Are people open to changing the forum software again? Please leave feedback.

Handruin

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#1
I would like to consider a move to Xenoforo forum software based on the feedback of the community. I would like to have some feedback and concerns before I go down this road so that this change doesn't upset the majority without giving you a chance to voice concerns with a change of this size. Xenforo is developed by the former developers of vbulletin who left that company after it was acquired and taken in a different direction. I am considering a move to their forum product to address the problems related to usability with browser support on mobile and tablet devices along with other improvements for management and usability in a conventional desktop browser.

In addition to gaining those benefits we would be put onto a more-modern platform that is being actively developed with bug fixes and security updates unlike the aging and old vbulletin 4.x we're on now. We tried moving to vbulletin 5 some time ago but it had taken so many steps backward that we reverted to where we are now on version 4.x. I can't install a preview of Xenforo here to give you an accurate example of what the change entails so at the very least I can do is point everyone to other forums that run Xenforo to use as examples to get your feedback if that's something you all would like to see.

A few of the goals I'm looking to achieve are:
Improve mobile usability and experience for users
Improve spam management and reduce spam posting
Enable SSL/TLS encryption for the entire site with an A+ rating from SSL Labs
Improve overall website performance
Move to php7 for better performance
Move to nginx web server for better performance
Move to the latest MySQL for better performance

A few of these items can't be achieved easily with the latest vbulletin 4.x but can be done with the latest Xenforo.

I welcome whatever feedback you might have to help us make the right choice for this community.
 

sedrosken

Allergic to Sunlight
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#2
I personally defer to you on this one, on paper it sounds like there's no real downside to making the move. What concerns me is the topics left from years past, would it wipe out all of it or would it all be kept? Sorry if that's a dumb question, forum software isn't exactly my forte.
 

CougTek

Serial computer killer
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#3
In addition to gaining those benefits we would be put onto a more-modern platform that is being actively developed with bug fixes and security updates unlike the aging and old vbulletin 4.x we're on now.
That part is enough to convince me. I'm so pissed when I have to maintain obsolete platforms at the office (we unfortunately have several). Moving to something easier to manage and harder to hack is the way to go.
 

Stereodude

Not really a
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Jan 22, 2002
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#7
Hardforum and servethehome both use Xenforo. It's pretty much interchangeable with vB from an end user usability standpoint IMO. It has some nice improvements though. Specifically on mobile devices.
 

LunarMist

I can't believe I'm a
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#8
I'm concerned about the size of the pages. I see that lately the web has huge spaces for no reasons and a terrible amount of scrolling. Will it still be possible to use a desktop version on a phone for example?
 

Handruin

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#10
I personally defer to you on this one, on paper it sounds like there's no real downside to making the move. What concerns me is the topics left from years past, would it wipe out all of it or would it all be kept? Sorry if that's a dumb question, forum software isn't exactly my forte.
The goal would be to preserve all prior forum threads and posts along with the forum category layout. I would take a snapshot from one of the backups and restore to the new install and use Xenoforo's vbulletin imported to import all our data. I'd then share this with everyone to play around with to give it a try before going live.

That part is enough to convince me. I'm so pissed when I have to maintain obsolete platforms at the office (we unfortunately have several). Moving to something easier to manage and harder to hack is the way to go.
I thought MariaDB was preferable at this point, but you are the one managing it so you decide.
I'll do more reading on MariaDB vs MySQL. I don't know the pros/cons enough to warrant switching from one I know to another that I don't. I'll see what I can find but if you know a couple of points to consider I'm interested in hearing them.

So long as we don't lose the existing forum threads I'm OK with it.
That would be my goal to not lose any of the existing forum threads.
 

Handruin

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#11
I'm concerned about the size of the pages. I see that lately the web has huge spaces for no reasons and a terrible amount of scrolling. Will it still be possible to use a desktop version on a phone for example?
I would expect that issue to be addressed with the newer software. I will have to check about using the desktop version on the phone. I suspect it's possible but I would have to confirm with the new software.
 

LunarMist

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#12
The most important part is that it is easy enough to administer and secure.
One thing I see missing on some mobile versions of forums is the button to go to the end of the thread.
 

CougTek

Serial computer killer
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#14
I'll do more reading on MariaDB vs MySQL. I don't know the pros/cons enough to warrant switching from one I know to another that I don't. I'll see what I can find but if you know a couple of points to consider I'm interested in hearing them.
Disclaimer : I'm purely an outsider on this. I don't do database administration.

