February 5, 2013
Occasionally, startups will ask me for advice. That's a shame, because I am a terrible person to ask for advice. The conversation usually goes something like this:
We'd love to get your expert advice on our thing.
I probably don't use your thing. Even if I tried your thing out and I gave you my so-called Expert advice, how would it matter? Anyway, why are you asking me? Why don't you ask your community what they think of your thing?
And if you don't have a community of users and customers around your thing, well, there's your problem right there. Go fix that.
Like I said, I don't get asked for advice too often. But for what it's worth, it is serious advice. And the next question they ask always strikes fear into my heart.
You're so right! We need a place for online community around our thing. What software should we use?
This is the part where I start playing sad trombone in my head. Because all your software options for online community are, quite frankly, terrible. Stack Exchange? We only do strict, focused Q&A there and you'd have to marshal your proposal through Area 51. Get Satisfaction, UserVoice, Desk, etcetera? Sorry, customer support isn't the same as community. Mailing lists? Just awful.
Forum software? Maybe. Let's see, it's 2013, has forum software advanced at all in the last ten years?
I'm thinking no.
Forums are the dark matter of the web, the B-movies of the Internet. But they matter. To this day I regularly get excellent search results on forum pages for stuff I'm interested in. Rarely a day goes by that I don't end up on some forum, somewhere, looking for some obscure bit of information. And more often than not, I find it there.
There's an amazing depth of information on forums.
- A 12 year old girl who finds a forum community of rabid enthusiasts willing to help her rebuild a Fiero from scratch? Check.
- The most obsessive breakdown of Lego collectible minifig kits you'll find anywhere on the Internet? Check.
- Some of the most practical information on stunt kiting in the world? Check.
- The only place I could find with scarily powerful squirt gun instructions and advice? Check.
- The underlying research for a New Yorker article outing a potential serial marathon cheater? Check.
I could go on and on. As much as existing forum software is inexplicably and terrifyingly awful after all these years, it is still the ongoing basis for a huge chunk of deeply interesting information on the Internet. These communities are incredibly passionate about incredibly obscure things. They aren't afraid to let their freak flag fly, and the world is a better place for it.
At Stack Exchange, one of the tricky things we learned about Q&A is that if your goal is to have an excellent signal to noise ratio, you must suppress discussion. Stack Exchange only supports the absolute minimum amount of discussion necessary to produce great questions and great answers. That's why answers get constantly re-ordered by votes, that's why comments have limited formatting and length and only a few display, and so forth. Almost every design decision we made was informed by our desire to push discussion down, to inhibit it in every way we could. Spare us the long-winded diatribe, just answer the damn question already.
After spending four solid years thinking of discussion as the established corrupt empire, and Stack Exchange as the scrappy rebel alliance, I began to wonder – what would it feel like to change sides? What if I became a champion of random, arbitrary discussion, of the very kind that I'd spent four years designing against and constantly lecturing users on the evil of?
I already built an X-Wing; could I build a better Tie Fighter?
If you're wondering what all those sly references to Tie Fighters were about in my previous blog posts and tweets, now you know. All hail the Emperor, and by the way, what's your favorite programming food?
Today we announce the launch of Discourse, a next-generation, 100% open source discussion platform built for the next decade of the Internet.
The goal of the company we formed, Civilized Discourse Construction Kit, Inc., is exactly that – to raise the standard of civilized discourse on the Internet through seeding it with better discussion software:
- 100% open source and free to the world, now and forever.
- Feels great to use. It's fun.
- Designed for hi-resolution tablets and advanced web browsers.
- Built in moderation and governance systems that let discussion communities protect themselves from trolls, spammers, and bad actors – even without official moderators.
Our amazingly talented team has been working on Discourse for almost a year now, and although like any open source software it's never entirely done, we believe it is already a generation ahead of any other forum software we've used.
I greatly admire what WordPress did for the web; to say that we want to be the WordPress of forums is not a stretch at all. We're also serious about this eventually being a viable open-source business, in the mold of WordPress. And we're not the only people who believe in the mission: I'm proud to announce that we have initial venture capital funding from First Round, Greylock, and SV Angel. We're embarking on a five year mission to improve the fabric of the Internet, and we're just getting started. Let a million discussions bloom!
