBulletin or anything else other than Xenforo?
No, both forums have only ever been on Xenforo.
 

Karll

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I wonder how the importer will handle username conflicts? I think I'd prefer to let the oldest account keep the username, if it's still an active user. Is that possible?

And what if two accounts have the same email address - will they be merged? What if two accounts have the same email address, but different usernames - which username will be kept?

I suppose I really ought to be asking this over on XF.com ...
 

zappaDPJ

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I wonder how the importer will handle username conflicts? I think I'd prefer to let the oldest account keep the username, if it's still an active user. Is that possible?

And what if two accounts have the same email address - will they be merged? What if two accounts have the same email address, but different usernames - which username will be kept?
Xenforo only allows a single instance of a user name or email address to exist so the merge will flag a conflict allowing you to rename or merge the conflicting data.
 

mysiteguy

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In addition to flagging conflicts, it also has checkboxes to merge based on user name or email address.
 

mysiteguy

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No, both forums have only ever been on Xenforo.
I'll get back to you with some .htaccess rules on Monday, my weekend has been incredibly busy. 11:55 pm and my day is finally done. :(
 

Karll

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I'll get back to you with some .htaccess rules on Monday, my weekend has been incredibly busy. 11:55 pm and my day is finally done. :(
Hmm, to complicate matters, I'm using Nginx, not Apache HTTP, so then I guess I can't use .htaccess files.

But I have at least a month to try and figure it out.
 

darnoldy

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There is also the human factor to consider. I don't want to upset the members too much, but obviously there will be some changes going forward!
Having merged a number of forums, I can tell you this will be a bigger deal!
If both forums are active, why not keep them as separate, sister forums--and use them to cross-promote each other?
  • Even within a niche, there should be room to differentiate the two forums--work with your combined staff to look for ways the forums complement, rather than compete.
  • Get the two staffs (staves?) used to interacting.
  • Start using a tag line like " The ___________ Forum Network"
  • Start changing each toward a common theme & common plugins. Slowly--sudden, massive UI changes drive users away.
--don
 

Joeychgo

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Having merged a number of forums, I can tell you this will be a bigger deal!
If both forums are active, why not keep them as separate, sister forums--and use them to cross-promote each other?
This would me my first suggestion, unless they are redundant...

The other question, have you mentioned this to your members?
 

mysiteguy

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Hmm, to complicate matters, I'm using Nginx, not Apache HTTP, so then I guess I can't use .htaccess files.

But I have at least a month to try and figure it out.
Yeah, I'd have to write those from the ground up, and time is, unfortunately, something I'm short on. I have a huge set of .htaccess rules I've written in my collection, but my Nginx stuff is more basic since I don't have nearly as many folks I work with using it.
 

Karll

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Having merged a number of forums, I can tell you this will be a bigger deal!
Yes, I'm just coming to that realisation myself!
If both forums are active, why not keep them as separate, sister forums--and use them to cross-promote each other?
The problem is, both forums are small in terms of members. In the longer term, I'm not sure either of them are sustainable. But together I think it could work out well, as the forums have complementary strengths.
The other question, have you mentioned this to your members?
I have - on the new forum the members seemed largely OK with the idea, whereas on my old forum, which probably has a stronger identity, the reception was more mixed.

It's not going to be easy, but I feel like I have to try to do this.
 

Joeychgo

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It's not going to be easy, but I feel like I have to try to do this
It usually isn't easy dealing with members on this. Many are just afraid of change. Afraid of tossing in a bunch of members that are a new dynamic. That said, if you think its the right thing to do for both communities to grow, then you should do it.

I often find that if you identify a handful of influential members, and speak to them privately one on one, and sell them on your idea and the reasons, that things can go a lot smoother. By doing so you remove some of the anti commentary and maybe gain some of those as support. Focus on the benefits to the community, focus on growing and expanding the knowledge base.
 

Karll

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I've gone ahead with the merge! I think because I took so long before I actually did it, and because I spent much time preparing the members, and encouraged them to try out the 'destination forum' before the actual merge, that most of the members are OK with the whole thing.

Technically, things seems to have gone relatively well, too. One of the more challenging tasks was migrating our old-school smilies. I managed to do that with some search-and-replace of the exported XML + also turning the XML into a bash script full of 'cp' commands. Yep, good times ...
# php cmd.php xf:import
Starting import from XenForo 2.1...
- Step 1 of 23: User groups 00:00:00 [13]
- Step 2 of 23: Custom user fields 00:00:01 [13]
- Step 3 of 23: Users 00:00:18 [2,846]
- Step 4 of 23: Avatars 00:00:03 [533]
- Step 5 of 23: Following and ignored users 00:00:00 [87]
- Step 6 of 23: Conversations 00:00:29 [3,328]
- Step 7 of 23: Profile posts 00:00:02 [822]
- Step 8 of 23: Nodes 00:00:00 [62]
- Step 9 of 23: Node permissions 00:00:00 [73]
- Step 10 of 23: Moderators 00:00:00 [3]
- Step 11 of 23: Watched forums 00:00:00 [18]
- Step 12 of 23: Thread prefixes 00:00:01 [65]
- Step 13 of 23: Custom thread fields 00:00:00 [0]
- Step 14 of 23: Threads 00:00:29 [9,490]
- Step 15 of 23: Posts 00:17:45 [368,447]
- Step 16 of 23: Post edit history 00:00:01 [430]
- Step 17 of 23: Thread polls 00:00:01 [146]
- Step 18 of 23: Attachments 00:00:32 [1,870] 11.19%libpng warning: Duplicate iCCP chunk
libpng warning: Duplicate iCCP chunk
libpng warning: Duplicate iCCP chunk
libpng warning: Interlace handling should be turned on when using png_read_image
- Step 18 of 23: Attachments 00:01:29 [4,599] 26.73%libpng warning: Interlace handling should be turned on when using png_read_image
- Step 18 of 23: Attachments 00:01:37 [4,856] 28.07%libpng warning: Interlace handling should be turned on when using png_read_image
- Step 18 of 23: Attachments 00:04:13 [9,727] 54.91%libpng warning: Ignoring incorrect cHRM white(.34575,.35855) r(.6485,.33088)g(.32121,.59787)b(.15589,.06604) when sRGB is also present
- Step 18 of 23: Attachments 00:06:23 [13,572] 75.59%libpng warning: Interlace handling should be turned on when using png_read_image
- Step 18 of 23: Attachments 00:09:55 [18,186]
- Step 19 of 23: Reaction definitions 00:00:00 [19]
- Step 20 of 23: Reaction content 00:26:03 [318,236]
- Step 21 of 23: Tags 00:00:12 [1,737]
- Step 22 of 23: Warnings 00:00:00 [3]
- Step 23 of 23: Bookmarks 00:00:00 [14]
The data has been imported successfully.
 

Karll

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Yeah, I'd have to write those from the ground up, and time is, unfortunately, something I'm short on. I have a huge set of .htaccess rules I've written in my collection, but my Nginx stuff is more basic since I don't have nearly as many folks I work with using it.
I've come to realise that redirection rules alone aren't going to work. I need an actual PHP script that will query the mapping table created by the importer. While some scripts exist in the XF RM for non-XF -> XF migrations, there are none for XF -> XF yet. As I'm on a shoestring budget, I'll have to try and craft this myself. Should be lots of fun ... o_O
 
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