Straight Dope Message Board moving from vBulletin 3.8.7 to ... Discourse?

Cyburbia

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Jan 14, 2004
Messages
742
The Straight Dope Message Board is a "legacy forum" -- online for over 20 years, and one of the longest-established big boards. After starting off with UBB, the site switched to vBulletin a few years later. It's been running nearly stock vB 3.8.7 for close to a decade. Over the past two decades, the SDMB earned a reputation among its loyal member base for constant technical problems. In recent months, a typical visit to the SDMB will involve long page loading times, timeouts, crashes, and the like. 22,000,000 posts and shared Web hosting through Google is now pushing vB3 past its breaking point.

The SDMB has an self-described "intellectual" culture, one that is collectively very, very resistant to "bells and whistles" and change. Its member base is dominated by older "bookish" Boomers and Xers. The SDMB just implemented avatars a few years ago -- small 50 x 50 icons -- over the objections of many long time users. There's no inline images or videos. The post editing window is five minutes. There's only a small set of old smileys. Users frown on posting using Unicode-based emojis. Management takes pride in being "late adopters". The SDMB looks and feels like something straight out of the pre-Web 2.0 era, and many want to keep it that way.

Yesterday, the board administrator announced that the SDMB would finally be ditching vBulletin 3, and moving to Discourse. Not an easy move to XenForo or IP.Boards, not an upgrade to vBulletin 5 that one would expect on a site where change is feared. Discourse.

Your thoughts? Do you know of any other big boards that moved to Discourse? Is the SDMB making the right decision?
 
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Nabix

127.0.0.1
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May 20, 2010
Messages
463
I think its great to see forums still running like the ol' days. vB3 was amazing software which I loved dearly.

If it was my board. I would simply upgrade to vB5 and call it a day. The members of that site seem extremely attached to way it currently is, minus those pesky 504 errors lol

Quality content over a flashy dog-and-pony show website make a huge difference and this site is a shining example of that.
 

FriendlyPerson

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Jun 9, 2020
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I think its great to see forums still running like the ol' days. vB3 was amazing software which I loved dearly.

If it was my board. I would simply upgrade to vB5 and call it a day. The members of that site seem extremely attached to way it currently is
Exactly where most integrations and migrations quickly hit the fans failing to understand that simple logic. I think it's because it's "over their heads" of everything else. Like making sure there are add ons, styles and so on at their disposal. Therefore "forgetting" or otherwise "de-prioritizing" members' experiences.

It would be like moving a AU citizen to the US without care, compassion and instructions. Make NO sense what so ever...
Quality content over a flashy dog-and-pony show website make a huge difference and this site is a shining example of that.
Exactly I think the owner(s) are really shooting Themselves in the foot putting their members' and content as a 3rd class citizen.
 

Taylor J

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Mar 13, 2010
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To be honest I'm suprised they didn't heavily modify their install with custom code. To this day I love how the somethingawful forums run. Legacy vBulletin all with custom code added on top.
 

overcast

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Mar 17, 2019
Messages
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I wonde if people want to discuss topics on discourse type forums especially forums which has long term context based posts.
 

TLChris

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Jan 2, 2020
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If it was my board. I would simply upgrade to vB5 and call it a day. The members of that site seem extremely attached to way it currently is, minus those pesky 504 errors lol
No user wants changes, but they do want reliability. vB5 from my experience hasn't been the best for large forums, and I've yet to see a large forum run on that platform yet.
 

FriendlyPerson

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Jun 9, 2020
Messages
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I wonde if people want to discuss topics on discourse type forums especially forums which has long term context based posts.
Exactly I really dislike Discourse. Doesn't feels "natural" to me.
No user wants changes, but they do want reliability. vB5 from my experience hasn't been the best for large forums, and I've yet to see a large forum run on that platform yet.
Uh I am pretty sure it's but at what expense is the main question here. Unless they apply so many limitations and so on to the software stack itself.

Software is normally just a tool, it's how it used that count.
 

Karll

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Dec 9, 2011
Messages
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I've recently gotten involved with a community of users who seem to prefer mailing lists and, possibly, IRC. These are older, but highly technical people. I've not dared suggest a message board yet!

