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vBulletin is dead, long live Vanilla

ÄlphämönkëyÄlphämönkëy Registered User regular
So, it's been a long time coming but here is the latest on the future of our forums.

vBulletin is dead, long live Vanilla
After looking at the software solutions out there we have decided to run Vanilla Forums. Vanilla Forums is an open source project written in PHP backed with a MySQL database server. The core developers of the project formed a a startup company to provide a variety of services (including hosting).

Why Vanilla?
I'll make a longer post about this in the future. In short, they "get" forums. When we approached different vendors they were the only ones that asked the right questions. "What games do you guys play?" "How do you deal with spam?" "How do you deal with trolling?"

From a code perspective, the Vanilla Forums software is built on top of a plugin architecture. This makes the code much easier to customize than vBulletin. This modularity has made it pretty easy to extend Vanilla to include the community features that we have come to rely on: reporting posts, marking posts as awesome, infractions and jails, spam control, etc.

From a management perspective, the forums have this knack of crashing right before big events (Child's Play/PAX/etc). This large crash during the holiday Child's Play seasons was really poorly timed. Obviously I want to make sure the forumers are taken care of but I also have obligations to other readers as well (child's play donors, store customers, etc). The Vanilla Forums guys will manage the day-to-day technical bits powering the forums for us, patching software, tuning MySQL, taking backups, etc. We will still be involved but at the end of the day the Vanilla guys will be the ones "on call" for our forums.

Wait, I thought MySQL is the devil's database! Why aren't we switching? What about searching?
I've been working with the guys over at Vanilla to make MySQL work for us. This includes simple things like using InnoDB to reduce lock contention and more complex changes like using Sphinx to power searching. We have contingency plans setup to run replication in the event we really need that extra performance.

Why not develop our own forum software?
We definitely have the community talent. I was overwhelmed with all of the responses and I even had built out a spreadsheet of people/skills. We would have had the ability to make a rocking forum software, but it would have taken a while. Developing our own was always our "last ditch effort."

What's next?
The development of the new forums is already underway. Our own Erika Greco will be minting a new design to make the forums look more like the new mainsite design. The goal is to have a beta of the forums available for you guys to play with before PAX East. We aren't looking to pull a Digg here, so we will be looking for feedback early in the process.

As always, I'll be around to answer questions.

UPDATE:
Javen wrote: »
Sooner than I thought. For some reason I'm used to "new update announced! Look for it in 8-10 months!" so hearing 'next week' at a latest is refreshing. And with PAX just around the corner, too.

I'm going to revise my statement. As much as I would love to have a public beta before PAX East, I'm only giving it a 40% chance. The more likely scenario is that I will open it up to moderators to poke around first. Opening to the public really depends on how confident we are in the new forums and how smooth of a tech setup we have at PAX East.

In a worst case scenario, we are still looking at a public beta sometime in the next two weeks.

Älphämönkëy on
«13456710

Posts

  • MKRMKR Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    Hail alpha, and may his hats reign for eternity

    And I guess the vanilla folks are ok too.

    MKR on
  • EndEnd Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    Cool!

    I think I am all terribly excited now.

    Does that mean you nailed down hosting? Are they doing it, or is it in the cloud or what?

    End on
    I wish that someway, somehow, that I could save every one of us
    zaleiria-by-lexxy-sig.jpgsteam~tinythumb.png
  • MKRMKR Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    It's in the Penny Arcade sky fortress.

    MKR on
  • SeguerSeguer Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    Sounds awesome alpha.

    Us developers can still help out with making any plugins required!

    Seguer on
  • ronyaronya Arrrrrf. the ivory tower's basementRegistered User regular
    edited February 2011
    Can we keep the current color scheme and emoticons :P

    I've liked the current PA forum "look", myself.

    ronya on
    aRkpc.gif
  • ÄlphämönkëyÄlphämönkëy Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    End wrote: »
    Does that mean you nailed down hosting? Are they doing it, or is it in the cloud or what?

    Indeed!

    We are using a cloud hosting provider called Linode. Amazon's EC2 was priced pretty weird (reserved instances, etc) and Rackspace wouldn't play ball with us :(

    Linode's IO performance seems to be reasonably fast and they are committed to working with us. Once we are further along in the process, I'll write up another post about how we decided to choose instance sizes.

