TL;DR: We're moving to Discouse and are raising funds to hire a professional to migrate all existing forum data. Try out the test server here.
Update: we've reached out goal! THANK YOU, you're all awesome :)
Any additional pledges will be put aside for unforeseen extra costs, custom plugin development etc.
Long in the planning, (three years now!) we finally move BlenderArtists to a new forum platform: Discourse. This change coincides with a change in ownership: after the switch, CG Cookie is transferring the ownership and management of BlenderArtists to BlenderNation.
Jonathan Williamson writes:
From day one we have tried to be good stewards of the community but in the last few years we’ve been unable to dedicate the time that Blender Artists deserves and needs. Thankfully, Bart has graciously agreed to step up and take ownership through BlenderNation. Bart is one of the original Not a Number crew and was responsible for many of the original Blender tutorials that many of us (myself included) first learned from. Blender Artists could not be in better hands. Jason van Gumster (Fweeb) will stay involved as the lead moderator.
The migration and this crowdfunding campaign are being run by BlenderNation.
The data migration is complex and involves hiring a professional to help us migrate the data. We can’t do this without raising some funds. For a full migration of the entire site we need €4500, if we raise less, we’ll import less history accordingly. I’ll explain the different scenarios below, but let’s first look at why we selected Discourse as our new platform:
Why move to Discourse?
Discourse is a ‘next generation’ forum system that uses many modern techniques to give a much better (and more fun) user experience than ‘traditional’ forums. It’s open source and developed by the people who created Stack Exchange. They bring a LOT of community experience to the table, and everything they do is focused on providing a better environment for conversations and community.
I have been using Discourse for several years at Sketchfab and have fallen in love with it. The Blender Foundation is also testing it as the new forum software for the developers community.
My favourite features are:
- Discourse is Real time. New replies will automatically appear without reloading the page.
- Excellent notifications. You can subscribe to topics and tags and decide the level of notifications you want to receive for each. Notifications are provided on-site (real-time, of course), as browser notifications (if you’re not on BlenderArtists you can still receive important messages), or through email. Discourse is smart enough not to email you if you’ve already visited the topic.
- Mobile device support. All features work great on your phone and tablet too.
- Community moderation. Discourse gives the community tools to police itself. For example, If enough people flag posts as spam, off-topic or other, they'll be hidden and moved into a moderation queue. All these tools are much more modern and easy to use than in vBulletin, and will result in a ‘cleaner’ experience for everyone. Discourse also has a fantastic 'user level' system, giving users more access as their reputation increases. Top-level users can even earn moderation rights etc. Spammers will have a hard time :)
- Editing posts. Discourse is based on MarkDown and provides a WYSIYWG editor with a live preview of your final layout. It also makes it much, much easier to embed other media. Just drag images into your post, or add a YouTube, Vimeo or Sketchfab link as you would on any other modern platform.
- Solved flag. Discourse lets the OP of a topic flag a reply as the solution of his request. This reply will be displayed at the top of the thread, making it easier for future readers to jump directly to the answer. With a clear ‘unsolved’ indicator in the topics list, this also makes it easier to identify which questions still need an answer.
- Badges! It may sound trivial, but badges can really help 'document' a person's role in the community. Discourse can automatically award badges based on rules or queries, or they can be awarded manually. Good fun.
Things we’re keeping from BlenderArtists
Of course, several features on BlenderArtists that are important to keep, and these have already been prepared:
- Dark theme. Don’t want to get your eyes burned out? A ‘dark’ theme will be enabled by default, but you can switch back to a ‘light’ theme if you so prefer.
- Featured art row. Check it out on the test site.
- Image thumbnails in Art forums. The first image from a topic will be displayed in the topics list of Art forums. This even works for YouTube/Vimeo videos and Sketchfab embeds! You can see it in action here.
You can check out all these features on the test site. Feel free to register for an account and kick the tires to see what it can feel like.
The data migration is complex and involves hiring a professional to help us migrate the data. There’s over a decade of data. We can’t do this without raising some funds. We have identified the following scenarios, based on quotes from the migration and hosting service:
- Full migration - €4500
- Limited migration - €2500
- User migration only - free
If the amount raised is between €2500 and €4500, we’ll import as many months as we can for the raised budget.
Ideal solution: full migration - €4500
I believe that history is an essential part of any community. People fall back on old conversations to find answers and inspiration, and all this historical information needs to be easy to access. Also thousands of ‘incoming’ links from other websites need to continue working to keep the entire ecosystem healthy.
For this reason, I think we should migrate the entire history of the forum to the new Discourse platform.
Migrating between different platforms is of course always hard, so I’ve found a professional to help us with this project. Due to the amount of data (close to 200GB!) this is a big project with a corresponding price tag: €4500.
What we will get is:
- Full migration of all user accounts, topics and attachments.
- Rewriting of all existing topic links to their new locations (making sure all existing links to BlenderArtists keep working).
‘2nd best’ solution: limited migration - €2500
As an intermediary solution, we can migrate only the last 12 months worth of active topics to Discourse. Initially, there won’t be a static version of archived threads and all existing inbound links to them will break. We’ll keep the data though, so volunteers can help export this to HTML.
‘Archiving’ the existing topics to flat HTML is not as trivial as it sounds. For one, vBulletin does not offer this feature, but also keep in mind that we have close to 200GB of data to process and host - no trivial task!
The budget for this ‘limited migration’ solution is €2500.
Cheapest solution: user migration only - free
If we can’t raise the €2000, then we’ll only migrate the user database and create an empty forum to ‘reboot’ BlenderArtists on Discourse. I’ll fund this myself, if needed.
Risks and challenges
We're hiring a qualified and experienced Discourse support professional for this migration. He can ensure a smooth migration project.
On the Discourse side, I have 2 years of experience running a Discourse forum and know its strengths and weaknesses. Jason (Fweeb), BlenderArtists's lead moderator, will stay on board to ensure continued leadership of the community.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (14 days)