Moved from PluXml and phpBB to Wordpress and Discourse, my all-new experience 🎉

Hi!

I’ve been a user of a niche sport French website and forum.
Both were fairly old: almost 20 years old! 500 articles on the site, about 180000 messages on the forum.

The last few years, the activity has decreased a lot on the forum. I think there are several reasons for that, the main may be the fact that a lot of community now use Facebook groups.

Both our site and forum didn’t display well on smartphones, the phpBB forum was… Well, you all know phpBB. It’s working and work as expected, but it’s definitely a technology of the past, and that’s not the best user experience that we can provide to a community. Just try to post an image to see…

One of thing we wanted to make a new version of both the site and forum would be to connect the news articles and forum posts. Ideally, users would be able to post on the forum directly from the Wordpress posts comments area.

I looked at some promising forum engines such as Flarum, NodeBB, and Discourse.
Flarum was in beta, I didn’t see any way to connect Wordpress to NodeBB and Discourse seemed a pain in the ass to install, as I just was used to simple PHP application that you install in a few clicks on any server.

So we made a Wordpress installation and tried first BBpress. It was atrocious. Sluggish. We found an old Wordpress plugin that would allow Wordpress posts to be published on BBpress, but it felt that the current experience would be very bad for our users.

So I looked more at Discourse, grabbed information about WP-Discourse. I felt that that would be the best option for us and decided to try it with the help of a friend.

I found that despite the fact that Discourse uses a lot of memory (currently almost 20 GB on my server) and that it was hard to tame for a newbie like me, not used to this kind of application nor server-related stuff, it was actually the way to go.

Installing and configuring Discourse was a lot of work. I rented a server with Plesk after trying this software on my friend’s server. I didn’t know Linux at all, had very little experience with Plesk, never heard of nginx, etc…

I didn’t find a lot of documentation about installing Discourse on Plesk along with other web applications and my friend helped me a lot in order to make things work.

Even the phpBB migration was difficult, I had various issues with Discourse… After my import, I had to remove all the old phpBB tags that were not parsed by Discourse ([color] and [size], goodbye old friends), fix other things such as disappearing images…. As we were reworking on our forum categories, I had to merge a lot of them with magical rails command, make redirections, and even un-merge categories shortly before launching our new forum.

We also wanted some Wordpress-side features that would focus on the forum community.
We wanted to show the last activity from the forum on the website, so I made a simple Wordpress plugin to display the last topics from the forum on the sidebar:

And as I said previously, another feature that we wanted would be to allow users to post directly on Discourse linked topics from corresponding Wordpress posts comments section.

I made a quick and ugly proof of concept, and my friend and I developed a way more efficient Wordpress plugin to do so.

Any user, registered or not (in which case the comment is posted from a guest account) can post directly from the comments. Also, comments posted directly on the forum are synchronized to Wordpress too.

Plus we can also batch synchronize all existing Wordpress posts and comments, which will be quite helpful.

We’ve launched the new site and forum yesterday and we hope that a new, modern site and forum will bring back the activity that has been lost these past years.

There is still some issues to fix though, but only minor stuff.

Wish us luck!

The website:


The forum:

Finally, let me tell you that I’ve been amazed by the kindness and help of the Discourse team and users here, often giving fast and useful advice (special praise for @pfaffman).

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It looks very nice and neat!

Could you list the plugins and extensiosn that you have used to make such a good looking site.

I run a simple forum - seems like I should dive in to the WP feature…

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Hi,

We’re happy with the results and wee think the design is… *cough* well balanced.

On Wordpress I use this theme: COLORMAG – Best Magazine WordPress theme for 2018, that I have customized.
In term of features, I of course use WP-Discourse:

The plugin I use to display the last topics is a custom plugin that I didn’t make public as it is badly programmed and was made for my own purpose.

The plugin used to post comments from Wordpress posts to Discourse topics isn’t public yet. We intend to make it public when it will be finished and bug-free.

Also, I intend to make the Wordpress search return also results from the Discourse forum. That’s on my to do list.

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Do you run discourse and wordpress on the same server?

Yes, I run them on the same server.

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Did you follow a guide or? I would like to setup a vanilla discourse with wp on vultr.com - to play with it…

I followed a guide but that wasn’t enough, a friend helped me to configure Plesk and nginx. I have very little knowledge on this kind of stuff so you’d better try the support category. :slight_smile:

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How are your experiences here after a few months using Discourse and Wordpress in a combination?

Was it worth the time?

Hi,
Thanks for asking. :slight_smile:

About the forum activity:

Here the number of posts for the July 1st to September 1st period (2 months) for the last years when it was still using phpbb:
2011: 2000 posts
2012: 1700
2013: 453 (what happened ?!)
2014: 593
2015: 344
2016: 305
2017: 94 (holy moly)
June 24th 2018: rework of site and forum, migration to Discourse
2018 : 676

(note that we also had 422 posts between April 1st, 2017 and June 1st, 2017 before the migration, so some months are way more active than others)

As you see the activity remains… Very quiet.

The thing is I don’t really act as a community manager, sort of.
I initiated the site and forum rework and I did all the technical stuff, I did some work to (or try to) make more people come. I posted new topics and replies with a few other guys, I advertised our site/forum on various juggling or circus associations sites and facebook page… But that’s not my thing and I won’t do that on a long term.

My co-worker (which did the previous website and was the admin of the previous forum) work with a government approved unicycling sport federation and I think their job is promote this sport, so it should be their job to do such a thing because the website and forum are officially affiliated with this federation.
I don’t know how active they are and I don’t want to interfere with what they do. As the webmaster and nothing else, I think my work is done and I’ll let them do what has to be done if they want this site to be more popular.

French unicycle Facebook groups are mainly “local” groups such as associations or friend groups. Since they often talk about local events, they have no need to post elsewhere.
Plus, there is still this issue that unicycling isn’t as popular as it was at the beginning of the 2000s and we can’t directly do something about that!

I’m sure we could improve the forum activity in some ways, but I’m no expert and I don’t want to spend more energy on this, I’ve already done tons of work. :slight_smile:

Finally, when we search for “monocycle” (French word for unicycle) on Google, our website comes only on the 6th position, which is a real shame as it has been the only non-commercial unicycle specialized website for 20 years and has tons of content.


:sob:

With the site rework, I’ve been improving some SEO related stuff on the new website and we have to rework some pages.
For example, even if it’s the only unicycle resources French website, it seems that it never had pages which describe what is a unicycle, how to learn, what to buy or basic stuff like that! :roll_eyes:
So, stuff has to be done, because a more popular website will make a more popular forum.

That said, moving to Discourse was a necessity and I’m very happy about it. Users (and admin!) like it. :slight_smile:

And specifically about the Wordpress/Discourse combination: I’m not sure how I can see the real benefits but there is no downsides. It’s cool that the site news are also posted on the forum so users can reply from the forum and we see their replies on the main site. Also I show the last forum topics on the website too with a custom plugin, but I don’t know how all of this improves the site popularity.
So I’m not sure how I can reply to your question !

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Thank you for taking your time to answer …

I still don’t know if I, my self, want to spend the energy of setting up a discourse / wordpress site (its a discourse only site at the moment). I dont have the technically “server” skills your have, and as your site - I run a non-commercial forum on a free time basis - so I dont have money for paid assistance… But I know wordpress and I have even coded my own plugin: Runners Log – WordPress plugin | WordPress.org

I would like the ability to add articles and even more - add reviews as articles… I may stay in my :thinking: mode… :smiley:

But your site needs a lot of credit - it is very nice and feature rich! You can be really proud.

:trophy:

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