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Which Forum Platform?

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Daniel James Sanchez Posted: Tue, Jan 17 2012 5:47 PM

Hi all,

Thank you for your patience with this Community platform, and especially for your patience with the new Community platform.

The new Community platform is so problematic, that it really doesn't make any sense to try to rehabilitate it.  Better to start fresh.

I will be overseeing the set-up of a new, better platform, which will be developed by Blake, who some of you may know.

This time, we want to make sure we get the right platform.  And for that we need your help.

We're looking for something that works out of the box (without a lot of development required), that is user-friendly, and that has powerful (and non labor-intensive) spam defenses.

We need to hear from any of you who have had extensive experience using other platforms, whether as a user or as an admin.  Which platform do you like best, and why?  What key features does it have?  What is it missing?  Which platforms should we avoid?

The more careful thought and information that goes into this thread, the better it will be when you all get the forum platform that such a vibrant, intelligent, and important community truly deserves.

"the obligation to justice is founded entirely on the interests of society, which require mutual abstinence from property" -David Hume
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To get this started, I'll paste some past comments from this thread:

 

liberty student:
I like ronpaulforums.com's forum. It looks a lot nicer than it did 3 years ago.
That's vb4.  It takes a lot of development to get a site looking like that.

 

Nielsio:
liberty student:
vBulletin took a huge step back about a year and a half ago when they were bought by a publicy traded firm (Internet Brands), and the latest version of the software is not even close to their legendary quality.  They have a lot of customer satisfaction issues from what I have observed.

The previous lead developer of vBulletin and others have quit and created their own new forum (written anew from the ground up).

http://xenforo.com/

(see also: http://xenforo.com/community/threads/a-statement-regarding-the-current-litigation.7567/ )

I think it looks great. (adoption: http://xenforo.com/community/threads/show-us-your-xf.9236/ )

 

Otherwise, there are a number of good commercial ones too. ex. http://www.invisionpower.com/

And if Mises wants to have open source free ones, there is phpbb and mybb.

 

Giant_Joe:
I've deployed and I'm administering a xenforo forum. It's not worth paying for. Free stuff works fine.

 

liberty student:
I am currently migrating a free forum (phpbb) it is a joke.  Paid forums are much better, the quality standard is night and day.
Nielsio:

I would say MyBB is better than 'night'.

 

Conclusion
 
MyBB is a really good alternative to all well known forum softwares, and the community around it is really dynamic. It combines an easy to use administration interface with a simple and shiny appearance. Without attempting to support the entire range of features we could classically find in proprietary software, MyBB is a perfect forum for medium and large community. A sufficient security model is well implemented and ensure your forum not being invaded by hordes of spammers.
 
With more than 400 plugins and modifications, you will have a great choice to customize your MyBB installation and fit your users' needs. It is also well known for ensuring a high quality migration of existing forum, as the MyBB developers team provides the MyBB Merge System, that helps you replacing your old PhpBB 2 or vBulletin 3.8 installation with a new and modern bulletin board system. It could also be perfectly used in case of merging two existing boards, that is quite rare today.
 
And to conclude with another good news, it is open source and is proud to be! Congratulations to the MyBB team, that has made a really good job.

http://www.forum-software.org/mybb/review/conclusion-advantages-opinion

 

The Pirate Bay forum runs on it, with 122K registered users. http://forum.suprbay.org/

 

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Wheylous replied on Tue, Jan 17 2012 7:30 PM

Excuse my ignorance, but why not use these forums?

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Yeah, I've kinda gotten use to these forums...

“Remove justice,” St. Augustine asks, “and what are kingdoms but gangs of criminals on a large scale? What are criminal gangs but petty kingdoms?”
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Daniel James Sanchez:

This time, we want to make sure we get the right platform.  And for that we need your help.

enlightenedyesyessmiley

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Wheylous:

Excuse my ignorance, but why not use these forums?

this.

and fix the quote function, of course

My humble blog

It's easy to refute an argument if you first misrepresent it. William Keizer

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Bert replied on Tue, Jan 17 2012 7:51 PM

I can't even figure out how to use the new community, which is a pain and can be off putting for new users.  The only thing I would like to see would to have various topics/threads have designated areas.  I don't know that much about code (not as much as I used to know).

Just imagine this forum, but having the main forums page look like this:

Econ Theory

  1. Thread
  2. Thread
  3. Thread
  4. Thread

Philosophy

  1. Thread
  2. Thread
  3. Thread
  4. Thread

Political Theory

  1. Thread
  2. Thread
  3. Thread
  4. Thread

Current News and Politics

etc.

Miscellaneous & Daily Life

etc.

That's as far as I can think of, which would make it easier to keep track of new threads instead of having slightly older threads get thrown under the bus of page 2 and beyond.  It really doesn't seem that hard to me; add subpages for those topics that would only contain those threads (with the exception of having all previous threads thrown into those subpages, but seeing how you can currently select what type of post it would be I guess previous pages would be point into new categories by default).

Plus, if there was a new forum it would suck to have forum 1 and forum 2, that this forum would turn into a ghost town when all our posts are here.

I had always been impressed by the fact that there are a surprising number of individuals who never use their minds if they can avoid it, and an equal number who do use their minds, but in an amazingly stupid way. - Carl Jung, Man and His Symbols
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Autolykos replied on Tue, Jan 17 2012 8:01 PM

So glad to hear you're doing this! laugh yes

I'm personally a big fan of phpBB and its derivatives. Simple Machines Forum (SMF) is also nice IMO. However, that's just from a user perspective - I have no idea how easy/difficult they are to set up and maintain. Also, PHP is one of my least favorite programming languages ever.

As others suggested, another approach is to fix the current forum software, but it doesn't sound like you want to do that.

The keyboard is mightier than the gun.

Non parit potestas ipsius auctoritatem.

Voluntaryism Forum

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Marko replied on Tue, Jan 17 2012 8:04 PM

When I had a website and a forum to go with it I used phpBB. It took me about 20 minutes to set up the forum. It wasn't thematicaly unified with the design of the website or anything like that, but it worked fine and all. I had hundreds of users who used it to schedule tournament clan matches (dozens of matches tieing about 15-16 people for up to three hours), to get the referees for each and to comment on the matches and the course of competition, and there weren't any complaints about the forum itself.

So personally I have good experiences with using/running a phpBB forum (though I can't say to be the biggest forum admin guru out there).

- My 2 cents.

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Groucho replied on Tue, Jan 17 2012 8:13 PM

As a user, I've always liked UBB forums. It's customizable, simple to navigate, and formating posts is much easier. Not to mention using UBB code in posts is pretty simple and intuitive.

I can't comment on it's spam defenses other than to say I don't recall there being a problem with spammers cluttering up any of the UBB messageboards I've encountered over the years. For bothersome trolls and their ilk, I believe UBB offers an IP-blocking tool to prevent reregistration following a ban.

An idealist is one who, on noticing that roses smell better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup. -H.L. Mencken
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Excuse my ignorance, but why not use these forums?

These are the reasons given by one of our devs.

* Telligent (the provider) comes out with an expensive update every year that requires a lot of time to migrate every new version.

* Telligent has dropped support for all themes in the latest release, which we need.  We would also have to re-create our current theme
* The software is too slow.  It doesn't seem to work well with just one web server.
* We are being slammed by spammers.
* The developer community is weak.
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How about Free Forums (used by the Forums of the Libertarian Left) and Vanilla Forums?

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Autolykos replied on Tue, Jan 17 2012 9:23 PM

I think those are all very good reasons. Are they looking for help with the development?

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AJ replied on Tue, Jan 17 2012 9:49 PM

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.

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I agree Telligent is no good.  While we're making a wish list, I would most like to have some kind of "like" function.  vBulletin uses "rep":

 

 

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Neodoxy replied on Tue, Jan 17 2012 9:58 PM

Omfg yes! Please install a rep system!

At last those coming came and they never looked back With blinding stars in their eyes but all they saw was black...
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gotlucky replied on Tue, Jan 17 2012 10:03 PM

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.

QFT.

Separately, I really like the layout now.  We can see the most recent threads no matter what subsection it is in.

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Autolykos replied on Tue, Jan 17 2012 10:10 PM

Daniel James Sanchez:
How about Free Forums (used by the Forums of the Libertarian Left) and Vanilla Forums?

Free Forums uses phpBB, so I'm all in favor of that. laugh

 

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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, 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.