With that being written :

http://www.admin-magazine.com/Articles/MariaDB-vs.-MySQL

Also, from this blog:
Five Reasons to Consider MariaDB

In addition to WikiMedia, companies supporting MariaDB include most Linux offshoots like Red Hat and SUSE; in 2013, Google announced it was joining those companies in moving its largest servers to MariaDB. Look at MariaDB if you:

  • Want to take advantage of an active international community of developers, not just those from Oracle.
  • Need to stay up to date with the latest developments in technology.
  • Have stakeholders that require immediate security patches.
  • Want to get started on upgrade features before they are released in MySQL.
  • Expect alternate storage engines to be built into the code, such as Connect and Cassandra for NoSQL backends, Spider with built-in sharding or Percona’s TokuDB to deal with fractal indexes.
There are performance benchmarks probably favoring MariaDB over MySQL, but those I've seen are from MariaDB's own website, so I passed.

The best analogy I can think of regarding MariaDB vs MySQL is LibreOffice vs OpenOffice. The original core development staff left in protest when Sun/Oracle bought the project and started to develop a better maintained solution on their own.

One last thing : from everything I read about it, if you know how to work with MySQL, you know how to work with MariaDB. It's a drop-in replacement with more options and a few performance improvements. The main reason I've seen to keep using MySQL over MariaDB is if you have a support contract with Oracle, which you don't. Otherwise, the community support and improvements are better on MariaDB.
 

Handruin

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#15
The most important part is that it is easy enough to administer and secure.
One thing I see missing on some mobile versions of forums is the button to go to the end of the thread.
I took a look over at STH which is running Xenforo software on my mobile device. When I pressed on the thread title it took me to the latest post and clearly labeled it as "new" but not the end of the thread. There wasn't a special button for this but it brought me to the latest content I haven't yet read. With that said, if I press on a forum thread that has no new posts, it did not take me to the end so that doesn't work as you've requested and I'd need to look into a way of implementing that.
 

Handruin

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#16

Handruin

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#17
Disclaimer : I'm purely an outsider on this. I don't do database administration.

With that being written :

http://www.admin-magazine.com/Articles/MariaDB-vs.-MySQL

Also, from this blog:
There are performance benchmarks probably favoring MariaDB over MySQL, but those I've seen are from MariaDB's own website, so I passed.

The best analogy I can think of regarding MariaDB vs MySQL is LibreOffice vs OpenOffice. The original core development staff left in protest when Sun/Oracle bought the project and started to develop a better maintained solution on their own.

One last thing : from everything I read about it, if you know how to work with MySQL, you know how to work with MariaDB. It's a drop-in replacement with more options and a few performance improvements. The main reason I've seen to keep using MySQL over MariaDB is if you have a support contract with Oracle, which you don't. Otherwise, the community support and improvements are better on MariaDB.
Thanks Coug, I appreciate the detailed reply and links. I've read through the links you've shared and this one paragraph makes me feel a lot better about going with MariaDB because it means the rest of the stack for this website is a drop-in and should work normally which includes the my.cnf which I've tried to tune for this hosting provider's memory footprint.

At first glance, not much seems to have changed. The server is still mysqld , the command-line client is still mysql , the main configuration file is still my.cnf , and all connectors (e.g., the PHP or Python connectors) happily connect as if nothing has changed.
 

LunarMist

I can't believe I'm a
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#18
I took a look over at STH which is running Xenforo software on my mobile device. When I pressed on the thread title it took me to the latest post and clearly labeled it as "new" but not the end of the thread. There wasn't a special button for this but it brought me to the latest content I haven't yet read. With that said, if I press on a forum thread that has no new posts, it did not take me to the end so that doesn't work as you've requested and I'd need to look into a way of implementing that.
End of thread is far more useful than last read. On the desktop, my cookies are wiped at boors. Something Random would be a challenge!
 

Handruin

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#19
I purchased a license of Xenforo. I'll work towards getting us setup with their new software. I'll have a demo site with our forum content imported so we can play around with it before going live.
 

Handruin

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#21
I've setup a demo site of XenForo using a snapshot of our storageforum database imported from a few days ago. Please note the domain name is owned by me and serves no special meaning for anything other than I needed a cheap domain to do testing like this.

Things to note about this demo:
  • ALL DATA WILL BE DESTROYED at the end of this demo, so please do not post anything you want to keep.
  • This is running on a new stand-alone Linode VPS instance separate from this current storageforum site.
  • This instance is now using nginx instead of Apache as the web server.
  • This instance is using php7 vs php5.
  • This instance has no php caching configure (yet) so performance should improve down the road.
  • This instance is using MySQL 5.7 vs MySQL 5.5. I'm still debating switching to MariaDB but for now this gets us going.
  • This new forum now uses MySQL InnoDB engine vs MyISAM on the current forum. This will allow for better performance and improved backups.
  • This new instance has not yet been performance tuned in any way...I will work on this.
  • This new instance defaults to using a valid TLS encryption certificate from Let's Encrypt which we've never had before...so there is a small performance hit for this and possible compatibility issues for people still using old web browsers that don't support this.
  • The default Xenforo theme is in use. We will likely need to tune this to be more usable but please understand it's the default for now.
  • It's very possible the site may go down at various times as I continue to work on it and tune different items. Please don't take this as a concern of instability at this time.
  • Email notifications are not enabled on this new site as to not confuse anyone with incoming emails to existing threads.