So now, when someone says to me …
You're so right! We need a place for community around our thing. What software should we use?
I can reply without hesitation.
And hopefully, so can you.
Posted by Jeff Atwood
I'll certainly be checking this out. I agree that forum software sucks. The best I've ever found, even to this day, is not open source or even downloadable. Delphi Forums. When you need ideas for innovation... look there ;-)
I know they're completely separate ecosystems and should probably stay that way but it is tempting to think of a "Migrate to Discourse" button for certain questions on stackexchange sites like arqade that would actually be suitable for continued discussion.
The web... a new frontier. These are the voyages of the startup Discourse. Its five year mission: to explore strange new customers... to seek out new thoughts and new deliberations... to boldly go where no forum dared go before!
(When you said "five year mission", I couldn't resist.)
Ruby on Rails and Postgress? *shudders* Why, Jeff, why?
Very cool. I'll definitely take a look. As far as I'm concerned, integration will be key. Forums, as such, are *part* of the answer even in a lot of places where they suck today. Even the chatrooms connected to SE serve this purpose from time to time. I'd like to see a way for the chaos of forums to seek nice, dark, quiet corners, while the good stuff -- the "sticky posts" or whatever -- can float to the top and be promoted to something more dignified than a "post".
I'd bet you could come up with a pretty good list of requirements just by listing "forum antipatterns" that you want to break:
- The troll.
- The "haven't we done this seventeen times already?" thread.
- The "you're not following the rules for this category" thread.
... and so on.
Should be interesting. Thanks for the contribution.
"it is tempting to think of a "Migrate to Discourse" button for certain questions on stackexchange sites like arqade that would actually be suitable for continued discussion."
I dislike this as some actual signal might escape to the other thread, and similarly it'd encourage people to start noisy discussions where noise is less tolerated, as they know it would be a jumping off point.
Another question: I feel like the high success of WordPress is largely due to the ubiquity of its platform, i.e. PHP/MySQL. What effect do you think the relative scarcity of affordable Ruby/Postgres hosting will do to the adoption rate of Discourse?
This isn't 2007, guys. Hosting Rails is cheap and easy now.
What I'm surprised about it that it's not .NET, given Jeff's frequent comments about how amazing it is.
Coupla things. First, "mailing list" - if you mean listservs - are NOT awful. Best forum/list I was ever on was for ultramarathoners. It was amazing - you could post a question and receive an answer from a top South African ultrunner. Of course, the group was tightly focused around a single topic - had highly respected participants - and a population of about 1000.
That said, I'll be looking at Discourse very seriously as a platform for our organization with 40,000-plus members worldwide.
And THAT said, you could have mentioned at the start that it'll be TWO YEARS before you release it. And that "open source, completely free" doesn't mean, well, free as in beer.
It feels awesome to use, I guess the only gripe I have is with the way it has been released, i.e. as a big code dump (similarly to Android, which is infamous for it). I hope to see a more collective effort in the future development of this platform.
I would love to see Persona/BrowserID support built in here.
Just found out the source for your "let a million discussions bloom:" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hundred_Flowers_Campaign
The first part of the phrase is often remembered in the West as "let a thousand flowers bloom". It is used to refer to an orchestrated campaign to flush out dissidents by encouraging them to show themselves as critical of the regime, and then subsequently imprison them.
We're also serious about this eventually being a viable open-source business, in the mold of WordPress.
The way it looks now, you're not engaging in open-source in the same way as WordPress does.
The GPL is enough, you don't need a contributor license agreement. What it actually means is that you are keeping an exit door if you ever want to close the source again in the future: contributors agree to license you their copyright for whatever future happens.
Probably lots of open-source projects use this method, but it sure is not reassuring. Please don't compare yourself again to WordPress, though. Nuance matters.
Andrew: I'ld also like to see that. Perhaps you could add it, and submit a pull request? :)
(I would, but I'm not really a Ruby/Ember kinda guy. I'm more Node/Backbone. ;)
That's so absolutely awesome, I'm exicted as I was last time when Google Chrome came out.
20 years of suffering is over!
You have to do something about SEO. I read the article in Zite on the way home on my iPad...came home and googled "discource" and got...nothing remotely resembling the site. Had to come to codinghorror to find this article and the URL...
Also: Where in discourse is the refresh button to load new comments while you're reading? Or does it automagically update? If it does, I haven't noticed it..
I'm looking forward to this!
I've cursed forum software for years and a recognized Stackexchange and Quora as important, thoughtful, successful attempts to do something about the problem. I am glad to see that you are continuing to iterate on the problem, and even happier that it is open source.
I think though that Wan raises an excellent point about the licensing though. I can appreciate the desire to be able to re-license, but I hope you can appreciate why potential contributors would be reluctant to participate. I'll also point out that there is nothing to stop people from creating a fork right now and accepting commits without the encumbrance of the licensing agreement.
Wordpress/Automattic managed to pull-off its achievement without having a paid staff and a paid product offering in place until well after the open source project took off. So, you are in many ways starting off way ahead of where Automattic started in being able to capture value from Discourse. You could quickly loose that leading position and favored momentum if the contributor agreement drives an early fork.
Actually, the more I think about it, the more obvious it is to me that the contributor agreement is almost a moot point. You'll never be able to incorporate contributions from a fork without nullifying the flexibility of the contributor agreement, but any fork will be able to pull anything you publish to your repo.
I've been waiting for a long time for an advance in forum collaboration software. If you have done with this as you did to Q&A with the stackexchange platform, this is worth getting exicted about.
@Ckincincy You should check out Project Beehive (http://www.beehiveforum.net/) an open source project that's been running for years and was started shortly after the old Delphi forums went purely commercial. You may find it familiar.
(I'll still be checking Discourse out, of course.)
Heartily second the recommendation of Shacknews chatty. I used to post frequently at the Shack, and was even a moderator at one point. It is far and away the best internet commenting/discussion system I have ever used, and proof that threaded > flat.
Very sad to see Discourse perpetuating the fundamentally broken flat discussion model.
Wow, this came out of nowhere. Cant wait to see how people take to it.
I second Brad Westness' question about how this integrates with search engines.
Wow. I was so excited as I read, what you were doing sounds so great, I could already see using it at NE1UP.com.
Then I read the comments. Ruby?
looks like a less intuitive, slower version of google wave. How is this supposed to overtake forums with an unindexable front end and awkvard ui? Endless scrolling is totally inappropriate in the context. Honestly, you would've done better investing all that time to the now open sourced Wave
I originally started my Forj forum project ( http://forj.heroku.com/ ) after getting really fed up with how terrible forum software is, but I've not had the time/motivation to keep working on it lately, so I'm glad Discourse is there to hopefully give the likes of phpBB a kick into the 21st century.
Users don't go to forums because they look pretty. They go there and stay because there is action, people willing to answer your questions. (many must be unemployed cause they are online all day).
A lot of forums look like shit but they are focused on content.
Fantastic article. Very good points and awesome logo.
Look forward to seeing what you do and inspiring similar visions with our team for open discussions at http://www.studyhall.com
thanks jef!!! exactly what alot of open source projects need
we've just moved a large forum over to google plus communities and its working pretty well
just 1 thing - please provide free hosting - say via your sub-domain ie. myforum.discourse.org - just like wordpress does at wordpress.com !!
Jeff, I've been waiting to see what you had up your metaphorical sleeve and I can't tell you how excited I am to see this. Really excited to try it out.
That's really interesting! We've actually been working on a similar project (also open source) called Telescope:
It's closer to Reddit or Hacker News, but I think we have very similar goals. So I would be very interested in knowing what you think.
I'm off to try Discourse to give you more feedback and steal some ideas :)
Will it have an IMAP and NNTP interface, for those of use who prefer local clients?
Will it have true threaded discussions?
I swear, we are slowly reinventing USENET, poorly.
