gtechn
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Should the Pi Forum switch to Discourse?

Thu Feb 14, 2019 11:32 pm

The Raspberry Pi Forum currently runs on phpBB, and it has served the Raspberry Pi community well over the last 7 years. However, phpBB is not where most of the "action" is anymore. Many organizations are switching out phpBB, BuddyPress, and Yammer-based solutions with Discourse, which is free, open-source, and uses newer web technologies.

I understand that, considering that the Raspberry Pi Forum has been running on phpBB for the last seven years, many people are happy with it. Discourse, however, appears to be the future, and has easy conversion tools to import phpBB websites and turn them into Discourse websites (as many have already done). PhpBB itself has come up with a new design itself to try to mimic some of the features of Discourse https://blog.phpbb.com/2018/09/16/to-the-future/, while the latest releases of phpBB have been mostly uninspiring maintenance releases.

My question for the community is, should the Raspberry Pi Forum switch to Discourse, or remain with phpBB? And why?

epoch1970
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Re: Should the Pi Forum switch to Discourse?

Fri Feb 15, 2019 12:15 am

No. Discourse is a marketing/customer support product designed for things like call avoidance and community engagement.
I don’t think it fits here.
"S'il n'y a pas de solution, c'est qu'il n'y a pas de problème." Les Shadoks, J. Rouxel

ejolson
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Re: Should the Pi Forum switch to Discourse?

Fri Feb 15, 2019 4:09 am

epoch1970 wrote:
Fri Feb 15, 2019 12:15 am
No. Discourse is a marketing/customer support product designed for things like call avoidance and community engagement.
I don’t think it fits here.
The difficulty in migrating 1348612 posts and the negative consequences of not doing so makes switching ill advised even if the new system were not worse.

Heater
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Re: Should the Pi Forum switch to Discourse?

Fri Feb 15, 2019 6:02 am

Discourse does that infinite scrolling of threads rather than chopping them into pages of 20 or so posts.

That means:

1) When you are on a thread page you cannot search it in the browser for anything you might like to refer to or quote. It's likely not in the page.

3) You cannot keep track of where you are in a long thread easily it has no pages

3) Google search is broken. There is no page for google to return.

Discourse is written in Ruby and hence not the future of anything.

jamesh
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Re: Should the Pi Forum switch to Discourse?

Fri Feb 15, 2019 7:58 am

ejolson wrote:
Fri Feb 15, 2019 4:09 am
epoch1970 wrote:
Fri Feb 15, 2019 12:15 am
No. Discourse is a marketing/customer support product designed for things like call avoidance and community engagement.
I don’t think it fits here.
The difficulty in migrating 1348612 posts and the negative consequences of not doing so makes switching ill advised even if the new system were not worse.
This.

We are actively looking at the forum with regards to performance issues.
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bensimmo
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Re: Should the Pi Forum switch to Discourse?

Fri Feb 15, 2019 8:37 am

Or do they Archive this forum at some point and start afresh.
While some posts are and will still be useful in the future or for history sessions.
They are archived for reference, donor lost and not messed up.
The majority are not useful anymore.

Perhaps start afresh with the Pi4 at the latest and just get on with it from there.

After a bit nobody will mind or notice, it will just be a clean and up to date fresh community chat and support forum.

As long as it's as easy a form (like this), has better referencing for useful posts and notifying people.
And isn't like Facebook or Twitter where conversation and flow are terrible and get lost after a few hours or posts.


(Speaking as someone who has done and helped a few forum migrations starting back some 15 to 20 years ago, and were popular sites way back then).

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Re: Should the Pi Forum switch to Discourse?

Fri Feb 15, 2019 10:52 am

Having been a member of a forum where the migration didn't go smoothly (ALL links broken!), this is not a task that is to be undertaken lightly, but it is under review.
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bensimmo
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Re: Should the Pi Forum switch to Discourse?

Fri Feb 15, 2019 11:04 am

Hence why I say, archive and move on.
We left the old forum running for a while so topics could finish, but all new post where in the new forum.
Over time any quality and up to date posts where either linked to or reposted.
Given this is an open read forum, that referencing isn't a problem.

