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
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."
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.
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.