Podcast about building online communities (Discourse software)

  • JKMakowka
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Podcast about building online communities (Discourse software)

Found this interesting and thought it would also give some insight on this (aging) forum:
www.jonobacon.com/2019/09/11/jeff-atwood...community-platforms/

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  • muench
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Re: Podcast about building online communities (Discourse software)

Hi Kris,
Thanks for posting this. I listened to the podcast.

My take-away messages were:
  • There are lots of different discussion forum platforms (see also here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_Internet_forum_software - our software, Kunena, is not even included there). The one that is featured in the podcast is called Discourse and it sounds really good.
  • In Discourse, users can achieve certain trust levels which are based on an algorithm that looks at how much they post but also (more importantly) how much they read, how many likes they give and so forth. When users reach a higher trust level they get additional powers.
  • Two powers that were mentioned were to improve thread titles of other people and move threads into other categories. This is interesting because I do this (as a moderator) a lot. I agree with Jeff that users seem to find it really hard to come up with good thread titles! So if this workload can be shared amongst several people that would be good. It's a bit like our planned concept of having several co-moderators.
  • Users are nudged to do certain things as they progress, e.g. after they have made 5 posts they get nudged to create an avatar / profile picture.
  • Some of the forums that use Discourse are vastly bigger than ours. He talks about discussion threads that get thousands of replies!
  • There is a function in Discourse which can display a machine-created summary of a thread. Sounds interesting.
  • For Discourse to work well for a company or organisation, the employees should use it as well themselves; for anything that is not confidential, rather than using e-mail they should use Discourse to discuss their work (I agree with that! In our case, I think the SuSanA core group and Working Group leads should use the Forum more actively).
  • To find out what your customers want you need to speak to them and ask them. I wonder if we should run surveys more often about what people want from the forum.
  • On the one hand, I would love to try out a new forum software like Discourse. On the other hand, I cannot picture how we could get the money to do so and how to migrate all the existing forum posts across. Maybe it's easier to hope and wait for future updates of Kunena? For example, Kunena now also offers a "what you see is what you get" (WYSIWYG) editor but we haven't yet had the resources to update to this new version of Kunena.

Kris, which aspects of the podcast do you think are applicable to the SuSanA discussion forum in particular? Do you think we need to ditch Kunena and move to another platform? What would be the practicalities of this? And a few years later we might have to move again? Is there any chance that Kunena might evolve to include some of the clever aspects of Discourse? Is there another discussion forum that you follow which is using Discourse? The example that I found is this one (which is a Discourse-based discussion forum about Discourse): meta.discourse.org/ (but let's find something that is more similar to our sector maybe?))

If anyone is interested in the podcast, this is the description of it:

Building collaborative online platforms is hard. To make a platform that is truly compelling, and rewards the right kind of behavior and teamwork, requires a careful balance of effective design, workflow, and understanding the psychology of how people work together.

Jeff Atwood has an enormous amount of experience doing precisely this. Not only was he the co-founder of Stack Overflow (and later Stack Exchange), but he is also the founder of Discourse, an enormously popular Open Source platform for online discussions.

In this episode of Conversations With Bacon we get into the evolution of online communities, how they have grown, and Jeff’s approach to the design and structure of the systems he has worked on. We delve into Slack vs. forums (and where they are most appropriately used), how Discourse has designed a platform where capabilities are earned, different cultural approaches to communication, and much more.


Elisabeth

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  • JKMakowka
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Re: Podcast about building online communities (Discourse software)

muench wrote: Kris, which aspects of the podcast do you think are applicable to the SuSanA discussion forum in particular? Do you think we need to ditch Kunena and move to another platform? What would be the practicalities of this? And a few years later we might have to move again? Is there any chance that Kunena might evolve to include some of the clever aspects of Discourse? Is there another discussion forum that you follow which is using Discourse? The example that I found is this one (which is a Discourse-based discussion forum about Discourse): meta.discourse.org/ (but let's find something that is more similar to our sector maybe?))


I think almost all of the topics discussed in this podcast have relevance for online community building. Discourse is especially suitable as it works the same time as a email mailing list akin to Dgroups etc. (I have used it a lot as it is very common one for open-source software development, see for example the ODK forums: forum.opendatakit.org/ ).

Kunena (and Joomla) is pretty much legacy software at this point, and it is unrealistic to expect there to be major upgrades that would make it similar to a modern forum like Discourse. As the software world is fast moving, I can of course not guarantee that Discourse will not become obsolete in 2 years, but I highly doubt it.

I am brining this up, mainly because I think the technical foundations and especially how the hosting and software maintenance is managed are a vital part of the SuSanA 2.0 discussions I believe. The current model of managing it through slow moving contracts with a 3rd party is I believe unsuitable for a community that is primarily online and thus needs to be flexible and fast moving.

In my opinion, it would be probably best to either rent the forum services directly from the company behind Discourse (SaaS) so that they will always keep it up to date, or alternatively create a "Friends of Susana" like entity that can manage the technical stuff as discussed previously.

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  • muench
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Re: Podcast about building online communities (Discourse software)

I worry that you might be right but what gives you the impression/knowledge that Kunena is "legacy software" (reminder for the others: Kunena is the software on which this discussion forum is built).

Do you have any feeling on whether it would be technically possible to migrate all our old posts and statistics into a new software like Discourse? Or let's say how much would it cost roughly? (anything is possible but the currency is programming time)

Do you agree with me that it would be very important to keep all the old forum posts and threads so that they can easily and seemlessly be searched, and possibly even added onto?

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  • JKMakowka
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Re: Podcast about building online communities (Discourse software)

muench wrote: I worry that you might be right but what gives you the impression/knowledge that Kunena is "legacy software" (reminder for the others: Kunena is the software on which this discussion forum is built).


Joomla and in extension Kunena is build on technology that is basically late 1990 state of the art. They tried to keep up with recent development through the 2000s, but by now it is more or less in maintenance mode only.

muench wrote: Do you have any feeling on whether it would be technically possible to migrate all our old posts and statistics into a new software like Discourse? Or let's say how much would it cost roughly? (anything is possible but the currency is programming time)

Do you agree with me that it would be very important to keep all the old forum posts and threads so that they can easily and seemlessly be searched, and possibly even added onto?


Yes there is a migration path from Kunena to Discourse. Hard to say how much that will costs, but at least 2-3 days of a php/sql database technichian I would guess.
And yes if possible the old content and accounts should be kept, which is possible but will need some expert help.

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