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Which Forum Platform?

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I'd appreciate anything which makes it easy to "blend" in entries form other blogs. Worldwide. The other point is that I'm fed up with vading though reading how excellent I am and so one just to sell me another insurance. And yes it should not ask too many private details. I have a special disklike for everything named "social networking", but I guess that's a problem of mine.

And what I also would like to have. Is an excellent search facility for

1) posts from oneself (I do hate if someone does not come back to an argument because it may be a litle dated)

2) notification on changes in the threads one hasa participated in

I can't tell of any of the forums where this things are fullfilled. But maybe someone here knows.

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AJ replied on Wed, Jan 18 2012 2:27 AM

Tree-threading is more helpful the more propensity threads have to get derailed or to split into many sub-discussions, both of which are common daily occurences on these forums. My guess as to why linear forums are so common is a kind of "seen and unseen" problem: people don't notice that the linear format hinders discussion because the tangential discussions are too unwieldy to continue simultaneously in the same thread, so most of them never come into existence in the first place. One way to mitigate this problem without tree-threading is to start a new thread whenever a tangential discussion starts, but that can be awkward and make the discussion feel less casual, almost like you're calling the other person out.

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AJ:
Here's what an Austrians vs. Communists debate looks like on reddit: http://www.reddit.com/r/austrian_economics/comments/ok77i/hello_austrian_economists_we_are_communists_i/ (The ability to activate links on mobile [and do paragraphs!] would be another great addition.)

I hope by "do paragraphs" you mean actually space between lines, because I don't care to expend the focal energy it would take to wade through all that text...especially when quotes get involved.  It's almost as bad as some of the spam posts in the deleted area.

 

And it's possible to visually offset the comments better to make it easier to read, as Less Wrong does to a degree (I prefer nice thick text boxes like this forum has).

You keep mentioning "Less Wrong".  Do you have a link you could share that illustrates why it's so great, like you did with the reddit above?

 

AJ:
Tree-threading is more helpful the more propensity threads have to get derailed or to split into many sub-discussions, both of which are common daily occurences on these forums.  My guess as to why linear forums are so common is a kind of "seen and unseen" problem: people don't notice that the linear format hinders discussion because the tangential discussions are too unwieldy to continue simultaneously in the same thread, so most of them never come into existence in the first place.

These two sentences do not seem to agree with each other.

 

One way to mitigate this problem without tree-threading is to start a new thread whenever a tangential discussion starts, but that can be awkward and make the discussion feel less casual, almost like you're calling the other person out.

That happens in forums all over the www all the time (I would say most of the time through moderator force) and it doesn't seem to make people less likely to continue the discussion.

 

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Conza88 replied on Wed, Jan 18 2012 3:14 AM

No to rededit.
Yes to a minimialist, classical, resembling these forums as much as possible look.
Quote function.

Bonus: ability to favourite posts.

 

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What could be a useful function is to be able create groups for the purpose of discussing with particular members however instead of syphoning this entirely off, like on here,  you could have an option when posting a thread to make a it global or for a particular group. This way it's accessed via the main thread page but on select members can see it. With this kind of labelling it would also be possible to show only threads for a given group.

A similarly an ignore button could be handy.

I'm for the like post buttons also.

A (weekly -optional length) email detailing posts made on your thread or post so that if the discussion is taking place over a long time you are always notified without scrawingly though evey tiem to see if they have actually responded.

 

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My vote goes for MYBB. It is free and easy to set up and you could probably import all the posts from this forum in to it, if desired. It also has good spam defenses and loads of addons and other features if required.

http://www.mybb.com/

if you don't mind paying then the choice would be vbulletin

 

I like this forum as it is. But features that i do use on other forums, checking a list of my own posts. Quote button and easier video embed.

Also one thing with this forum is that there is no spell check unless i go to source and sometimes it can lose my cursor and i have to click and when i do ctrl+left or right it does not move and it can get frustating, especially on the popup reply box. Although that box is kind of nice, I don't use it for long replies because of the risk of losing my reply and no spell check.

But by modifying the CSS of these prebuilt forums you could make it look like this forum fairly easily. Ie you could make it not look like the standard forum layout.

