Forum reboot

Alpine Lakes is now the standard build of World Machine. Other than a couple hiccups, all has gone well. Very soon, we’ll talk about the next major branch of World Machine and where the product is going.

But first, I want to talk about something else near to my heart.

Fixing the forum.

It pains me how much the forums have faded from their old glory. And I can’t place the blame for that anywhere but on myself. The simple fact was that moderating and extensively participating in the forum, in addition to running the business and doing all development work, became a herculean task. This resulted in burnout. Running the forum was the least-essential of the three things, and so .. it faded.

To return to vibrancy, the forums need some love and attention. There’s a number of both technical and social issues that need to be addressed.

I’ll single out two particular ones here:

  • On the technical side, the old forum software used (SMF) is not well maintained these days. This makes it hard to use, maintain, it frequently breaks, and the entire thing feels antiquated.
  • On the social side, moderation is a must. Both for keeping the kind of civil, helpful community we want in the human conversations, and for controlling the unending wave of forum spam. The amount of spam that the current forum receives is mind-boggling even with automated solutions. If you think what makes it through is bad, you should see the full amount 🙂

There are a lot of possible solutions, but the one we’re going to try is moving to a Discourse-based solution. If you’re not familiar with it, its ‘modern’ forum software, created by the co-founders of Stack Overflow. It’s an actively maintained platform, with powerful community and anti-spam features. It will be easier than ever for everyone to signup/participate/browse.

On the social side, there will be 3 major changes:

  • Veteran community members get a lot of perks, and will be able to help moderate automatically. The more you participate, the more you can do.
  • I’m bringing on a primary moderator who is not-me to help guide the community and provide official representation in the forum.
  • I will personally interact more in the new forums than the last few years. I can’t be the full time moderator like the old days, but I’ll do my best to drop in whenever I can. Having a front-line moderator also means that I can be “paged” to a conversation that could really use my voice.

All of the existing topics and your existing user account are being upgraded automatically. When this process is done, the current forum URL will be switched over to the new server. You should be able to login and all your posts should still exist.

I’m looking forward to the “reboot” of the forums. I hope to see you there 🙂

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