Convincing a stubborn admin to let me use Discourse

One of my community admins, who’s a really great guy and a great friend of mine (so I don’t wanna kick him off) is being really stubborn with me about Discourse. He wants us to use phpBB because it “looks more like a forum” and “is not a boutique like Discourse” but I have many reasons to prefer Discourse.

  • It’s more modern.
  • Plugins are a lot easier to install.
  • You can’t do much damage without having SSH access (you can’t screw with app.yml, etc) if you try to hack Discourse and get in to an admin account.
  • Its database is self-contained, you don’t need to mess with SQL.
  • It’s a lot easier to customize and configure.
  • Its plugins are a lot more polished than phpBB’s
  • From what I can tell it’s very hard to be a spambot on a Discourse forum.
  • It can be updated through the browser.
  • It supports webhooks, oauth, openid connect, it has a built in API, it can be an sso provider, it can act like StackOverflow, it can be a wiki, it can be a bugtracker, it can be all three at once, point is it’s very flexible.

But his reasons for severely disliking Discourse are as follows:

  • It doesn’t support nested categories beyond one level of nesting.
  • It feels like a “clean UI over top of dongle-y features” (his words, not mine)
  • “phpBB feels more like forum posts to me”

However, Discourse has many features (or has plugins that implement said features) that I downright need that phpBB doesn’t have.

  • OpenID Connect: so we can do SSO with our Keycloak-based Bit Phoenix Accounts
  • Discourse Voting, Discourse Solved, Discourse Q&A - so we can do StackOverflow-style Q&A threads as well as bug reports/feature requests.
  • It’s a lot easier to customize - I really hate writing CSS and twig templating to customize phpBB.
  • It uses Markdown instead of BBCode, posts are a lot easier to write

These are all great selling points but he won’t listen to them. He just takes a look at the UI and what the base experience is like without any plugins and ran by me who’s still learning how to organize and build a Discourse community and thinks it’s a “clusterf-dongle.” (his words, not mine. Again.)

He even looks at the Latest page which shows latest posts on the forum and is used as a homepage for a lot of older discourse-powered communities including mine, and sees that UI and thinks “there’s not any categories, this is a mess” (despite the “Categories” button being right there in the nav and also the ability to change the default homepage to “Categories” in the admin panel, keeping in mind he’s community admin and thus has access to those settings).

My question is if I can’t sell him on the points above, how the hell do I convince him to like Discourse!? Or should I just… ignore the fact he’s a really great friend of mine and kick him off the team? I don’t really know what to do and I’m worried.

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You don’t need to convince him to like Discourse, only to take his feedback on board, then figure out which are personal bias versus things which are genuinely detrimental to the community.

There are lots of large deployments which serve as great examples as to how much can be achieved though customisation. Have you shared any with him?

The quotes suggest a lot of vitriol, if he’s flatly refusing to consider Discourse you may be best taking him out of the decision making process entirely. By the sounds the decision is yours to make, which is hard enough without someone trying to hold you “ransom” if you go with something that may align more with your goals for the community.


It might help to show what some other sites are doing with Discourse?

Assuming you’re running a gaming forum because of your username, these are extra relevant:,,

Good luck. Change is hard, and he sounds pretty stubborn.


I got him to be SLIGHTLY less stubborn by sending him this:

Him: I never said Discourse isn’t a forum, just that phpBB is more like my image of what a forum is supposed to be

Me in sysadmin mode: Then your image of a forum is severely outdated and full of security vulnerabilities.

His response: Then make Discourse look more like a forum and I’ll use it.

That’s good news because I’ve been spending the last 2 days setting it up and debugging some OIDC stuff and I’m almost close to finishing up. His opinions are just that, opinions, and they seem like personal bias. So I’m going to use Discourse no matter what and just try my best to reshape his image of a good forum by letting the community build and showing him how well-received it is.

Might also show him the MonoGame forums which is powered by Discourse and is the community surrounding what used to be Microsoft XNA, and is now MonoGame, which was the framework that the game I’m working on used to be built on (and my community surrounds said game.)


