What if... Quarter to Three switched from vBulletin to Discourse?

Because I have been a member of this forum for going on 15 years I’d like to make the following offer to the Shadowy Powers That Be, and you, the Q23 community:

What if…

… the Q23 forums migrated from vBulletin to http://www.discourse.org ?

  • we will host Q23 forums for no cost, indefinitely, on a cloud instance of generous size and capacity

  • we will convert / import all posts from vBulletin to Discourse

  • all modern Discourse discussion amenities and built in phone / tablet support, the software is outta beta and mature in v1.3 (the current release under development)

  • 100% open source software so you are never stuck in a commercial platform or need to buy any kind of “license” ever again. You can even help us build it, if that’s your bag, baby

  • we will install the ad plugin so the forum ad banners can stay (though I am not a fan of these forum ads… How much revenue do forum ads really generate??)

  • all forum maintenance will henceforth be performed with a steely frown

What say you? You can view live gaming related Discourse instances at Gearbox and Turtle Rock (evolve) if you are curious. There is also a live sandbox at http://try.discourse.org

I kind of hate the new Gearbox forums, but that may be because of Gearbox’s implementation of Discourse in particular. It has a hell of a lot of white space that for me, greatly reduces readability. Is that configurable user-side, or server-side, or is it just the way Discourse is built? The sandbox has a lot of white space too, but not quite as much.

“Search that actually works” sounds pretty good, however.

I dig Evolve, so I’ve spent a bit of time perusing the Turtle Rock forums. I’ll admit, the default All Category view was a bit off putting but a quick click on the Category sorted view gave me back the more traditional forum look I’m accustomed to navigating. Discourse is great. Very flexible, and I do like the mobile support waaaay better than vBulletin’s implementation.

I’d personally be up for it, and we’d have a pretty good tour guide to navigate its capabilities. If the aesthetics of the current forum could be mimicked, a user migration path is available, performance could equal or exceed the current implementation, and Tom could monetize it at least as well as Qt3… I think it’s worth a shot!



Discourse suffers from the usual opensource malaise - cool ideas but awful user experience.

vBulletin is a link to my early days browsing web forums well over a decade ago. I’ll be sad when QT3 goes away from it.

How specifically is it awful?

As for whitespace, you could configure that but remember that extremely long lines are quite bad for readability. There is a reason books and articles don’t have lines this long.

Discourse is the very embodiment of the cliche of the awful programmer-designed interface. It somehow manages to make a bulletin board look as inviting as the control panel of a nuclear reactor.

And don’t even get me started on how it tacks a useless click counter onto every freaking single hyperlink.

Qt3 survived the switch from the old blue boards.

For the grognards Qt3 is like a comfortable smoking room but i think we forget how it looks like it was decorated by the 70s. For the long term it would probably be a good idea to modernize at some point, no? Sounds like wumpus’ offer would very generous for qt3.

The click counter is a little weird, but it’s not that obstrusive (I hadn’t noticed it on the Gearbox forums, which are my point of reference) until Zylon mentioned it. I’m sure it can be disabled server-side.


Back to whitespace, I’m probably just too used to vBulletin / reddit / phpBB etc, but I do wish Discourse would make use of all the horizontal monitor space. I understand wumpus’s point about extremely long lines, but an option for people who would like more text density and less vertical scrolling would be great.

But the real crux would be the reduced operating overhead for Tom et al; this is an extremely generous offer from wumpus, especially since he’s said that all previous posts would be imported*. People fear change but as with the new front page and disqus comments, you’d probably get used to it after a few weeks or months at most.

*my biggest gripe with the new Gearbox forums is that none of the prior posts were imported, resulting in a slew of dead google links and what seems like a lot of duplicated effort to bring the most pertinent old threads into the new forum. That’s not a Discourse issue, that’s a Gearbox issue. The white space is either a Discourse issue or my problem:-)

The worst example is the select text to quote on mobile devices instead of a simple button. Text selection on touch screen devices like phones is a clumsy operation at the best of times. Relying on it for such a ubiquitous action is insanity and a recipe for frustration.

Other examples are the layout and glyphs that don’t conform to standard and recognisable iconography.

OK, so here’s vBulletin side by side with Discourse:


Threads / Topics

I gotta tell you, I don’t think any reasonable person would look at that and say “nuclear reactor”. Or even “programmer UI”. Unless they were referring to the vBulletin side on the left, that is…

Also, look at what I had to do, just to get these images in:

  1. Upload images to imgur
  2. Copy each URLs, enter img tags manually
  3. No preview, so I have no idea if they’re right or not

Here’s what you do in Discourse:

  1. Drag and drop or paste the images in, see them get added automatically in the real time preview. Done.

Seriously, try adding an image to a post yourself at http://try.discourse.org and that’s just one small example of the many, many modern amenities you’d get.

Do you work for the NSA? Will you be giving back doors into the place and what kind of security and ‘neutrality’ does your suggestion offer?

Also, will it actually be ‘better’? Or ‘better’ like the GUI look for Windows Metro is apparently ‘better’ seeing how that has taken over the GUI of many apps and utilities? Sometimes change for changes sake is not better?

Edit: ok i see your side by side comparison answers my second question. It will be to make it more ‘Metro’ like, with ‘fashionable’ tweet style/portable looks etc. Sorry i hate it (but it won’t stop me posting, i’ll just be more ‘spikey and sharp’ in my venom). It looks exactly like this modern wave of change for changes sake while making it look worse. No thank you on your kind offer :)

Unlike vBulletin, it’s 100% open source, have a look for yourself… https://github.com/discourse/discourse

Looks horrible to me, but I hate change. Where’s the latest poster indicator? Why do I need to know what the users look like? Why take up so much space with the OP for each post when I could mouse over if I cared?

I’m also a hater of integrating feeds across sub-forums, but I assume that’s easily fixable.

I don’t mind the first compare shot, but I don’t like how “large” the topics are. Going from 25 topics on a screen to 5 seems like it would be sort of annoying. Unless I’m reading it wrong, which is possible - I find Reddit all but incomprehensible, for instance.

What did Tom say when you emailed him or PM’d him about his thoughts before you posted this thread?

I prefer the left one! More topics per screen. The topics only exist so I can read the title and then click on them or ignore them. I can’t imagine that “users” is a useful field to see when there’s 100+ people discussing a single thread.

edit: Also, threads are just infinite scroll. I hate infinite scroll. Makes the scroll bar a completely useless positional indicator. This 1000 posts one is completely useless, for instance.

I’m pretty sure, being open source, and with Jeff involved, we can make the forum software do whatever we like.