State of the Forum: Board Meeting 8/1 Discussion

Hi everyone,

We have our board meeting on 8/1 and we will be discussing the status of the forum and the website. Activity here has died down, so my first question is:

Do we even need to mess with this anymore? If the old forum is working again, however minimally, should we even bother switching?

If the answer to that is “yes,” then what do you like and dislike about this one? Is this what we’d want to go with, or is there something else that would work just as well? Things like Discord, Facebook, etc. would also work instead of a dedicated forum, but obviously those come with their own pros and cons.

Please let me know your thoughts, concerns, questions or issues (related to the forum - I don’t need to know about your personal life) and we’ll get it all packaged up to present the options to the Board.

Thanks everyone!

the old forum is still not working for me, so I rarely bother with it. I think most of us are holding off really posting here until it’s the real site.

I think waiting until it breaks will make it harder to steer people to a newer site ( or to communicate at all. If the old one is working good enough to drive people to a new one that would be best imo

I prefer the old forum for everything except the ease of posting images. I like the organization of the old one better, though that may be just because I’m used to it. I can get on the old forum, though it’s not as easy as it used to be.

I dislike the old forum for these reasons:

  1. Difficult to know when new posts are made of you’re not following the specific post. Just the beginning icon is different, where on this forum the whole post is highlighted.
  2. Ease of image sharing. The old forum requires you to jump through too many hoops. I’ve always had issues wit it.
  3. Login issues of the old forum. Yes you can log in, but my experience with it recently not retaining my information after logging in, not allowing me to post[ or see new posts was a problem in the background. It was only corrected after having Dave changing my password and logging in as me. Then I logged back, changed my password and all was back to the current state. My question is how long will it be before it does it again.
  4. Lack of activity and communications between members due to all the problems.

This forum is good enough, though I’ve heard some say they do not like the name of the product, understandable, but it’s just a name. As an alternative there is another product called ProBoard. Here is a link to some examples that are related to Astronomy.

Sorry this was so long winded!

P. S.
The forum could also be transfered to the latest version that is available as well. It seems to be quite awhile since the background code has been updated. Probably has an export available, just install latest version, export old data and import into the new install. But I’m not sure if that’s available, just guessing!

I’m intentionally trying not to respond to this post because I don’t want to color anyone’s opinions and I don’t want to discourage anyone from speaking their mind. I do want to talk a little bit about your PS there, though.

The “old” forum hasn’t been updated since it was installed, more or less. From what I understand, when it was set up there was some custom stuff done (I think the theme is the main thing but I don’t know that for sure) and I think whoever did it said not to update it, so no one ever did. Now, 20 years later, the “old” forum isn’t just behind on patches, it’s behind on multiple major version releases and there’s no way to tell if updating it will work at all. It is highly likely that our version has multiple tables and other database settings that just don’t exist in later updates. We’ve talked about updating it before, but it is a very scary proposition. Is a broken forum better than a completely non-functioning one? It’s not been a risk we’ve really been unwilling to take, though we have discussed it many times.

Discourse does have a plugin to migrate posts from PHPBB, which is what the old forum uses, but this plugin is also for versions of PHPBB that are well beyond what the old forum uses. There is no telling if it would work, but that is a safer option (down the line) because it wouldn’t involve risking the destruction of the old forum if an upgrade goes wrong.

Geez, talk about long winded! Anyway, as y’all were. Good, bad, otherwise. No opinions are unwanted!

Also I hadn’t heard of ProBoards before. I’ll look at that. Good find!

I was coming back to comment about the ease of photo loading ( or the ability to do it at all lol).

Another thing that may seem superficial, is that the forum does represent the club and it looks ( actually is) dated. ( since we are throwing everything out here) and as I said before it’s better to update while the other one is limping along and people can follow a link to here. It seems like not a matter of if - but when.

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All good!

That’s why I suggested to install fresh and attempt a migration of the data. No risk if it can’t be done and it should retain the same “feeling” if not looks of the previous forum.

I know nothing about how to customize the forums or anything. Or even if a migration is possible without doing a bunch of research. In short, I should hush because of my lack of knowledge!

But thank you Danny for the bit of background!

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Just tried to access ProBoard. Got this error:

Access denied

What happened?

The owner of this website ( has banned the autonomous system number (ASN) your IP address is in (212238) from accessing this website.

Not a good start. Donno if this is because I use a VPN? If so, then forget it, because I’m not turning off my VPN to access the board.

Perhaps because I linked the on site search results. Try this link and then search for astronomy forums.

Same, same. Your links don’t like me. Or don’t like my Mac.

Another advantage of Discourse Joel pointed out to me last night is that Discourse shows you all threads with unread posts every time I get on it. If I don’t read one, it’ll still show as unread next time I’m on. PhP only shows you new posts since last login. Sometimes I forget to click that button when I get on to check a specific post (or I’m in a hurry) and log out again. So the next time I log in, I’ve missed some new posts.

We’ve had problems in the past, and I think we’ll just continue to have problems with it in the future. We need to move on.