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Go over to the end of the third grouping of buttons on that top row where the source button is.  Report back what you see.

 

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I never saw that spell check and it works quite well. I have enabled it. thanks. I had mentioned spell check before but no one mentioned that button. Hidden in plain site.

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What exactly are the objections against using the most popular forum platforms out there?

http://www.big-boards.com/statistics/

From the above stats, the top three forum platforms are:

vBulletin      1428
Invision  290
phpBB  253

Is there an aversion against the popular platforms?  Why?

 

Edit:

What's wrong with this type of forum?

http://www.austrianforum.com/

 

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AJ:
Tree-threading is more helpful the more propensity threads have to get derailed or to split into many sub-discussions, both of which are common daily occurences on these forums. My guess as to why linear forums are so common is a kind of "seen and unseen" problem: people don't notice that the linear format hinders discussion because the tangential discussions are too unwieldy to continue simultaneously in the same thread, so most of them never come into existence in the first place. One way to mitigate this problem without tree-threading is to start a new thread whenever a tangential discussion starts, but that can be awkward and make the discussion feel less casual, almost like you're calling the other person out.

Here is an interesting discussion about this topic from the phpBB board:

http://www.phpbb.com/community/viewtopic.php?f=64&t=211809

 

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AJ replied on Wed, Jan 18 2012 8:32 AM

John James:
AJ:
Here's what an Austrians vs. Communists debate looks like on reddit: http://www.reddit.com/r/austrian_economics/comments/ok77i/hello_austrian_economists_we_are_communists_i/ (The ability to activate links on mobile [and do paragraphs!] would be another great addition.)

I hope by "do paragraphs" you mean actually space between lines, because I don't care to expend the focal energy it would take to wade through all that text...especially when quotes get involved.  It's almost as bad as some of the spam posts in the deleted area.

I meant these forums don't work on mobile. I'm at a computer now, but I posted the above on mobile. I can't figure out how to do paragraphs, quote, or activate links on my phone (Samsung GSII).

John James:
You keep mentioning "Less Wrong".  Do you have a link you could share that illustrates why it's so great, like you did with the reddit above?

lesswrong.com

That with thicker borders and bolder colors to better offset individual posts, the ability to embed media, and clear boxing around quotes would be my ideal forum design, along with a few other aesthetic touches.

John James:
AJ:
Tree-threading is more helpful the more propensity threads have to get derailed or to split into many sub-discussions, both of which are common daily occurences on these forums.  My guess as to why linear forums are so common is a kind of "seen and unseen" problem: people don't notice that the linear format hinders discussion because the tangential discussions are too unwieldy to continue simultaneously in the same thread, so most of them never come into existence in the first place.

These two sentences do not seem to agree with each other.

Does that bolding help?

I'm saying that, in high-volume threads, a few sub-discussions may start but they often get lost in the cacophony before they can blossom. One discussant goes away for a half a day and returns to find two new pages of unrelated arguments to wade through, with one or two relevant posts buried in there somewhere.

Even if the debaters themselves are determined to sort through the noise, their readership may not be. If there are four separate debates happening and you want to read them all, you have to either skip around visually to read one debate at a time, remembering which posts you skipped over, or you have to read everything in order - a few posts of this debate, a post from that debate, a few posts from another, another post from the original debate, etc. and juggle it all in your memory. 

For more elaboration, I agree with almost everything dandv said in Think Blue's link above, especially this.

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Autolykos replied on Wed, Jan 18 2012 8:43 AM

AJ:
lesswrong.com That with thicker borders and bolder colors to better offset individual posts, and the ability to embed media, would be my ideal forum design, along with some aesthetic touches.

To be honest, and it may be just me, but I don't see much difference between LessWrong's comment format and posts in a similarly-colored phpBB forum.

StackOverflow is one of my favorite forum-like sites in terms of appearance, but I think that has largely to do with how dynamic the web interaction is.

AJ:
I'm saying that sub-discussions may start but they often get lost in the cacophony before they can blossom. One discussant goes away for a half a day and returns to find two new pages of unrelated arguments to wade through, with one or two relevant posts buried in there somewhere.

