I‘ve been putting off an inevitable forum migration for years.
I won’t bore you with the details because I’d much rather talk about all the cool stuff the new platform has, but if you’re interested in the why of the migration, here’s a tidy little toggle for you to open:
Why We're Migrating
The gist is that the platform the existing forum runs on, which is called Discourse, is mainly built for companies to host support forums and long-form discussions and I’ve had to invest a lot of time and money to try and get it to work as the in-and-out-of-world hub for an interactive narrative experience and the awesome community that has grown around that initial idea.
You wouldn’t believe how many times a required Discourse update was launched that undid hours and hours and hundreds of dollars worth of work. I needed more of a sandbox platform that I could easily shape and update to fit the growing community.
After taking time off to recover from some serious burnout, I realized the break was the perfect time to finally move the existing forum and all its content to a new platform that’s easier to manage and use. One that’s better suited not only for the more organized discussions of the old forum but also for more casual chats and deeper personal interactions, and one that I can update myself without having to outsource costly updates and fixes to developers.
I can now make changes and updates to the forum and its structure on the fly without hiring a developer, waiting for their availability, and paying lots and lots of money. I’ve worked with some awesome, creative people, but making things simpler makes my life so much easier.
I can also make changes based on community feedback. For example, changes in navigation, menus, etc., can all be discussed by us and implemented by me, quickly and cheaply, to keep the community running as efficiently as possible.
Moving on from the why, let get’s to the what which are all the cool changes and updates that are now going to be available to the community!
The new platform the forum will live on is called “Buddyboss” and is a beautiful mashup of two longstanding platforms: Buddypress’s profile and social interaction plugin and BBpress’s forum and discussion plugin.
OG Mountaineers may remember that the BBPress and Buddypress were what the forum was originally built on before migrating to Discourse in 2017!
Because we’re now using a new platform, some of the old naming structures that we’re familiar with have changed. Namely:
- The old “Categories” are now called Forums.
- Forums contain Discussions which are what we used to call “Topics.”
But some people call the forum “the internet cauldron” so no need to get hung up on names.
The main page of the old forum showed topics in order of when they were most recently created, updated, or replied to, and weirdly, on mobile, the front page only showed the forum categories in alphabetical order unless you manually bookmarked the “latest” view.
The new forum’s main page contains an Activity Feed that shows you discussion and group updates across the entire community, and you can now post updates via the modal right at the top of the main page.
You can post anything you like, short updates, longer personal entries (like the former forum journals), photos and video, quick questions, etc.
And from the modal, you can choose whether you want everyone to see your update, whether you want to allow only your followers to see, only mutual connections, or even create a post that’s just for you! You can even post directly to social groups (more on those in a minute) directly from the update modal!
And all your personal updates will be collated on the Timeline tab of your brand new profile, replacing and improving on the old journal topics!
Personal profiles in Discourse were kind of an afterthought, but the new platform has TONS of stuff you can do with them beyond the usual profile pic, cover image, and basic information. The new profiles offer greater flexibility to share about yourself and are the hub for your activity, connections, groups, badges, and your own personal updates.
Your profile is where you’ll also be able to manage all of the discussions you follow and the members you connect with.
- Subscribing is an easy way to follow discussions you’re interested in but might not have replied to, allowing them to appear in your notifications and the main activity feed.
- Member Following is a new feature that enables you to get updates when certain users post personal updates or discussion/group replies. It works similar to Instagram and Tik-Tok.
- Member Connections take Following one step further so that you can mutually message one another, kind of the “Friend” equivalent of Facebook.
Because the main page is now a focused feed of all recent activity where you’ll find narrative discussion responses, casual group replies, and personal member updates mingling together like our own (private) social media platform, we needed a new place to quickly access all the forums.
The full list of forums will now be in the header menu at the top of the page under a menu item called “Community.”
In that dropdown, you’ll not only find all the familiar “categories” from the original forum, but you’ll also find Groups, which are the new social hubs created for shared interests like guilds, hobbies, books, etc.
When deciding what should be a forum and what should be a group, I used the guiding idea of “content-based” vs. “community-based.” They stayed forums if they were primarily for book narratives, blog posts, updates, or long-form discussions. If a forum was more about bringing together smaller groups with shared interests like hobbies, reading, pets, etc., I converted them into social groups.
The good news about groups is that you can more easily find cozy little homes of like-minded people within the broader community, and those groups have their own forums for members to post in , the best of both worlds! If you find a forum you think would be better suited as a group, or vice versa, let me know!
At the top right of the page, you’ll see your avatar.
Clicking that avatar will reveal a dropdown that grants easy access to your personal profile info, community-based notifications, messages, connections, and all your important shop account info like billing and payment information, subscription status, and past orders.
If you’re logged in and visiting the forum on desktop or a larger tablet, you’ll also see the bookmark menu on the left side of the page.
The Bookmark is where you’ll be able to find and quickly access places that are more contextually specific to you, like The Briar Society and, soon, the new interactive experiences I have planned for 2023.
We also now have an official integrated calendar where I can post information for book releases, community events, video hangouts, and social gatherings, and you can subscribe to the calendar!
Buddyboss also comes with the ability to build a native mobile app out of the forum. Once I’ve ironed out all the migration wrinkles, I’ll get to work getting the app designed and published!
And with the app, in-app notifications will also be coming, which will update you on everything you follow on the forum and be critical to the new interactive experiences I have planned!
There are a few things Buddyboss doesn’t have (yet) that Discourse does, like built-in polls and quiz functionality and a native dark mode (why isn’t dark mode everywhere?!), but they roll out updates based on community feedback all the time, and I can easily add custom functionality as well.
The old badges built into Discourse are now filed in a “Legacy Badges” area of your profile. Once the forum is up and running, I’ll better organize those and add their images.
The migration will happen overnight, tonight, with the forum “freezing” around midnight Pacific time, finishing before morning. There may be some downtime as we move everything over, but when the dust is settled, everything we created on the old forum should be safely in its new home, at the same address!
You may find wonkiness for the next week or so as I get the forum up and running post-migration (there are a bunch of things I couldn’t do until the official migration happened), but if there are any experience-breaking issues, please just let me know!