Two of our more active members, Rachel and Joel, still can’t access the old forum. Who knows how many more can’t and just haven’t told us. So as much as I like the layout of the old forum, I think we should freeze it and switch to this one.

My opinion, not my vote, as I haven’t consulted to see how Pamela feels about this.

But we need to take action the next board meeting. It’s getting confusing to post stuff in 2-3 places right now, Which one is “official?”

We should have a “training” session at one of our upcoming meetings about the new forum when we switch.

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Joel, I turned off my VPN and managed to get to the Proboards site. I like the looks of it, but having to turn off my VPN to access it is one show stopper for me. The second is it’s “free” but every page had ads popping up. Another show stopper, imo. Third, tried to find out how to post images, and they use the bbcode method as near as I can tell. The help message said there was a second way to post images, but I never found what that is.

Some or all of these issues might go away if/when I registered with them, but I did not get a good first impression.

Yes, our existing forum (in its current state) is no longer acceptable. I am embarrassed that we expect new members to utilize it.

I know that this is strong and direct (even harsh,) but it’s not a critique of any individual, but of our unwillingness to acknowledge the obvious and chart a path for improvement.

Rather than merely listing the things that I prefer of this forum to our current forum, let me simply say that this or other modern forum software (that is kept current) is far superior to our legacy message board.

This is stating the obvious, but the fact that activity here has died down should not be construed as evidence of anything other than that it was only visited by a small subset of users to begin with and normal club messaging continued on both the existing message board and on Discord.

As proof: Just compare the amount of use of Discord to the legacy forum. (And that occurred without encouragement.)

I do not advocate Facebook because many members have already stated that they won’t use it (and I personally still find it objectionable that (a couple of years ago) they acknowledged experimenting with manipulating user mood without informed consent.) The club already has FB today — and I and most others choose (almost) never to use it.

I consider Discord an acceptable alternative, yet the icons and animated emojis are not simply not my personal preference of professionalism. I do use Discord today (but essentially only for OKCAC) and would use it if that is our decision…but not if we offer an alternative.

I find that it is a nuisance/hassle that I must now login to our legacy forum at each visit. (I can’t imagine posting the message, “Works best with Firefox.”) It really must routinely work well with at least 2 of the top three browsers. (I routinely use only an iPad and iPhone (both with Safari and Google Chrome.))

Regarding the objections to dropping our existing forum:

It seems that the only true objection is the possible loss of older content (and losing the voice of members passed). I am sympathetic. So,

I would suggest this path to success:

  1. attempt to upgrade/patch the existing forum all the way to current version;

and if that doesn’t work with reasonable effort, finally,

  1. migrate to another forum (such as Discourse) and restore and maintain the older forum content as-is, where-is…until it is easily shown that no one (or very few rarely) access it any longer.


p.s., I’m not an OKCAC board member, but am an active participant on our club message board (and others.)

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Please share my thanks and appreciation with all of the board:

Thank you to all of you who volunteer and serve our club. I am incredibly appreciative. Please know that I occasionally share feedback and I do not want that to discourage any of you. We need to consistently let you know how grateful we are of your service!

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I agree with Tom. As for the historical documentation, I hate to lose it, but suspect rarely do folks go back to the very old posts. When we switch, and I agree we must switch to something, just freeze it, keep it up for a year or so for reference, and possibly take it down at that time.

I like Discord, except for the silly kid like emojis, but I see that as more of a chat type venue rather than a forum. A good adjunct to a forum maybe. It actually could serve as a forum, I guess. I think Discord and Discourse appear almost the same. With the similar names and style, I was amazed they’re not made by the same folks. But think the behind the scenes administration of Discourse is better for the administrators.

If that’s not the case, I wonder if we need a “forum” or if Discord would meet our clubs needs?

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I think we have maybe 2 options. Go with this Discourse Forum or update the current out of date forum with the new version. I’m not sure how well this Discourse Forum will work out in the long run. It may just be I don’t like change. It seems like the update of the old forum could have the data migrated over. The old forum should be able to run side by side with the updated forum since it would be in a different directory and use a different database. It says it can be setup to add pictures just like this Discourse Forum. We already have Facebook and with all the changes they made that would not be a good choice. I have not tried Discord but I don’t think that would be any good for use with the public. I think the main reason to have a Discussion Forum is to have a way to communicate with the public about our events and what the club is up to.

The old forum does have to many issues to continue on using it. My first choice would be an update to the new version and second choice would be switch to the Discourse Forum.

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You’re right, Dave, Discord is for club members, not the public. I’d like to update to the new version, too, as with Discord, I can easily post pics for the club use. But apparently that’s also got some problems in upgrading. Maybe there are only bad options (OBO). But we must do something.

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Danny, I know you’re leery about upgrading to the new php, so would it be better to just freeze the old php and start from scratch with the current php? That’s what we’d have to do with most options anyway.

As Tom said, once this is the official site it will get used more.

As it’s beta testing I’ve not really thought of it as the main communication.

Discord is good for quick response times, but I suspect this will be too.

This will be more professional looking than discord(and the current one)

-And yes, photos.