If a person has decided that phpbb is better for him, then this is normal. But how does it feel to use an outdated SOFTWARE frozen 10 years ago. The essence of the forum is not even in appearance (central page). It’s like a wrapper, you can put on any wrapper. The essence of the forum is, first of all, the possibility of communication and discussion. The functionality of the discussion and comparison of Discourse and phpBB does not make sense.

You can really show him examples of various forums used by Discourse. But if he wants to stay on what he has, that’s his choice.

He is pleased, but are you pleased? Maybe you should create your own forum? :wink:


He’s community admin on my forum. We’re kinda running it together. I do all the backend stuff and I actually program the game that the forum is for. We’ve been using discourse for a while now, the issues only came up when we started to move to a new server and I said “we’ll use phpbb because it has sso” without realizing it doesn’t and it’s in fact Discourse that does.


And if you work together, that’s different. I think if he gets more familiar with the possibilities of Discourse , he will make a choice. Maybe it just takes a little more time.

Yeah, maybe. At least after I sent him that text he’s willing to give it a chance.

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Does he have any ownership or financial investment, or is it “yours” as in 100% owned by you including operating costs?

This isn’t a legal company, it’s just a group project but my plans are to turn it into a company when I get outta highschool. But, I was the one who started it and I’m the one with the SSH private keys.

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This whole thing seems really guided by personal preference. None of you sound like you’re listening to each other.

That’s not an argument. That’s appeal to novelty, a fallacy. There is a large, justified backlash among techies against new, inefficient, user-hostile, surveillance-driven web software. Listen to those concerns, and stop trying to “win”. You win when you do what’s best for your community.

That’s not an argument, either. It’s change aversion, which is also a fallacy. It’s also thinking too much of the solution domain and not enough of the problem you’re trying to solve. Who cares if it looks like a forum or a boutique; are you accomplishing your goals or not?

I would very much like to hear this stuff in his own words, rather than “arming you” for a “battle” that I’m not even present enough to figure out whether Discourse might actually not be what you need.


Two legitimate concerns I can think of would be:

  1. Needing deeper category nesting where Tags could not be a solution
  2. Needing threaded topics

If those are a “must” then Discourse will not make him happy.

As for the look, maybe install many different user selectable themes so he can get idea of what’s possible.


It sounds then like you are the sole owner. Would he agree with that statement, or would he consider himself a co-owner?

If you guys aren’t on the same page with that, you have larger issues than forum software.

Does he share these plans?

The reason I ask these things is that your framing of the question here may be worth reconsidering. You’re asking how you can “convince” somebody to “let” you do something. That implies that he is the owner, not you.

This is important even if it’s just a group project, and especially if you do plan on turning it into a company. You don’t want a too many cooks spoil the broth problem.

Having ownership includes owning decisions. I don’t know the specifics of your working arrangement so I can’t make too many assumptions, but the wording of the question in the topic title here doesn’t square with the scenario you’re describing.

There’s a 3rd option: make the decision and let him adapt. You can’t always convince people to like something. You can however show him the benefits by actually using it.


Do you think he would accept a deal where you say: okay, we’ll try discourse for two month and if you still don’t like it by then, we’ll look for something else. (Or something like that. You might want to also weigh in what other users think after the first two months so that his veto will need more backing the more users are happy.

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When our forum transitioned from phpBB3 to Discourse, we lost many long-term users and community suffered… to the point where it crumbled and eventually shut down.

User feedback was basically the same as your friends. Actually what happened was that people were frustrated because they couldn’t find stuff anymore. They knew where things were in old forum but couldn’t figure out where to look in Discourse.

If I could go back, I would say that it’s not worth it :slight_smile: … Discourse is great and I hope your community survives this :wink:


This is all incredible advice and things I didn’t really consider.

I guess I owe a few members in my team an apology before we start to make any deals but I definitely want to try making that kind of deal. It’s just, when it comes to both phpBB and MyBB, I don’t trust them.

The reason I do not trust them, from a security perspective, is I’ve been hacked multiple times while using them and spammed with pornography. I just don’t trust those platforms anymore especially after trying Discourse for myself. I just have more trust in its backend. Moreover, while this is irrelevant to us due to our use of SSO, phpBB stores passwords as md5 hashes. md5 is a broken hash algorithm and as such is a VERY bad idea to store passwords as. For this reason I feel it is safer for our community when it grows to use Discourse.

Some of my goals with it include:

  • Allow people to share their games to the community to get feedback.
  • Allow discussion of possible features in my game.
  • Allow bug reports/support questions in the forum for the game.
  • Allow announcements to be posted to the forum, and linked in our Discord.
  • Use MediaWiki for things like documentation and use the same account to log into that as you do to log into the forum.

All of these features are supported by Discourse even if with extensions. While with phpBB, it is very hard to accomplish those things. I don’t doubt some of it is possible/doable, but Discourse makes it a lot easier.

Category nesting

This isn’t a concern for me at all. We have no use for it in a way where tags won’t work. He just doesn’t know about tags yet. Hasn’t had a chance to use them.


Good point. This is my project. I’m the one who controls the server, maintains the backend, etc. I’m the one with the CloudFlare account, the private ssh keys to get onto the server, and at the end of the day it’s me that has to troubleshoot issues like my ongoing OIDC issue - not him.

His concern, as well as that of some of our mods, is that, while Discourse’s user experience/user interface is AMAZING, its flashy UI is just that - flashy. To them, it puts sugary icing on a pile of feces. I do not agree with that after using it for a long time and looking at the plugins that are available. I feel like, putting my goals in consideration, Discourse is the perfect solution for it all.

He doesn’t consider himself as a co-owner, actually to think about it he really hasn’t done much as far as the forum goes (and I feel it’s because of his hate for Discourse. Actually he’s implied that a lot.) I see him as a co-owner because he has been very helpful in other areas, is very good at encouraging me to program my game when I’m feeling awful, and he’s an amazing friend. Without getting too melodramatic on here, he’s the reason I’m still here today and able to breathe.

Maybe I let those personal feelings make a wrong decision though. I don’t know if he really should be a co-owner. I’m just having trouble coming up with the courage to tell him “no, we’re not using phpbb. End of story.” I don’t want to disappoint him.

One thing I forgot to mention is, Watercolor Games basically used Discourse almost right from the get go. We used phpBB/MyBB/etc way before we became Watercolor and we were just the ShiftOS development team, a community picking up where Philip Adams left off on a now defunct game called ShiftOS.

Based on the advice I’ve read here, instead of trying to convince people why I like Discourse, I’m instead explaining that we need to choose forum software based on how well it suits our needs and how easy it is to set up to accomplish those needs. Not what the UI looks like or how close to a traditional forum it is. We’re having the discussion on the Discord right now. I will say that I can safely say I can put my trust into Discourse to accomplish the goals I have. The discussion is proving to go very well so far.


I am curious, how many people were in this community? 10? 50? 100? More? What percent of them decided not to make the transition and left?

There’s no question that you will lose some people in any major transition, but when you arrive on the other side you should gain members over time because the experience has improved so much overall. Not to mention mobile which is usually abysmal on these old forum softwares. However, if you have a small, fixed number of users and there is no possibility for adding members to the community, this can be a risky strategy.


I would think that it would be very minimal today - 3 years ago perhaps I would have expected a chunk not getting on with DC, but not today.

To the OP, I haven’t read all the posts - but don’t try to persuade your admin - let your users do it! Put up a PHPBB forum and a DC forum, and give them one week on each and ask them which they prefer… I’m pretty sure 99% would pick DC! :slight_smile:

Good idea - and it’d work. I have both fully installed on Cassian Server!

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This is actually a super bad idea in my experience. You have to fully commit to one path or the other. Any hesitation means people will taste blood in the water and you are doomed to the old ways.

Now, if you want to put up a temporary demo site that has a Discourse theme making it more similar to the old site… which people can click on and play with and see, “oh, this is not so different after all”… can work. I’ve seen that work.

But do not do this “we have two equally valid possible future paths, choose one” thing. That way leads to madness and destruction.