Getting Discourse up and running is really straightforward – you can have a forum up and running in next to no time. Problem is, your forum looks and feels like it’s “out of the box” – it needs to be customised and tweaked to meet your requirements. It’d be great if the existing “let’s get this forum customised” guide went into a bit more depth about where to go next.
This could, for example, include simple, useful tips like setting up staff badges (which I just stumbled onto today), how to seed custom emoji relevant to your community, badges appropriate to different community uses (for example, “accepted answer” badges which aren’t included out of the box), and so on.
I’m still finishing up getting my Discourse instance sorted to a point where I’m happy to invite external users to join it; doing so has necessarily involved reading a lot of posts here on meta. Now, don’t get me wrong; I love reading posts here on meta! I do feel, though, that if there had been a collected set of common tweaks and settings that can really make the new forum feel unique, it would have saved me a lot of time.
Taken to the nth degree, this results in Clippy – “I see you’re setting up a forum about composting potatoes! Would you like me to install these six plugins and add the potato-relevant badges?” – but I’m sure there’s a middle-ground somewhere in there.
Having spent a fair bit of time installing and playing with other modern forum systems – NodeBB, Flarum, Vanilla, and the like – I can say that the out-of-the-box experience with Discourse is second to none. It’s little things, like a usable FAQ and terms of service and the like which make a really big difference. Now I’d like to see that taken even further.