I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Chris would like a word with you about the forums

computerHey everybody,

Chris, who generously helps me run all the computer crap around here, is working on some plans to upgrade outlawvern.com, which includes doing something about the forums. So if you like to use those (Paul, spambots) or might like to in the future (others) please read about what he’s considering and let him know what sounds best to you. Thanks everybody.

—–
Hey everyone it’s Chris, or clubside, here to talk about some site issues. Thanks to competition and ever advancing march of technological progress I’m gonna be upgrading Vern’s hosting service as early as next week. The upgrade should reduce instances of slowness on the site and allow adding some features that were previously held back due to lack of computing resources.
At the same time we’ve come to a crossroads of sort in regard to the forums. Despite the push to add the feature a few years ago they don’t get much use and nowadays are overrun with spam posts that our basic comments spam service cannot handle. Why? Simple:Press.

Back when Vern okayed the addition of the Forums I researched the various options and selected the highly recommended Simple:Press (http://simple-press.com) which despite a licensing fee had the kind of support and extensibility not available from other solutions.
As time marched on and priorities at Automattic (the company formed around WordPress) changed, some of their side projects were shifted around in ways to establish them as de facto standards when it came to extending WordPress. Two of the biggest are bbPress for forums and BuddyPress for communities. Back when I set up the forums for Vern bbPress looked like a long-in-the-tooth joke while BuddyPress could most charitably be called “half finished”.
Years later and they are much better choices with active dev teams and third-party support which brings us to the discussion today. I have two choices to present and in the comments people are welcome to suggest others. But something needs to change and this server migration is the most opportune time especially with costs changing and the potential of paid spam protection on the horizon.
The easiest choice would be to stick with Simple:Press, pay for a fresh subscription to upgrade to the latest features and spend some time investigating spam and moderation options, maybe even shortcodes to help integrate it on the site in more places.
My recommendation is to switch to a community structure built around the BuddyPress/bbPress combo. The main advantage here is the Askimet service which is used to catch comment spam is automatically integrated with this combo as it’s the same company. When I type “main advantage” I’m of course writing that in respect to me lol the real impetus is to change the interaction paradigm at the site. This shift would be toward topics of interest and communities formed around them.
While these changes can be implemented under Simple:Press that would require a yearly financial commitment and being stuck in their private ecosystem rather than the larger WordPress developer community. I am also working on some development with these systems for some other projects meaning I’ll be learning more about them as I am actively working on projects where Simple:Press would involve short term interest to solve issues with no thought on extending its uses.
But the devision to move to BuddyPress/bbPress from Simple:Press isn’t cut and dry. There is a data converter from Simple:Press to bbPress that has some problems with formatting. We could maintain the current forum look but I’d prefer a switch to communities that host an activity wall and their own topic-based forums. Much of this could only be worked out after a devision is made where I can demonstrate the changes.
None of these changes will affect your ability to comment on posts without creating an account. The only thing I’m concerned with is speeding up the site and buttoning up a few security holes so that we have options for more features for the community and Vern.
So given all this and knowing there’s even more going on behind-the-scenes what are your thoughts on community and discussion forums here at http://outlawvern.com?

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Saturday, June 20th, 2015 at 7:22 pm and is filed under Site News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

36 Responses to “Chris would like a word with you about the forums”

  1. To be honest, I say we bring back Potpourri.

  2. Honestly, I have trouble understanding what you are asking for. (Due to a mix of computer lingo and English.) Do you wanna know if we want to keep the forum as it is (minus the spambots) or get an all new one?

  3. I think what he’s saying is he can switch it to a better forum with more options and security against spambots but existing posts may not transfer 100% correctly or at all. So possibly lose posts for a better forum, or try and make the current one work.

  4. I second the CJ motion— most of that didn’t make a lick of sense to me. Just find a way to eradicate those pesky spambots and let Paul strut his stuff.

  5. I really think it’s Vern’s choice. What ever he decides is okay with me.

  6. The Original Paul

    June 21st, 2015 at 4:00 am

    Personally I’ve love a functional forum, but then as Larry points out, not many people used it as much as I did. The only reason I haven’t used it recently (for a Coherence review, say) is because it’s become so overrun with spambots that nobody would see what I’d written.

    It’d be nice to have a place to chat to people here about the latest movies which maybe don’t come under Vern’s usual range of stuff, but which still might be of interest to the community here. So if you want a definite answer from me, I’d say go with the move to Buddy / bbPress. I’d think you’d get more interest in the forum that way.

  7. Knox Harrington

    June 21st, 2015 at 4:59 am

    I don’t read or use the forums at all. I think most of us are happy simply commenting and communicating on Vern’s reviews.

    Do whatever’s best and easiest for you guys.

  8. The Original Paul

    June 21st, 2015 at 6:45 am

    I gotta say that I think there IS a use for the forums: I like to discuss films that maybe haven’t been reviewed by Vern with the community here, and the best way to do that is via a forum.

