Alternative forum software for the site owners to consider?

Quoting from a post that I put in the wrong part of the forum:

This software has grown on me. I actually am at the point where I like it better than the platform the AO was on. Not to say there couldn’t be better options out there, but this works well for me.


I think there are two aspects to consider:

  • User interface dynamics
  • Moderator interface dynamics

I’m learning the second on this forum . . . and it has a lot to say for it. There is a hierarchy for “members” that allows Forum Leaders to have some abilities to help “self-regulate” discussions without being moderators.

There’s also the dynamic of being able to “bust” down a user w/o resorting to temp-bans as the initial “consequence”.

Anything would be better than this format IMO.
Big Q would be if current content is transferable.
Thread probably better served in the “Site Feedback” section.

Trying out some moderator-powers. I moved the posts from the prior thread to this one. So if a “time stamp” for a post seems off . . . that is why.

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I’ve heard a lot of good things about XenForo, but never used it myself.

This software is okay once you get the hang of it, maybe even excellent once you get the hang of it, but I feel like it has a steep learning curve. I walked away from two fora because they used it and it turned me off. It wasn’t until I had a really strong motive to learn this that I buckled down and did so. That’s an argument against it, imo, even if it has great features once you master it – the primary determinant of the value of an on-line forum is the people posting there, and too few posters = irrelevance.

That being said, moving software is a huge deal. If this is working well enough at attracting people, I think the admins should stick with it.

I think the bigger learning curve for this “group” is staying on topic for a non-professional thread. :face_with_head_bandage:

We’ve never learned that, not going to in the future, either.

The only improvement is the continual notification of new posts on the main site (old site had to be manually refreshed or clicked into a subforum).
The layout still needs work.

I’m unconvinced that a change of software would be beneficial. I’ll elaborate.

  • I think the biggest cause of concern isn’t the forum software so much as it’s different than what most people were used to. If we change software, we still have the same problem.
  • I looked at a variety of software platforms. The more common ones are all reasonably similiar. I made a judgement call that this one was slightly better than the popular alternatives. The other popular alternatives are only arguably better or worse. (they’re all pretty similiar).
  • It’s a requirement that we go with current and popular software platforms. We need stuff that’s tested, supported, and in continued development. That narrows the available platforms down to maybe 2 (maybe 3 if you stretch it). It’s the same reason we went with Vbulletin back in the day.
  • IMO, a typical post here has no real learning curve. Register, click on a category, click the new topic button, start typing. The more advanced stuff, yeah, there’s a learning curve - but again, only becuase it’s different. We’ll experience the same learning curve no matter what we pick if it’s not vbulletin.
  • IMO newer/younger participants won’t have as much of a learning curve if they’re not 20 years trained on vbulletin.
  • I’m not likely going to be convinced to try paid software like Xenforo. Opensource is a pretty basic requirement for me. Freedom to hack code is vital. Cost isn’t the issue, elbow room to do what’s necessary is an issue. The few times I’ve worked online with paid software I’ve mostly been unhappy in the long term.

Two other points:

  • I think criticism of the layout of the forum is valid, and I agree. I’m all thumbs when it comes to that stuff. At some point we’ll have a pro make something nice and intuitive for the layout, but that’s going to be midterm. near term we’re spending money on other stuff (exam related stuff) and also some time prioriities.
  • I’m also aware that it’s bad business to ignore your ‘customers’. I don’t think that this is the case here, I think we’ve got a pretty strong argument for staying with discourse and no clear strong arguements that would validate a full scale move. So I’m listening…not saying no, just saying right now, I think we’ve still made the right decision.

Actually, I’m not overly concerned about that. Map fields as best we can from one database to another, my dev writes a script, we test, and away we go.

FWIW - I sort of recall having a decent learning curve on the AO too. That was 15 years ago, though, so I have been way up on the curve for a long time - which made it comfortable.

Maybe reorganizing or splitting the high level topics may help.

I see many other forums have successfully and happily moved to Discourse.

Based on a quick pass I would probably suggest breaking up the exams to more homogenous groups. SOA versus CAS where it makes sense.

Lucy has a Discourse channel set up (there are probably others as well). It gets a fair amount of traffic. It’s a chat platform though, not a forum. They are different animals. A forum is better for things like exams - it’s pretty difficult to go search out the answer someone gave you last week on Discourse, for example.

I think you’re talking about Discord. I think this platform that Go Actuary is on is called Discourse. Which is hella confusing to be sure.

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You are absolutely right. Sorry.

Oh yeah. I didn’t realize that Xenforo is paid software. In addition to everything you say, open source software never suddenly dies. It might fade away (like vBulletin) but no one ever pulls the plug.

I didn’t realize either. I have never run a forum site myself, and so I offer my OP as a starting point for discussion only, not as a wedge issue in any way - especially as I hadn’t even been on the DWS Outpost more than a couple of times in the last several years (not since the last Battle of the Bands, more or less). I’m happy to be schooled by Space Lobster or any other administrator on what is or isn’t appropriate for one forum or another.

I appreciate the Lobster’s detailed explanation very much, and understand better what the hurdles are. I am inclined to agree with him that it’s not so much the functionality at this point, but the layout and format. The White-On-White, quasi-Twitter, quasi-Reddit aesthetic is something that I - a non Tweeter and non-Redditor - find a bit off-putting, but if that can be dealt with eventually, or if simply getting used to it is something that happens over time, then so be it.

Thank you for the replies. :slight_smile:

There are a couple more themes you can try out. Not many, but there might be one you like better.


Interesting. The “white-on-white” is called “shades of blue” despite featuring very little blue. I switched to dark - maybe that’ll be better. Thanks. :slight_smile: