Forum software open discussion and suggestions feature requests.

Hi everyone,

it took a while to understand what happened. Our forum is reaching the technical limits of this really old PHP codebase and this website is not designed to scale. We would like to know if you as moderators are open to any other alternatives like Discourse or something similar. More modern platforms will allow us to scale easily.

As of now, this is what we did after the incident:

  • Resize our server
  • Improve CloudFlare caching for anonymous users
  • Added a WAF to protect from recent attacks causing high load on the server
  • Optimize the server for CPU usage instead of memory usage
  • Improved the monitoring and alerting system

mastrolinux:
Our forum is reaching the technical limits of this really old PHP codebase and this website is not designed to scale.

If there is not an easy and seamless upgrade path that is essentially invisible to us users maybe it would be worth starting a completely new system using whatever new Forum software seems best. New Topics could only be created in the new system and after a few weeks the old system could be made "read-only".

That's obviously not as satisfactory as a seamless upgrade, but very few Forum Topics run for a long time. And the last time there was an upgrade it caused a lot of irritation and took a while to settle down.

May I also suggest that if you do choose new Forum software then just use it without any modification other than to apply Arduino colours and the Arduino Logo.

...R

Thanks for the update Luca.

Just had a quick look at the Discourse demo.
A lot looks slightly familiar to some of the things we see in here so that would shorten learning curves.

Some nicer features that have already caught my eye were the inline picture posting and better user name call out ability.

Some aspects look a little cluttered but I would suppose that can be tailored a little.
Colours for code is also a nice touch.

A lot of the current guides for forum usage etc. would need a good chunk of revision.

Link to the forum demo for Discourse

Just so people can see what Luca meant.

mastrolinux:

  • Resize our server

I was surprised to see that this wasn't "resize our servers".

Does the website software really constrain you to running it on a single box? What about the back end? If so, is it worth considering a migration to a cloud environment where you can scale up CPU and RAM dynamically with the ebb and flow of demand?

Looking at the stats at the bottom of the main page, it doesn't look as though usage is increasing, on the few times I've looked at it, ~3000 users sounds familiar and I see that the max was three years ago.

Is there anything else Cloudflare can do to fend off DOS attacks and the like?

If you're already cloud hosted and dynamic resource provisioning isn't solving your issues, then I guess it is time for a brand new forum as Robin2 suggests.

I also heartily agree with this:

May I also suggest that if you do choose new Forum software then just use it without any modification other than to apply Arduino colours and the Arduino Logo.

ballscrewbob:
Link to the forum demo for Discourse

Just so people can see what Luca meant.

It would be nice if the Arduino developmet team had a team page like this

I enjoyed following the development of Stackoverflow in Jeff Attwood's and Joel Spolsky's blogs so the presence of Jeff in this project is comforting - though I have no idea how much (or how little) input he may have made.

However I was not at all impressed when I clicked this link

We have robust, tested converters for vBulletin, phpBB, Vanilla, bbPress, SMF,

.

I think the Arduino folks (with input from the Moderators) have to make the decision about what software to choose. It's not really a suitable thing for a large committee.

If there is a change to a new system we will all find it awkward and irritating for a while. It will be much easier to deal with that if there is STRONG support from the Arduino backroom boys.

My main requirement is that any new Forum software WILL NOT send me emails.

...R

I am a little leery of mods becoming too involved.
That side of things i think may need to be covered in the backroom.
The backend needs to be moderator friendly through all the different levels of mods (yes there are a few)

So long as moderator needs to be able to deal quickly and easily with mixed issues is covered without having to open multiple tabs or chase a moved item I would be happy.
Some simplicity would go a long way there. including a central moderator area to allow mods from other sections to input ideas (not currently possible or available)

Would like to see a migration of the posts so we dont have to start from scratch and can carry on where we may have left off. That would be a MUST for a lot of us I think. Otherwise it would be like buying a book with the last few pages missing then having to buy another copy to get to the end.

Then there would be the current post standings and rankings to address...
Doesn't sound much until you realise it does carry some weight with new people to be able to see that who they are dealing with has been around long enough to be able to offer valid advice.

Page formatting as it stands has quite a clean look and is easy to follow.
Some bells and whistles would be nice but I would implore them to K.I.S.S. and avoid too much eye candy.