I read the logo as "iscourse", which I guess it's a neat name.
I hope, there'll be an easy way to migrate data from old forum software to be used with this new engine.
I had essentially the exact same idea! Cheers to you for having it and making it too!
Now I don't have to! xD
Reddit does a great job at promoting discussion with their design. Why not create a mini-reddit for your site? All but the anti-spam bit is open sourced: https://github.com/reddit/reddit
This is awesome! :)
I can't wait to play with it more. Beautiful work and congrats on the big launch!
I am no expert but the goal here is discussion. That means the discussion and content there-of is king.
So why all the extra chrome? Avatars do nothing for discussion. (Same thing with signatures but you already knew that). There is a lot of extra white spacing that doesn't make sense.
And finally discussion means back and forth. To me, that means you need a nested / threaded system. A 'flat' mode is fine for two people going back and forth but as soon as there is another subthread, the flat mode falls quickly into chaos.
I like the presentation of the threads but the threads themselves are still a mess.
I want this to succeed because I too often find myself digging through forums for information and it has to get better. But I would encourage you to see how well sites like Shacknews and Reddit get conversation going without all the chrome.
PS - Sticky threads that are used as a "FAQ" that have 100+ replies instead of a wiki page are another forum annoyance. Figure that one out and you will be the richest person alive.
I get a warm feeling when any area of stagnation gets some TLC through innovation. I think this is a ripe are for change and I'm looking forward to what Jeff and the team come out with.
My only problem with it is that the threading is abjectly terrible. When people reply to a post, it gives nothing but the poster's name, with no hint of which post or what content until you click on it. Even the first line of post would be a massive improvement and job the memory more than enough. For people who quote a whole post unmodified, I'd argue that should get the same treatment: Collapse to the first line, allow click to full post. Only edited quote should be shown.
I've come to appreciate the way my email client collapses all lines from a previous poster, but if you're doing more than skimming, that's not good. This is a point where everyone is going to want different things; I like things collapsed, others will like to see point-by-point arguments and rebuttals. So it goes; design sucks.
Great job! I've always thinked that web forums needed a technological review! I will absolutely recommend this to my customers!
@Sean - Avatars are something users demand, not developers. Tell users they can't have something they want, and watch your killer app be ignored. All forum software that has avatars has ways for cantankerous individual users to disable seeing avatars (and images, markup, and other "chrome"), which is far preferable to telling the majority that want it to go screw off.
Why can't I log in with OpenID? I thought you were supposed to be a big fan?
There's two aspects to what you're doing here.
The first is the software itself. Discussion software may have peaked in the 1980s with dial-up BBS forums, which had many useful features and even more importantly integration of those features into a discernible process, and much of this was lost in the 1990s transition to web software. Remember Matt's Scripts?
The second is community management. Having watched Facebook, Digg, Reddit and Hacker News, my conclusion is that most people imitate the successful acts of others from the outside-in. That is, someone has a reason to make a post; others see this post is liked, and so they imitate its form and do not take into account its content and the choices made based on that content that determine its form.
Thus you get threads where 5% of the responses are significant, and the rest are people behaving like monkeys yammering out repeated memes, conventions, stylistic flourishes, demands for attention, etc.
I guess my golden rule is that anything I can script should not be included in the forum. That is, if we all must repeat some line from Seinfeld every time someone makes a grammar correction, I can probably code up a Perl script to watch for grammar-correction-style language and have it post the appropriate gag in response. People shouldn't be doing that for me; it's inefficient. :)
I hope "Discourse" succeeds. I am skeptical of the voting element however. What makes Stack Overflow succeed, and this seems unacknowledged in your post, is that it is based on a technical topic and on finding a clear answer. That separates it from, say, Slashdot, where the goal is "discussion" (a means, now serving as a goal) on that topic. By putting the clear answer requirement into discussion, you impose a goal, and thus discussion again becomes a means and not an end in itself.
