i mostly list only open source forum software.

Some commercial ones: vbulletin ("vB"), xenforo, IP.Board ("IPB"/invision)

Other less popular sites noted as examples of something

Some general comments

Some comments on Discourse

i think it's graphic design is pretty but too busy, especially the part where things pop up and move and appear as you move your mouse (i like when tooltips pop up, but not when hidden action icons do).

"Discourse has probably a killer feature, which is "Best of" a thread. Forums are horrible for documentation, after a meaningful discussion topics usually go dead, and if you want to read an old topic (but relevantt to you) with 500 pages (or even just 20), it is painful, you don't need to read every single comment, and Discourse's "Best of" will (should) fix that." "codinghorror 10 days ago


A lot of the moderation stuff and trust metrics isn't visible on the surface. And to be honest, we've only implemented the first two (new user, not-new user) and final (appointed moderator) trust levels at the moment.

One way to think of this is as follows: what happens when posts get flagged? What's the sequence, who knows about it, and how? For that matter, who can flag?

We do have basic rate limits throughout the app, and they're all configurable as well.

Much of this has to evolve. I'd love your input on it, too!" " SiVal? 10 days ago


The most annoying thing about web page UI these days is things that pop up in your face as you pass over them. You look at the page, decide to click something, and as you move your mouse toward it, BLAMO!, some nonsense about Twitter, Facebook, Like Me!, email me to all your friends! jumps up and covers the link you were about to click. You have to jiggle your mouse to shake it off.

Or you are reading, absentmindedly moving your mouse cursor around and POP! POP! POP! things jump out at you, often blocking what you were looking at.

If this forum software is going to become popular, I'm begging the developers to set the default so that you have to actually click an item to bring up a popup window or menu, and you have to at least hover for a while (not just be passing by) to bring up a tool tip.

Books and magazines don't randomly throw things in your face and block your view as you try to read. As you reach up to turn the page, the book doesn't turn into a cell phone already dialing your friends' numbers, insisting that you tell them about the chapter you're reading RIGHT NOW! I'd like my forums to be equally well behaved." " It also seems very ego-heavy, with lots of user-centric stuff. I find that the more central the concept of a user is the lower the quality of discussion that follows." " Oh dear, this is what I feared from The People That Brought You StackOverflow?: Numbers everywhere. Thousands of tiny icons, all alike.

Stackoverflow seems to me to be a giant case of post hoc ergo propter hoc. "We made a site driven by points and numbers and rules and gamification and it was success, therefore it was the numbers and gamification that did it". No, SO was a success because the tech world was gasping for a forum that wasn't a) mailing lists or b) expertsexchange. That's all. That's why the majority of their non-tech sites have bombed.

If Discourse is a success it will be because phpBB is hideous, not because of any merits shown here. A better model to ape would have been the truly successful community sites -- think the Well, or Metafilter. Flat. UI that gets out the way.

Humans are superb at managing conversations, tracking threads and managing state. It's how forums manage to be so good despite phpBB and the like. Let the humans get on with it. Get out the way."


scott_s 10 days ago


I think the one word answer to Reginald's question is: curation.

reply "

" It does, but the trust metric we use is not very visible on the surface. Which is sort of by design. There is a hint of it on the user page if you know where to look! :)

Probably the main visible entry point is flagging, so try flagging a post or topic.

It's also hard to see the moderation functions from the outside, but I assure you that they're as frictionless as we could make them! For example, multi-selecting posts, splitting topics, merging topics, locking topics, archiving topics, etc.

There's still a lot to do, we have no way of selecting multiple topics at the moment, for example. But I encourage you to try out the Vagrant image if you want to hack on Discourse quickly. It includes a small db, and you'll be a moderator there. "

" I cringed when I saw infinite scrolling as the first feature they're highlighting on the landing page. I expected it to completely break back/forward navigation (a la returning to your home page feed on Facebook or Twitter). However, I played around with the demo a bit, and I was pleased to see that they've somehow solved that problem. I'm still not a huge fan of infinite scrolling in general, but this looks like a significant improvement.


EvilTrout? 10 days ago


Thanks. I'll probably write up a blog post of how it's done eventually but the short version is we use HTML5 replaceState to update the URL as you scroll down a topic stream, so you have a unique URL to go back to and share. "

" Purely from a code standpoint, this is a pretty awesome repository to browse if you want to see how rails, redis, sidekiq, postgresql, pg's hstore, ember.js all tie up! "

" My ideal discussion forum software would support threading, would remember which messages I've read and which I haven't, would allow me to rate both messages and authors, would provide a personal killfile, and would allow me to use whatever client I prefer to access it. In short, it would be Usenet exposed via a web API. No discussion forum software I've seen so far comes even close in features and usability to what GNUS provided in the 1990s. "

" Discourse remembers what you've read and what you haven't. You can "like" posts or "flag" them as poor.

