Is Discourse the Right Software for this Forum?

Continuing the discussion from Let the Users decide if something is off topic not the mods!:

After reading through the linked thread, I think that we need to have a discussion about the benefits and disadvantages of using Discourse. @happybeing

Basically, my understanding of the Discourse ethos is that it is very focused on building more genuine communities, to the extent that the core devs of that project are opposed to developing a mute users functionality.

Now you can go read the post, but when you do you will see a certain concept of an ideal community forum. That ideal has two features that I’m not sure the SAFE community shares or wants to. First, an all or nothing approach to community, i.e. you either have to like (or learn to live with) people or vote them off the Island. There is no middle ground.
Second, a benevolent dictatorship or junta which enforces that community ethic and has the power to convince people to stop using PMs or nontechnical responses (because the threat of being “asked to leave your house” as Jeff Atwood puts it is always in the background). The problem with this second part is that communities like ours are sort of ethically opposed to that sort of relationship, and its an ENORMOUS time burden on the moderators themselves.

So the software we are using for this Forum is geared toward creating and encouraging a “strong ties” community. Thats great for a lot of places on the internet, and I think in some abstract sense it makes the world a better place.

BUT, this forum is the landing spot for large numbers of unconnected users who are not looking to build community, they are looking for information on a new exciting software project that they are undecided about. While this forum is not and never will be a wiki, it is of vital importance that new users who are unconnected with the community be able to come on and quickly get educated, get links to the wiki, to the SAFE Crossroads podcast etc. That is AND ABSOLUTELY SHOULD BE, the priority of the mods.

The problem is that the Discourse software does not facilitate that. When mods move a post between threads, it loses the ability to show what a particular post was responding to, as you can see from this post where I misunderstood @janitor

Now in the linked post @smacz lays out the reasons why he thinks discourse is a good choice for the forum.

I am not so sure.

Are there other implementations that we could discuss? Is Discourse really the best? Is @Seneca’s idea worth exploring? I’m perfectly happy with a Churchhillian response “Discourse is the worst forum software except for all the other forum softwares.”

But I think we need to realize that the forum has grown ENORMOUSLY since we last thought about the pros and cons of Discourse, and that because of the structure of Discourse it requires relatively heavy handed moderation, which is irritating for the users who are getting moderated, and requires a pretty significant time investment from the mods. Is that what is really best for the community?


what forum software do you recommend?

I mean, I’m not a software guy, but Vanilla seems to have a lot of the features that we are discussing, and I believe its more of a hierarchical format. I’ve never been a Mod on a vanilla forum so I’m not sure.

Again, I’m open to the idea that this is the best that is available, but I think that being clear about the what the community would want in an ideal world is important, because we do have a lot of software guys on the forum and sooner or later some of them will find or make something that is closer to the ideal than what we have now.

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The thing with splitting off comments is multifaceted. IIRC (too tired to check now) you can split a comment and merge it into another topic, or into a new topic. In that particular instance it was merged into another topic and partially by mistake, so it’s not a classic example of how the feature should work.

Wiki: actually Discourse can work as Wiki, there’s a “Wiki format” for posts. But MediaWiki or other wiki solutions are “heavyweight” Wiki packages whereas Discourse is a combo solution and maybe they wanted to have a separate community, I don’t know.

There’s a lot to be said about all this, but I think long story short, all apps suck. I think Discourse is a very decent forum app and easy to maintain. Also no spam.

Community annoyances, junta, etc.:

  • You can mute entire topics, or ignore whole categories (I ignore Off Topic, but I go there “manually”)
  • I don’t know if you’re aware of this advanced feature (see in your Settings), I’ve been very pleased with it. :slight_smile:


Yes but mute here, means suppress notifications, which I just suppress as a matter of course. It doesn’t mean that you can be reading through the post and be able to skip by default an off-topic string of responses that would confuse the new users.

Edit: Additionally, thats a very blunt way to approach the matter. I don’t want usually to mute an entire user, but I do want to mute specific posts that are off-topic, at least until I understand the topic at hand.

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Lol @Al_Kafir will get a kick out of that.

A post was split to a new topic: Proposal: Simplify Moderation, Accept it or Vote on it

Lol…I’ll get you back for that! :smiley:

Nailed it…

… Isn’t that what we are doing here? Investigating and discussing?

So you want there to not be a meta category? Or you want the meta category to be hidden like off-topic is?

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No, I’m not saying no discussion or hide discussion. I’m not sure why you read that - maybe I should move my post to another topic because I’m not trying to stop this discussion and really it’s spawning another (so yes, I’m off topic, again! But no flags :smile:).

Sorry for the distraction.

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The point I was trying to make in the OP was that.

  1. Discourse is biased in favor of organic discussion and “strong ties” communities.
  2. The way the moderation is conducted, the strict definition of off-topic etc (which may not be obvious until after you have posted) is geared toward, new users seeking information, in other words a “loose ties” community. If everyone had the power to move their own posts after the fact, maybe this would be different but we don’t.
  3. Using moderator privileges to try and optimize “strong ties” software for a “loose ties” community" is time consuming for the moderators and confusing to everyone else. See my experience with Janitors post.

Now I don’t think that the standard for moderation is necessarily wrong. In my view the most important function of this forum currently is to serve as a landing page. Conversely I would not like it if the forum became a purely technical place, given the need to hash out some pretty high-level economic theories given the flexibility of safecoins etc.