Stop all that pain and hassle.

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Re: Should the Pi Forum switch to Discourse?

Fri Feb 15, 2019 11:53 am

ejolson wrote:
Fri Feb 15, 2019 4:09 am
The difficulty in migrating 1348612 posts and the negative consequences of not doing so makes switching ill advised even if the new system were not worse.
A million and a half posts isn't all that many and shouldn't be a reason to not migrate to something else if what problems there are cannot be resolved with what there is. But, yes, it does need to be done with care and due diligence. If an organisation with near £30 million income a year, some £23 million sitting in the bank at end of year, cannot manage that something is very wrong.

I don't particularly care what is used or chosen so long as it's responsive, functional, works and is usable - Which IMO can't be said of the default theme for this forum, but at least the alternative I am using is.

There's nothing wrong with what we have IMO. Any problems are behind the facade of what we see.

I am sure whatever is done will be fine, so long as those in charge aren't seduced by the lure of the forum becoming 'an experience', where form replaces function, rather than what it is useful for. I don't think they will but we'll have to wait and see.

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Re: Should the Pi Forum switch to Discourse?

Fri Feb 15, 2019 11:54 am

If it's anything like the linear way that FB works, that would be a seriously bad move! :!:

Keep to the 'forum' way of doing things - I will not join groups on FB, (or any other social media), it just isn't worth the hassle. :roll:

jamesh
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Re: Should the Pi Forum switch to Discourse?

Fri Feb 15, 2019 1:06 pm

1.5M posts may not be that many, but it's bringing PHPBB to its knees. We are doing work to speed up the forum by passing off searches etc to a separate system. If that doesn't pan out, then we may well have to migrate.

Discourse has been mentioned as an alternative, and I took a look at some example sites, seems OK.

But, as people above have said , any migration is not easy, and there are a LOT of links out there in internet land that will likely break on any transfer. Keeping an PHP archive might work.
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gtechn
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Re: Should the Pi Forum switch to Discourse?

Fri Feb 15, 2019 4:21 pm

Maybe the old forum could be https://www.raspberrypi.org/forums, while the new forum could be https://forums.raspberrypi.org/.

ejolson
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Re: Should the Pi Forum switch to Discourse?

Fri Feb 15, 2019 4:54 pm

jamesh wrote:
Fri Feb 15, 2019 1:06 pm
1.5M posts may not be that many, but it's bringing PHPBB to its knees. We are doing work to speed up the forum by passing off searches etc to a separate system. If that doesn't pan out, then we may well have to migrate.

Discourse has been mentioned as an alternative, and I took a look at some example sites, seems OK.

But, as people above have said , any migration is not easy, and there are a LOT of links out there in internet land that will likely break on any transfer. Keeping an PHP archive might work.
Those 1.5M posts in active forums are a strong selling point for the current hardware. Press reset and start over with the forum and there is suddenly much less difference between Raspberry Pi and the competitors. There are many threads of general interest, for example this thread on running the WRF weather forecasting model, that bring people into the forum through non-Pi related web searches. Attracting visitors who have never heard about Raspberry Pi to this site where they see a useful discussion still active about a topic they are interested sends a positive message that they are likely to pass on to others. Directing visitors to a broken link sends a negative message.

While PHPBB may not make the best use of server resources, from a user's point of view, it doesn't lose messages when I'm editing them.

Are you sure you are using the best server for this site? A cloud instance with bottlenecked bandwidth to storage and multiple Meltdown and Spectre mitigations applied at both the hypervisor and virtual machine level is not likely to perform as well as running on purpose-built hardware with protection offered by a suitable denial-of-service preventing firewall. Further, when running trusted code on your own server there is also no need to incur the additional input-output slowdown that results from those side-channel security mitigations. Huge amounts of RAM can also help.

The above is meant to promote a constructive discussion by those who actually know the current server configuration. As I don't know the specifics, I've only pointed out some rather general ideas.
Last edited by ejolson on Fri Feb 15, 2019 5:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.

gtechn
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Re: Should the Pi Forum switch to Discourse?

