BBS Review: One year on?

Maybe it’s long enough since the old BoingBoing forum was replaced by, or evolved into BBS, to ask how people feel about it now?

How do they feel it has developed?

How has it affected the BoingBoing community?

What do the forum users think?
What do the forum developers think?
What do the BoingBoing editors and writers think?

Is it better, worse, not really that different?

Has it improved the community or detracted from what it used to be?

Has it affected the community that the comments don’t automatically make the ‘front page’?

Did the change to BBS see a drop off of some forum contributors?

That is probably all people really need to read to get the basic questions I am asking - I just go on to ask the same stuff but in a more rambling way below.

I’m not sure if I am the best person to ask this question as I came very late to the party of the old forum (and I don’t mean ‘fashionably’) though I had still been aware of it for long enough for the new one to surprise me. I did a strip Change Sucks about it when BBS first started, where I kind of argued (through the medium of embarrassing confessional comics) that it was only resistance to change that was making BBS seem like a negative development. Part of the reason for that was that in an earlier thread pertaining to the BoingBoing article Great Graphic Novels: Sazae-San, by Machiko Hasegawa by Lars Martinson, in the old forum in 2012, I had exchanged with some folks about the idea of being able to review something through the medium of comics rather than just necessarily typed words, and how that would be a cool thing to have on BoingBoing.

Unfortunately I think I broke the link to the comic strip that should have been there I did as a response to the article. So here it is again, which breaks up this already over-long post at least.

The fact that the link has now gone sort of reinforces why the present utility is better, at least for the purpose referred to, and even though I was able to post a visual response, it was sort of disappointing it had to be a link and a tiny pop-up window graphic. A kind of offshoot of that forum exchange then, was a cognizance of the possibility that the technical utility for posting a visual response in the old forum was actually quite limited. This was why I ended the later strip Change Sucks with a ‘put your money where your mouth is’ thing - because I had very quickly discovered that the very thing I had said would be a good feature - a better utility for posting visuals - had arrived in BBS, yet my initial reaction had been one of confusion, fear and resistance. Admittedly, that is my response to things generally. All that, however, is hardly something that can necessarily be considered to be a reflection of a general viewpoint. In fact by trying to describe the history of it through my story, I now look like a shameless self publicist and really should just be Me-ing on Twitter or something.

This isn’t about me. I have come to recognize and appreciate more and more that BoingBoing is a superior forum, and in itself makes a mockery of some places that are described as “social networking” sites yet have all the community cohesion of a dogfight.

I was wondering what the developers of the forum system Discourse themselves felt about how things have gone since the change? In fact it was because I had asked codinghorror how he felt about how things have developed with BBS that I have reluctantly come to be posting this.

And I guess with the introduction of BBS there must have been some risk element for the writers and editors of BoingBoing too… since, obviously, the forum community was surely not something they wanted to damage.

So how do the BoingBoing editors/writers feel about it a year on?

I’m also interested to know whether there are forum contributors whose initial reaction was negative that have changed their opinion? Has their opinion worsened even?

In the original thread that announced the change Introducing BBS, our new forums I vaguely remember seeing some people saying that they would not be contributing to the forum any more, as they felt the change was so radical that it totally went against all the reasons why they used to contribute. Did any of them follow up on that and never contribute again? Or did they decide to grudgingly continue to contribute? Or maybe they started to like it?

I suspected some people felt that the way the change meant that their comments were now not presented on the main page automatically undermined the sense of being involved? Or maybe affected their ego a little? Has that affected the community or not?

There are other threads that I suppose relate to the actual technical functionality of the forum, so I suppose this question relates to that, but in a more general sense, and also I am asking this from a more emotional soft-focus viewpoint. This was partly a result of having watched Jeff Atwood’s Habit Summit talk and it made me think about the nature of online community, which is what this is all about really.

When BBS started there were some comments that seemed to be saying that the change would be damaging to the Boing Boing community and I was wondering if that has turned out to be the case or not?

How do people feel about the way the introduction of BBS has affected the forum?


Dude, it won’t be a year until July.


More proof that brain training is something one has to keep doing to benefit in the long term from it. Should I change the title to ‘9 months on’ d’ya think?

Like a baby…awwww

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Yes. A full term review.

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Well, we started setup in May – the first post was May 13th 2013. So it’s not far off to a year.

My primary general thought after nearly a year of BBS:

It is painful to take a community from one extreme to another in a single day, but BBS did it in two extremes at once:

  1. on-page vs. off-page commenting
  2. flat vs. threaded commenting

Either of these alone would be a massive change. Together they’re enormous. Would I recommend doing that again, all at once? I dunno.

I’m not sure there was a better way to transition, necessarily – I guess you could argue for the “rip the band-aid off the wound fast” approach? But those were two enormous changes that had to be absorbed in one fell swoop. And the alternative “solution” was no comments at all…

My secondary thought is that I’m surprised that there are relatively few “endless” topics of 500+ replies.

