The Future Of The Forums

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WearsHats
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The Future Of The Forums

Post by WearsHats » Mon Jun 01, 2020 12:14 pm

Our webmaster has informed us that phpBB is becoming a problem. Too many security holes, and finding updates that help without breaking other things is becoming increasingly difficult. With the relatively low traffic here and the time and effort it would take, porting things over manually is likely more trouble than it's worth. (Webmaster estimates it would take at least a week of work behind the scenes.) We have some time to figure things out and talk about how to handle it, so we're opening discussion to see what the community thinks.

We've got a few options, each with advantages and disadvantages:

1. There's a Goblins Discord server that was originally created for the livestream. It's been mentioned here and tweeted out a few times. There's already a community of people there and some games and stuff. If we could bring everyone together there, we could make a unified official community. We'd be happy to create new channels as needed for resource links, play by post games, etc. However, Discord's limited formatting and per-post character limit might make it harder to play some of the forum games as we know them.

2. Simple Machines Forum has a built-in import feature that might be able to do the job without the fuss. We're going to look into whether that might work and whether it's secure and stable enough. I haven't poked at it in years, but it's open source and still being updated and it has some nice features. It wouldn't be seamless - some formatting and stuff would be lost. But it could potentially allow us to make the jump with relatively few bumps.

3. We could start fresh with a new forum. We've done it at least a few times already. But we lose people every time that happens, and there's no guarantee the new software would have that much longer of a shelf life. Forums like this have been going out of style for at least a few years now.

We'll probably try an update patch in the not too distant future, but over the next few months we'll need to settle on a more long-term solution.

What do you think? What are your preferences? Do you have any other suggestions we might not have considered?

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Re: The Future Of The Forums

Post by Aegis J Hyena » Mon Jun 01, 2020 4:05 pm

Discord, without even blinking or hesitation.
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Re: The Future Of The Forums

Post by spiderwrangler » Mon Jun 01, 2020 5:41 pm

Hmmm. I know discord is popular, but I've only used it in a very limited fashion. Don't think I'm familiar enough with the options to really weigh in heavily at the moment.
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Re: The Future Of The Forums

Post by Lurks_In_Shadows » Mon Jun 01, 2020 6:21 pm

Hmmmm. Discord is generally considered a gamers platform. I'll have to see if the firewall at work will even let me on.

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Re: The Future Of The Forums

Post by Dlover » Mon Jun 01, 2020 8:20 pm

Discord is a good communication platform, but it's difficult to keep things as orderly as a forum; Only the administrators can make a new channel, the closest thing to making a thread, and the more active back and forth means with larger communities it can become difficult to catch up with discussions you missed.

On the topic of play-by-post games, it would be difficult to host more detailed games via Discord, for the same reasons you've already given.
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Re: The Future Of The Forums

Post by Rodgeir » Mon Jun 01, 2020 10:37 pm

Agree with Dlover's comments as above, I don't see the play by post working well on Discord.

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Re: The Future Of The Forums

Post by Generic » Mon Jun 01, 2020 11:15 pm

Discord is not a forum. I am all for nuking this place and going to a new forum. Leaving all previous content behind of need be.
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Re: The Future Of The Forums

Post by spiderwrangler » Tue Jun 02, 2020 4:15 am

Rodgeir wrote:
Mon Jun 01, 2020 10:37 pm
Agree with Dlover's comments as above, I don't see the play by post working well on Discord.
That'd be my concern, as play by post is the main thing I use the forum for. I'd favor another forum if it comes to that.
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Re: The Future Of The Forums

Post by Rodgeir » Tue Jun 02, 2020 5:03 am

spiderwrangler wrote:
Tue Jun 02, 2020 4:15 am
... I'd favor another forum if it comes to that.
Seconded, for what its worth.

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Re: The Future Of The Forums

Post by Aegis J Hyena » Tue Jun 02, 2020 8:22 pm

It wouldn't be hard though to give someone a rank of Play By Post GM with their own ability to make threads / channels / whatever and they can make separate text and voice channels for their games. I do it in my Discord (link's in my signature though it is usually quiet, you're free to drop in), I have channels for RP and voice for each one of the groups I DM for.
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Re: The Future Of The Forums

Post by GathersIngredients » Wed Jun 03, 2020 5:34 pm

I think out of these three options, I would favour 2 the most, but I could live with 3 as well (import what we can and migrate to a new-ish forum).

I seriously dislike discord and if the goblins forum migrates there, it will most likely happen without me.
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Re: The Future Of The Forums

Post by Krulle » Thu Jun 04, 2020 5:13 am

If the community decides to move to Discord, that's the choice the community makes, but it'll be the end of my activities, as I will not migrate to Discord.

phpBB is still being developed.
From my perspective, SMF has quite some issues (a forum I'm on is discussing since years to move away from SMF because of Security Issues, but they don't have time to migrate thestuff to whatever the new forum will be. They currently favour phpBB).