Even if the debaters themselves are determined to sort through the noise, their readership may not be. If there are four separate debates happening and you want to read them all, you have to either skip around visually to read one debate at a time, remembering which posts you skipped over, or you have to read everything in order - a few posts of this debate, a post from that debate, a few posts from another, another post from the original debate, etc. and juggle it all in your memory.

For more elaboration, I agree with almost everything that dandv guy said in Think Blue's link above.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think one of the problems with "post trees" is that they can become too deeply nested - especially if any response to a post is nested at an inner level. The alternative would be to somehow choose when to branch a sub-discussion off into its own thread, which can already be done with more traditional forum software IIRC.

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AJ replied on Wed, Jan 18 2012 8:54 AM

I guess the best of both worlds would be to have a flat view with a small clickable "map" of the thread structure up in the corner, with little +/- buttons you could click on to collapse any branch of the thread, which would make all those posts disappear from the flat view. If there is a flame war, troll feeding frenzy, or just some tangent you're not interested in, you can just collapse it out of view, even if it is totally mixed in with the rest of the thread.

The link Think Blue posted discusses some ways around the "too deeply nested" issue. I haven't found it to be a problem myself, however it's handled.

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cporter replied on Wed, Jan 18 2012 8:55 AM

That dandv guy makes me laugh:

dandv:
I come to this debate with a user's experience, and no investment in one system or another. Those who've chosen flat threads, however, are deeply invested and will never be convinced that there might be a better alternative, so if anyone wants to tell me to stop debating, I most gladly will.

This is classic. "I am unbiased and only looking out for those poor users, but my opponents are a all techno-religious zealots." He should be a politician.

Anyway, I don't think Reddit is a good forum replacement. That format seems to encourage a different form of communication than you see in forums, as John James mentioned. Plus, you might as well install a low grade WordPress plugin that mods posts/comments to look vaguely forum-ish. I'm also not a fan of tree threads...most of the time. They don't bother me when there's a lot of noise I don't care about - for example, if I came to a site because of a google link for a product review. When I actually have interest in the subject I find them difficult. It's really a personal preference thing. An option for users to select their view would be nice, but the tree view guys tend to get screwed because us flat view folks never reply to the right post because it doesn't matter to us. :)

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Autolykos replied on Wed, Jan 18 2012 8:56 AM

Something else I'd like to add: much of dandv's argument in favor of nested posts (he calls this "threading") rests on posts becoming shorter and shorter. I think that, with a community like this one, many posts can be rather lengthy - especially when they quote other posts. So I don't think that this kind of forum/post organization would be conducive here.

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AJ replied on Wed, Jan 18 2012 8:58 AM

It seems that all the common forum softwares simply do not allow tree-threading, so we may have to do without it in any case - unless the devs can handle working with the reddit code. 

That said, dandv makes a lot of excellent points about forum design. He's clearly done a lot of thinking on this issue.

Finally, this threaded vs. non-threaded issue seems very polarized. Many people vastly prefer one to the other and can't imagine why anyone would like the other. To me, non-threaded forums for large groups are idealized for people uninterested in serious discourse. They make it totally unworkable for most people to follow multiple debates that may start to naturally unfold of a single topic, and they let people get away with the oh-so-familiar practices of cherry picking, preponderance-of-garbage tactics, and other ways to distract people for long enough that their argumentative failings and dodges slip down into the memory hole. Even if the more careful discussants can keep track, the gallery often doesn't. 

ETA: I'd think a familiar experience to any veteran of this forum is that threads tend to devolve into a cacophony after 2-3 pages. In contrast, note how this 300+ comment LessWrong post keeps everything very easily visually organized, and only brushes lightly into the indenting issue once (you have to click once to see the last two posts in the mini-debate).

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Autolykos replied on Wed, Jan 18 2012 9:02 AM

If the developers end up going with Reddit, I will be motivated to set up my own "competing" forum. I might even use that as an opportunity to develop my own forum software package.

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AJ replied on Wed, Jan 18 2012 9:15 AM

I'm very opposed to Reddit-proper as well. It would have to be modified even more radically than its LessWrong implementation to work here. I'm imagining it looking basically like this forum, but with indenting.