Finding out how to impose that requirement on discussion will lead you to a better form of computer-mediated communication (CMC). I used to think voting systems were the answer, but having watched Reddit turn into a self-censorship circle based on community self-imitation, I don't trust that. I'm even skeptical of Hacker News upvoting because crowd "knowledge" is bad with low-commitment activities like voting, and it encourages imitative behavior as well. In the case of Stack Overflow, I think the success is not the voting but the fact that the answers can be verified by whether they work or not.
Thanks im going to look at Discourse.
There is a fantastic community building site thats massively well regarded by those in the know. But most people dont know it. www.meetup.com was created as a response to 9/11 to build communities. Using the internet to get people off the internet and meeting up. Its NOT a dating site in any way.
I have run meetup.com/shy-london for the last three years and have 800 members. There are groups for people sharing an interest in almost anything if you live in a major city. Groups are free to join usually.
Just spreading the word.
Does Discourse have features designed to stop a discussion forum being taken over by pompous middlebrow naysayers - something that's known as the Hacker News effect?
CIX has been doing something like this for 26 years.
First of all, I love it!
Over the past few weeks I've been re-building an application in MVC3 which hasn't been updated in 8 years.
When it came to the forum I had a look around at open-source solutions, but nothing was any improvement over the forum I had built almost a decade ago!
Discourse is definitely a huge improvement, and I for one will be including this in my application as soon as I can get hold of the code :)
With StackOverflow you have a lot of experience building with .NET.
I'm curious to know why you decided to use Ruby on Rails for Discourse.
Also, if you were to start StackOverflow from the beginning would you consider Rails?
FYI: I'm a ruby dev
So, are you going to improve the support for threaded discussions? That (along with keyboard bindings) seems to be the big thing missing. Indeed, it's something missing from many forum sites, yet it is a key aspect of making old-style discussion software (such as Mozilla Thunderbird, or the USENET readers of old) highly usable.
A discussion is like a tree, not a list. Linearizing it just sucks. (Note that Thunderbird isn't actually that good at handling discussion trees; it just happens to beat every discussion website I've ever seen.)
No OpenID login option... This is the part where I start playing sad trombone in my head.
So, from a user point of view. How is Discourse different from everything else out there? It seems a lot like your run-of-the-mill forum to me?
Is it only in the inner workings and for the administrators that this is a step forward?
When will codinghorror comments be powered by Discourse?
@John re SEO - the project's been public for 12 hours now. You need to Google some time to pick up on it, it's a new site.
> Linearizing it just sucks.
@Donal - it actually makes it much more readable.
http://notthetalk.com is modelled on the old UK Guardian newspaper discussion forum. The folks there think it's pretty much the perfect forum format despite being something like 15 years old. Readability not chrome is the key.
@Tim Sullivan - It may be possible to find cheap Rails hosting, but if it's any harder to set this up than it is to set up phpBB or Simple Machines Forum, it's probably not going to get WordPress level traction.
I Admin a very large community for writers; Absolutewrite.com/forums.
The software is actually decent; it's not cheap. vBulletin from Jelsoft.
If you can FTP and read, you can install vBulletin. We're running an older version; I have the current version on a test forum so members can get used to it before we change their world.
The non-forum parts of vBulletin are ridiculous, for the most part, but the boards are quite flexible.
But what makes the forum work, much as what made forums I've adminned for instruction, is active moderation.
Good moderation encourages conversation. Good moderation tools help with that.
@ Lisa - I agree about active moderation but on a fast moving current affairs forum this presents a problem, in the UK at least. If a site is actively moderated and something defamatory is missed then the complainant has a case for defamation against the site. Active moderation also generates a huge workload.
It's therefore important here to only moderated based on reports from the community although, of course, the admins are part of the community so can report things themselves.
Um, I'd like to play along, but your create a log in thingy won't accept my custom domain as a valid eMail address.
On the matter of the contributor license agreement / copyright assignment you require, you should know that this has a huge effect on detracting contributors.
See http://lwn.net/Articles/454391/ and Michael Meeks' various presentations on the effects of "liberating LibreOffice's development" and not having any CLA's, such as http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Olx3EvJMl0
Please consider dropping the CLA.