Upgrading to newest phpBB doesn't work?


It still seems SMF and phpBB both have fantastic converters to convert from other forum software to theirs, but their upgrade converters are still lacking and faulty. :(

Looks like people have to move back and forth between software every now and then.

Give me advance warning, and I'll refresh my backup and simply recreate "my threads" on whatever the new software will be.
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Re: The Future Of The Forums

Post by WearsHats » Thu Jun 04, 2020 11:26 am

I did point out that the transcription project lives here, and Danielle is grateful for the work you're doing. We'll make sure to preserve it.
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Re: The Future Of The Forums

Post by Lurks_In_Shadows » Thu Jun 04, 2020 11:47 am

It does appear that I can get on Discord from the VA, but that may be a temporary thing. The VA recently loosened communications rules due to COVID.
That being said, yeah, I've always understood Discord to be more of a real-time platform for MMORPG/chat than for play by post. I defer to the group, particularly since there are several here who've been through forum changes before. If we nuke the forum and start over again, it might be nice to get some advance warning so that we can back up some of the game threads that have been going on a while.

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Re: The Future Of The Forums

Post by RocketScientist » Thu Jun 04, 2020 6:46 pm

Big Nope on Discord for me. If you go that way, good luck to you all, but I'm out. I've never heard of Simple Machines Forum and have no opinion on it. So my vote would be #3, FWIW.
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Re: The Future Of The Forums

Post by Krulle » Thu Jun 04, 2020 10:24 pm

SMF is very similar to phpBB and myBB.
Just different formatting options/tools. (e.g. SMF allows html-tags to some degree)

The time to get used to SMF is about the same as to a new, clean phpBB version that has different add-ons than the one you're used to.

(phpBB for some reason changes the standard add-ons for tags each version, so the tags (e.g. spoiler, quote []) work differently each version)
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Re: The Future Of The Forums

Post by WearsHats » Fri Jun 05, 2020 2:23 am

We've got a couple of months to explore options and prepare. Opening this conversation is an early step so people have time to weigh in and to save things just in case.
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Re: The Future Of The Forums

Post by Inspired » Sat Jun 06, 2020 3:26 am

Hello there!

Does the community have a big resentment against reddit? Subforums can be costumized, and I don't think it would go out of fashion anytime soon.

The only thing that is widely out of interest is the up/down voting system on it, but otherwise could be used as a regular forum.

That being said, I think moving over to Discord is a bad idea. As much as I'm using it on a daily basis (In-game voice chat for gaming), I'm using it only because it is the flavour-of-the-year platform and we don't have better options. It wants to do too many things and not really good at any of them. Especially not foruming, it gives an atrocious reading experience. There is nothing wrong with a presence on it as live-chat and whatever has its place in a community's life, but it is not suitable to replace a forum for text based roleplay loving people.

In any case, I lost interest in foruming many years ago, I barely log in just to read new comments about a fresh updates. Which means I'm not really the target demographic to answer this question any more, so take whatever I say with a pinch of salt.
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Re: The Future Of The Forums

Post by Glemp » Sun Jun 07, 2020 2:45 am

Archive these forums and move to another platform, like reddit, and run them with Discord in parallel. Discord is good for chatting, but not for discussion or multiple convos going on at once. Don't nuke our history, use a webcrawler like HTTPTrack to convert the forum into static html pages, and zip them up for download or ideally host them.

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Re: The Future Of The Forums

Post by M0rtimer » Sun Jun 07, 2020 5:24 am

Discord can work as a simple discussion forum, but it is most definitely not the same thing as a forum. A lot of things that are currently being done here will be simply impossible to very very contrived.

Reddit would be better, but far from ideal either. Forums work with that one topic has multiple, consequential posts. Reddit works with comment chains - So each post can have multiple comments, and then each comment can have more as well... Keeping a distinct flow going would be very hard... It would however work as a decent discussion forum.

The only real way to keep a play by post format would be to move to something that functionally works as a forum, sadly. That just becomes an issue because the internet has moved on to different methods of hosting user content.