Our API coverage is almost 100% - our rich JS client consumes our own API for just about everything, so we actually know it's working because the client wouldn't work without it.

We also have an (admittedly undocumented) plugin system, where you can install rubygems that add or remove functionality from the core app.


Buttons840 10 days ago


The rating of individual users sounds interesting, can you comment on that? I would like to rate other forum users, and then find conversations composed of users I like. "

" The clear need that the OP is trying to address suggests that Usenet might be monetizable now. Many web sites aren't going to want to store large amounts of historical text from their user forums. Perhaps there is a market for hosting forums using NNTP under the covers. Each site could provide a default web interface but also allow access via the users' preferred news readers.

Decoupling the GUI from the service is good practice in any case. "

" I'd argue that Reddit and other link-aggregation sites like HN are the evolution of the online messsage board to an online-focused format, though self/text posts are possible to start general discussion.

The big thing missing is a way to 'sticky/pin' posts, though Reddit makes use of the sidebar to similar effect. "

" I agree with you for the most part -- but how many times do you return to an old HN or Reddit thread a few hours later? It's very hard to see which comments are new. Even though I like threaded discussion I get a warm feeling about seeing that new posts notification on a flat thread I was posting in earlier, and it will make me go back and read the new posts, whereas on Reddit or HN I usually only go back if someone replied to me. "

" When you're logged in, we track exactly what posts you have seen. When you click on the topic again, it takes you directly to where you left off, to the post! "

" You say it "remembers my place" but does it remember my place across all of my devices? What if I want to link my friend to a comment? What about SEO, will my community turn up in google/bing's results?


EvilTrout? 10 days ago


1. If you log in across various devices you'll end up with links to the last post you read in the topic. Unlike other forum software we don't consider all posts on a "page" viewed when the page downloads, only as they are scrolled into view.

2. We use HTML5 replaceState to update the URL as you scroll. Just grab the link from the URL bar and it'll take you to where you left off. Or additionally click the "Share button" for a copy and pastable pop up.

3. Yes we render a lightweight version of the pages in a <noscript> tag for google indexing. "

" No, we were worried that rendering different content for google violates their TOS. So what we do is render a super basic version of the page in the <noscript> section with no tools or extras. You can see it if you disable javascript in your browser.

It's not much to use, but enough for google to get at the words and links.

We're not sure how well it works since the project was secret until today! We're going to keep an eye on it and adjust for maximum google-fu going forward.

(Shout out to Sam Saffron who implemented this!) "

" The OSS forum scene is just depressing, some of the more popular packages still use tables for layout. I themed a table based layout (vBulletin 3.x) once, _never_ again. "

" The usability leaves something to be desired. I couldn't work out how to post a comment. There should be a button marked "post" or "send" or something.

Also, comments aren't threaded. They should be, because once there arem ore than a few, a flat form makes it hard to easily tell what is a comment to what.

So, while their is definitely room for better forum software, this isn't it. Personally I prefer the way my website does it (obviously I'm biased), even though its a lot less polished.


cabalamat 10 days ago


> I couldn't work out how to post a comment. There should be a button marked "post" or "send" or something.

I just came back to it and a Reply button suddenly appeared. I assume this is a bug. "

" Builtin forum search is just terrible. Improve just that and using forums will be 3x better. "

" the "New" button, expected: create a new topic, instead, took me to "You have no new topics to read." page e.g. it seems the "read new stuff" is merged with "create new stuff" (the "create new topic on the right")

the "item has x replies" thingy, I understand you want to have replies in context, but this duplication confused me, e..g I wasn't sure if it's a new "type" of reply. how to solve it? well I would do one of the following: either just link (via scolling to the right location via an anchor / scroll aniumation) or keep what you have right now but also have the link so pepole can see the original comment as well "

" I have yet to see anything that can beat a good old fashioned mailing list for discussion, sadly. "

" Non-threaded discussions are simply broken. They visually combine multiple conversations into a linear thread. Since threaded discussions came about in the mid-2000s it is apparent that linear discussions are simply inferior. They are cacophony.


huslage 10 days ago


This is still a friggin popularity contest. Why do communities need to have any sort of popularity metric attached to each comment (favorites, upvotes, etc)? There are sites that are meant for this (hacker news), but that doesn't mean the methods are generally applicable or even desirable.


bryanlarsen 10 days ago


Agreed. There needs to be some sort of mechanism to flag trolls, etc. This same mechanism can be used to rank by popularity. This doesn't mean it should be used that way unless you actually want to promote shallowness and group-think. "

" It seems like a forum trying to focus on everything, with no real way to surface content. The result is that you end up getting lost in a sea of random topics. Also, the abundance of colourful little icons is a bit annoying. "

Some comments on hackernews

there are many things i dont like about it, but i like its minimalism.