I guess if I did set up a message board for them, I would have to remove smilies, most post reactions, bells, whistles, ponies ...
 

cheat_master30

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Jan 16, 2010
Messages
3,869
Well, I'm surprised by the choice of software to say the least. I mean, Discourse? For a site where the members like traditional, old school forum software? Seems like a recipe for disaster if you ask me.

I'm also curious how Discourse seems to be doing so well from a marketing perspective too. Is Jeff Atwood really convincing to people running large forums? Is the company's sales team targeting larger sites? Is there some internal development decision that really hates PHP and wants to avoid traditional forum scripts? Kinda confusing if you ask me...
 

Nabix

127.0.0.1
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No user wants changes, but they do want reliability. vB5 from my experience hasn't been the best for large forums, and I've yet to see a large forum run on that platform yet.
Oh true. I'm not at all a fan of vBulletin (anymore). But, If i was running a site with the same situation as them, I feel vB5 would be the best bet as the interface would be very similar to what they are currently using.
 

arn

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Oct 1, 2012
Messages
18
here's the announcement link: https://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/announcement.php?f=17

Ditto on the above sentiment. Going from vb 3.x to Discourse seems one of the most disruptive ways to go. I expect long standing vB users will hate it. Having gone through the vB 3.x migration myself... Xenforo was the most natural option, in terms of retaining some degree of familiarity.

(I'm not sure why they have so many technical problems. Feel like there have been plenty of big boards running on vB 3.x that seem larger.)
 

haqzore

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Dec 6, 2012
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I've no familiarity with the site, but from what's been stated, seems like literally any platform with "standard" layouts would be safer.

But who says they don't know/realize that? They've kept their community going for 20 years so they can't be assumed incompetent.

Perhaps it's a case of ripping the proverbial band-aid off? Just go all-out and do it all at once? Rather than putting a new coat of paint on what's mostly the same functionality & layout?
 

Drastic

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Apr 19, 2014
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I wish XF had a Discourse style or would just finally get rid of the terrible "forum index" that is sooooo dated.
 

Drastic

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I wonde if people want to discuss topics on discourse type forums especially forums which has long term context based posts.
I love that script. I just don't know how to install or do anything else with it on my own.

But the way they present content is similar to every big social network, it's like a threaded comment section and everyone who loves commenting is familiar with it.

XF and other scripts need to catch up in terms of that, or at least make that style of homepage an option.
 

Karll

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Perhaps it's a case of ripping the proverbial band-aid off? Just go all-out and do it all at once? Rather than putting a new coat of paint on what's mostly the same functionality & layout?
Yes. Also, a site that never renews itself might produce a very loyal member base, but member churn must be compensated for with new members. Aging aesthetics and failure to implement new features will not help attract these new members.
 
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Drastic

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Yes. Also, a site that never renews itself might produce a very loyal member base, but member churn must be compensated for with new members,. Aging aesthetics and failure to implement new features will not help attract these new members.

I've had terrible results trying to get facebook/twitter members signed up.

Even with the social logins enabled, so it's super simple, they still don't care - and the content is exactly on topic too.

One problem is the forum index - the younger generation are used to viewing a screen with content in the middle - and we send them to a page with nothing in the middle. The younger crowd often doesn't understand how forums work, so there needs to be a way to put the content directly in front of them.

damn smart phones and apps.....lol
 

arn

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Oct 1, 2012
Messages
18
Nothing wrong with the forum index. It serves it's pupose of keeping things orgainised and easy to find.
It's dated.

It's not a page you feel compelled to come back to. It'd be like if Reddit's front page was a list of Subreddits, and no links or stories. Or Facebook was a list of your friends. Or twitter a list of twitter accounts you follow.
 

l3ta

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Feb 14, 2020
Messages
90
I'm following this migration closely. It is going to be interesting to watch how the members react to their new home. Discourse does have a modern feel to it. You are presented with fresh content once you land and there is also the choice to view the categories in the traditional way. I think it was the right choice for them.
 

OUTL4W

<style>OUTL4W GFX</style> :p
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Jul 22, 2012
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Or if they don’t like change...you could always upgrade to latest xF and skin it just like vB3. There a a few designers here from the vB3 days that’s could easily create a custom theme for you...
Similar to this old vb4 skin made for xf1.x
 
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