    Älphämönkëy on
  • ÄlphämönkëyÄlphämönkëy Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    Seguer wrote: »
    Us developers can still help out with making any plugins required!

    Exactly. I don't imagine there will be a ton of user submitted plugins, but it would be fun to make little things for April Fools and the like.

    Älphämönkëy on
  • ÄlphämönkëyÄlphämönkëy Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    ronya wrote: »
    Can we keep the current color scheme and emoticons :P

    I've liked the current PA forum "look", myself.

    These times they are a-chaaaaaaaaangin:whistle:

    Just give the new theme a shot. I imagine that the colors will be similar to the store

    Älphämönkëy on
  • ElldrenElldren Is a woman dammit I'm a good person yes it's trueRegistered User regular
    edited February 2011
    ronya wrote: »
    Can we keep the current color scheme and emoticons :P

    I've liked the current PA forum "look", myself.

    These times they are a-chaaaaaaaaangin:whistle:

    Just give the new theme a shot. I imagine that the colors will be similar to the store

    Could you not also support user-defined themes?

    Elldren on
    fuck gendered marketing
  • MKRMKR Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    I've heard good things about Linode.

    Also: http://www.google.com/search?q=linode+site:http://news.ycombinator.com

    I was also pondering setting up a forum to go with my site, and Vanilla has a solid endorsement. :rotate:

    MKR on
  • ronyaronya Arrrrrf. the ivory tower's basementRegistered User regular
    edited February 2011
    As long we end up with white text on blue. :P The store has a similar theme, although orange links on-hover instead of always orange may be better for forum readability.

    Off-the-cuff list of things would be cool to have:
    • subforums, which Vanilla seems to lack by default. Categories and tagging are great but... it would be nice if SE++ stayed in SE++. Y'know. :P
    • spoiler tags. maybe we could use them for NSF56K images this time!
    • quote tags. quote trees of more than one depth. maybe automatic spoilering of excessively deep quote trees?
    • tables in posts? Wiki-like pages, so old content we usually pass from OP to OP can be archived in one place? We don't have these currently, but I've seen them suggested in the other threads discussing new forum software

    The 100-page restriction has an effect on thread content, too - ensuring that any content in top threads is always somewhat fresh. The technical problems that caused the restriction might be gone, of course, but whether 300+ page threads with an OP written last year are really desirable is another thing.

    ronya on
    aRkpc.gif
  • ÄlphämönkëyÄlphämönkëy Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    Elldren wrote: »
    ronya wrote: »
    Can we keep the current color scheme and emoticons :P

    I've liked the current PA forum "look", myself.

    These times they are a-chaaaaaaaaangin:whistle:

    Just give the new theme a shot. I imagine that the colors will be similar to the store

    Could you not also support user-defined themes?

    I don't like user-defined themes from a maintenance or design perspective. Sorry :(

    Älphämönkëy on
  • ElldrenElldren Is a woman dammit I'm a good person yes it's trueRegistered User regular
    edited February 2011
    Elldren wrote: »
    ronya wrote: »
    Can we keep the current color scheme and emoticons :P

    I've liked the current PA forum "look", myself.

    These times they are a-chaaaaaaaaangin:whistle:

    Just give the new theme a shot. I imagine that the colors will be similar to the store

    Could you not also support user-defined themes?

    I don't like user-defined themes from a maintenance or design perspective. Sorry :(

    I don't generally use them personally, so no skin off my back :) Just a question.

    Elldren on
    fuck gendered marketing
  • SeguerSeguer Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    alpha: having the plugins available on something like subversion or git would be great, as we could then fork them to add functionality (see my greasemonkey script for the embedded videos), and they can be merged at admin's discretion to incorporate it into the forum proper.

    Seguer on
  • ÄlphämönkëyÄlphämönkëy Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    Seguer wrote: »
    alpha: having the plugins available on something like subversion or git would be great, as we could then fork them to add functionality (see my greasemonkey script for the embedded videos), and they can be merged at admin's discretion to incorporate it into the forum proper.

    We already use Github to track our sites. I need to figure out a way to sanitize the code a bit (IP, authentication, etc) but I think that seems very reasonable.

    Älphämönkëy on
  • ThetherooThetheroo Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    Is search going to be back anytime soon with this change?

    Thetheroo on
  • SquallSquall hap cloud Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    wow this is happened a lot sooner than i expected, way to go alpha!