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Re: The Future Of The Forums

Post by Glemp » Sun Jun 07, 2020 8:44 am

M0rtimer wrote:
Sun Jun 07, 2020 5:24 am
Reddit would be better, but far from ideal either. Forums work with that one topic has multiple, consequential posts. Reddit works with comment chains - So each post can have multiple comments, and then each comment can have more as well... Keeping a distinct flow going would be very hard... It would however work as a decent discussion forum.
The problem is that that consistent flow can be fouled and knotted up by multiple discussions happening at the same time, which can make the thread as a whole almost impenetrable to someone that's just come online. For example:

Person A: Says something.
Person B1: Quotes A and replies.
Person C1: Quotes B1 with nested post [A] and replies.
Person 1: Says something.
Person B2: Quotes A and replies.
Person C2: Quotes B2 + B1 together and replies.
Person 2: Quotes 1 and replies.
Person D1: Quotes C2 [B1[A]] [B2[A]] and replies.
Person D: Quotes C1 [B1[A]] and replies.

And so on. Reddit has the advantage of keeping each individual thread on topic, and anyone that wants to discuss something else can split off into their own enclosed thread.

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Re: The Future Of The Forums

Post by Quarg » Sun Jun 07, 2020 11:23 am

I see what both Glemp and Mort are saying...and they are both right, but I recall a tendency within goblin conversations to be under a topic with a linear, non-branching threads while reddit is designed to allow for branching and comment discussion.

Obviously if Reddit is the only choice then so be it but somehow I feel like we are missing something in options...
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Re: The Future Of The Forums

Post by Dusk9 » Sun Jun 07, 2020 1:01 pm

Glemp wrote:
Sun Jun 07, 2020 8:44 am
M0rtimer wrote:
Sun Jun 07, 2020 5:24 am
Reddit would be better, but far from ideal either. Forums work with that one topic has multiple, consequential posts. Reddit works with comment chains - So each post can have multiple comments, and then each comment can have more as well... Keeping a distinct flow going would be very hard... It would however work as a decent discussion forum.
The problem is that that consistent flow can be fouled and knotted up by multiple discussions happening at the same time, which can make the thread as a whole almost impenetrable to someone that's just come online. For example:

Person A: Says something.
Person B1: Quotes A and replies.
Person C1: Quotes B1 with nested post [A] and replies.
Person 1: Says something.
Person B2: Quotes A and replies.
Person C2: Quotes B2 + B1 together and replies.
Person 2: Quotes 1 and replies.
Person D1: Quotes C2 [B1[A]] [B2[A]] and replies.
Person D: Quotes C1 [B1[A]] and replies.

And so on. Reddit has the advantage of keeping each individual thread on topic, and anyone that wants to discuss something else can split off into their own enclosed thread.
That might be better for the discussion topics, when each thread is focused on one comic page, sure. But that linear format is what makes the long-running games work. The top games currently on the forum are all 200-400 pages long - moving that to a reddit style format just isn't possible.

To borrow your own format, a typical post chain is as follows;

Game Master (GM): Posts update with previous player actions.
Player 1: Posts an action.
Player 2: Posts an action + dialogue with player 1's character.
Player 1: Reply dialogue with player 2's character.
Player 3: Posts an action.
GM: Posts new update with previous player actions.

...and so on, ad infinitum. As far as I can see, the only way that could conceivably work in a reddit-style format is if each update from the GM was it's own thread - but then you'd have problems such as the more active games drowning out the slower ones and pushing them off the front page. Or trying to find something that was said to your character only a day or so in game, but 1 year ago in real time (this is a real example), and end up having to search through 100 different threads because you can't remember the exact date.

------------------------------------

Back on topic, I'm another one in the camp of "not-Discord". It works for live discussion, but it's not really a good replacement for the forum experience. Mort is right - the only option for maintaining play-by-post is going to be another forum. Comic discussion might be fine on Discord, but the Forum Games will have to change format pretty drastically to survive.

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Re: The Future Of The Forums

Post by M0rtimer » Sun Jun 07, 2020 1:57 pm

I was going to do my own post, but I see Dusk has pretty much covered the point I was going to make in a better way than I probably could. I mostly just wanted to reconfirm that I was talking from the perspective of a play-by-post format, yes. I think the comic discussion would work just fine in a Reddit format. If the goal, however, is to preserve the play by post games that have survived so long, it's not really an option.

Though, while I'd hate to admit it, while the games forum may be FAR from dead, it is far from what it used to be as well. Depending on how hard it would be to get a new forum setup, it could be that the best solution is to leave it to its fate. Though I don't see why there'd be issues in that regard - Forums may no longer be the "modern" standard, but there are plenty of solutions for it still.

Of course, if that is an issue or the issue is that a new forum means we'd lose our current one - That is something that shouldn't be too hard to deal with, just given advance warning. Backups could be made, and groups could either migrate to a new goblins forum, or another place.

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Re: The Future Of The Forums

Post by WearsHats » Sun Jun 07, 2020 3:14 pm

Anyone have suggestions of good forum software?
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