Nothing wrong with making a better TIE Fighter, I mean you could end up creating the TIE Advanced (my favorite starfighter), but I rather think of it that way: with SO, you deconstructed the online forum/BBS, and now you are setting out to reconstruct them. Anyway, I wish you best of luck.
Heh, we were just questioning (for the umpteenth time) why Community Server was still being used on tdwtf, and I hoped at the start of this post that you would come and save us (Alex Papadimoulis insists on a .NET solution and that's what you traditionally use, would have been nice timing, right…), when I saw the Ruby/Ember stuff. Okayyyy… At least forums (contrary to, say, a CMS) are something you can and typically do put on a separate subdomain so it is not too far-fetched to sign up for separate hosting specifically for the forum, but still I wonder if that won't impede adoption.
I don't want to comment on the open-source claim/licensing/CLA stuff; just be careful, you're risking bringing back the Mark Pilgrim onto the Internet to again trot out the Movable Type licensing vs Wordpress thing.
You're right. A day later and discourse.org is right in 2nd place on page one of a Google search. I humbly retract my comment!
I want to see:
- Support for RTL (hebrew, arabic, other...)
- Support for TeX. At least in some basic form.
Given your terrible reputation at web accessibility, I'm not going to try it.
I strongly urge you to bring back the good/original Programmers.StackExchange.com
Call it a test if you must. But you'll likely get a ton of disgruntled users switching over there.
Discharge would be more appropriate.
For those who liked the USENET Newsreaders, check out Siilihai web forum reader http://www.siilihai.com/
I hope Discourse will support TapaTalk or some other API so that it can be read using Siilihai.
I would like to shamelessly plug my Respectful Comments Wordpress plugin.
It changes the text of the “submit comment” button to "My comment respects the blog and its readers."
Readers who want to comment:
- Read your expectation from them in a one line, easy to understand text.
- Will not skip reading what you expect from them.
- Will not need to click “I have read the terms…”.
Maybe it's a good idea to also do that in Discourse.
Discourse is "comment" software... not forum software.
I'm not a big fan of "infinite scrollbars" because they make Ctrl-F inconvenient and you never know where you are (the latter is not a problem in your discussion view, but it *is* a problem in the discussion listing view).
I can't recommend that kind of software to anyone.
Forums are incredibly useful, but like many things on the internet they eventually disappear. Much of the lost internet is recoverable via archive.org but most of the time forums are not.
Is it possible for Discourse to play nice with archive.org?
Oh My God! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
In addition to the login methods you already support, I would strongly recommend that you add support for Steam (via OpenId) Authentication.
Doing so will instantly make you *very* popular with a large number of gaming clans/guilds/groups who usually resort to using phpbb/vbulletin.
Wow. We're truly in the midst of dot-com bubble 2.0. Where do I go to get my idiotic ideas funded by VCs?
How is this a steaming pile of crap? Let me count the ways.
- No accessibility.
- Insane browser requirements ruling out half the potential users.
- People like forums because of the community, not the software.
- People are perfectly happy with vBulletin/phpBB/4Chan/reddit/slashdot. Especially phpBB, hence its ubiquity.
- People like threading, despite your quixotic, uninformed rant against it several posts ago.
You haven't created something new like StackOverflow here, Jeff. You've just reinvented a perfectly good wheel, badly. What a waste.
You know what would be really useful? You know what we really lost in the transition from Usenet to message boards? Automatic archiving, and a centralized directory of forums. That I'll pay for. Wonder if I can get VC money for that? Nah, too hard to explain in 140 characters.
Is there any possibility of this being rolled out on the Stack Exchange network for Meta discussion? It seems that this would be a more natural model for the kinds of discussions that go on there.
@Jonathan Coleman :: You said, "Discourse is 'comment' software... not forum software". Is it? PaidContent (GigaOm) http://paidcontent.org/2013/02/06/fixing-online-comments-how-do-you-automate-trust/ thinks so. Yet Jeff refers to it as a forum platform. No, that's not entirely true. He also refers to Discourse as a discussion platform. Is it intended for both?