    Having said that… in 2012, I saw 67 films in the cinema. In 2013, 34. Last year, 19; and this year, so far, I’ve seen four. So “a place to discuss new films” is maybe less relevant if you don’t go to the cinema any more.

  9. I hope you are doing well clubside!

    My two cents, for whatever they’re worth (a bit less than a nickel), would be to just abolish the forums. Commenting on the reviews makes it easier to keep things organized because they’re all in one place. Maybe go back to the old ways of occasionally having an off-topic post for non-specific-movie or the inevitable countless words about Star Wars discussions.

  10. I vote for pepperoni and mushroom.

  11. Can we get Paul his own website while we’re upgrading? – Paul Tells It Like It Is, Was, And Should Be, Amen.

    I’d read it.

  12. Paul Tell’s It Like It’s Not

  13. Ok guys, I’ll try to explain a little better.

    What we have now can stay as is and possibly even be made better but it is outside the “ecosystem” of WordPress meaning the only advances will ever come from the developers rather than the community at large. It’s still a great choice but before we commit to it I wanted to throw out another option.

    The company that makes WordPress, the software that powers this site, also makes BuddyPress, a social network that bolts on. If you’ve created an account to post to the forums that’s your WordPress account and if we add BuddyPress you would get a wall for personal posts and a lot of familiar Facebookesque features.

    One of those features is Groups. Users can create Groups, have moderators, a common wall, and I can integrate bbPress, Forum software from the WordPress guys. A high level forum like THE FILMS OF CINEMA could still exist, but you could also make NETFLIX CHEESE. People could join the group and have a running discussion on the wall, or create topics about specific movies in the Group Forum.

    There are plenty of other ways to extend BuddyPress and bbPress. It would also be possible to create Potpourri posts but link the comments into the forum so the Recent Comments weren’t flooded. It would also be possible to keep current post comments as they are but make forum comments paged with sorting, etc.

    The one “gotcha” is I can import all of the current forum posts but supposedly some of the formatting (line breaks, embedded media) might have to be fixed afterward.

    So the choices are: keep what we have and update it as best as possible, switch to similar features developed by the makers of WordPress that have a lot more options but some hiccups associated with transitioning the current forums, or some other option you guys suggest.

    I’m happy to answer questions regarding Simple:Press, the current forum, or BuddyPress/bbPress, the alternative I’m suggesting. I’d also be willing to ramble on about other potential feature scenarios for those who love the community Vern has built here.

    I will be transitioning the site over the week once I get home from rehab. There will be time to test performance and other stuff so we have time to figure this out. And look at some other hopefully cool additions.

  14. That BuddyPress thing sounds actually very intriguing, but I know that I’m way more into social media and shit like that, like most of you.

    Is there a possibility to lock the old forum and keep it as an archive or would doing this mean extra cost? When it’s locked I guess you don’t have to pay for an anti-spam subscription for it.

  15. I comment twice a year and never use the forums. I am not the target audience for this.

    That said, I think BuddyPress/bbPress sounds great.

  16. The Original Paul

    June 22nd, 2015 at 1:23 am

    Majestyk – I’m crushed, man. Crushed. My feelings!

  17. Paul— As far as this here websight goes… Mr. M. is Steve Prefontaine to your Lasse Viren (make of that what you will). Don’t think for one second it doesn’t annoy him.

  18. The Original Paul

    June 22nd, 2015 at 6:12 am

    Larry – thanks… I think?

  19. Crushinator Jones

    June 23rd, 2015 at 11:08 am

    Chris/clubside – ya gotta get rid of the current system. Formatting not important. Nuke it.

  20. Just a quick update…

    I have set up a clone site at http://vgmainstreet.com for testing BuddyPress/bbPress. I hope to have some stuff to test tomorrow.

    Now the challenges, which are far worse than anticipated. There are tens of thousands of spam topics. There are thousands of spam users. In order to do an automated migration from Simple:Press requires cleaning all of that. Simple:Press lacks bulk deletions requiring three clicks to delete a single topic. Once topics are clean I can write a database routine to delete all users who have never posted so that’s easy, but the sheer volume of topics may be insurmountable in the short term.

    I’m still thinking about solutions but hope to have some stuff for you guys to test while I figure this mess out.

  21. Figured out my plan for cleaning up the current forums and have been working on that. If you check them out you’ll see I’ve already wiped out about 80% of it, but that was the easy part, deleting a few dozen massive spammers. Most of what’s left is single posters so I don’t know if I’ll have the patience to zap it all, but I’ll probably get enough to work around the rest.

    I’m still working on templates for BuddyPress/bbPress but there are a lot to get done and there’s no reason to ask for testing until it’s all ready.

    You may notice some other changes around here as I get some of the new features in place such as the updated sharing buttons. There may be remnants of old stuff lurking as all the caching stuff that helps the site run with limited resources prevents some changes from appearing immediately after I’ve made them.

    I have to do some more testing but I may have found the best spam control system to put in place. It’s pretty hardcore so I need to go over what’s involved with Vern. Just know there are over 10,000 registered users currently despite less than 100 actually be real people. Can’t let it get that out of control again.

  22. If anybody can clean the websight from all spam scum, It’s Clubside Punisher Chris.

  23. Ok guys, I have cleaned the forums. There should be no spam topics and hopefully I got what few spam posts were made to legitimate topics. If any of you semi-occasional forumgoers get the chance to browse their topics and find any strays let me know.

    Next step: delete 10,000 users.

    After that I will get back to the BuddyPress/bbPress preview. I really want to relaunch the site with as much of the crud removed as possible so I can get into what I think will be some exciting changes to how you can take advantage of Vern’s community as well as grow it.

  24. Jareth Cutestory

    June 27th, 2015 at 8:24 am

    I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.

  25. Fuckin’ A!

  26. lol we don’t have to go that far.

    I have discovered the 159 legitimate user accounts and created a number of procedures to wipe out the cruft. I won’t be doing it here on the live site until the move but I’ve tested it twice. I also have tested moving the current Simple:Press forums topics/posts to new BuddyPress Group forums handled by bbPress. The groups will be set up to mirror the current topic categories but after all that has time to settle in I’m hoping people will create new groups on narrower topics. Not super narrow, but like my earlier example, instead of every movie topic under the sun being in THE FILMS OF CINEMA someone could create THE ERA OF NETFLIX and talk about movies on that service, it’s exclusive TV shows, discoverability and anything else related to that rather than the occasional topic in the broad film and TV groups.

    I also will talk to Vern about allowing users to be moderators of the existing groups. New groups will be managed by their creators (and those they assign the role) so in addition to a pretty hard ass spammers plugin I’ll be activating there will be that extra level of oversight.

    Still working on the pages necessary for the theme. Unlike the main site where I had about a dozen mostly similar pages to edit there are a few dozen unique pages necessary for the social pages and forums. Making them fit into the current style as well as programming the functionality is taking a little longer than expected.

    159 valid users out of over 10,5000. Dayyyyyyyyy-yummmmmmm!

  27. Thank you Chris!!!

  28. Crushinator Jones

    June 30th, 2015 at 9:24 am

    Crush the spambots, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentations of their programmers!

  29. Did anyone else have problems getting on to the site over the weekend, or was it just me? I’ve only just been able to get on on my pc, and my phone is still coming up with a “Site Not Found” message. By the looks of it, there’s been a bit of posting going on the last few days, so I’m thinking it’s possibly me, and not related to the upgrades…. Anyone, anyone, Bueller, Bueller…?

  30. Y’all can stop stressing now, I sorted my phone issue out. It needed a refresh or something technical which I don’t fucking understand. Tell the White House Australia is standing down. Peace out..

  31. Because the new cache server in front of the site clearing your own browser cache once should make everything right going forward.

    Hopefully everyone’s seeng a big performance boost. While it’s not peak business hours on a weekday I’ve yet to run into any sluggishness with DreamPress 2.

  32. Cheers Chris. You’re a legend.

  33. When I tried accessing the site yesterday morning (Irish time), it had switched back to the wordpress template and I read a post by a dude who had somehow managed to get into the system, apparently without any hacking. I’m assuming this was during the transition phase to the new server, or something.

    The guy wrote about being a long-time lurker and “charitably” posted Vern’s Batman Forever review. He left his e-mail address as well, but I didn’t make a note of it – I figured Chris would probably take care of it at some point. Which he did: when I checked back later, the site still rocked the vanilla wordpress look, but again featured the usual content. Was I the only one who noticed this?

  34. I only saw early in the moring that the site didn’t work at all, then it ran on the normal wordpress skin, then it worked as always. Whatever caused it, I figured Chris would fix it.

  35. ATTENTION PLEASE

    I’m finishing up a small modification to the theme and am hoping some of you could do some quick testing.

    Back when this theme was made there was no thought to mobile devices. As such the site looks the same on desktop, tablet and phone. This requires taps and pinches to read the content on the smaller screens. A solution to this is to make your site “responsive”, changing styles as depending on the width of the browser. Related to this is Google’s recent lowering of search results for sites that aren’t responsive.

    While I have a whole new design in the works there’s a lot to do so in the meantime I wanted to get the current site responsive to a certain degree. This is accomplished by moving the sidebar below the posts on smaller screens. I also do some other tweaks based on size and have updated a few things.

    If you get the chance could you check the temporary site and post any comments or bugs here? The clone site with the updated theme is here:

    http://vgmainstreet.com

    I may still do something different with the menu. I’m also considering bumping up the font size for tablets. In that respect phones and desktop sizes seem good but portrait tablets it looks small.

    Any help is greatly appreciated.

  36. Hi Clubside,

    I don’t know if it has to do with the site upgrades or what, but I note that lately, selecting the “classic” CSS (the preferred style for all long-time Vern readers) makes the text show up in red instead of white. I like red and black together for my anarcho-syndicalist flags, but not so much for reading reviews. Maybe you can look into this when you get a chance. Thanks!

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