The Discourse Hobbyist Bar Club

Continuing the discussion from Cannot distinguish reply to previous post vs reply to original post:

Welcome to the Discourse Hobbyist Bar Club!

This is a thread for people to discuss what they hate about Discourse or what they love about Discourse on a more philosophical basis. .

The title of the club is based on Joey_P’s description of some people in multiple site feedback threads who just want to talk about Discourse, like they’re in a bar talking about their first gen Mustangs, which is their hobby.

I think it would be helpful to separate out the “chewing the fat” discussions from the discussions in site feedback where people are trying to find solutions to the issues or finding alternative ways to deal with the issue that are available now, not solutions that could be available. . . if only. . . .

Hopefully, that might help the people who feel like they’re talking at cross purposes in the same threads.

This is my reply to Joey_P’s post that gave me the idea for this thread.


As you note, it’s becoming clearer that there are several posters who have made discussing the issues they’re having with Discourse into a hobby or a sport and consider doing it in a thread like this one as a sort of club as you suggest.

The issue is that it’s not clear to everyone reading that some people are just discussing their Discourse issues for fun. To some people, it might look like that people really are trying to solve the issue when that’s not their goal.

Keep in mind that the posters here didn’t “buy” a Mustang. They don’t have access or permission to touch the engine. They’re riding in someone else’s Mustang and getting together on a frequent basis to discuss how the owner of the Mustang should get a mechanic or upgrade the engine because they don’t like the ride. And the owner of the Mustang is not in attendance and not interested in their discussion. The only person who can fix most of the issues with the SDMB Discourse is the SDMB admin.

Fair enough. My suggestion is that those threads should be labeled clearly to note that the participants are taking part in a club discussion about Discourse. Maybe an ongoing thread called the Discourse Hobbyists Club or something like that. It would be less confusing to people who might be reading and wondering why the club members are being so counterproductive to trying to fix the issues.

I also don’t think that people would talk to Lee Iacocca like this if they wanted him to continue attending their club meetings of the riders of the Mustangs club.

It’s in the next thread I linked in that post here.

As long as people know that, there are multiple ways to make the communication clearer, many of which are discussed the thread where this discussion originated here

Yes. And if someone is so inclined, they might even be able to piggyback off the OP in that thread I linked where someone was looking for a plug-in.

I put the odds of the admin of the SDMB agreeing to implement that plug-in to be upwards (downwards) of negative 95% since it could affect the stability of the entire SDMB database for one indicator that doesn’t affect that many people.

But yes, it could be done.

Walks into bar… sees the Mustang guys are there… sees look of despair on bartender’s face… walks out.

And that’s the underlying problem. Most posters are not going to know that. Most posters are going to assume that their post will still contain the quote. Most posters aren’t going to read these threads and know anything about this situation. And, even if you tell everyone, our goal is to get new users, and they won’t know.

Plus all of us have an inherent bias towards assuming the things we say are clear, not realizing how other people might interpret them. It’s easy to not realize that it’s not clear who you are talking to–especially if you quoted the person and forget that the quote will disappear.

There’s also the exploit issue. A crafty poster can be deliberately misleading by clicking thread reply button rather than the post reply button. It will appear to everyone that the poster has been notified and told of their post, but they weren’t. And since we all get notified of replies now, we are unlikely to go back and check the thread to see if anyone replied to us.

What’s I find frustrating is that this exception had to have been intentionally added. All posts that reply to the post above them will never indicate who they are replying to. That’s why I said that the fix probably isn’t too complicated. Just find where that exception gets made and remove it. Sure, maybe it means that even posts with quotes in them will have an indicator, but that wouldn’t be a big deal.

It’s generally easier to remove an exception than to make something new. But that’s only true if you know the codebase, like the current developers do. For someone like me, having to learn the code well enough to find where to even start it is a daunting task, especially since I’m just a hobbyist who messes around with code, not a full on programmer. The code I’ve written or fixed before is all much less complicated than this.

It really would be good if someone who knew the codebase and knew where to look would consider it.

As for the claim that it would put the database at risk: I don’t think that would be the case. This isn’t something that touches the database.

New users go to Discourse forums all the time. As long as there’s a way to read and reply, the rest is pretty small potatoes. New people wouldn’t likely be as affected because they’re learning a new place. It’s mostly the users from the old platform who are expecting things to go one way that they’re used to that are not getting what they expected. Even they will figure it out over time.

That’s true of all communication, regardless of the platform.