@lacunae :: I would like VC funding for some of my ideas too. You should try asking, you might be surprised. Then you can tell us about it, and maybe I'll be brave enough to follow in your footsteps. Also: I just read the first Discourse blog post. One item in your wish list (last paragraph) is possible with Discourse, specifically, a centralized directory of forums.
@Jeff :: OpenID is worth considering, no? I'd suggest the same with threading. Everyone likes threading. Continuous scrolling will be balky at first. I don't like it, but given time, I'm certain you can make it work.
Congratulations on your new endeavor!
See for yourself; search for http://meta.discourse.org content
> What effect do you think the relative scarcity of affordable Ruby/Postgres hosting will do to the adoption rate of Discourse?
Vice-versa, we want the killer app to drive better adoption of Ruby hosting.
> What it actually means is that you are keeping an exit door if you ever want to close the source again in the future: contributors agree to license you their copyright for whatever future happens.
The CLA is there because we reserve the right to re-license the Discourse code when selling it to enterprises.
> I hope, there'll be an easy way to migrate data from old forum software to be used with this new engine.
Realistically we don't expect many migrations of large communities, because the social and technical friction is too high, see http://www.discourse.org/faq/#switch But that said, we do have a solid export and import format, so anyone can write a converter to Discourse import format.
> Reddit does a great job at promoting discussion with their design.
I disagree, I think Reddit is great for link and meme fun, but terrible for actual discussion.
> To me, that means you need a nested / threaded system
> I'm curious to know why you decided to use Ruby on Rails for Discourse.
Open source projects have to use languages and toolchains that are free to everyone, to reduce any friction in participation. It was either Ruby or Python, and Robin knew Ruby, so... http://blog.discourse.org/2013/02/the-discourse-team/
> No OpenID login option
It's just hard unless the OpenID provider validates the email. Email = identity. People conveniently forget that Stack Overflow, unlike virtually every other website on the internet, did not want your email at all, and would not use it even if it had it.
> When will codinghorror comments be powered by Discourse?
It's on the roadmap! Probably 12 months out though.
> with SO, you deconstructed the online forum/BBS, and now you are setting out to reconstruct them
Not at all -- Q&A is a small subset of what communities do. Not all communities can work in a fact and science based Q&A format, but that's what the SE engine is by *far* best at.
Great software! Are you thinking about supporting WebID-Login and exposing Linked Data?
Jeff, the work you've done with StackOverflow is amazing. That's why I'm a little surprised at this latest effort. It's quite ... underwhelming.
The three biggest problems with forums:
1) Information overload.
3) Difficult to find what you're looking for.
As far as I can tell Discourse has done nothing to address any of these problems.
Pinterest has been such a success because it solved all three of these issues for images. If Discourse is going to as revolutionary as you talk, then it will also have to address these issues. Right now, I see it as pretty much the same as everything else and wouldn't recommend it to anyone.
I'm sure you will write about Discourse more. I'll revisit the site next time you do.
> > with SO, you deconstructed the online forum/BBS, and now you are setting out to reconstruct them
> Not at all -- Q&A is a small subset of what communities do. Not all communities can work in a fact and science based Q&A format, but that's what the SE engine is by *far* best at.
Now watch as I rant for dozens of lines justifying why my analogy was appropriate:
(just kidding, it's not worth getting upset over :)
The eternal truth about forums; vanilla is not an option. Hence 1000+1 flavors and nobody got it right, and won't.
I'm quoting you from http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2012/06/the-php-singularity.html last May:
"One of the explicit goals of my next project is to do whatever we can to buff up a … particular … open source language ecosystem such that it can truly compete with PHP in ease of installation and deployment."
Really, with postgres and Rails? Rails is a bitch in itself, but finding postgres competence? Close to impossible, compared to MySQL.
Don't get me wrong, the forum looks awesome, and I was dying to try it out. But then I realized I couldn't host it. My employee couldn't host it. Heck, nobody I KNOW could host it.
@Håvard what's the solution write the site in .net with mssql, php with mysql, vb with a file system?
I read this and was looking forward to seeing how you could improve on forums. It might not be so bad after awhile, but my first impression wasn't very good.
