We had a previous discussion a little over a year ago about potentially changing the vBulletin software out in favor of something more modern.
The consensus was, as I read it, tentatively in favor of such a change. But to be fair, change is undeniably difficult in any community, and Tom effectively vetoed it. That’s fine. Change takes time, and I was OK waiting a few more years to try again, as I stated there.
But then the official Patreon was announced. So I am now able to vote with my wallet and put $1k/month of my proverbial money where my mouth is. Timetables have moved up.
I’ve been a card-carrying member of this forum since the days of the blue boards thing in 2001:
… that’s 15 years (!), but I just can’t see myself coming for 10 more if we stay on this ancient, awful, creaky old vBulletin platform. It’s god damn soul destroying. So I would like to revisit this change in light of the Patreon funding. Like any good SuperPAC, I have a political motive for my monthly donation. And that motive is to get us the hell off vBulletin.
I believe all of these statements to be true, and I challenge anyone to prove otherwise with actual data:
- We are making less and less from ads because more people run ad blockers
- Our community is relatively static and not growing
- Even if ad blockers didn’t exist, ads/pageviews naturally tend to pay less and less over time due to dwindling value
As Tom himself said:
I just don’t see how it is feasible to continually extract more and more money from the same people, even if you could harangue them into turning off their ad blockers. I mean maybe if you had a regular influx of new users all the time, or you were growing your pageviews / userbase in dramatic form over time, but that’s not the case here. Another example: the owner of Smashing Magazine, and that’s a huge site, told me their ad revenue had declined 50% in the last two years. That’s why they switched over to conferences as a way of making money. He told me this after I spoke at his conference…
I think continuing to rely on traditional ads is a recipe for eventual disaster, whether it is next year, or three years from now, the writing is on the wall. And in a tight knit community like this, moving to a Patreon system seems like a saner alternative. So I applaud this move and that’s a big reason. I’ve never run ad blockers; here is what’s being served right now on this very page:
Who among us will miss the Doritos ads? Anyway, thanks to the Patreon, we are now officially covered for whatever the forum ads made:
And since there is every indication that advertising is – and please, I’m begging you, correct me with real, cited data if I am wrong about this – headed off a massive cliff in terms of trends, isn’t it better to embrace the Patreon strategy wholeheartedly, rather than Lemmings-ing that ever-declining sliver of advertising revenue right off said cliff, with your community in tow?
So let’s get down to brass tacks. What is currently standing in the way of this move from vBulletin to Discourse? For anyone who hasn’t seen one, there’s an overview at https://www.discourse.org – you should look again if you haven’t looked in a year as we’re continually evolving the 100% open source software. Or, you can click through to check out live Discourse sites from https://www.discourse.org/faq/customers , including Gearbox and Turtle Rock.)
Let me directly address two things Tom brought up in his reply:
Someone doesn’t “like” likes. We can hide the like command, so there will be no way to press the button. I don’t agree with it, but if that’s the biggest blocker from getting it done, then let’s remove that blocker, turn off the like button, and agree to disagree. Done and done.
Preserve the invitiation-only appeal of the community. No problem. Discourse has a built in “require approval for new accounts” feature that we can turn on. So you won’t be able to reply until you ask for permission to join.
We can import all the vBulletin posts, data, PMs, etc so nothing is lost. All the old topics will exist, same text, different layout.
Two other bonus things:
We are working on Patreon integration that I’d LOVE to flesh out here, so Patreon supports can have extra flair on their account, access to a special Patreon only area, or what have you.
Integrating Discourse with WordPress – replacing Disqus – is something we already do. So comment “threads” on a blog post will be backed by a Discourse topic and readable that way on the blog entry. Click through to join the conversation on the forum proper. Tom said he’s interested in this, and I agree that it’d be a lot saner to avoid splitting the communities into “Disqus” and “vBulletin”.