After a year of laying the groundwork by migrating to a VPS and setting up a test environment, I finally moved my old (10 years), large (1mil posts) PHPBB forum to Discourse back in February.
It was a big task involving a lot of work, from getting the migration script to run against phpbb3.2 through to getting Docker to work nicely with my VPS and other sites.
I’ve always been a big advocate of Discourse, I think it’s great. But sadly I had to pull the plug about a month ago and move my community across to different forum software.
This decision wasn’t made easily and I’ve coped a lot of flack from my community, as well as countless late nights working on this project.
I still love Discourse, but I thought I’d share the reasons why it didn’t work out for my community.
A large portion of my user base did not like infinite scrolling. To me it makes sense, but the types of topics on my forum may go on for up to 20,000 posts. I guess you can’t teach on old dog new tricks.
One-click quoting, something which every other platform can do, is three-click process in Discourse. My users read a post, then want to have a “quote” button that loads the quote in a composer, simple. Yes Discourse can “quote” but it takes a few clicks and my users did NOT like this at all.
Being a large forum with many users having over 20,000 posts, these users constantly hit 502 errors. Why? Well I never quite figured it out, but it seems that Discourse hasn’t quite refined the backend DB queries to handle users with a large history. When ever one of these large users tried to post, start a topic or do anything really, then they would just hang and crash out. Considering these are the influencers of the community, I couldn’t dismiss their complaints.
Finally, revenue. I’ve run Adsense on my community for years and it’s helped offset the server and time costs. Since switching to Discourse my revenue instantly plummeted, down 90%. I gave it a month, I even used AdManager to try to improve things, but nothing was improving and it was burning a hole in my pocket. Be it Ads not showing, impressions plummeting or whatever, it couldn’t go on.
Further, the official discourse ad manager plugin bug on Mobile (screen jumping around) was driving my users away. In my opinion the official ad manager plugin should be pulled back to Beta until this critical issue is resolved.
I suspect that Adsense is having an issue with the way that Discourse displays content, that it can’t index it correctly or something like that.
All these issues added up to the point where I had to pull the plug on Discourse and jump to another bit of software. It’s not as feature rich as Discourse, but instantly I’ve seen a big improvement across the board:
- Pagination is still something that is needed
- Adsense revenue shot back up towards where it was before
- Users have stopped complaining about basic things
Maybe because I migrated an old, historic forum with users with entrenched habits, perhaps that’s why I didn’t have as much success with Discourse.
Either way, I hope my report on my experience can help the developers here fine-tune Discourse as well as help those considering migrating to the platform.