Now, as a web developer I understand the aversion to changing something that has already been put in place. But I also know the benefits to user engagement. That's what the internet is all about. Keeping people engaged, whether it be with your product, or in this case with each other (and your product)!
To put it bluntly, I find this old style forum to feel a bit dated. It lacks some nice features that have come about in recent years.
Has anyone used a Discourse forum before? You can set one up for free and has all sorts of handy features that keep people engaged and informed:
When it's a user's first post, reminds you to welcome them.
The default tab can be a nicely laid out list of all threads across all categories. Very helpful for visibility of threads within lesser traveled categories.
Built with a mobile first mindset. This current forum is a bit tedious on mobile, which decreases user engagement.
Images and Embeds are more seamless -- less clunky.
Uses ajax. Make posts and watch them update without refreshing.
A modern post editor
Badge system, may be gimmickie, but really does keep things lively and fun.
I have actually thought about this a lot and just haven't found the right words to respond yet. But you have mentioned it a few time now, so I'll give it a try:
Although ProBoards isn't the best forum software, for the most part I think it does the job reasonably well. Every software has its limitations and we just have to deal with it to the point when the negatives outweigh the positives and also the cost of running the old system is higher than the cost of migrating to a new one. I don't think we have reached this point yet.
ProBoard as a hosted service is great because it requires absolutely no energy in keeping it up to date or monitoring it for DDoS or intrusion attacks, etc. It just works. I chose it not because it was the best technical option, but because it was an option that would allow Robert to run it indefinitely without having to rely on me or anyone else to support him with it. The forum is at the heart of the AE Modular community and should not depend on the goodwill or energy of any one person to operate. Going with SaaS hosted solution fulfils this requirement perfectly.
The system is also constantly being improved .. very soon there will be the long awaited SSL support so that every URL will be served over https! There are many other improvements in the pipeline and the editor may be one of them. Development is quite slow because the ProBoards team has to make sure that any change will not break the thousands of hosted forums on their platform.
The main issue though that would keep me from migrating away, is that all the content here can not be exported because this function does not exist and would also be against the Terms & Conditions of ProBoards. They see every post written by a user as belonging ONLY to this user. And while each user can export their own posts, the forum admin can't export all posts. While this seems an undue restriction on the data, I guess it comes from a good position where users actually have control over their own content.
To move to a new forum would mean to abandon this content or keeping it as an archive and to start new. Given the energy that went into setting this up (content wise) and to grow it to the numbers that we have now I think that would be very hard to do and we could potentially lose many users in the process.
So while I agree with you that this forum may look a bit dated and the interface is a bit clunky, I don't think that we should move to a newer forum any time soon - UNLESS there is a huge support from a majority of members.
However I see a huge wealth of information basically "buried" in posts in this forum and my mission for this year is to uncover it and move this over to the Wiki, where it can be arranged in a much more user friendly and discoverable fashion.
PS: The forum interface can actually be completely changed via html templates and it's certainly possible to turn this into a very modern looking forum by creating a template based on a grid based CSS framework like Bootstrap or Foundation. It's just a lot of work and unless someone loves this type of work I would rather not do it and spend more time on the Wiki, developing documentation and play with my AE Modular
Thanks for the official reply @careck, all good reasons, and I can see why it would take a lot of thought and a lot of support from the community.
I'll stop mentioning this option, you've officially shut me up
PS. proboards terms sound like ransomware
Hi slowscape, it was not my intention to "shut you up" and I apologise if my post came across like that. I really appreciate your comments and advice and as a software developer myself I am painfully aware of the limitations that this forum has. I just tried to explain why I'm not considering at this stage to change it.
I am also always happy about any help that is offered of making this forum more effective and if someone has the CSS chops to make the UI more modern that would be awesome. But it is most likely a lot of work and since we are all doing this in our free time, I have no expectations that this will be done any time soon.