Discourse has made it much easier to know when people are trying to talk to you or about you because they notify you when you’re linked, when you’re quoted, when you’re mentioned. It’s a huge improvement over systems that don’t do that. In this one small instance where someone might, just might be replying to you without you getting notified isn’t such a huge issue to me. If it is to you, that’s what this thread is for. Welcome to the Discourse Hobbyist Bar Club!

Yes, taking out the quote of the person directly above them was intentionally added. It was seen as a feature.

And yes, that feature is easily removed with a toggle in the SDMB admin panel.

I just meant that the SDMB is not likely to add any plug-ins to the SDMB Discourse. They have never added any plug-ins to the SDMB vBulletin. There’s no reason to think they would more amenable to do so now.

Sitting at the bar, staring into my glass. I’ve been noticing some people who are unhappy with Discourse’s features that take some of the discretion away from the mods.

I’m probably a minority in the club, but I like those features. Every feature that makes a message board more uniform and less subject to people’s judgment is good with me.

I’ve participated on dozens of forums and lurked on many dozens more. Pretty much every message board I’ve ever seen has declined or died out when one or more mods or owners got a god-complex. I’ve seen bully mods, rogue mods, absentee mods that IMO all make a message board toxic for others who ultimately stop showing up. Almost everyone I’ve talked with who has been on a message board knows how it goes.

Reddit knows this. When they built their platform, they created it so that when the mods go bad, any of the posters in the subreddit can just start another subreddit and take the other unhappy people with them. That way, the platform grows instead of shrinks when people go elsewhere.

So I was thinking that if all Discourse forums could aggregate like that, they could all communicate, and people could move easily from one to another when they fit better with one group or another. Of course, as I found out while writing this, there are other people talking about the same thing on meta-discourse.

I really like the idea of all Discourse instances tied together like all the instances of Mastodon. I liked Mastodon but the general demographic was mostly programmers. I was looking for a more general interest instance. I’m sure there’s one out there, but I haven’t found it yet. The programmers are pretty nice though.

There’s lots more to discover on how it’s going, but I’m encouraged that this vision has been in place for a really long time.

I found this link in one of the threads. If it’s accurate, I’m glad the SDMB didn’t choose any other platform. If this report is up to date, Discourse has more forums in the top 1M sites than any other platform except vBulletin, and it’s pretty close.

vBulletin 3,590 0.36
Discourse 3,024 0.3
XenForo 2,365 0.24
phpBB 1,875 0.19
SMF 1,485 0.15

As Discourse grows, it would be great if there was a way to connect all the forums so that people could move freely between them. I’m way over my head in understanding how that would work, but it’s interesting to read about how it’s progressing. I hope to read more about it.

It’s a very difficult proposition, you can look at Mastodon for an example of how hard it is to pull this off in practice – and you can look at Facebook for an example of the incredible supermassive black hole gravitational pull of “oh, just use one site for everything”… :scream:

Centralizing everything is seductively easy, but comes at tremendous cost to society:

Anything that makes decentralization harder and more complex is very dangerous. We want decentralization to be as simple as centralization, and that’s an awfully big ask…

It’s a big ask to create a successful platform. You’ve already done that.

I’ve read your post where you say that your model is based on WordPress. I can clearly see the model where the platform is open source and they sell server space. But I don’t see the model where they showcase other blogs (forums) and help people connect with others.

Has that part of WordPress been particularly… successful? I mean we think of Medium as “a platform”, but… WordPress?

Not sure what you mean by successful. Monetarily successful?

I don’t know the answer to your question, so I looked it up. When I looked it up, it looks like Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) thinks they’re a good case study for free speech, so that’s a plus.

Interesting interview on free speech in this article.

According to wikipedia, Automattic, the owner of, is worth $3B.

If I’m reading this right, Automattic projects include tumblr, Gravatar, bbPress, Simplenote, Woo Commerce and lots of other cool stuff.

Medium, on the other hand, is a mess. This was from March 2019. At that time, Medium was not profitable. Their business model is all over the place. I’d be dubious if it has exploded in the last two years, but maybe you’d know more about it than I do. wiki on Medium

I’m not sure what this means. has a Reader that highlights some of the best blogs, allows people to connect to those blogs and gives free tutorials for people who are starting out. They sell hosting services. ads on free blogs and additional services to people using the Wordpress software.

The part I was comparing to Discourse was this Reader feature where site owners can get started at a centralized place, connect with other site owners and maybe get some tutorials on how to get started. It wouldn’t have to be Discourse staff doing this. Wordpress points to freelancers who can help others get started.