I view this as vindication of the flat discussion model – you can’t sneak repeated cyclic endless discussions into flat discussions like you can in the many-headed threading hydra. Any new replies have to be made at the same singular entry point at the bottom of the topic everyone else uses, so all new replies are vetted.

If you start repeating yourself – people will notice! And if the discussion starts repeating itself – people notice! Because they have one place to look for new replies to the topic rather than dozens. As a result, you have discussions that, mercifully, end. Everyone says their piece and eventually moves on.

Of course, it helps tremendously that BBS has a five day window on all discussions where discussions close. So the endpoint is always in sight, but the dropoff in interest is so rapid anyway that once things fall off the BB homepage, they’re pretty dead after 5 days, automatic close date or not.


Unless it’s a post about headphones, speakers and/or cables.

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Not really.
Sort this link by number of posts:

Why this?[quote=“codinghorror, post:6, topic:28267”]
the alternative “solution” was no comments at all…

Was that based on the decision by the BB people they were going to ditch Disqus? It makes it seem like Disqus had to be ditched and no plans for a replacement had been prepared for.

Forgive me if this has been covered elsewhere, but I don’t really know any background to how the change from Disqus to Discourse came to be done, whose decisions implemented it, and the behind-the-scenes reasons why.

It makes it sound like it was an emergency action.

The word “painful” stood out in your post also. Assuming that you didn’t, if you’d had a choice to make a longer drawn out, gentler transition, in hindsight, would you have?

I think some aspects of the platform are great once you get used to it. For example, I despised the fact that there wasn’t the option to load all comments at once so searching for keywords through an entire thread with my browser’s search function was hosed. But then I realized I could search for keywords within the entire thread via the bbs search function. I still much prefer the superior search gui of my browser and the option to load all comments, but at least there’s a limited workaround built into the bbs instead of nothing at all.

Overall, I think they’ve done a fantastic job (for example the fancy way you can link to posts, threads and external links, the formatting, etc.). However, the mobile version is too limited so I stopped using that on my tablets a while ago. I recommended some changes in another thread to make the interface more touch-friendly for higher resolution mobile devices, but it mostly wasn’t implemented for whatever reason.

On the moderation side of things, I’ve seen improvements in balance after what I considered was a pretty deep regression, in my opinion. But I’m biased, of course. I do think the threads have been getting healthier overall. I do wish that there was more of a focus on provoking, insulting tones that lead to personal insults than just the latter itself, but I also realize it’s a pretty nuanced pain in the ass to consistently and fairly pull that off.

This bbs is great, but I find myself frustrated with the mobile version and don’t switch to it anymore considering even just switching to it with a tiny text link is a PITA in the first place. :slight_smile:

Probably my biggest complaint beyond mobile is not being able to load up the bb post at the top of the comments like one has the option of doing at ars technica. I don’t care about posts being highlighted, so I’m either way on that.

Aside from the issues I mentioned, this is a bbs to be proud of, in my opinion.

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Reaction nine months on: Meh. It’s a discussion system. I don’t especially like it, I don’t especially dislike it. It doesn’t delight, but it rarely offends. I don’t actually see any axis on which it was forward progress, and I still think providing both strict-chrono and threaded veiws has value (which is why newsreaders have offered both for the past several decades), but it could easily have been much, much worse. I remain unconvinced that there was a need to reinvent the wheel, but at least this one does roll.

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There is a Show Full Post button at the bottom of the first post in every Boing topic now, give it a shot.

And just in case anyone forgot, click the title at the top to jump back to the top of the topic any time. Or the left half of the topic progress bar.


There is a Show Full Post button at the bottom of the first post in every Boing topic now, give it a shot.

Yeah, I tried that the other day and just now again, it only gives me this in Safari, Chrome, Chromium and Firefox on Mac and IE 10 in Windows 8:

Yes I noticed this too, @eviltrout is aware of this issue, we want to fix it but apparently its super complicated.

That’s what comes back from the Readability code for that particular post.

Try a different one.

Sweet lawd, what was the odds of that? Picking the wrong, random one and then again earlier. :open_mouth: Yep, this one works perfect.

Sweet! :slight_smile:

EDIT: I do find that it disappears the instant I click the “like” button on the post with no option to bring it back unless I reload the page…


Just noticed that the post picture is missing. Is there an option to load up the entire post with picture? Maybe the pictures could be thumbnails that you can click on and the expand inline or something?

Or just make the pictures a little smaller and still have them load up top but they only expand with an “Load Pictures” button?

This is subject to whatever the Readability code decides is part of the post. Try a different one.

Ah, I see… this one loads up a small thumbnail. Do wish it was more consistent and always has the option at least to show photos so the posts are more complete.

Maybe the Readability code could be tweaked to always show thumbs or expand pictures like I showed above?

Anyway, thanks for the response.

I just fixed this one, overall expansions should be a bit more reliable here.