Five years of BBS 📅

As you may or may not know, BBS has a special place in our hearts at since it was the first sizable beta Discourse installation on a public site in June 2013. It is currently August 2018, so that means we’ve been at this for 5️⃣ years now!

So what have we learned from all this?

First, a recap. We had our four year review a bit early – reading through my replies there, here’s what we already implemented in Discourse based on your feedback from that topic in December 2016:

  • username changes, though communities should discourage them, are almost perfect substitutions now when required. GDPR was a factor here.

  • muting users automatically prevents them from PM’ing you

  • “allow PMs only from users with a trust level above X” site setting

  • timed closure of topics with too many active flags

  • better navigation back to the main Boing Boing site (the red BB at the top right)

  • strengthened cumulative TL3 flag effects on new users

  • people whose posts are flagged and then removed get an automatic PM letting them know about it, so the lack of feedback around post removal has been addressed.

  • you can self-remove from any PM you’re on that you don’t want to be on

It’s also worth mentioning that we had talked in that topic about possibly having a community moderator. We didn’t quite get that, but we got the next best thing – @orenwolf! Ken instituted the following changes

  • improved transparency on mod decisions (see active #meta topic)

  • more discussion with the community about evolution to site policies to keep things sane, civil, and on-topic

We’ve worked closely with Ken to streamline moderation tools and provide better feedback both to mods and flaggers:

  • flaggers now get automatically notified when a post they flagged to threshold has been edited by the post owner

  • when a flagged post has replies, the number of replies is indicated in the flag UI (because there may be unintended consequences to deleting a post with many replies)

  • deleting a troll post can now optionally auto-delete all replies to that post in one click

The goal is to keep moderation duties as quick and painless as possible, and I hope I speak for everyone when I say my :tophat: is off to Ken – without his ongoing help, I am honestly not sure BBS would even be around today.

One giant to-do item from the four year review is a user “ignore” feature, and I want to be crystal clear that ignore is still on our roadmap. I elaborated a bit here

So, beyond a user ignore feature – as stated above, it is coming, probably in 2019 – let me ask you these questions, five years on:

  • What’s working on BBS? What makes you feel good about BBS?

  • What’s not working on BBS? What makes you feel… not-so-good… about BBS?

  • We’ve improved a ton since 2013, but that doesn’t mean we’ve hit every item on our roadmap. If you could pick one feature (OTHER THAN IGNORE) that you’d like to see BBS add or improve in 2019, what is it?

:cupid: and godspeed, fellow happy mutants!


But what have you done for me lately ?


Congrats! This is pretty much the only internet forum I communicate on. I enjoy being here and feel like there are good faith efforts to make this a safe and enjoyable environment!


I’ll have to think about your questions, but I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoy using discourse! Thanks for making it!


Are you trying to make this the question thread, because don’t we already have another one of those?


@codinghorror the hard work you and your minions do to make this place usable and pretty is greatly appreciated.


Really all thanks should go to @orenwolf for the last year!

Software is important, to be sure, but it can never replace human moderator leadership in a community.

RIP @falcor


If this happens:

I’ve long expressed my displeasure for this – but I understand why it’s there. So, two suggestions for how to make this better:

  1. notify me when a post of mine is deleted because of a troll dragnet
  2. give me the option to reinstate my post (and I’m cool with this being scoped to TL3 users)

Other things:

I was livid to find I had been demoted from TL3 to TL2 without any warning or indicator (all because I didn’t read enough posts… what utter bollocks)

  • Warn me if I’m at risk of being demoted from TL3 to TL2 and more importantly tell me why this is happening and how to prevent it
  • Give me a view of what it would take to get “promoted” to a higher trust level. Gamification is only fun when you know how the scoring works. Mods have this type of view – why don’t we have something similar for our own accounts?

How would that work? If you quoted or referenced the troll post, bringing your reply to the troll post back also brings back the troll post in a fairly direct manner. That’s… not a good idea.

You already have the option to “bring back” your post by posting again, sans troll bait :wink:

Perhaps. Feels a bit like a dark pattern, ala those endless Facebook “we haven’t seen you in a while, hurry back, your friend Joe just posted!” emails though. :frowning:


But we don’t know when our posts are deleted. See the problem?

If someone’s dedicated enough to reach TL3, chances are they would care enough to not be annoyed by this.


I think the implied penalty of “gee, if you reply to a troll post, that reply might just disappear off the face of the earth at any time” can be a good one, because it incentivizes the correct behavior:

Don’t respond to a troll post. Just flag it. :black_flag:

If this reply removal penalty stops even 20% of people from replying to a troll post, in favor of flagging it instead, then that’s a solid outcome from my perspective.

That said, I am more understanding of a multi-quote reply where the troll post was one of, say, five that someone replied to. It does seem unfair to remove a post that only referenced the troll post in passing and in the context of many other quoted replies. But I’d have a very hard time believing this comes up particularly often, versus the “I saw a troll post, it pushed my buttons, now I must reply to it because Someone is Wrong on the Internet” which is… exeedingly common :wink:


This is a pretty simplistic view of what actually happens.

Conversations (especially in long threads) can twist, turn, and meander to the point where it’s often not obvious a reply is linked back to a troll post.

I’ve had posts of mine that I put a lot of time and effort into deleted because of these dragnets and it is a really shitty to find that this has happened. Just a notice that this happened would be really nice.