WordPress has mega-morphed into a generic CMS aka Content Management System. The original use case was blogging, but I don’t know anyone that really starts a blog these days, do you? I believe most of WordPress really competes with SquareSpace these days – hence the purchase of WooCommerce. It’s a storefront, a platform for selling stuff, more than anything else.

This is probably the most accurate observation – we want communities to be healthy and self-sustaining, and not absorbed into “free” closed source collectives.

That doesn’t really require any interaction with the other communities, in fact, as you noted, not being a part of those communities is a feature, the splintering off into your own space, with different tools and different feature sets, not more of the same:

But you’re still on Reddit – you’re still in a closed source space where you don’t own or control the content being generated, with the same tooling that led to the same problems that got you into that mess in the first place. Reddit is the finest system in the world for producing the funniest meme response to a given subject … and it’s pretty good at breaking news. But it’s awful for everything else.

It’s unclear what problem centralization would solve. We already have centralization in the form of Facebook. We need the opposite of that!

My biggest issue with the software deleting something the user thought they quoted is that it makes it harder for new users to learn how to quote at all. Because likely, the very first time they try it, it doesn’t work. And it doesn’t work for confusing reasons.

I’ve explained how to quote, and why it didn’t work when you tried it, to at least half a dozen people, personally. That’s a big hurdle to ask newbies to jump.

I think it would be a huge improvement if the software told you it would do that. Maybe a note saying something like “complete quote of prior post not allowed, edit?” When you clicked “post”? Maybe the choices could be “edit” and “post without quote”?

It wouldn’t make much difference for experienced users, but it would make the software much more transparent to new users.

Oh, and because I complain a lot, can i say that i freaking love the member moderation. We don’t really use it on the straight dope. And it might be problematic here, because it would be such a huge culture change.

But I’m posting on a new board that picked up a lot of the users of a recently killed board. And it’s been great.

We have a poster who’s a member of a vulnerable minority. And when she sees something that feels to her like hate speech, she can make it go away, right away. Yes, sometimes the mods decide to unhide something she reported. Then she has to make a case. But it really nips nasty conversations in the bud to have that immediate action she can’t take.

We have another member who likes to pick fights. And other users have found they can just hide her aggressive posts. And the result is that she’s been fine.

It does cause problems. I’ve been DMing a poster who is really upset at being censored.

But no system is perfect. Message boards are hard to moderate. Someone is always upset. And i think the net impact of this feature is that it’s going to lead to a much more welcoming and gentler message board.

@codinghorror , this is a more generic thread for stuff like user moderation than the one about “nannying”.

Exactly this. But communities are not fun or interesting without critical mass. Finding people to join your new community is difficult if there’s no way for people to stumble on it. If it’s a business, the community is the customers, so that’s a different story. For a social community, there’s no marketing budget to reach out to other people.

Unlike with other products, many people don’t share the places where they hang out online, even when you ask them. They don’t want to be “outed” or have their identities shared across platforms. Lots of good reasons for that. I’ve been followed by several unpleasant people across multiple platforms.

For instance, I’d love to see a forum or forums with more member moderation settings turned on. But until puzzlegal shared her experience with another forum, I wouldn’t even know that existed.

It would be great to have a centralized location where people can share their forums or have features highlighted by others. I realize that the Discourse forum does this to some extent, but having gone there, it was still very difficult to find other forums, even for people who were asking about them in several topics.

I agree with you (you’ve convinced me) that centralizing operations and the user base is a bad idea for so many reasons. One is monopoly. Two is that the user base demographic becomes homogeneous. Reddit has a predominance of young males. Three is forced conformity even without thinking it. And the list goes on.

But a centralized place to communicate with other places and talk or review about other forums, without a centralized operation, could still work, I think.

As often happens when I’ve been discussing this topic, right after I hit submit, I found more information by people on the Discourse forum who are explaining the issue more eloquently and are taking action on this.

Here’s one.

This leads me to going down a rabbit hole of linked forums and different groups with different ideas. The technical stuff is over my head, but I think I’m getting the gist of it. This discussion seems more current than the discussion I linked in post #7. Much reading to do.

Sure. Reddit is a good model of this, but the quality and tenor of those communities is all over the map.

There’s a lot of convenience in centralizing everything into one giant bucket, but a lot of danger as well.

I do hear you on advertising other interesting places to discuss stuff, but that tends to be more about the topic than the delivery mechanism. It’s like shopping for ice cream based on the specific type of machine that was used to make the ice cream, rather than the flavor :wink: