Today, June 11th, the forums went down for a long period of time. This happened because I went to update Vanilla, the forum software we were previously using, to a new version. The version of Vanilla we were using was 2-3+ years old, and so I wanted to update to get the latest fixes and features. I made a backup prior to updating and confirmed the backup was correct.
However, upon updating, the Vanilla software crashed and was having issues with the latest version. Apparently the latest release is known to be buggy and the release discussion has several forum owners who also have had issues updating. However, I was not too worried since I had a backup, but unfortunately, the backup failed to correct and revert back. I am not sure why it failed, as I was using the server provider backup that backs up the entire site, but alas, it was down and recovering with the backup didn't work no matter what I tried.
After several attempts of trying to get the backup to work and the newest version of Vanilla to work, I decided that perhaps this is the time to move forward rather than backwards. Vanilla has been a constant pain point, both for us as forum staff and for users due to the dated usability, and so I decided to look into a more modern, fast, and supported forum software.
New Forum Software
That led us to this! We are now Flarum. Flarum is a newer, lightweight, and flexible forum software. It uses markdown to render posts, so all our existing posts should look the same (or similar at least), and I was able to convert the overwhelming majority of the Vanilla database to Flarum.
There is a couple things that were lost in data, but not in functionality. The first is private messages. Old private messages, but it is still possible to discuss privately. Now if you click a user, you can see a "private messages" tab and then you can press "discuss privately" to start a new private discussion. Then you can discuss privately like before. Please remember that private discussions are subject to forum rules. Now users can also flag replies in private messages, which will allow us in forum staff to see them and act accordingly.
The other thing was reaction history. We have reactions on the new forums, but old reactions were lost. However, that just means we can all react to the posts again 🙂
(Side note: Vanilla really doesn't want you to convert it's data - was kinda tricky to even get the users and discussions transferred)
What does this mean for you?
Ultimately, the overwhelming majority of the forums works exactly as before. You can post, react, and discuss with others. The move means we now have a faster, more modern, mobile friendly, and better supported forum software backend. This should not only make the forums load faster, but it should improve the experience overall.
Everyone will need to set their passwords again. You can do this by following these steps:
- Click the log-in button in the top right of the website (might be hard to see in dark theme - am looking to fix this)
- Select "forgot your password" and put in your email address.
- Wait for a verification email with a link. Check your spam folder as well! Once you get the email, input your new password.
- Log in using your email and password.
Note: Some users, which I have listed below, have slightly different usernames now. This is due to the constraints of Flarum and there was apparently some duplicates. I have listed below what the username was and what it is now.
You will also need to re-upload your profile picture. To do so, just go to your account, then settings, and finally select the circle/profile image on the left. This should allow you to upload a new profile picture.
If you have any issues logging in, please reach out to me (@TwistedTwigleg) or (twistedtwigleg@randommomentania) and I will do my absolute best to help. My goal is to get everyone able to use the forums again as smoothly as possible.
What this means moving forward
This means that we can move towards making the forums more modern, adding new features, and overall making it a better experience.
In the short term, this likely means things are going to be changing quite a bit as we add new features and style the forums. In the long term, I hope this means we'll be able to deliver a better forum experience for everyone.
Right now, I want to focus on working out any issues with the new forum software and working on the theming/styling of the forums. While we are using a pretty sleek theme, I want to make it more custom and Godot like, as well as address some few pain points (like certain elements of text being hard to read on dark mode).