My request to all of you:
  • Please report any issues or concerns you may find in this thread or message me directly if you find something that's security sensitive. I'd like to know your feedback with what you see so far. Keep in mind I'm also learning this new forum software so there will likely be some quirks until I get more used to the new admin page and all the new options.
  • Please try out any and all feature you find. I'm not concerned with anything getting screwed up in fact I'd rather you do it and find out now before we go live.

Please give it a try here:
https://www.qikl.us/index.php
 

Handruin

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#24
Looks good. Does this include the add-on I requested?

How many themes can you install?

This one looks interesting: https://xenforo.com/community/resources/flat-awesome-pixelexit-com.3409/
I have not yet installed the add-on you requested but I did begin to get the process in place that will allow me to do so. I plan to add it to the demo site to get your feedback on if it does what you're hoping for. There are a few more steps I need to get through before that add-on can be installed.

It looks like I can add as many styles as I want. I've added the style you suggested if you want to try it out. It is not set as the default but if you click the link in the lower left corner of the new forum board, you can switch between them.

click_default_style.jpg change_style.jpg
 

timwhit

Hairy Aussie
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Chicago, IL
#31
I have not yet installed the add-on you requested but I did begin to get the process in place that will allow me to do so. I plan to add it to the demo site to get your feedback on if it does what you're hoping for. There are a few more steps I need to get through before that add-on can be installed.

It looks like I can add as many styles as I want. I've added the style you suggested if you want to try it out. It is not set as the default but if you click the link in the lower left corner of the new forum board, you can switch between them.

View attachment 1133 View attachment 1132
Thanks Doug. If it's not a big trouble can we try the dark version?
 

CougTek

Serial computer killer
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#33
Nothing really bad with the demo site. Small annoyances :

I don't like the pastel orange color of some elements.
I don't see where to chose another color scheme.
My avatar didn't follow like the one of some others.
I've seen "points" and "likes" in the members section. Do we really need these?

This is mostly nitpicking and none of the above are show stopper.
 

Handruin

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#34
Nothing really bad with the demo site. Small annoyances :

I don't like the pastel orange color of some elements.
I don't see where to chose another color scheme.
My avatar didn't follow like the one of some others.
I've seen "points" and "likes" in the members section. Do we really need these?

This is mostly nitpicking and none of the above are show stopper.
I appreciate the feedback. The color schemes themselves aren't individually selectable but many of the styles can be changed to more suitable colors on a per-user level. A few posts up I linked to the steps on how to changed between the installed styles/themes that are added right now if you want to try. If you find another style you like better let me know and I can add it to demo.

I need to investigate what happened with the Avatars for some members. This may just be an issue with being statically linked to a folder that no longer exists vs some that are in the database. I'll look into it so that it's fixed when we move over.

The points and likes aren't needed. I think they were enabled by default and I can turn them off if people don't want them.
 

Handruin

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#35
Has the performance of the new forum been reasonable so far for those who have played around with it? I know i said it hasn't been tuned yet but wanted to get some initial feedback so far? On my end of things it feels pretty quick and isn't giving me any immediate concerns.

The stock mobile page seems to work better than this current one. I know it still may need some work but it seems better so far.

From an admin perspective I'm very happy with how easy it was to setup and also with all the up to date spam management built into the forum from the start. I already feel like this product is more refined and better than what vbulletin had to offer.
 

Chewy509

Wotty wot wot.
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Gold Coast Hinterland, Australia
#37
I tried it on mobile and couldn't get it to work.
Just tried it on Android 4 with chrome and worked fine for me.

Really like the new look and feel of the new site, and having a set of themes to choose from would be ideal. Both the awesome flat and dark theme look good.

The mobile version works a lot better as well.

You have my vote to change over.
 

sedrosken

Allergic to Sunlight
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Messages
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The Sticks
#38
Has the performance of the new forum been reasonable so far for those who have played around with it? I know i said it hasn't been tuned yet but wanted to get some initial feedback so far? On my end of things it feels pretty quick and isn't giving me any immediate concerns.

The stock mobile page seems to work better than this current one. I know it still may need some work but it seems better so far.

From an admin perspective I'm very happy with how easy it was to setup and also with all the up to date spam management built into the forum from the start. I already feel like this product is more refined and better than what vbulletin had to offer.
I have no complaints about performance, but then, nothing is really "slow" on a 20+mbps connection. For better perspective I should probably be trying this from home.
 

mubs

Storage? I am Storage!
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Somewhere in time.
#39
I just went to the site; at the bottom left it shows a bunch of urls flashing, "waiting for then the URL. The last of them is Facebook. Curious as to why. BTW, I'm not on Facebook. Probably for common logon?

Also noticed that the start date for each thread is blank?
 
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