Like @Mindysan33, I’ll need to mull your questions in order to give a thoughtful response. Discourse is by far the best commenting platform I’ve used and after five years, I’m sure some of its persistent flaws have become invisible to me. I’d have to reflect on my reasons and motivations for hanging around the BBS, what kind of dialogue I seek here, and perhaps how that may fundamentally differ from face-to-face dialogue in way that makes Discourse a novel thing to critique.

For now, I’d like to thank both you and @sam for not just your hard work but sincere desire to make a platform that serves its users (as evidenced by this very thread).

And to @orenwolf: good god, man. I know being a BB mod is just a side job but thank you for taking it just as seriously as your other work. It has shown. Looking back, I’d no reason to worry when @falcor left.


That’s a fair point. I was thinking more of direct replies not replies-to-replies etc


Five years!

It’s funny. My involvement with Boing Boing long (long!) predates the BBS, and partly because of that I tended to give the discussions on Boing Boing a wide berth. The solutions we had before Discourse never really lead to much regarding community building or cohesion, and my hats off to those that not only made an effort in “the before times,” but remain here today and have given us so much of your time, and your thoughts.

@codinghorror is correct - I got involved here in large part because if I hadn’t, there was an excellent chance that the BBS would not exist in the form it does today (if at all). However, I had spent enough time here to know that Discourse had given the Boing Boing community more cohesion than anything that had come before. More importantly, a genuine culture had grown up here unlike anywhere I had seen before, and I was fairly certain that with a little shepherding and renewed focus, it could mature into something truly great.

I may have taken on the task of moderating that change, but that would have been a worthless endeavour without all of you, who give us your thoughts, wit, and charm on these topics every day. What’s more, thanks to the work of the Discourse team, many of you are as responsible for the effective moderation here as I could ever be, as you help direct our attention to the areas that need it.

Because of this, I can say with certainty that it is in fact because of all of you that the BBS has made it to five years. And I sincerely thank you for that.

As for the platform itself? Boing Boing could not have lucked out with a better partner in crafting the technology (and in many ways, the culture) behind the BBS, than what we have in the Discourse team. There is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that Discourse represents the most carefully crafted and well-thought-out piece of discussion software that exists, and this fact is doubly true with the herculean efforts made to make moderation both painless, and more importantly, community-driven.

Thank you all for being here, whether it is as a reader, a contributor, or as a part of the awesome Discourse team, for fostering a place for Happy Mutants.


So very much this. If I’ve learned anything over my time moderating here, it’s the extremely low-effort barrier that exists for trolls to derail conversations. One incendiary post crafted with even a small degree of cunning can result in the next twenty being utterly derailed, and completely changing the flow of that discussion irrevocably. As a moderator, nothing frustrates me more than to see the amount of energy even a low-effort troll post can sap from well-intentioned posters. I weep for all the wasted time put into countering points made by drive-by individuals who don’t care about your responses at all - they often simply want to kick over the anthill and watch everyone scramble.

When I started moderating here, I tended to leave replies to such posts alone. But this ultimately didn’t work - any vestige of the derailed discussion inevitably would drag everything offtopic again, or worse, give the disruptive posters reason to continue to disrupt.

The real problem with the idea of just removing trouble posts is that it assumes good faith on the part of both parties. It’s clear that was the original design of Discourse itself - to hide a post, message the flagged individual and say “Hey, you overstepped here. Edit your post, walk back your transgression, and all will be forgiven”. But in today’s online climate, so many trouble posts are created not by those acting in good faith, but instead by those who want to disrupt, and could care less about our community. And they use these very tools to ill effect against the community itself.

That’s why I implore you as @codinghorror has in the past: Don’t feed the trolls. Don’t reply to their posts. Flag them, and they will go away, and all the energy they are trying to force us to expend is thus saved.

If you want to reply to a specific point made that is otherwise within the community guidelines? Quote it in a reply to the topic itself (at the bottom of the topic), instead of the troll post. It’ll stay around that way. But don’t quote or reply to incendiary content directly. That’s a sure way to have your post eaten, for the good of everyone.


No arguments here. I’ve used or moderated dozens of different message board platforms over the years - hell decades when I include real BBSes back in the 90s. Discourse is definitely the best.

Well done, Discourse folks.


This is one of the best moderated and most well designed and maintained forums on the interwebs. If I had one poignant sorrow, it’s the mods (especially Falcor and, pre-Discourse, Antinous) and good-standing members who’ve drifted away over the years, but we’ve gotten worthy replacements in both because even the friends we’ve had to say goodbye to helped contribute to a community that lives on where Happy Mutants continue to flourish.


It seems to be a more viable software platform, in the sense that it is being actively developed by people with enthusiasm. Technically good, which is the most useful kind of good. I haven’t examined the underlying code, but the pages work well in firefox.

I believe the software authors had a view of user content moderation that was very egalitarian, but the site’s popularity and politics had already caused an authoritarian and undistributed moderation model to evolve. The (at least outwardly) egalitarian relationship enjoyed by the site’s principle authors is interesting in contrast. BBS suffers from the impedance mismatch; I think moderator burnout is faster under BBS than it was prior, and while I miss reading some of the people who have been expelled just as much as those who voluntarily stopped writing, the existence of so many fine mutants in the latter group troubles me more.

Disemvoweling. You asked! (n_n)


Same here. The difference stands out when I go to another board that isn’t based on Discourse – Vbulletin, most often – and think wow, this isn’t Discourse, and I really wish it were. Add in @orenwolf’s presence and even-handed and judicious moderation, and the difference is obvious.


Three cheers for Discourse!

And three cheers for BoingBoing for having the smarts/guts/vision/generosity to go with Discourse!

:clap: :clap: :clap: :bouquet: :bouquet: :bouquet: