Convincing a stubborn admin to let me use Discourse

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.


That’s a good point and as you know, that was my own experience a few years ago. However, I don’t think my users (back then) weren’t keen on DC because it was ‘different’, it was because it just wasn’t as slick as it is now (and the other platforms were slicker).

DC today, is a very polished product, and I’m fairly confident it’s reached the point where it can persuade old school forum users that a modern platform like DC is worth the jump - if they give it a fair shot.

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I wonder if we skinned Discourse to look somewhat like phpBB if people would actually prefer it. With a lot of Discourse’s features like the live preview when making posts I think that could work.

This is extremely likely to work from what I’ve seen. Looks matter way more than they should!


Decide which of you is the customer in this equation, from what you’ve said thus far it’s you.

Listen to the customer, don’t design by committee and most importantly stick to your guns.


When people have gotten used to a forum working in a particular way (even if you can’t even properly search the forum), the most active users will be against change and the rest will be indifferent. That’s perhaps the biggest challenge: Your most valuable users are most likely to be resistant because if they didn’t like the forum, they wouldn’t be as active as they are. :thinking:


We had about 3500 unique weekly users. When we switched from phpBB3 to Discouse it wasn’t overnight. We announced the coming change 1 year ahead and regularly posted about progress with data conversion testing, translations etc. But what we didn’t do was giving our most loyal users a chance to try the new site as it was being prepared.

So during first two weeks with Discourse we had very negative feedback from long-time users who suddenly couldn’t find things and couldn’t understand the new logic. They threw in our face what they thought about new site and left. Of course there were long-time users who didn’t mind the change and figured things out quickly but they didn’t “defend” the new site as loud as other could “attack” it with they negativety. And as active members began to leave there were less interesting discussions and people visited less and less the site as there was nothing to read anymore. Only thing that was keeping us alive was Trading side of the forum. But as we needed users to keep an eye out for others to follow trading rules (to avoid scams), there was suddenly nobody to help us to moderate the trading forum.

Don’t get me wrong … I really love Discourse. When starting new forum I woldn’t hesitate to go with it. It’s just wasn’t smart move from our part to switch like we did … something should have been done differently :slight_smile:


We have actually skinned Discourse to look more like phpBB for a customer in the past, check out

I personally feel like it’s better to move away from the old forum look, but I can understand not wanting to scare off users who can be put-off by big changes.


Wow - right down to the signature prosilver font families? Damn, that does look pretty close to the real thing.

I mean, my “stubborn” admin isn’t so stubborn anymore now. After installing a lot of plugins, setting the default view to “Categories+Latest,” renaming “Uncategorized” to “General Discussion,” disabling the narrative bot, integrating our discord server, and doing a few CSS overrides to fix up some weirdness with certain plugins and our dark theme, he actually doesn’t seem to mind it.

As for the rest of our team, everyone’s adopting it pretty well and we’re even coming up with ideas on how we could theoretically use things like the Babble plugin to provide a better link between the forum and our Discord (though, not sure if that can be done.)


Did you see this?


Nope, I didn’t. Though we were thinking more of a bridge between Babble and Discord so that you could enter a specific category and chat with people on Discord through the Discourse UI (for example, if you don’t qwant to use Discord directly or it’s blocked like it is at my school.)

That way you can still do IM with the rest of the community, it’s not dependent on what IM protocol you use. Discord users will see Babble messages and vice versa.

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I really don’t recommend that. At some point you’ll wonder why it is that you can’t change stuff about the category. I’d recommend creating “general discussion” and disabling uncategorized.


Huh, never thought about that. Though it does seem to work for now and it makes him happy. Maybe I’ll slip the change in while he’s asleep, mwahahaha.


I wrote this thing last year which might be helpful: It’s Time We Talked About Tags