But I agree that the burden on the mods is very high, the problem with Jeff Atwood’s “this is your house” approach, is that you kinda have to live in your house all the time, or certainly any time that other people are there. And I’m not sure that this is a sustainable approach NOW, much less after the forum scales once the network goes live.

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I really like discourse. Especially next to all others :yum: If new people show up on the forum, they’ll see a sticky on the frontpage with links to the Wiki and more info. I don’t know what else people would want??

I don’t really get this one. You can just read this forum, all topics, all discussions without any posting. Wanna post replies? Just register yourself and you’re good. If you compare that to Reddit… That’s a place where they actually can vote you down so nobody sees your post. Here a topic goes to the top when somebody replies. And I’ve said it before, you’re even allowed to create a topic on banana milkshakes, although that won’t be on the frontpage. But still, even while this project is about security and freedom and the tech to get there, all other discussions are welcome as well.

That statement was in response to Jeff Atwood’s (the founder of discourse I think?) view of what forums are for and why he wouldn’t implement a mute or ignore user function, in the sense of going on a thread and all of that users posts DO NOT APPEAR in your view of the thread.

I think it is a great approach for many of the small internet communities, it allows for much more of a real community feel, because it favors organic conversations, thats the whole flat thread v. hierarchical thread thing. But I think that the software fights you when you as mods try to optimize the forum for the “loose tie” community, that new user who heard Paige’s last video and is coming to try and find out what this is all about.

I don’t think anybody suggested otherwise…I’d prefer that we continue discussing the topic of the thread with Kirklon :smiley: No to all your suggestions btw - from my point of view, though interesting to see things from a current mod’s perspective.

Agreed…so maybe your opinion/claim that

is a little premature :smiley:
They said that about Jeremy Corbyn…lol

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100 people, 100 opinions. But you can’t have 100 communities with 1 user per community. Eventually some “law” or rule (80/20?) will kick in and there will be one or two large communities where some people will still not be happy.

How do you mute a topic on Simple Machines or Vanilla?
Those are definitively not easier to use or manage (and I admin-ed SMF, Vanilla, PHPbb, Discourse, bbPress and 2-3 others).

I think there is space for 3-4 niche SAFE forums, but not without the freaking s/w (MaidSafe). Until the s/w is out there is more than enough places for quality interaction (I haven’t even tried SAFE Slack; in there you should be able to create interest based channels and have groups of people (teams?) work on whatever they like).

I’ll finish the quote of mine that was started:

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I think we should get things straight: SAFE is about Secure access for everyone and it is facilitated by a network of decentrally alligned vaults. That is the core network - however, on semantic level, I don´t see why both structures - rather decentralized and rather centralized ones - cannot be use- and senseful. I don´t see how some of you think it´s a one-way thing. I think Discourse is much more efficient when it comes to building communities - that´s often a political thing and it definitely has to do with in- and exclusion. I don´t think that´s necessarily a bad thing, same as I believe that it can be justifiable to frame user behaviour as “spamming”, “trolling” or simply “uncivilized behaviour”. It´s a form of regulation that makes sense depending on the situation. I can understand that some people don´t like it, but I think that the same people should at least accept that other people find it acceptable and with respect to the given alternatives - the better way to deal with it.

Also, I don´t find it helpful to start an argument with an assumption about what values “the SAFE community” shares, because as a matter of fact “the SAFE community” doesn´t exist as one entity. The argument doesn´t make a lot of sense to me, particularly when it´s directed against regulative structure - a community IS by definition a regulative structure and it´s a symbolic invention used to address and rule the assumed members. If its really about decentralization only, then “community” imho needs to be discarded - instead we´d have to talk about relational networks only. Hope that makes some sense to you.

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I agree with this point, and that drives my follow-up point, that the moderation is not being done to build communities, it is being done to make the forum easier to follow for those new users, as a landing pad. Thats a fine, worthy, necessary goal, but it is a very different goal from building a community, which is what Discourse is set up to do. Therefore, if it is burdensome for the mods to accomplish the goal of their moderation with the current set up, perhaps we should explore alternatives.

I assume you mean this point that I made?

So saying “I’m not sure the SAFE community shares or wants to share X” is an assumption of the values of the SAFE community?

A Community is defined by what the members have in common. Data point of two but you are I don’t share the same views on this point, so I think its fair for me to assert negatively, that it has not been shown that the SAFE Community holds these views in common. If you want to set up a poll, and can show how many users on this forum think one way or another, then you can feel free to assert that community holds that view.

As an aside, it is impossible to have moderation without some set of assumptions about the community, as you yourself do:

But I’m not the one asserting what the position of the SAFE community is.


I disagree. Communities are practices at best - they don’t exist factually. People believe they exist because people appear to act and judge similarily. In the end communities are mind games and you can use moderation to make those mind games efficient with regard to particular goals. In the given case to me the goal is dissemination and integration. Other people may have different goals, but there ia absolutely no way to make a judgement about what people have in common without the correspondent practice.

See, communities are built on some sort of codex that is assumed to have general value. In this case it is the forum guidelines. We all subscribed to them. Still people question those rules (substantially). That’s certainly a fair behaviour, just want to poknt out that it is at least bit hypocritical by itself.

I am looking forward to new forums. I would love to see them grow, I dont if some people leave this forum and build stuff elsewhere. It’s part of the process. In this particular case I believe Discours is currently the best way to integrate a community that could otherwise fall apart easily. Have seen it many times, wouldn’t be the first time.

So what exactly is it that you were saying Discourse was good at?