Fri Feb 15, 2019 5:04 pm

ejolson wrote:
Fri Feb 15, 2019 4:54 pm
Those 1.5M posts in active forums are a strong selling point for the current hardware. Press reset and start over with the forum and there is suddenly much less difference between Raspberry Pi and the competitors. There are many threads of general interest, for example this thread on running the WRF weather forecasting model, that bring people into the forum through non-Pi related web searches. Attracting visitors who have never heard about Raspberry Pi to this site where they see a useful discussion still active about a topic they are interested sends a positive message that they are likely to pass on to others. Directing visitors to a broken link sends a negative message.
The current forum would maybe, from what I can tell about jamesh's message, be archived. All links would still work, you just couldn't post new stuff. The last year (or two) would be pulled over to the new forum for continuing current discussions.

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Re: Should the Pi Forum switch to Discourse?

Fri Feb 15, 2019 10:10 pm

ejolson wrote:
Fri Feb 15, 2019 4:54 pm
jamesh wrote:
Fri Feb 15, 2019 1:06 pm
1.5M posts may not be that many, but it's bringing PHPBB to its knees. We are doing work to speed up the forum by passing off searches etc to a separate system. If that doesn't pan out, then we may well have to migrate.

Discourse has been mentioned as an alternative, and I took a look at some example sites, seems OK.

But, as people above have said , any migration is not easy, and there are a LOT of links out there in internet land that will likely break on any transfer. Keeping an PHP archive might work.
Those 1.5M posts in active forums are a strong selling point for the current hardware. Press reset and start over with the forum and there is suddenly much less difference between Raspberry Pi and the competitors. There are many threads of general interest, for example this thread on running the WRF weather forecasting model, that bring people into the forum through non-Pi related web searches. Attracting visitors who have never heard about Raspberry Pi to this site where they see a useful discussion still active about a topic they are interested sends a positive message that they are likely to pass on to others. Directing visitors to a broken link sends a negative message.

While PHPBB may not make the best use of server resources, from a user's point of view, it doesn't lose messages when I'm editing them.

Are you sure you are using the best server for this site? A cloud instance with bottlenecked bandwidth to storage and multiple Meltdown and Spectre mitigations applied at both the hypervisor and virtual machine level is not likely to perform as well as running on purpose-built hardware with protection offered by a suitable denial-of-service preventing firewall. Further, when running trusted code on your own server there is also no need to incur the additional input-output slowdown that results from those side-channel security mitigations. Huge amounts of RAM can also help.

The above is meant to promote a constructive discussion by those who actually know the current server configuration. As I don't know the specifics, I've only pointed out some rather general ideas.
The forum server is a purpose built dedicated machine, quad or eight core, cannot remember which, with I think 16GB RAM and a very fast net connection. It was brand new just before Xmas, so state of the art.
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gtechn
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Re: Should the Pi Forum switch to Discourse?

Fri Feb 15, 2019 11:56 pm

jamesh wrote:
Fri Feb 15, 2019 10:10 pm
The forum server is a purpose built dedicated machine, quad or eight core, cannot remember which, with I think 16GB RAM and a very fast net connection. It was brand new just before Xmas, so state of the art.
Wow! That sounds like a pretty neat system. (And yet, there are still performance issues?)

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Re: Should the Pi Forum switch to Discourse?

Sat Feb 16, 2019 7:04 am

gtechn wrote:
Fri Feb 15, 2019 11:56 pm
jamesh wrote:
Fri Feb 15, 2019 10:10 pm
The forum server is a purpose built dedicated machine, quad or eight core, cannot remember which, with I think 16GB RAM and a very fast net connection. It was brand new just before Xmas, so state of the art.
Wow! That sounds like a pretty neat system. (And yet, there are still performance issues?)
Close to the spec of my previous laptop ;-)

The issue is with the size of the database, I believe, and the way PHPBB handles displaying posts. There was a significant improvement made recently by disabling the "online" status indications, but there are still issues.

LTolledo
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Re: Should the Pi Forum switch to Discourse?

Sat Feb 16, 2019 1:07 pm

My take on the question:

Switching will be decided by the forum administrators
Not dictated by freeloading forum users
If you are not happy with the current system then don't bother
"Don't come to me with 'issues' for I don't know how to deal with those
Come to me with 'problems' and I'll help you find solutions"

Some people be like:
"Help me! Am drowning! But dont you dare touch me nor come near me!"

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Burngate
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Re: Should the Pi Forum switch to Discourse?

Sat Feb 16, 2019 6:40 pm

I don't dispute the first of those statements - those who would make that sort of decision are unlikely to do so without first researching the problem, and asking me what I thought would be low on their list of priorities.

However, I object, strenuously*, to being called "freeloading", which has negative connotations.

I happen to use a bit of road that, up to about six months ago, had a roundabout.
That worked reasonably well, but with a lot of work and not a little disruption, that's now been replaced with a set of traffic lights.
Now, we're back to things working reasonably well, but I'm not convinced the change was worth the cost.
Nobody asked me, and if they had they wouldn't have got a useful answer

But I'm a road user, not a "freeloader"
The change was done for the benefit of me and others like me, not for the benefit of the transport department

And any changes to this forum will made for my benefit, so If I have to learn new ways of doing things I will. I'm not going to leave in a fit of pique.

* "strenuously" is perhaps too strong - after all, it gave me the excuse for a rant, which I enjoyed!

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Re: Should the Pi Forum switch to Discourse?

Sat Feb 16, 2019 6:49 pm

No-one is freloading. The forum is provided as a service for Raspberry Pi users and we regard it as vitally important as a source of information, technical support and general Raspbery Pi joy. Without this forum, I doubt the Pi would be where it is now.

Which is why I push to have improvements made where possible.
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Heater
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Re: Should the Pi Forum switch to Discourse?

Sat Feb 16, 2019 7:25 pm

Yes, what is all this "freeloader" nonsense?

If you want to look at it like that we pay for what we get by contributing back here.

In actual dollars we are also customers who have purchased product. This is support for that product.

ejolson
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Re: Should the Pi Forum switch to Discourse?

Sat Feb 16, 2019 8:34 pm

rpdom wrote:
Sat Feb 16, 2019 7:04 am
gtechn wrote:
Fri Feb 15, 2019 11:56 pm
jamesh wrote:
Fri Feb 15, 2019 10:10 pm
The forum server is a purpose built dedicated machine, quad or eight core, cannot remember which, with I think 16GB RAM and a very fast net connection. It was brand new just before Xmas, so state of the art.
Wow! That sounds like a pretty neat system. (And yet, there are still performance issues?)
Close to the spec of my previous laptop ;-)
The fact that the current server is new but relatively low on RAM is a good thing, as this provides for a possible hardware solution that would be much less costly or disruptive compared to migrating to different software. The surprisingly large number of System 360 compatible mainframes IBM still sells demonstrates, after an objective cost analysis, that switching hardware is almost always less disruptive and cheaper than switching software.

While this is only a vendor-run forum, I agree with those who have stated it is important. Moreover, if it is mission critical, then it should be treated as mission critical. I wonder if 128GB or more RAM would speed up the database engine to the point where everything just works.

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Re: Should the Pi Forum switch to Discourse?

Sun Feb 17, 2019 8:20 pm

Tbh, I guessed at the ram, will double check, although I suspect Ram isn't the issue.
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Re: Should the Pi Forum switch to Discourse?

Sun Feb 17, 2019 8:30 pm

The real issue with phpBB3 is the truly awful database design that doesn't scale well and lousy SQL that can't be improved by throwing indexing at it.
Note: Having anything remotely humorous in your signature is completely banned on this forum.

Any DMs sent on Twitter will be answered next month.

This is a doctor free zone.

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Re: Should the Pi Forum switch to Discourse?

Mon Feb 18, 2019 5:09 pm

DougieLawson wrote:
Sun Feb 17, 2019 8:30 pm
The real issue with phpBB3 is the truly awful database design that doesn't scale well and lousy SQL that can't be improved by throwing indexing at it.
Yup.
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