My thoughts exactly, AJ.

What do people think of using a local install of Reddit?

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Autolykos replied on Tue, Jan 17 2012 10:15 PM

I'm really against that. Reddit just seems messy to me. But maybe I'm old-fashioned. :P

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Seconding Autolykos on this, reddit looks messy.

Regardless of what is elected (Go Phbb!), can we make sure mobile use is improved? I've yet to find a mobile that can comfortably post on these forums. 

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cporter replied on Tue, Jan 17 2012 10:45 PM

My recommendation would be to scrap the idea of getting a single CMS to do everything well. I personally don't know of one that does. Instead, choose the best software for the individual sections of the site and devote the resources that would have been spent shoehorning new types of software into one package to sharing authentication between the selected pieces of software.

Authentication bridges handle the merging of authentication between disparate systems within the same domain. They usually come in the form of specific bridges for two products. Fortunately, many are available for WordPress-to-Forum bridges or full plugins like Zinigi Forums for myBB. There are several WordPress->phpBB and WordPress->vBulletin bridges.

Wikiful will do this for MediaWiki, but it is new and doesn't include a bridge yet.

The real key is to focus less on complete integration and more on traditional user interfaces and features that make that particular site section sell. Integration is a nice bonus and a convenience to the users, but nobody will use super-integrated forums when they can't tell if they are looking at a forum or a blog. There are far too many "forums" and "wikis" out there that are just WordPress posts hacked up by an amateur UI designer.

Other generic ideas not directly related to technology selection:

1. Get rid of groups. They confuse people. Have blogs, forums, and a wiki. Each consists of user-generated content but serves a special niche. They are resources that overlap in purpose but don't step on each others' toes. Everything else is needless dilution that makes it harder to find good content.

2. Don't split the main page into subforums, like AJ said. If it's possible in the software, allow tagging or categorizing posts/threads to make later research easier. Plus we already have John James who looks up all of our needed threads for us. :)

 

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Nielsio replied on Tue, Jan 17 2012 10:56 PM

What objection would one as a user have to simply relying on the Austrian economics reddit? It's being actively used by Mises.org enthusiasts as well as Mises.org writers. Art Carden is considering doing an 'ask-me-anything' soon for video, and Robert Murphy has also said he's up for it when he has the time.

 

Not always accurate, but gives a good indication none-the-less:

 

From an administrator standpoint: Good moderation tools. No need for technical upkeep (including security). No need for backups (though maybe still possible through the API). Easy registration. Easy for existing Reddit userbase to flow in.

+would free up resources to be used for other parts of Mises.org

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Nielsio, we want to cover more than just economics.  If we were to try to build up our own Reddit community, we'd use /r/LvMI (which I just created).

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Reddit will be blacked out for 12 hours, 8 hours from now, to protest SOPA.  But until and after then, you can also sound off in the first /r/LvMI thread: What Forum Platform Should the Mises.org Community Migrate To?

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Nielsio replied on Tue, Jan 17 2012 11:20 PM

/AE is not strictly about economics. Which topics do you feel would not be accepted? For example, which threads that we see now here do you feel don't fit?

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It's the name.  It's too narrow for what we need.

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Nielsio replied on Tue, Jan 17 2012 11:29 PM

Those topics that people who are Austrians are interested in, but is not Austrianism itself, are also acceptable. Austrian economics is simply the backbone.

EDIT: let me rephrase that. What I mean is: if a person has a topic, that he would like people who are Austrian's perspective on, are accepted. So "what is a good diet" is not accepted. But "what kind of music do Austrians listen to" is; because there can be a correlation between the two.

 

Perhaps the sidebar needs rephrasing.

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John James replied on Wed, Jan 18 2012 12:16 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.

Agreed.

 

Autolykos:
Daniel James Sanchez:
What do people think of using a local install of Reddit?
I'm really against that. Reddit just seems messy to me. But maybe I'm old-fashioned. :P

Agreed.  Reddit is not a forum.  If this were replaced with a Reddit, I think the format of conversation would noticeably change.  And you'd probably see a noticeable amount of attrition....which would probably include myself.