- Looks and feels more like an overcomplicated twitter feed, facebook wall, or (best case scenario) comment thread rather than a forum.
- The theme detracts from the discussion and draws away from the content.
- Endless scrolling is today's version of the marquee tag and the blink tag. May as well have an animated construction worker gif and some midi music that blasts at full volume when you open the page with no controls to turn it off.
Front-end stuff aside, it's not all bad. There's a lot there even if it's not apparent or comprehensible. Curious what the back end and API are like. Not enough to set up another stack just to try it out, though.
I like it. My first question was how threads of replies are handled, and I like the model Discourse has chosen: all replies (and replies to replies) are listed top to bottom, and are expandable from the target (or source?) of the reply.
My only critique at this time is the abundant white space. A more compact layout may improve browsing/scrolling through the topic.
I'm excited to poke around with this this weekend. I was just thinking the other day that forums software hasn't improved much in the last decade, and StackOverflow is so conscientiously designed that I can't wait to see your take on discussions.
Obviously I'm not old enough to share the nostalgia others seem to have for newsgroups and phpBB. I agree with Jeff: forum software has been pretty horribly stagnant over the last decade. Very few forums take advantage of even the most basic Ajax features these days.
After discovering stackoverflow, I was pretty amazed with it and wondered what a SO-like forum would be. Now I know, and I actually like it a lot. It solves a number of things that I think are wrong with most current forums: it has a powerful system of threading, ways to see the participants, a good text editor, and a modern design.
One thing I'd like to see is a bit of integration with the SO q&a system. A discussion forum will be used from time to time (or very often) for questions that don't need a discussion, so I think it would be good to provide that rather than to direct people off-site for answers.
I think infinite pagination is not to everyone's tastes. Similarly, the threading system, I like but others seem not to. Are you planning on having these as options?
I'm surprised nobody mentioned XenForo. It makes vBulletin, phpBB, et all look like they were made 50 years ago.
Also Jeff, in the article you showed a screenshot of a forum in 2013 claiming it hasnt changed.
The screenshot you provided for 2013 shows the forum running software that was discontinued 3 years ago...hardly a fair argument. It would have been more fair to compare it against something like a vB 4.x or XenForo forum, and not skew results in favor of your new venture.
Any info on performance? A lot of larger forums stick with old s/w because it is the only one that reliable stays up without constant time outs.
Looks great... but...
Ruby on Rails, PostgreSQL, Redis 2.6+
It's like you want *NO-ONE* to use it. Rails is still niche and not supported by many (quality) hosts. PostgreSQL is limited, but at least more available, and Redis? Well unless you're running your own box that's not likely to happen.
Until it's as easy to install as something like PHPBB this will be a niche thing that people will say "Cool, wish it worked on my box but it doesn't so I guess I'll use X". Until it works on a hosting company solution which is what 99% of forums use it is pointless.
Which is a shame, because it looks cool. Maybe someone will fork it and make it useful to the rest of the world.
Jeff, I'm sure you've done the competitive analysis on forum comparison sites like http://www.forummatrix.org (I've spent about an entire week testing the most promising candidates there).
Vanilla Forums was the most modern open source forum software package I found. What was your overall impression of it?
I tried out discourse and I have to say I loved it, it's definitely where conversing on the web is going. It's clean, easy to use and my favourite part, it's immersive, you feel much more involved in the conversations than on forums.
This is a little spooky - I prepared a mini-pitch and crappy prototype for exactly this service for a entrepreneur course about a year ago (i called it discuss.it, tho that's already taken :P). As in exactly the same feature set, down to trust base moderation and direct replies. Clearly there's really a need for this out there - wish I could have claimed to be the first to make it reality, but hats off to you guys for pulling it off ;) It's about time forums stopped sucking!
p.s. the pitch if you're curious https://dl.dropbox.com/u/6613592/discussit-pitch.pdf
I'd love to see major newsmagazine sites like Huffington Post adopt your Discourse monitoring software.
Could you add a 'flag' for seemingly earnest contributors who make such moronic comments that it's tempting to think they are really trolls?