Tips for a forum with 90% posts, and only 10% chat?

For several years, I had a website that provided writeups of peer-reviewed evidence on pain treatments. Then some dumb Wordpress stuff happened (should have updated my plugins!), and I closed down the site.

Now I’m reviving it as a Discourse forum:

I know that Discourse powers the comments of certain blogs, such as @codinghorror. But I can’t seem to find an example of a Discourse instance that serves mostly stand-alone content, with just a dash of comments on the side.

All I found were:

  • A thread on @Gulshan_Kumar 's forum talking about the possibility, full of (uninformed?) naysayers.

  • The website Elektronauts, which is 1% blog powered by Discourse, and 99% chat.

The reasons I decided to choose Discourse are:

  • Making new posts is frictionless, compared to Wordpress. And the platform is simpler, compared to Hugo, Gatsby, etc.

  • I’d been following the development of Discourse eagerly before it came out, and wanted to try it in earnest after a couple test uses in the past few years.

So my questions are: are there any sites like this? (i.e. 90% Discourse-powered blog, 10% comments) Is there anything that I should keep in mind regarding SEO/UX/etc when using Discourse in this way?

I can think of lots of reasons not to do this. WordPress has all the tools you need to structure and present content, and it scales well with the kind of traffic publishing creates. 90% posts and 10% chat is best delivered through heavy caching and allows for a super low TTFB which helps with SEO ranking.

Discourse on the other hand is built and optimised for interaction, it’s going to be great for the comments/chat aspect of your site, but scaling it like a content site will get unnecessarily expensive.

I disagree with the posting friction comment and WordPress, especially since 5.x. I have clients posting to their WordPress sites from their cellphones, WP-Discourse takes care of the post stub within Discourse automatically, and from there they can respond to comments from the app. It’s all very slick.

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Thanks for the insight, even though it’s not what I was hoping to hear :slight_smile:

The idea to dive into Discourse as a one-stop-shop came after seeing ketogenicforums.com pop up in some of my google searches. I thought: if they can achieve decent SEO rankings using only Discourse, why not try myself?

My projection of 90% posts and 10% chat is presuming that the chat aspect of the site doesn’t gain much traction. Then, it would be similar to my old site with Disqus comments – mostly content posted by me. But if it does gain traction, I can’t really guestimate what proportion would be chat. Maybe 50/50?

By the way, my Wordpress site got corrupted or hacked at some point, possibly due to my own negligence, or possibly due to a specific attack. And I personally like the Discourse editor’s simplicity, compared to the myriad options presented by Wordpress when you incorporate plugins (I have a tendency to overcomplicate things if given the chance). That, I guess, is what I meant by less friction.

Also, what did you mean by expensive scaling? I presumed that scaling a content-heavy Discourse site would be less costly than scaling a chat-heavy one, since there’s overall fewer posts and comments, and potentially less traffic. I may be misunderstanding, though.

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Some additional information about my intentions:

  • The site won’t be monetized, and the main purpose is to make it easy to navigate by a variety of people (such as older people with chronic pain). I was thinking a nicely organized posting/chat system may help with this.

  • The site is hosted on Communiteq (formerly DiscourseHosting), so that gives me some peace of mind given that my Wordpress installation randomly got corrupted, and eventually led to scrapping the site for a year.

  • Just to be straight-forward: I’m looking for any excuse to use Discourse for the whole shebang (posts plus forum), even if it’s not 100% optimal. If it’s zero percent optimal, that’s another story I guess, and I’ll have to re-evaluate. I’ve been looking through the Discourse forum list just in case there’s one example that’s kinda sorta close to what I’m looking to do, but no dice thus far (hopefully that doesn’t mean it’s just a terrible idea all-around and I’m doomed!).

I mean you can just take a look at each of the team and how they publish content. For those kinds of activities Discourse isn’t a great fit.

If it’s experience you want then I would use a $5 vps for WordPress and another $5 vps for discourse. You can handle far more traffic that way while getting experience of using both tools for their intended purpose. It’s going to scale much further than a single $10 vps running discourse could achieve.

It’s not a terrible idea. Since you’re getting Communiteq (formerly DiscourseHosting) to manage it, the technical aspect of it will be a lot easier than having a self-hosted WordPress site. I think that posting on Discourse will likely promote discussion around the topics.

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Forgive me for (possibly) being dense, but I still don’t fully understand. Are the downsides of having a content-heavy Discourse site that big?

I just checked, and my TTFB is substantially faster with Discourse than my old Wordpress site, with the homepage fully loading in 273 milliseconds. Of course, the confounder is my old site had a lot content on the home page and my new site is empty!

If users don’t interact with the posts or chat amongst themselves, you will have been a soothsayer – I probably should not have ponied up for Communiteq (formerly DiscourseHosting) and just gone with a cheapo Wordpress VPS (although I probably would go for a more expensive managed Wordpress host so corruption doesn’t happen again).

But if people do chat or interact with posts more (and I hope they eventually do!), then I’m guessing Discourse will make that process smoother for them.

So … is there something else inherent in Discourse that makes it not a good option? I guess the scaling cost that you mentioned, although the cost for even moderately large forums doesn’t seem that high.

I’m showing my cards here, but that’s what I’m hoping: that it’s somewhere between a neutral idea and an okay one, possibly with an upside of greater interaction and zero(ish) chance of the site getting hacked.

You can always try it and see what happens!

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