If we have to do a flat-view, I think phpBB looks pretty decent format-wise, if the posts could be offset more clearly and the aesthetics made more like this forum. I like how the quoting is done with different background colors that change with the level of quote nesting.

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Autolykos replied on Wed, Jan 18 2012 9:26 AM

Another contention I have with nested posting - I'm sure others have brought this up many times before - is that I tend to look for new posts in threads. If the posts aren't listed in chronological order, but are organized based on who responded to whom, I think I'd have a much harder time finding out which posts are new (i.e. they were written since the last time I viewed the thread) and which ones aren't.

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ladyattis replied on Wed, Jan 18 2012 9:53 AM

Reddit is only good for linking articles, but not discussions, so I also think a wordpress bridge to vbulletin or the like would be better.

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Conza88 replied on Wed, Jan 18 2012 10:03 AM

Oh and a massive pet peeve.. this is disabled or not an option: I don't know what it's called but when you write text it auto spell checks as you type.. it's like the text is viewable by the browser.. and you can instantly fix up the word (it goes red underlined)

 

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Okay, we probably won't be doing a local Reddit install then (although using r/LvMI as a supplemental thing might be fun).  Still would like to hear more reviews of other platforms. It sounds like vBulletin is going downhill.  phpBB sounds popular; would that meet our needs?  Any good examples of phpBB?  Anyone like Invision?

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ladyattis replied on Wed, Jan 18 2012 10:18 AM

Daniel, try this site. It's a bit outdated, but it gives you a basic breakdown of features: http://www.forummatrix.org/

Edit: another comparison site that seems more up to date: http://www.forum-software.org/forum-comparator/ipboard-vs-phpbb3-vs-simple-machines-2-vs-vbulletin4

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John James replied on Wed, Jan 18 2012 10:36 AM

ladyattis:
Reddit is only good for linking articles, but not discussions

Finally someone says it.

 

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John James replied on Wed, Jan 18 2012 10:37 AM

Conza88:
Oh and a massive pet peeve.. this is disabled or not an option: I don't know what it's called but when you write text it auto spell checks as you type.. it's like the text is viewable by the browser.. and you can instantly fix up the word (it goes red underlined)

Go over to the end of the third grouping of buttons on that top row where the source button is.  Click on the typical spellcheck button with the dropdown arrow.  Click the first option.

 

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Autolykos replied on Wed, Jan 18 2012 10:44 AM

John James:
ladyattis:
Reddit is only good for linking articles, but not discussions

Finally someone says it.

I was thinking the same thing, but yeah.

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First, thank you to LvMI and Danny for soliciting opinions this time.  Purely from my own perspective as a user:

Essential: Reliability, easy quoting, easy linking, easy posting of pictures and videos, easy to format text, preview page, large input box, easy to read, spacing between posts and paragraphs.

Nice to have: Like/rep buttons for posts/threads, highlighting of unread posts, favoriting posts/threads, stickying

Not really bothered: Ignore button, groups, private discussion areas, categories for threads.

My thoughts on nesting... I think I prefer participating in nested forums, but prefer reading non-nested forums.  I think it's very easy to follow conversations here (if quoting is used).  The problem with coming in late to nested threads is that you read down the page and when a conversation ends, you then have to scroll up to work out who the next person is replying to.  But I also agree with AJ about the unseen effect: I think conversations go deeper in nested forums.  However, they also tend to create one-on-one discussions, while forums like this one have more open group discussions.  So on balance I think I'd prefer a linear forum.

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Nielsio replied on Wed, Jan 18 2012 5:02 PM

Graham,

 

If you use the collapse button on Reddit ( [-] ), that makes it easy to read through threads with a lot of nesting. What you do is when you finished checking out a subsection, you collapse it, and you can visualize what's going on.

What I perceive as a big advantage of Reddit is that they've aimed at making posts compact. This makes the nesting succesful (together with the collapse function).

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Nielsio replied on Wed, Jan 18 2012 5:17 PM

If you don't want to go with Reddit, then I would suggest looking into XenForo. The fact that they split off from Vbulletin, and started from scratch, makes me think they have the most modern code of the big ones. phpBB appears to get a total overhaul, but only for the next version (4). MyBB is also still in an old version and the next big one (2) will be rewritten as well. I wouldn't go with the current version of MyBB. Also, as one poster suggested, MyBB is not capable of converting the content from this current forum; and I doubt any of them are.

This XenForo forum was started on April 24th and went to 1.4M posts and 80K members: http://www.terrariaonline.com/forum/ . A different looking custom template: http://slruser.com/ . I don't think it would be too difficult to skin it like this forums looks now, in general terms.

 

http://xenforo.com/community/forums/forum-showcase-and-critiques.53/

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AJ:
The decision to split forums into several sections should only happen when there are way too many threads to keep track of, and we are nowhere near that now. Any subscriber can simply view the unread threads, nothing gets "thrown under the bus." Keep in mind that splitting the forums into sections results in fewer views for each item, more clicking around to see all the new posts, people skipping important threads because they don't figure X thread will be in Y subsection, and most of all anyone who's spent much time here knows that a discussion of rent controls can quickly morph into a titanic debate about nukes and geopolitics. This will be even more the case when we have proper comment tree-threading like reddit or even Daily Paul have now (but *please* retain the ability to post media inline!). The newbie figures he's only interested in political theory, so he never even looks at the economics or history subsections. I've seen many forums needlessly diluted by this splitting up into sections. You can always allow the user to see any type of posts they want to filter for, but the default initial presentation has got to show all threads

Which of the platforms discussed will give us the "all-thread" front-page view that AJ is talking about?  Because that is key.

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Conza88 replied on Wed, Jan 18 2012 7:06 PM

John James: Go over to the end of the third grouping of buttons on that top row where the source button is.  Click on the typical spellcheck button with the dropdown arrow.  Click the first option."

Obviously... and? No, it's still a pet peeve. VB and other forums have 'auto-check'.

@all =

These forums tend towards long, thoughtful posts and responses. I don't know whether that is the because of the users, but I think the forum actually has something to do with it.

Upon change, I wouldn't want it to become like RonPaulForums... where there is a lot of 'spamming' comments that add nothing to the discussion. I think the type of forum there also has an affect (the ease of posting probably).

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Nielsio replied on Wed, Jan 18 2012 7:22 PM

Daniel,

Most fora have a page or link that shows you all the latest threads. It's a simple trick of forwarding people to that link. But what AJ's getting at is that from the outset there isn't much reason to create a bunch of subforums. If you just keep it flat, you prevent these problems. Example: [ lobby (technical help) ] [ discussion ] [ Institute related topics (Academy, Events, Donations, etc) ] .

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cporter replied on Wed, Jan 18 2012 10:28 PM

Daniel James Sanchez:
Okay, we probably won't be doing a local Reddit install then (although using r/LvMI as a supplemental thing might be fun).  Still would like to hear more reviews of other platforms. It sounds like vBulletin is going downhill.  phpBB sounds popular; would that meet our needs?  Any good examples of phpBB?  Anyone like Invision?

If integration with WordPress is all you want, you can use phpBB (here is a phpBB showcase). If you're concerned about the need for future integration with who-knows-what then I would drop the money on IP.Board because they have the best integration package and have their own CMS with a lot of modules that might be useful for the Institute. They will also handle the forum conversion for a lousy $60, which is pretty amazing. The weakness of IP.Board is that some of the mods are paid mods.
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John James replied on Wed, Jan 18 2012 11:08 PM

Conza88:
John James: Go over to the end of the third grouping of buttons on that top row where the source button is.  Click on the typical spellcheck button with the dropdown arrow.  Click the first option."

Obviously... and? No, it's still a pet peeve. VB and other forums have 'auto-check'.

I don't understand what that's supposed to be.  You asked for the autocheck where red lines appear under misspelled words.  You claimed this forum didn't have that ability.  I simply showed you it did.  Again, click on the second "ABC checkmark" button with the dropdown arrow on it and select "Enable SCAYT".

That is the exact red line check you were asking for and claiming this forum couldn't do.

