Strengths and Weaknesses with the new system

So, I’m working on creating an online forum system for a small community (about 500 people). We’re testing out a number of platforms, and I put Discourse in the pile two weeks ago: there’s a lot of things I like about it.

I’d love to get a look behind the scenes, if you’re willing. I want to hear more about the decision - what were the reasons you ultimately decided to undertake the departure from Disqus and what made Discourse so appealing?

Will reply soon! It’s gettin late…

I actually kinda dig the bbs style. in an abstract high level… I really like this format.

Well I signed up purely because I wanted to see Disqus in action, and given the amount I read Boing Boing I figured it made sense. You never know, your small community may blossom with technology curious folk!

I quite liked the convenience and functionality of Disqus, pretty confused as to what motivated the change.

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Mmh. Finally, finally, getting a way to centrally track all the random places on the 'net I leave comments was nice. Oh well, maybe if Discourse manages to take over completely?

I first picked up on Discourse from Jeff’s Coding Horror blog, then I tried it out when they took it on at How-To Geek.

I actually really like it. Now, if some of those Sci-Fi webzines I frequent could get their own forums out of the 1990s and into Discourse, that would be something.

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I like it too—I’m running a small test instance and I’m active over on Meta, and I signed up over here mainly to watch the deployment and see how the community shakes out.

In considering whether or not to adopt Discourse for my own personal site, I find that there are two main questions I ask myself whenever an issue comes up:

  1. Is this a problem that’s due to a bug, and if so, is it something I can live with?
  2. Is this a problem that’s due to Discourse actually doing something wrong, or is the problem based on my own assumptions and experience—and if so, does it really apply?

Discourse does a lot of things differently than a traditional forum—not necessarily better, but different. Some of the things Discourse does, like out-of-the-box community flagging of spam & abuse, make up for “missing” features (like, for example, moderators being unable to modify some of the security settings that I’d prefer they be able to modify).

Other things are simply bugs that I’m confident will get addressed—I don’t always get taken to my last unread post when I re-enter a topic, and sometimes scrolling too quickly through a thread won’t correctly mark all the messages in the thread as read. With the rapid pace of development, though, bugs are both inevitable and inevitably transitory.

Discourse’s biggest weakness is also its biggest strength—it’s a Ruby-based forum that requries a postgresql + redis backend, and if you’re a sysadmin whose used to deploying MySQL + PHP applications, there’s a considerable learning curve. I’ve blogged about my own Discourse installation and the particular ways I overcame the hurdles (using Nginx + Passenger to serve the forum, fronted by Varnish for static stuff), but you definitely will not be able to simply clone the git repo down, add a virtual host, and be serving stuff like you might with a PHP app.

But I like it. I’ll stick with it and follow the new big sites as they pop up. It’s fascinating to see something new and neat, and it’s been fun to play with it and get it set up.