I’ve been playing with the secure categories and groups features in 0.9.4 so far, and they’re definitely a push in the right direction. I’m thinking about doing some of my own work with the discourse system (either as a plugin or just working against the main source, depending on whether or not the former is feasible in terms of database migration limitations), but would like to hear some advice / feedback.
Anyway, I’m looking at the forum / social network thingamabob being used over at http://www.ravelry.com as a model. There’s a lot of features that Discourse seems to share with ravelry, but one thing that I’d like to see is public opt-in groups as well as secure groups.
Ideally: a user could browse a list of all groups. Trusted users (or maybe moderators) can create new groups. Each group has at least a category for it (possibly a set of subcategories), and maybe some other metadata displayed on the group’s landing page (group icon, membership gravatar rolls, group definition and rules (which can just be pinned topics). Groups can have different privacy levels: invisible (invitation only), approval-required, or public (anybody can join). As far as I can tell 0.9.4 has some security groups, but those have to be defined specifically by the site admins, and they only protect categories (instead of creating a substitute landing page that a user might opt in to which lists their group memberships)
In part, this is to provide a semi-siloed experience to my userbase. In particular, my users want to group up occasionally (the science teachers discussing lesson plans is a case for subcategories in some way, or overlapping tags) in ways that don’t clutter up the main site or categories view. I don’t want to just create lots and lots of discourses (science.domain.com and math.domain.com), because I only want this to be semi-siloed; there will still be org-wide discussion and plenty of math-science overlaps as well. Again, as an example, check out Ravelry: there’s the top boards that everybody joins, plus interest-group boards like handspinners and sockdown, plus random-discussion boards that have nothing to do with fiber arts.
The point to this long post here is to solicit feedback and advice. Is this something that will be a lot easier in a month or four when some database / interface changes are made? Is it something that other Discourse users have already implemented? I have a userbase of about 300 (so, nice and manageable) teachers talking about all sorts of stuff, and I’d like to provide a better forum than what they have now (which makes phpBB look avant garde) sometime in the next couple of months.