More than 2 years ago, I migrated a very old forum to Discourse. I relate my experience here: Moved from PluXml and phpBB to Wordpress and Discourse, my all-new experience 🎉 - praise - Discourse Meta
This time, I have migrated a vBulletin5 forum.
This forum has been the largest unicycling community for 20 years, but contain topics up from 1993 as content from mailing lists and newsgroups were imported a long time ago.
So, it contains almost 30 years-old online information about this niche sports, which is a quite unique.
During the last years, the forum activity decreased, and a recent migration from vBulletin 3 to vBulletin5 broke things, leading to even less frequentation.
And, of course, there are these damn Facebook groups that suck a lot of forums users out…
I submitted a Discourse migration project to the current administrator, explaining precisely why and how, which he accepted.
The migration was way more difficult than I imagined.
The database was a mess, with mixed up and inconsistent, erroneous data, duplicate entries, and a lot of other issues, probably due to numerous vBulletin upgrades during 20 years, data imports from other sources, and maybe specific customizations.
It took more than one and a half month of tries and retries to have a Discourse import with complete and reliable data (note: I’m not exactly a code wizard…). I also did a major cleanup of messages and users, because there was a lot of imported spam.
Since today, the forum is open and working. Users are happy so far, and the donations to pay the annual server’s fees were met in one day (!).
The activity increases slowly but surely: the forum was down for almost 2 months, that’s enough for people to lose their habits and for some, move elsewhere (did someone said “Facebook groups”?).
Fortunately, this community have a lot of users that have been here for a long time, some for more than 15 years, and won’t move away that easily.
So, let’s hope the activity goes back to normal, and, maybe, increases even more!
As for the forum customizations, I didn’t do much (for a standard forum community, Discourse works well out of the shelf) but here are some small things I did.
The theme is the default light one, but I kept the historical blue color of the forum:
I added a donation icon in the header (with this theme component) that users can hide for 1 year in their interface settings:
My code is basically a copy-paste of this theme component, but the setting value is stored in a cookie.
Since I needed tags only for 1 category (a classified ads category), I dynamically hide the tag selectors when unneeded, and it looks like this:
I also hide the tag selector on the top of the topic lists, unless we’re in the category that uses tags.
I use the amazing Location plugin and I added the location info in the topic list, both in desktop and mobile:
I replaced the Discourse loading icon by a CSS animation I made:
Replacing the loading code by my own custom code seemed to be complicated, so I converted my CSS animation into an animated gif…
edit: I know use a proper CSS animation, see Customize the loading icon - tips & tricks - Discourse Meta