    Squall on
  • Romanian My EscutcheonRomanian My Escutcheon Two of Forks Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    Squall wrote: »
    wow this is happened a lot sooner than i expected, way to go alpha!

    Don't be too quick to congratulate him; he still uses zeroes to pad his numbers, like the drunken bum that he is. :x

    Gotcha, alpha.

    Romanian My Escutcheon on
    2cf4m6f.gif
  • ÄlphämönkëyÄlphämönkëy Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    ronya wrote: »
    As long we end up with white text on blue. :P The store has a similar theme, although orange links on-hover instead of always orange may be better for forum readability.

    Off-the-cuff list of things would be cool to have:
    • subforums, which Vanilla seems to lack by default. Categories and tagging are great but... it would be nice if SE++ stayed in SE++. Y'know. :P
    • spoiler tags. maybe we could use them for NSF56K images this time!
    • quote tags. quote trees of more than one depth. maybe automatic spoilering of excessively deep quote trees?
    • tables in posts? Wiki-like pages, so old content we usually pass from OP to OP can be archived in one place? We don't have these currently, but I've seen them suggested in the other threads discussing new forum software

    The 100-page restriction has an effect on thread content, too - ensuring that any content in top threads is always somewhat fresh. The technical problems that caused the restriction might be gone, of course, but whether 300+ page threads with an OP written last year are really desirable is another thing.

    Subforums are absolutely supported by Vanilla
    Spoiler & Quote tags: That seems reasonable, but not something I'd have time to write before launch. Would you be willing to write this modification.
    Tables: Interesting. I'd need to think more on it.

    Älphämönkëy on
  • ÄlphämönkëyÄlphämönkëy Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    Thetheroo wrote: »
    Is search going to be back anytime soon with this change?

    Searching will be on from day one on the new forums. Searching will never return on the current forums.

    Sorry.

    Älphämönkëy on
  • ÄlphämönkëyÄlphämönkëy Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    Squall wrote: »
    wow this is happened a lot sooner than i expected, way to go alpha!

    Don't be too quick to congratulate him; he still uses zeroes to pad his numbers, like the drunken bum that he is. :x

    Gotcha, alpha.

    "It's called padding and it's illegal."

    Only if you get caught.

    :wink:

    Älphämönkëy on
  • ronyaronya Arrrrrf. the ivory tower's basementRegistered User regular
    edited February 2011
    ... no spoiler or quote tags? We're not importing the vbulletin content, then? :?

    e: or we could import them but leave them untranslated from bbcode, at least initially. Hm.

    ronya on
    aRkpc.gif
  • ASimPersonASimPerson And they will tremble again at the sound of our silence.Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    I use Linode to run my current, personal site. While obviously the scale isn't nearly the same those guys rock and I'm glad to see that you'll use them. (Though I am curious how you're getting around my only real problem with them, which is storage - their plans usually don't have nearly enough. Unless of course you guys are so large that they're doing something custom for y'all anyway :) )

    ASimPerson on
    redoctober2.png
    SE++ Forum Battle Archive | PDT is not PST | DRUNKSTUCK: A Homestuck recap
  • MKRMKR Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    Spoilers have always been one of those things people used in a way that meant you were better off not reading the thread if you hadn't already seen the thing. People with spoiler phobia will know to avoid spoiler-laden threads until that feature is added anyway.
    ASimPerson wrote: »
    I use Linode to run my current, personal site. While obviously the scale isn't nearly the same those guys rock and I'm glad to see that you'll use them. (Though I am curious how you're getting around my only real problem with them, which is storage - their plans usually don't have nearly enough. Unless of course you guys are so large that they're doing something custom for y'all anyway :) )

    The forums probably don't need a lot of space. It's almost completely text aside from the odd occasion when Tube uploads something.

    MKR on
  • ASimPersonASimPerson And they will tremble again at the sound of our silence.Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    ronya wrote: »
    ... no spoiler or quote tags? We're not importing the vbulletin content, then? :?

    e: or we could import them but leave them untranslated from bbcode, at least initially. Hm.

    Pretty sure that happened in the past. If you look back far enough you can find posts with different spoiler syntax.

    As for quote I think you guys may be talking cross-purposes, though I haven't looked at Vanilla yet.

    ASimPerson on
    redoctober2.png
    SE++ Forum Battle Archive | PDT is not PST | DRUNKSTUCK: A Homestuck recap
  • ÄlphämönkëyÄlphämönkëy Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    ronya wrote: »
    ... no spoiler or quote tags? We're not importing the vbulletin content, then? :?

    e: or we could import them but leave them untranslated from bbcode, at least initially. Hm.

    I'm sorry, that was confusing. I'm going to port spoilers and quotes as they stand now, I won't be supporting the fancy javascript enhancements.

    Älphämönkëy on
  • MKRMKR Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    How many gigahitlers per second can Vanilla support?

    MKR on
  • ÄlphämönkëyÄlphämönkëy Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    MKR wrote: »
    ASimPerson wrote: »
    I use Linode to run my current, personal site. While obviously the scale isn't nearly the same those guys rock and I'm glad to see that you'll use them. (Though I am curious how you're getting around my only real problem with them, which is storage - their plans usually don't have nearly enough. Unless of course you guys are so large that they're doing something custom for y'all anyway :) )

    The forums probably don't need a lot of space. It's almost completely text aside from the odd occasion when Tube uploads something.

    We easily fall under their storage limit. The DB sits around 20GB, and we can pool resources across instances. The real limitation is software load balancing.

    Älphämönkëy on
  • EndEnd Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    End wrote: »
    Does that mean you nailed down hosting? Are they doing it, or is it in the cloud or what?

    Indeed!

    We are using a cloud hosting provider called Linode. Amazon's EC2 was priced pretty weird (reserved instances, etc) and Rackspace wouldn't play ball with us :(

    Linode's IO performance seems to be reasonably fast and they are committed to working with us. Once we are further along in the process, I'll write up another post about how we decided to choose instance sizes.

    ooo. I use linode too!

    End on
    I wish that someway, somehow, that I could save every one of us
    zaleiria-by-lexxy-sig.jpgsteam~tinythumb.png
  • MKRMKR Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    MKR wrote: »
    ASimPerson wrote: »
    I use Linode to run my current, personal site. While obviously the scale isn't nearly the same those guys rock and I'm glad to see that you'll use them. (Though I am curious how you're getting around my only real problem with them, which is storage - their plans usually don't have nearly enough. Unless of course you guys are so large that they're doing something custom for y'all anyway :) )

    The forums probably don't need a lot of space. It's almost completely text aside from the odd occasion when Tube uploads something.

    We easily fall under their storage limit. The DB sits around 20GB, and we can pool resources across instances. The real limitation is software load balancing.

    How much of that is uploaded avatars and signatures? That seems like something that would grow slowly.

    MKR on
  • ÄlphämönkëyÄlphämönkëy Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    MKR wrote: »
    How many gigahitlers per second can Vanilla support?

    13 yotta-nybbles per fortnight.

    Älphämönkëy on
  • ASimPersonASimPerson And they will tremble again at the sound of our silence.Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    MKR wrote: »
    The forums probably don't need a lot of space. It's almost completely text aside from the odd occasion when Tube uploads something.

    It is almost completely text, but there is a lot of text. But I see alpha answered the question anyway.

    ASimPerson on
    redoctober2.png
    SE++ Forum Battle Archive | PDT is not PST | DRUNKSTUCK: A Homestuck recap
  • MKRMKR Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    MKR wrote: »
    How many gigahitlers per second can Vanilla support?

    13 yotta-nybbles per fortnight.

    Now you're just making numbers up.

    Describe it in hellas.

    MKR on
  • ElldrenElldren Is a woman dammit I'm a good person yes it's trueRegistered User regular
    edited February 2011
    ASimPerson wrote: »
    MKR wrote: »
    The forums probably don't need a lot of space. It's almost completely text aside from the odd occasion when Tube uploads something.

    It is almost completely text, but there is a lot of text. But I see alpha answered the question anyway.

    Text is tiny

    Elldren on
    fuck gendered marketing
  • ÄlphämönkëyÄlphämönkëy Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    MKR wrote: »
    MKR wrote: »
    ASimPerson wrote: »
    I use Linode to run my current, personal site. While obviously the scale isn't nearly the same those guys rock and I'm glad to see that you'll use them. (Though I am curious how you're getting around my only real problem with them, which is storage - their plans usually don't have nearly enough. Unless of course you guys are so large that they're doing something custom for y'all anyway :) )

    The forums probably don't need a lot of space. It's almost completely text aside from the odd occasion when Tube uploads something.

    We easily fall under their storage limit. The DB sits around 20GB, and we can pool resources across instances. The real limitation is software load balancing.

    How much of that is uploaded avatars and signatures? That seems like something that would grow slowly.

    Oh, maybe an additional 20GB. I'm looking at an 8GB and 3-4 2GB instances. Space pooling makes this a non-issue. Worst case I can offload the file content to a CDN or somesuch.

    Älphämönkëy on
  • MKRMKR Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    Google really does know everything.
    13 yottabytes = 0.0126953125 hellabytes

    MKR on
  • ÄlphämönkëyÄlphämönkëy Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    MKR wrote: »
    Google really does know everything.
    13 yottabytes = 0.0126953125 hellabytes

    http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=13+yottanibbles+%2F+fortnight

    Älphämönkëy on
  • MKRMKR Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    We're going to need more gigahitlers.

    MKR on
  • ASimPersonASimPerson And they will tremble again at the sound of our silence.Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    Elldren wrote: »
    ASimPerson wrote: »
    MKR wrote: »
    The forums probably don't need a lot of space. It's almost completely text aside from the odd occasion when Tube uploads something.

    It is almost completely text, but there is a lot of text. But I see alpha answered the question anyway.

    Text is tiny

    Okay, assuming that each character you see on the forum is ASCII and not Unicode we can assume that each post is around just, say, 50-100 bytes of text. 100 bytes seems low to me - between SE++, D/D, and G&T that's about 1.3 GB right there. Since alpha said the DB size is 20 GB, I'm guessing my, er, guess is on the low end because even including uploaded avatars and signature images I didn't account for any overhead in my estimate (like formatting).

    So, like I said, these here forums have a lot of text.

    ASimPerson on
    redoctober2.png
    SE++ Forum Battle Archive | PDT is not PST | DRUNKSTUCK: A Homestuck recap
  • AbracadanielAbracadaniel Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    So, it's been a long time coming but here is the latest on the future of our forums.

    vBulletin is dead, long live Vanilla
    After looking at the software solutions out there we have decided to run Vanilla Forums. Vanilla Forums is an open source project written in PHP backed with a MySQL database server. The core developers of the project formed a a startup company to provide a variety of services (including hosting).

    Why Vanilla?
    I'll make a longer post about this in the future. In short, they "get" forums. When we approached different vendors they were the only ones that asked the right questions. "What games do you guys play?" "How do you deal with spam?" "How do you deal with trolling?"

    From a code perspective, the Vanilla Forums software is built on top of a plugin architecture. This makes the code much easier to customize than vBulletin. This modularity has made it pretty easy to extend Vanilla to include the community features that we have come to rely on: reporting posts, marking posts as awesome, infractions and jails, spam control, etc.

    From a management perspective, the forums have this knack of crashing right before big events (Child's Play/PAX/etc). This large crash during the holiday Child's Play seasons was really poorly timed. Obviously I want to make sure the forumers are taken care of but I also have obligations to other readers as well (child's play donors, store customers, etc). The Vanilla Forums guys will manage the day-to-day technical bits powering the forums for us, patching software, tuning MySQL, taking backups, etc. We will still be involved but at the end of the day the Vanilla guys will be the ones "on call" for our forums.

    Wait, I thought MySQL is the devil's database! Why aren't we switching? What about searching?
    I've been working with the guys over at Vanilla to make MySQL work for us. This includes simple things like using InnoDB to reduce lock contention and more complex changes like using Sphinx to power searching. We have contingency plans setup to run replication in the event we really need that extra performance.

    Why not develop our own forum software?
    We definitely have the community talent. I was overwhelmed with all of the responses and I even had built out a spreadsheet of people/skills. We would have had the ability to make a rocking forum software, but it would have taken a while. Developing our own was always our "last ditch effort."

    What's next?
    The development of the new forums is already underway. Our own Erika Greco will be minting a new design to make the forums look more like the new mainsite design. The goal is to have a beta of the forums available for you guys to play with before PAX East. We aren't looking to pull a Digg here, so we will be looking for feedback early in the process.

    As always, I'll be around to answer questions.

    !!!!

    FxaRo.gif


    (hooray for new forum software)

    Any chance this might eventually make the forums a little more mobile device friendly too?

    Abracadaniel on
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