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Which forum solutions should we look into?
Jcink 1 (7.1%)
Proboards 2 (14.3%)
phpBB 2 (14.3%)
MyBB 0 (0%)
Invision Community 0 (0%)
None, stick with Tapatalk 2 (14.3%)
Anything free, just avoid paid options. 7 (50%)
Other (Let us know so that we can add it to this poll) 0 (0%)
Total Votes: 14
The Tapatalk Dilemma Discussion; Let us talk about Zeta's impending doom.
Topic Started: Jul 16 2018, 11:16 PM (488 Views)
Robert Joe
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Party Tank

So the deadline for the Tapatalk conversion is arriving pretty soon. As a result, we are going to need to come to a conclusion on what we are or are not going to do in response.

The upcoming Tapatalk conversion is going to break quite a few things on the forums. We can now confirm that Badges, multiple themes, and most aspects of our main theme are all no longer possible on the new platform. You can see a preview of it here.

Obviously, this new setup is far from ideal. And, we have taken some measures to possibly circumvent it if we decide to do more than just accept the changes. Tapatalk has refused to allow database downloads for Zeta members. But in the past week or so, we still have managed to get a decent backup of everything on the forums despite this.

As it stands, there are a few other options. I will list out the more prominent ones here:



Jcink - A free forum host similar to Zeta. Unlike many of the other options, we probably will not have to have any kind of paid hosting here. But of course, it possibly getting bought out in the future by Tapatalk as well is also a danger given with that territory. The database that we have should be fairly easy to import here.

Proboards - Another free forum host akin to what we already had. I will be the first to admit that I really have no experience with Proboards personally. So, I really cannot say much about it so far. But, it is an option nonetheless.

phpBB - phpBB is an open-source set of forum software. It is fairly common and widely-used from what I have seen, and the database that we have of Sunrise can also be easily imported here. However, this is just software. We would need to get a server to run it on, which would either cost money or require someone to have a physical machine to host it.

I actually could fulfil the latter option; I have a fairly decent server just lying around and not doing much. But, I would not really feel comfortable essentially having complete power over the forums. And I doubt that many other people would either.

So in terms of paid hosting. A while back, Tich ran the numbers and determined that hosting such a server would cost a total of around $300USD a year. We could split that up between multiple people footing the bill so that no one person is in charge. But, even then the fact that there even would need to be a metaphorical financial weight hanging over the forums seems a bit iffy if you asked me personally.

MyBB - Another set of software akin to phpBB. I will admit that like with Proboards, I have never really used a forum that runs on this software before. And thus, I really have no experience with it myself. But, it would still be a possible option if we are to go down the paid route.

Invision Community This is a big and fairly extensive commercial set of forum software. If I remember correctly, it was recommended by Tich if we do end up going down the route of paid hosting. And I would trust his word on this since he seems to have more experience with non-Zeta forums than I do.

However, unlike phpBB and MyBB this software is not free. It has a purchase cost of around $200USD. If we choose to go down the route of self-hosting, this would bump up the cost of the initial year, effectively. Invision also seems to offer their own hosting service. But it is pretty expensive, starting at $360USD a year, and probably being more like $540 for something with a bit more breathing room.



Now, the elephant in the room is that activity here has been pretty dead. So, I do not doubt that some people might just not really care if Tapatalk takes over and we do not do anything about it. However, we do need to consider all other options beforehand. A lot of the stuff that made the forums what they were is just going to get erased. And at that point, there will probably be even less reason for people to come here as opposed to just using the Discord. At least, if you asked me.

So, we will throw up a brief poll for this. Note that this is probably not going to determine our final actions. But, it should at least hopefully narrow down the options. I am sorry for making more convoluted polls like this. But, this is pretty significant. Even moreso than that re-organization thing. So, we probably want to not make a rash decision.

Oh, and I probably missed a few other forum options. If you can think of one, feel free to tell us so it can be added to the poll.
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Sagie
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crotchety

Seems silly to do a ton of work if the result either way is a dead forum.

I'd say stick with Tapatalk and keep cutting extras. If people decide they want to come back and post and can't live without all the stuff, then keep those backups handy and consider other options.

Backing things up was a good call. The forums can always move. But far above the issues of the forum structure changing is the issue that you don't have a forum here at all to worry about. You have a somewhat-active Discord server and a huge forum everyone seems weirdly dedicated to supporting bits and bobs on despite no one using them.
I should add: I know my experience is worth a hill of beans to you, but that's exactly what we did when we got booted from GameSpy and came here. Granted, it was different then because we had no choice but to leave GameSpy as it was shutting us down entirely, but still. We just rebuilt the basic forums as best we could, and let the members decide everything else they wanted. That's how we ended up carrying over post counts, shuffling the administration, adding new things like different restrictions on avatar support, etc etc. We focused on what people wanted and were actually willing to use, and let go of the things that were just knick-knack reminders of the past.
Edited by Sagie, Jul 16 2018, 11:24 PM.
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DrewUniverse
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I've dabbled in a few forum services. My only experience of consequence would be with phpBB3. It is not feature-rich in terms of all the icons underneath a poster's avatar, but its core functionality proved quite reliable. I had volunteered to run a phpBB3 board for the first time when I was part of a sizable alliance in EVE Online. Active forum users numbered around 40-100 every month. As I was an amateur going in, I didn't get into advanced customization. I liked it for being stable, open-source, and modern (at the time). It did the core job of posts and topics well in my opinion. If you need community-related systems like GS classes and just-for-fun items and things, I can't speak to that.

A basic hosting package from Hostmonster sustained the board in excellent condition for several years. The web space was also supporting a portrait artist's website gallery, a gaming journalism site, and so on without any major server issues. After promotional pricing ends, monthly hosting will cost up to $16 a month unless you choose the longer-term payments such as the 24-month option. I don't know if they still include the first domain for free, or for the first year, or at all. If there is a charge, it will be somewhere between $12-18 a year - lower end if it's a new domain.

Virtually unlimited storage space for FTP files, and the Database number/size limit shouldn't affect you at all if this is the only site that needs to move - the DB limits were enough for me to fit several forums and Wordpress installations at a time for my clients without an adverse affect on performance. The only thing I had trouble with from Hostmonster was their email service. Customer support is based in the USA, and I found them extremely reliable and honest. Stayed with them for over eight years, and very happy with the cost and the quality of service. However, that means I didn't get the benefit of experiencing other hosting services much; take this with a grain of salt.

Note: Hostmonster does use shared hosting, meaning your web space and sites will be sitting on a server with a few other customers. Page loads won't be lightning-fast, but we never had more than a 2-4 second delay at worst. For an example of page load times, I can share the gaming website url: http://lasttokengaming.com/


I am aware that I have never before interacted with this community and only became aware of it a few months ago. With that said, I hope my experience helps add to the total perspective.
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Nedben
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Orzic Nedbens

phpBB if it can be hosted easily because that's the archive, ProBoards otherwise out of familiarity alone (though getting an importer written would be handy and I am unsure about actually making features despite having watched 2 fora attempts of formatting hell). Tapatalk has objectionable requirements I don't want to deal with.

I've slowed my roll mostly because of this Tapatalk hell and wanting to keep the archive work clean as possible, so I hope the next parts aren't so bad. I'm vaguely remembering lots of people being hit by a lot of severe real life problems during the past few weeks to months and I sincerely hope that gets better.

Sagie's right. We're going to lose a lot, including features we battled over.

What are the platform outlooks for being able to rewrite the badge scripts and other bits once we're settled in?
Edited by Nedben, Jul 17 2018, 12:22 AM.
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Delfes
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Regular Adept #18

Honestly, the preview is painful. The pure white everything is unpleasantly bright, which I guess I could get used to in time even if I don't like it, but there's one massive annoying drawback from what I'm seeing now: The thing has terrible page sizing. Seriously, I have to deal with a horizontal scroll bar because it doesn't fit on screen for some reason... What is wrong with them and making a format that's not desktop compatible on default settings?

Anyhow, I don't really know anything about forum hosting, so my input is going to be very generic. I don't think the amount of activity warrants paid hosting, and I honestly can't stand the horizontal scroll bar, so if it's not a horrible amount of work I'd try to switch to another forum hosting service, but stick to free ones even if it means risking another tapatalk merge later on. I can endure losing most of the fun stuff like banners and badges and even some of the post formatting, even if it's kind of disheartening, but we're losing the actually useful features too as far as I can tell from the preview... No icon lighting up from new posts(granted that's because there are no icons in the first place...) and no advanced search function that I can find. I liked the advanced search function...

I don't know how better the other services look, but I'd really rather lose tapatalk if at all possible. That scroll bar is a complete no go on my side and I have no clue on how to fix it from my browser for just that page.

TL;DR: Tapatalk looks terrible and blinding white, lacks advanced search and has an annoying horizontal scroll bar(wtf page format?) and I'd rather change to something else if it's not a horrible hassle. The amount of activity we have isn't worth a paid hosting service.
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Miva
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Damn it lost my post!

Tldr: props for doing the back up! I think, given activity, we could just stick with tapatalk and make the best of it, but if you do want to move I'll support that and follow.

Also... I don't want to seem presumptuous, but if we did move, could I be made an admin of the tapatalk site, as a back up for if we ever need to return? Like in 2014. No big deal, but if you would consider it.
Edited by Miva, Jul 17 2018, 07:16 AM.
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Catman
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Loneliest Stardust Crusader

The tapatalk preview has decided to place some of the in table formatting around the entire page content, which is why the page width is broken
WHY ARE WE STILL HERE...Posted Image...JUST TO SUFFER?!
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Robert Joe
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Sagie


Yeah. I was kind of thinking the same way. This forum is basically dead, and that is certainly a factor in any potential moves that we make. For a while, I have personally felt that since people seem to naturally gravitate towards the Discord, we might want to try to embrace that to some degree. There is no use trying to fight against what members naturally want, and it is not even really a bad thing in the first place. Activity is activity regardless of its source, after all.

But on the same token, I tend to think that the Tapatalk conversion will kill anything that the forum does have going for it over the IRC-like nature of Discord. The badges and other things that people seem to like so much would be killed, and so would any real potential for more significant actually forum-suited stuff with it.

What annoys me the most is that the news of this came literally on the day that we were about to begin planning a bit of a re-work to some of the said bits and bobs of the forum. So, that plan got killed in its tracks. Not sure if it would have really gotten anywhere to begin with given how dead everything was, but still.

Also, I do not really understand why you think that I do not respect your opinions on the matter. I am sorry if I came off that way.

DrewUniverse


Hmm. Yeah, we will have to shop around a bit to see if anything cheaper like that service you mentioned exists. Granted, I am not that big of a fan of non-dedicated hosts, but they are still an option on the table.

Although, quite a few people here, myself included, seem to be quite adverse to going for anything paid period. Like I said before, the fact that we would have a financial weight over our heads, with possibly only one person in power with it, is not that good of a prospect.

Though, I was not aware of how cheap non-dedicated hosts are. They might be an option simply because of that. It would be easier to spread a smaller payment out like that between multiple people. I still do not know, though.

Nedben


We can probably import to a place like Proboards by first importing the forum to a dummy phpBB setup, then using one of the many converters written for that platform to then convert it to Proboards or anywhere else.

As for re-writing the badge scripts, that is certainly going to be a bit of a pain, but I am sure that it is possible. It is not really that complicated, and many of these other options have decent customization features equivalent to or exceeding Zetaboards. Still, it certainly would be a pain nonetheless.

Delfes


I am honestly in the same boat. I really dislike Tapatalk, but I do not think that paid hosting is really an option either. Not so much because it is not worth it, but mainly because of the metaphorical money anvil I keep talking about. It just would not really feel right if you asked me.

Miva


You can have admin now, or even for the future site (Assuming we do decide to move) if you want. I do not think that anyone on the current team, or really any of the members (Correct me if I am wrong) would be at all against that motion.

I am sorry, I know that things on the current team have been really slow. Do you feel as if we are lording over the site? Please, if you have a problem with this, let us know. It can be here or in PMs or whatever works really.

I know that I personally was a bit headstrong a month or so ago when I said that I had some ideas for what we could do with the forums going forward. But, that plan kind of got immediately shot out of the air because of perfect timing on the Tapatalk conversion's part. Also... People really did not seem to like the idea that much. But, I was prepared to re-work everything and re-present it. Although any work done would essentially be pointless until the conversion happened. Since any scripts or whatever are going to have to be re-written anyway.

Things have been slow, and a lot of that is just general activity on the staff's part. I will make no attempt to hide that. But for the record, it is not like nothing at all has been getting done. Getting that database of the forums was no easy task. It took me over two weeks to get it done due to extreme tehcnical difficulties. A lot of it was actually archived manually. That is mainly why I went silent on the matters of working on re-organization, new events, or anything else really.

That does not make the inactivity okay, mind you. But, that is the reason for at least the most recent bout of nothing happening.