 

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Think Blue replied on Thu, Jan 19 2012 12:03 AM

AJ:

The decision to split forums into several sections should only happen when there are way too many threads to keep track of, and we are nowhere near that now. Any subscriber can simply view the unread threads, nothing gets "thrown under the bus." Keep in mind that splitting the forums into sections results in fewer views for each item, more clicking around to see all the new posts, people skipping important threads because they don't figure X thread will be in Y subsection, and most of all anyone who's spent much time here knows that a discussion of rent controls can quickly morph into a titanic debate about nukes and geopolitics. This will be even more the case when we have proper comment tree-threading like reddit or even Daily Paul have now (but *please* retain the ability to post media inline!). The newbie figures he's only interested in political theory, so he never even looks at the economics or history subsections. I've seen many forums needlessly diluted by this splitting up into sections. You can always allow the user to see any type of posts they want to filter for, but the default initial presentation has got to show all threads, at least until these forums grow to two or three times their current size. Tree-threading should help reduce the number of top-level threads as well.

I agree in principle with the above highlighted.  In general, subforums should be kept to a bare minimum.

I would dare say, go all the way and keep everything in one big subforum (at least at the start), and then branch off another subforum when only absolutely necessary, should the need arise.  

Natural ebb and flow of the topics should drive whether subforums split or merge, and not pre-plan them the other way around.

Daniel James Sanchez:

Which of the platforms discussed will give us the "all-thread" front-page view that AJ is talking about?  Because that is key.

From what I understand, vBulletin and phpBB already has that feature, or least I've used them myself on other forums to view the latest topics.  Edit:  XenForo has it as well.

. . . 

By the way, how important is a WYSIWYG editor?  Because, it seems, bolting on such an editor seems to break the forum software, e.g. the quoting mechanism breaks on both the "old" and the "new" communities.  

Maybe editor compatibility should be a consideration.

 

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Think Blue replied on Thu, Jan 19 2012 12:40 AM

Nielsio:

If you don't want to go with Reddit, then I would suggest looking into XenForo. The fact that they split off from Vbulletin, and started from scratch, makes me think they have the most modern code of the big ones. phpBB appears to get a total overhaul, but only for the next version (4). MyBB is also still in an old version and the next big one (2) will be rewritten as well. I wouldn't go with the current version of MyBB. Also, as one poster suggested, MyBB is not capable of converting the content from this current forum; and I doubt any of them are.

This XenForo forum was started on April 24th and went to 1.4M posts and 80K members: http://www.terrariaonline.com/forum/ . A different looking custom template: http://slruser.com/ . I don't think it would be too difficult to skin it like this forums looks now, in general terms.

http://xenforo.com/community/forums/forum-showcase-and-critiques.53/

From my brief perusing, XenForo looks promising.  Maybe worth investigating?  

There is also some work on a WordPress-XenForo bridge:

http://xenforo.com/community/threads/wordpress-3-bridge.5398/

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Chyd3nius replied on Thu, Jan 19 2012 9:30 AM

Anything goes, if it looks more like 'traditional' forums and not like Reddit. But, these forums showed that you don't need good and easy Quote or Search-tools if content is good enough.

-- --- English I not so well sorry I will. I'm not native speaker.
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XenoForo does sound promising.  Does it have a large development community?

Are any of the platforms missing a decent quoting capability?  That is a must, too.

"the obligation to justice is founded entirely on the interests of society, which require mutual abstinence from property" -David Hume
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TANSTAAFL replied on Thu, Jan 19 2012 9:58 AM

I don't know the first thing about platforms but I have been a member on this board for a number of years and I like the way it works (especially the simpliity of quoting, linking, and embedding) ALOT.

http://rubechat.kfan.com/index.php

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Conza88 replied on Thu, Jan 19 2012 10:16 AM

I don't think that was always there. Interesting.

Why isn't it the default?

@all - What's the deal with the 'chat room'. Will there be one, or it's something that can be separate. A chat room that is active can alleviate a lot of the 'spamming chat' that goes could arise in threads and dilute post quality.

I was going to make efforts to form an Austro-Libertarian dedicated chat site, but if this is the official one... and it's done properly then it'd save trying to make an 'unofficial one'.

More prominence instead of being hidden would change a lot of things.

Also what will happen with these forums - remain archived, yeah? Or integrated possibly? [threads over X no. posts are transferred over?] Too much effort I suppose.

Ron Paul is for self-government when compared to the Constitution. He's an anarcho-capitalist. Proof.
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