Would also like to see what anyone else wants to bring to the table software wise.

Above all a suitable period of testing for whatever software is chosen on an isolated server with a good selection of people to wander around and break things so a transition / deployment would be smoother and most hiccups would have already been averted.
It would also gives the backroom teams a good grounding in the software and how to get to issues easily and deal with them having practiced ahead with live users so to speak.

What happened to Basecamp?

TheMemberFormerlyKnownAsAWOL:
What happened to Basecamp?

You mean the moderator section...its still there but it turns out most of the moderators dont have access... :astonished:

Why am I not surprised?

To ask a moderator wide Q. you need to PM them all if you can gather up a complete list first.
And of course there are a few that are no longer members of the forums or dont even moderate the sections designated... ?!?!?!

You should come back and check it out :smiling_imp:

Well, when you put it like that…

Nah.

Nothing’s changed.

ballscrewbob:
The backend needs to be moderator friendly though through all the different levels of mods (yes there are a few)

That’s all I had in mind.

…R

I hope these are not the cheapest options: Discourse or something similar

Cmon Larry ... Masimo has deep pockets and short hands :smiley:

The thought went thru my mind that one should now hold off posting any work until this is finalized so the wheel does not have to be reinvented.

On the bright side, a thought has gone thru my mind! :wink:

larryd:
I hope these are not the cheapest options: Discourse or something similar

I don't think this is an area where price is any guide to quality.

I do think an Open Source project like Arduino should, if at all possible, support other Open Source options.

...R

I too am wary of the Moderators becoming too involved with choosing a replacement system although I would like to be able to explain my requirements.

My main requirement is that all of the functions that I need should be easy and consistent to use. Whist being a Mod gives me access to more functions on the current system many of them are clumsy to use or simply don’t work as expected or in the way intended.

In addition to user functionality there is also the question of the facilities provided by the forum software itself such as an easy way to post code without it being interpreted as HTML. Discourse supports the use of BBCode and hence code tags, which I have tested, but as the majority of first time posters don’t use the easily accessible code tag icon now I hardly think that they will add code tags manually. Can Discourse be set up to allow a code tag icon to be available or perhaps even to spot that a post contains keywords such as setup() and loop() and trigger a reminder to use code tags ? Could it be set up to recognise foreign languages and check the forum section being posted in ?

As to the migration of the current database, I have mixed feelings. To me the current range of forum sections is much too large. Many were, I suspect, set up on a whim, used for a while and are now dormant. I would support a clean break from the current forum which would be left in read only mode so that links to old posts could be posted for reference and/or copied to the new forum. A message at logon directing users to the new forum would, of course, be handy.

A clean break would allow the forum sections to be reviewed and rationalised. As has been pointed out, most topics have a relatively short “shelf life” and whilst the changeover would be traumatic it would surely be a good move as long as the new forum system can provide what we all need

UKHeliBob:
Can Discourse be set up to allow a code tag icon to be available or perhaps even to spot that a post contains keywords such as setup() and loop() and trigger a reminder to use code tags ? Could it be set up to recognise foreign languages and check the forum section being posted in ?

My understanding is that the present Forum software has been modified by the Arduino team so that it is no longer the same as what one would download from SMF. That is likely to make maintenance and upgrades a great deal more difficult.

If my understanding is correct then I am very concerned that the piece I have quoted might be interpreted by the Arduino team as encouragement to do the same sort of thing with Discourse. I really hope they can be discouraged and dissuaded and prevented from doing that. Use it as it comes, or not at all.

Applying features of Discourse that just require selecting a tick-box in something like a Preferences section is fine. However if a necessary feature cannot be implemented as simply as that then another product should be chosen.

Perhaps one of the Arduino backroom persons could be assigned to set up an Arduino-Demo version of Discourse as closely aligned to the present Arduino system as possible. Then any of us who is interested could have a look at it. Maybe it could even have limited login facilities. Such a system would be especially useful to allow Moderators to get a feel for it capabilities and limitations. A couple of backroom-person-days invested at this early stage could save a huge bundle of time later on.

...R

Use it as it comes, or not at all.

Agreed wholeheartedly. I was not my intention to encourage customisation beyond what is available with existing selectable options