All that aside, I am personally a fan of going for something free, and most people seem to share that idea. As should have been pretty obvious from what I have said so far. Jcink looks pretty promising to me, but I really need to take a more in-depth look at both it and Proboards. At least with the free options, we could try to get some test sample boards up for people to look at and get a better feel for before making a final choice.

I could also get some of the paid options running temporarily on that server that I have, however given what people have said I do not think that paid options would be that great of an idea.

Does that sound like a good idea?
Edited by Robert Joe, Jul 17 2018, 03:31 PM.
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Miva
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We're cool RJ, it's true I have been sonewhat frustrated by the lack of activity, and my method of admining included a lot more open discussion about the forums future, rather than the more quiet considered steps the current team take, but I completely believe you about all the hard work you'd been putting in, it sucks it got interrupted and I'm impressed you managed any kind of back up at all.

I would be happy for you to make me admin, but I won't have time in the short term to do anything useful with it. If that doesn't bother you, then go for it.
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Sagie
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crotchety

Tapatalk does look rather shit, doesn't it? Like even from the perspective of someone who doesn't care much for all the bits and bobs.

I think this place is long overdue for a discussion about why are we here, what is all this for, and what do we want from it.

For that, any free option is probably fine, I just wouldn't go through all the work of putting badges and themes together before you had settled on exactly what the community (what community there is) was actually, for real, committed to being invested in long-term.
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Tichondrian
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Tide Warden

My few cents:

I offered the options for going self hosted under the fear of what happened at GameSpy before. And I believe it's worth considering taking control ourselves and becoming the true master of our own data. If we move to Tapatalk we just are just subject to their policies. I am not saying Zetaboards is better but as you can see, here we are now.

I offered up two paid options which come down to cheap and expensive:

- Free software, paid hosting, pay roughly 120 dollars a year and host our own phpBB setup.

- Paid premium software on top of free hosting to have better software. Specifically Invision Power Board, which is really good and gives us a lot of options. But it is expensive once. Otherwise you only need to really pay for renewal which is an okay amount per year.

The big question is, at this point do we want it. Forums been really dead again lately. And without a solid announcement for new content, splurging on any forum might be much. Or even hosting. Keeping the Discord and honestly even sort of forgetting about the forum wouldn't be that bad honestly. We have no influx of new members. And it feels weird to invest quite much into it if very few people are going to use it.

I would say just leave it, there is not much we are doing with the forum. Is it worth it to keep around for more, sure Tapatalk may be garish, but unless we really use it, is there a huge point in investing time and money into it?
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Catman
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Loneliest Stardust Crusader

Whether the forum exists or not, the Discord server will remain, just as the old Skype group did before we replaced it with the Discord one. I barely visit the forum and probably would visit the Tapatalk one even less often. The only thing I plan to do related to Tapatalk is help RJ and co. royally fuck up Tapatalk/Aeiou when the conversion finally happens for it.
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AllanaM
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I read a thread earlier where someone asked this before. I don't know much about these options, but maybe ask that person? They seemed to be trying to do something similar.
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DrewUniverse
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If there really isn't much of a demand or need for a forum when factoring in user activity, migrating your primary home to another platform would make plenty of sense. I've never seen a forum community switch to Discord, as they are quite different styles of interaction (IRC-like and conversational vs lengthier discussion). And it's true that forum-specific things would disappear. Still, Discord in itself is a very strong platform for rolling community interaction in general.

Should you still want to look into options for the forum, I could offer a safe "trial route" in that I still have my Hostmonster service running for at least another half year. I would charge for just the domain cost - somewhere near $12-18 a year probably. You could safely test there if desired and see what it's like, but there is obviously the risk of working on it yet still having low user activity in general. In addition, you are also welcome to use an unlisted sub-domain on my personal website for testing - for example "goldensunrise.drewuniverse.net". I'd do that for no cost, and my server has ample room for it.

As I admitted before you don't know who I am. However, my online contributions and reputation can be easily tracked. I've also done a lot of work for another RPG community, and have my own passion for Golden Sun. References available upon request? It doesn't look like you need the forum much, but that door is open in case you want to explore it. If you have questions or interest, let me know.
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Misery
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Seems to me like the most important aspect of the forum is that it exists at all and stays, so for that purpose it would be best to avoid becoming dependent on paid hosting. Based on what Tapatalk is doing I'd reject them on principle, but I'm not expecting anyone to put work into rebuilding the forum elsewhere when it might not get much activity.
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