 

cporter:
The real key is to focus less on complete integration and more on traditional user interfaces and features that make that particular site section sell. Integration is a nice bonus and a convenience to the users, but nobody will use super-integrated forums when they can't tell if they are looking at a forum or a blog.  There are far too many "forums" and "wikis" out there that are just WordPress posts hacked up by an amateur UI designer.

Bingo.  I think this is exactly what Tucker got wrong.

 

cporter:
Plus we already have John James who looks up all of our needed threads for us. :)

 

...although I do agree a better search tool would be helpful.  Look at what I'm working with here.

 

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Think Blue replied on Wed, Jan 18 2012 12:26 AM

cporter:

My recommendation would be to scrap the idea of getting a single CMS to do everything well. I personally don't know of one that does. Instead, choose the best software for the individual sections of the site and devote the resources that would have been spent shoehorning new types of software into one package to sharing authentication between the selected pieces of software.

Authentication bridges handle the merging of authentication between disparate systems within the same domain. They usually come in the form of specific bridges for two products. Fortunately, many are available for WordPress-to-Forum bridges or full plugins like Zinigi Forums for myBB. There are several WordPress->phpBB and WordPress->vBulletin bridges.

I would concur. smiley

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Think Blue replied on Wed, Jan 18 2012 12:30 AM

Michelangelo:

Seconding Autolykos on this, reddit looks messy.

My lean towards the above comment, but I'm open to others' rational.

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John James replied on Wed, Jan 18 2012 12:54 AM

Daniel James Sanchez:
Nielsio, we want to cover more than just economics.  If we were to try to build up our own Reddit community, we'd use /r/LvMI (which I just created).

This.  Plus, there is no offense intended here, but I'm not too crazy about the Institute turning over complete control of its online community to one single guy...let alone one who has no official affiliation with the organization, and doesn't live in the same country.

 

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Wheylous:

Excuse my ignorance, but why not use these forums?

 

They are fubar.

To paraphrase Marc Faber: We're all doomed, but that doesn't mean that we can't make money in the process.
Rabbi Lapin: "Let's make bricks!"
Stephan Kinsella: "Say you and I both want to make a German chocolate cake."

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No, I think everyone would agree we can at least recognize these forums.  The "new community" is fubar.

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Michelangelo:

[...] can we make sure mobile use is improved? I've yet to find a mobile that can comfortably post on these forums. 

 

This. We want to be able to post from our mobiles.

To paraphrase Marc Faber: We're all doomed, but that doesn't mean that we can't make money in the process.
Rabbi Lapin: "Let's make bricks!"
Stephan Kinsella: "Say you and I both want to make a German chocolate cake."

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John James:

...although I do agree a better search tool would be helpful.  Look at what I'm working with here.

 

I was trying to find all of the threads where members gave forum suggestion, but I only found the one that Nielso created. The other results were on mods violating forum rules.

To paraphrase Marc Faber: We're all doomed, but that doesn't mean that we can't make money in the process.
Rabbi Lapin: "Let's make bricks!"
Stephan Kinsella: "Say you and I both want to make a German chocolate cake."

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John James:

No, I think everyone would agree we can at least recognize these forums.  The "new community" is fubar.

 

Yes, that is true. I forgot to add that the "r" stood for "repair".

Edit: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=fubar

To paraphrase Marc Faber: We're all doomed, but that doesn't mean that we can't make money in the process.
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AJ replied on Wed, Jan 18 2012 1:54 AM

A reddit implementation like Less Wrong has, plus the ability to post inline multimedia, would suit me. But that might take a lot of development work.

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Marko replied on Wed, Jan 18 2012 2:02 AM

...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!)....

My thoughts exactly, AJ.

What do people think of using a local install of Reddit?

To my eyes tree structure looks chaotic. It is fine to have as an option for users to switch to, but I think having posts in chronological order is the standard view on most forums.

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AJ replied on Wed, Jan 18 2012 2:12 AM

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.) Though it may look messy, notice how much more is going on and how easy it is to follow who's addressing whom, even without using quotes, and how the troll and troll-feeder derailments are completely contained in their own branch. What looks messy on reddit wouldn't even be followable on these forums. 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). That said, I'm not suggesting a move to reddit.com but rather a mod of the reddit code like Less Wrong has (+inline graphics, fonts, etc.), if it's doable for the devs.

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