"People often make the argument about HN being ugly and hard-to-use vs. those who think it is perfect for what it does (even saying that making it simpler would make it too easy for non-technical people to get involved, which always confused me). Personally, I think all three of these services could be much cleaner and user-friendly without Fisher-Pricing it.".

"You can't reply immediately, you have to let some time pass. The idea is that it stops a conversation, a quick back and forth, and forces it to take a while, which should in theory encouraged more reasonable responses."

i hate Unknown or expired link.

"You can't downvote direct replies to your comments. :-)" --


i guess forum software that allows comments to be moved should doublecheck threads for cycles:

" Why HN was down 689 points by pg 4 hours ago

flag 214 comments
	Hacker News was down all last night. The problem was not due to the new server. In fact the cause was embarrassingly stupid.

On a comment thread, a new user had posted some replies as siblings instead of children. I posted a comment explaining how HN worked. But then I decided to just fix it for him by doing some surgery in the repl. Unfortunately I used the wrong id for one of the comments and created a loop in the comment tree; I caused an item to be its own grandchild. After which, when anyone tried to view the thread, the server would try to generate an infinitely long page. The story in question was on the frontpage, so this happened a lot.

For some reason I didn't check the comments after the surgery to see if they were in the right place. I must have been distracted by something. So I didn't notice anything was wrong till a bit later when the server seemed to be swamped.

When I tailed the logs to see what was going on, the pattern looked a lot like what happens when HN runs short of memory and starts GCing too much. Whether it was that or something else, such problems can usually be fixed by restarting HN. So that's what I did. But first, since I had been writing code that day, I pushed the latest version to the server. As long as I was going to have to restart HN, I might as well get a fresh version.

After I restarted HN, the problem was still there. So I guessed the problem must be due to something in the code I'd written that day, and tried reverting to the previous version, and restarting the server again. But the problem was still there. Then we (because by this point I'd managed to get hold of Nick Sivo, YC's hacker in residence) tried reverting to the version of HN that was on the old server, and that didn't work either. We knew that code had worked fine, so we figured the problem must be with the new server. So we tried to switch back to the old server. I don't know if Nick succeeded, because in the middle of this I gave up and went to bed.

When I woke up this morning, Rtm had HN running on the new server. The bad thread was still there, but it had been pushed off the frontpage by newer stuff. So HN as a whole wasn't dying, but there were still signs something was amiss, e.g. that /threads?id=pg didn't work, because of the comment I made on the thread with the loop in it.

Eventually Rtm noticed that the problem seemed to be related to a certain item id. When I looked at the item on disk I realized what must have happened.

So I did some more surgery in the repl, this time more carefully, and everything seems fine now.

Sorry about that."


"As a tangental aside of my own, in a recent long and out-of-control mailing list discussion, I very, very much wanted to mark certain messages as duplicates of previous ones a la Stack Exchange."

discourse vs phpbb


    discourse has shit everywhere, there's lots of popups, random layout. phpbb/vbulletin everything is nicely boxed in so you know what's related to each other.
    phpbb has way less requirements than discourse
    everyone knows how to use phpbb, discourse looks quite unfriendly at first glance (you get used to it, but it's totally different to what people are used to)
    phpbb has good 'notify' / 'active topics' / 'new posts' functionality (does discourse have these?)
              later reply: Yes very much so. Look at your user prefs. 
    lots of nice themes for phpbb

Discourse is pretty cool though. "

" Discourse's recommended configuration costs ~$10-20 a month for hosting which is at least 2-4x php based solutions. On top of which its trivial to run multiple php services (blog/forum/wiki/...) all in the same account on a cheap shared host where as at least out of the box discourse wants the entire server to itself. Oh I'm sure with some reverse proxy mad skillz sys admin could get multiple services running on the same server as discourse. Of course given its requirements you'll need an even bigger spec machine.

Discourse = the forum for the 1% "

on permission systems

(when discussing phpBB's fine-grained/powerful, but complex, permissions system) "One approach I saw and liked was that of Vanilla. All the boards in Vanilla inherit from a single "general" object, and don't show their own permission at all until "custom permissions" are toggled for that board. I think this is a good approach, complexity is hidden until it's needed. A simple [ ] Restrict access for this category.would probably do for discourse, and after checking that, the user can be asked which groups should control reading, replying, posting new topics, and moderating that category (if per category moderation is even desired). Limit that to choosing one group for each "level" (IMHO,a user can always be in more than one group, so there's not much need for 17 different groups to allow someone posting rights - KISS)." -- [1]

Joel's forum

as summarized in [2]: