The future of our forum - facebook versus web forums

neptronix

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Dudes;
I have long been frustrated with phpbb's lack of progress in the last couple years. I have had to extensively patch the default theme for mobile compatibility ( my se_square_nx theme ) - a job only partially done by the phpbb team.

I also wanted to add some modern features, only to be blocked by sub-version changes that break them.. ( not maintainable )

There is also a serious lack of alternatives to move this forum into a more responsive and modern format that still allows for in depth discussion on things. Platforms like discourse and vanilla forums still lack a proper exporter from phpbb, but the real dealbreaker is that they're missing functionality and depth that PHPBB has.

Me, Justin, and gammaray spent many days investigating literally every other platform aside from vbullettin, which is closed source ( no thanks! ) and came up empty handed.

As you know, i started endless sphere facebook back in 2011 when i thought that our forums were gonna get ruined by the investor who bought it from KnightMB. I created it as a lifeboat, but it turned into something that competes with our forum. I've came to truly hate facebook, but have decided to keep the group around since a bazillion other FB groups sprung up since. I figure that, given the popularity of FB groups, ES should fulfill the niche of electrical engineering oriented EV talk there too.

Future focus of ES will be to try to get the ES FB users over here :mrgreen: . But first, we still need a more modern platform.
Even though the group format in facebook is hilariously limited and vapid compared to here, facebook is eating web forums' lunch simply because it's ease of use and responsiveness.


Last month, i saw a glimmer of hope on the phpbb blog. They are working on a HUGE revision to the UI.

https://blog.phpbb.com/2018/09/16/to-the-future/

I have no idea when this is update will be available. I am a PHP/JS coder and if i get some free time, might join the effort to revise this. But good things are on the way in the next year or two.

Will update this thread as things go on with more information on phpbb3.3 or whatever they are calling it :)
 
neptronix said:
t it turned into something that competes with our forum. I've came to truly hate facebook,
Future focus of ES will be to try to get the ES FB users over here :mrgreen: .
Will update this thread as things go on with more information on phpbb3.3 or whatever they are calling it :)

if you shut down the ES FB page that is not administered by the owners of this forum, you remove the competition, & consolidate all information back to this site.

Seems no need for a life boat anymore?
 
So what does Facebook offer that holds them there and not here? My first thought is that it's more important that it IS Facebook and not that they really do anything better. I personally prefer this format, but some people just think Facebook is it and want no other.
 
There's three other fake endless sphere groups ran by people who are not part of our community.
One of them was started by Eric after we had a disagreement about posting promotional material in ES FB.
What happens in a power vaccuum on a dominant platform when there's no way to claim a name?
Probably lunacycle running endless sphere, just like how he got his boys in /r/ebikes on reddit.

But the only way to divert eyeballs from facebook is to create something better. There's plenty of other FB groups for people to move to. They might not come back unless our system is better or at least as good.

Older internet users like me and you might be okay with forums like this one, but younger people.. ( who are the future inhabitants of ES, let's be honest ), are not because they've gotten used to more responsive and rich experiences elsewhere.

( and facebook sucks for this, but even still.. it's more convenient for basic things; and people are suckers for convenience. )

PS - i noticed that vanilla forums is releasing version 2.7 soonish. They'll be the first board software to have a nice WYSIWYG editor. I don't really like vanilla's layout, but i could change the layout much easier than i could maintain a fork of phpbb that has a WYSIWYG editor..

I run CKeditor for my company's CMS. it's really nice because you can add images in the post and change formatting without thinking about where the code ends and begins.. you know.. like microsoft word circa 1995? :lol:



CKeditor goes back to the early 2000's so it's rather sad that no forum software has anything like this.
 
neptronix said:
But the only way to divert eyeballs from facebook is to create something better. There's plenty of other FB groups for people to move to. They might not come back unless our system is better or at least as good.

Older internet users like me and you might be okay with forums like this one, but younger people.. ( who are the future inhabitants of ES, let's be honest ), are not because they've gotten used to more responsive and rich experiences elsewhere.

I hear ya on this. Never created a FB account myself. Not sure exactly what im missing, but it seems like the content is harder to reference when actually trying to find something.
 
Thanks for performing the admin duties for the ES forums. I know it takes a large time investment to keep a site like this running.

I added ckeditor to several pages on my site and it does work nicely. The main thing I see that's still a huge hole is uploading images and movies. It's so easy in FB and a PITA in any forum. Hopefully the new phpbb code addresses that.

Warren
 
You're welcome.

CKeditor has a very nice plugin for base64 image uploading inline with the content. All modern web browsers can handle inline base64 images, so it's very easy to set that up. The images are ~33% larger and get stored in the database, so you'll need to use the mediumtext datatype in SQL at a minimum. Great option for low traffic sites.

That's what i'm using above. Simply because it was convenient for my company backend.
Now, you could do something smart and take the form post data, unencode the base64, write an image, make note of the URL, and rewrite the image in the post into a URL in your server side language. This would easily give you wordpress editing capability without all the bloat and security concerns of wordpress, plus the huge database overhead issue that the base64 image plugin adds.

Pair this with an image resizing function ( imagemagick/GD ) and you've got 50% of a nice CMS built with a few dozen lines of your own code.

I'd love to add this kind of functionality here, but it would require maintaining a fork of PhpBB and transitioning all the BBcode over to HTML. That's a tall order because of all the code merges that would be necessary.

There were some plugins for phpBB that do this, but the maintainers found it was too much work as phpBB likes to break things frequently in sub-versions.. :flame: My endless sphere salary does not cover that kind of work :lol:
 
'Functionality' is a trap. Your more interesting forums aren't about bells and whistles, at least not in the forums themselves. All sounds well and good to say we could read the forum on the side of a building, but what if the side of the building was then not worth reading?

Oh, brings up another question: Is there a reliable way to scale down the size of a pic? Seems I find things where sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.

8it6sxvr3dt01.jpg
 
Dunno what you mean.

I don't want the site to be like facebook or anything. But there's a lot of things lacking in this format, which is why people put together ebike groups on reddit, facebook, slack, discord, etc etc.

An image like that, via an IMG tag, cannot easily be resized with an option to view the larger version, because the server doesn't process the image. Perhaps some javascript action could handle that.

But really, image uploading should be so easy that breaking out the IMG tag is kind of a joke.. We shouldn't have to do silly things like teach people how to embed youtube, etc..
 
I've been off this site for a while and pretty much away from open source since it became so easy to create a blog on google blogger for free that is so much easier and friendlier to manage than something like wordpress... which like phpbb is getting pretty long in the tooth. I recently got back into open source with a program called WebODM... a program that can take a series of drone images and create one big image and a 3d point cloud among other things. Cloud servers and Django and a host of other new tools that make getting a server online running some very powerful software very easy and probably a nail in the phpbb coffin.
 
Dauntless.. i want a clean and simple yet functional design. Not a lot of whizbang crap.

View attachment 1

Look at all the things you can click here. This is just nuts. have you ever turned off bbcode or clicked topic review? i haven't.
what about the spoiler or pre tag versus the code tag.. they both do the same thing..

2018-10-26 13_47_16-(21) Endless Sphere - Post a reply.png

What about this hilarity.. 3 of these options are not even touched by 99.9% of our members.. convert this to one box that says 'don't parse bbcode/smilies/URLs'

phpbb is actually pretty excessive and not relevant to common use in a lot of silly ways.

People who have been using this platform have trained their eyes to ignore these parts of the system, but new people have that hump to get over.

phpbb is pretty weird to get a hang of, and that's an issue for future eyeballs who are used to better design.

I'm not talking about reinventing the wheel.
 
neptronix said:
Dauntless.. i want a clean and simple yet functional design. Not a lot of whizbang crap.
Well, I think PhpBB is pretty cool.
I set it up once for internal use for a company I worked at, they had a 24 hour office/team of people whos job was to monitor a bunch of activities.
They needed a simple system to jot down their activities for the night and if anything weird happened, so other staff or executives come in and see. And also occasionally be able to go back by date in the past by possibly months to match events historically if there was a problem.
I modded PhpBB to inverse the thread listing style, as in the most recent post goes to the top of the thread by default (Facebook style), this was an incredibly straightforward thing to make happen. But I didn't have to face any of the issues you're faced with such as legacy support and even really security as my PhpBB install was closed off from the public.

Frankly I don't know what the big deal/problem is but if you want to have a "richer experience" you should turn back on the embedded media feature, I noticed a large pickup in activity on a lot of my common threads from people who rarely seen post and I think its for no other reason than seeing all the eye candy of my embedded tweet videos etc, it just livened up the whole thread, and that was only on for like 24 hours?..
It might sound shallow but people really respond to that kind of thing, Facebook has proven its not the substance that matters but the visual eye candy.

If its not being able to see media if you're not logged into the system, I don't think thats an issue, most forums deliberately disable a lot of features if you haven't joined. This also helps with reducing server loads and some people might deliberately hit the website's more intensive features just to overload it and drive up hosting costs.

I don't think there is that much you can do with people who use forums via mobile phone, this is for people who do minimum engagement, I find the Facebook ES to be quite limiting, logically it should only be really just a magnet for people to market/sell stuff because they know people who use it have limited browsing abilities.

Its impossible to make points of view that require more than a few words on Facebook, its just a slightly more heavy duty version of Instagram, do you want to compete with Instagram as well? I wouldn't think so. Appealing to these people goes down the wrong path in my opinion.
 
*nods*

Phpbb is really cool, i like how open source and hackable it is.
I could even fork it and start adding different features if i wanted.

But development of phpbb has crawled to a snail's pace and it has gone very dated compared to other sites people commonly use.
I hate facebook and want to shut ES FB down one day by making FB irrelevant by comparison, and that's the angle i want to take.
That doesn't mean turning this into facebook, no way.

This should be the best place to come and talk about this stuff to help stave off the slow death of web forum usage in general.
That means new features.. changes to the layout.. a better editor.. maybe even refresh some sticky posts and add some kind of knowledge base that's a bit easier to use than wikimedia... etc.

My vision is a nicer cleaner experience that's similar to what we see in stock vbulletin and other paid software.
Phpbb is functional, but it's not clean looking ( switch your theme to prosilver for a nice contrast )

Yeah i'm mad about that media plugin not working out and i'm glad we found some bugs within a short period of time. I like it so much that i feel like hacking on it to get it to behave. Showing media to guests is actually not bandwidth intensive on us, but the sites we're embedding, so that's not a concern.

I don't like mobile devices but mobile devices cannot be ignored, so some elements have to be shifted around because in my opinion, they really degrade the experience on a mobile screen. Mobile phones are 50%-60% of web traffic today and that number keeps growing.
I want a site that's nice to view on both formats and that's a fine balancing act that involves a lot of CSS..
 
Invision Power Board or something similar

Kill Facebook now

Don't try to migrate data or users just archive current site

fresh start
 
flathill said:
Invision Power Board or something similar

Kill Facebook now

Don't try to migrate data or users just archive current site

fresh start

Killing facebook / a fresh start is much easier said than done for a lot of reasons.

Invision is a paid message board that you can host yourself... answer me this..
What is better about it?

Show me an example of some board software that works better than ours and i will investigate it as an option.
So far, all leads have turned up cold because improvements over phpbb have been so small they didn't justify all the work.

Poor phpbb importation has usually been the deal breaker too.
But for a really special, really exceptional platform, i will reverse engineer the SQL format of both systems and write or improve upon an importer.

It has to really kick ass, or it isn't worth it to foist a radical change on our users.
 
neptronix, I'm not sure if the visual look or features of a website/forum will distract ppl from facebook or any other social media or vice versa.
fb and stuff is a PITA to use and is in NO way intended to act as a pool of knowledge. It's for ppl to stay in contact with their friends, post their meals and show the world in general how super cool they are. Nothing else imho.

So i think that ppl that are posting on FB will stay there, no matter what you do. I never post on FB as this info is LOST, and the community can not profit from it. This is something only a forum can deliver. But what i do, is guide ppl to E-S forum and tell them to ask for support there.

That's the best you can do i guess.
 
Many of you hare are not FB users and thus don't see the value of FB. Here is some perspective i have gleaned from ES FB users who said they stopped using our web forum.

These people prefer FB's groups format for the clean layout, responsiveness, and ease of use. Even though it is a horrible place to catalog and reference data. :oops:

The process to share a bunch of images and create a simple post is about 3 clicks on fb.
Downside: it is now TOO easy to spam a FB group and this encourages vapid, low effort content.
Upside: ease of use and responsibility means quicker engagement and response.

There are now 100's of ebike groups on facebook and i would say that ES FB is 1 of 3 which are decent for technical discussion and are properly moderated.

FB users are inherently better well behaved because they risk account suspension on the dominant platform. :lol:
Moderating FB is a dream compared to here.
That is the only downside of the web forum.

Web forums can be responsive, clean, and easy to use and ultimately be far better for all users.
None of that is rocket science. Good UIs have been designed and can be copied and modified.
Javascript libraries for ajax are all over the place.
phpBB has a ton of cool extensions that need to be hacked on so that they work on the 3.2.x branch.

Even phpBB 3.2.x is a bad base for *really* getting up to the standard of modern web sites.
I put out a feeler for crowdfunding and got just enough money to pay the server bill.. we do not have the funding to maintain a fork of phpBB. Not even close.

So the current plan is to patch on to what we have until 3.3.x comes out or vanilla forums 2.7 turns out to be as awesome as they say it is.

Deep content is what a forum is for and the #1 dealmaker for the future platform will be how good of a post editor it has.
Having to teach users how to create image attachments and wade through BBcode while editing a post was okay in the 1990's.... not today.

The good news is that facebook and other sites have backed themselves into formats that do not allow depth of content :mrgreen:
 
neptronix said:
flathill said:
Invision Power Board or something similar

Kill Facebook now

Don't try to migrate data or users just archive current site

fresh start

Killing facebook / a fresh start is much easier said than done for a lot of reasons.

Invision is a paid message board that you can host yourself... answer me this..
What is better about it?

Show me an example of some board software that works better than ours and i will investigate it as an option.
So far, all leads have turned up cold because improvements over phpbb have been so small they didn't justify all the work.

Poor phpbb importation has usually been the deal breaker too.
But for a really special, really exceptional platform, i will reverse engineer the SQL format of both systems and write or improve upon an importer.

It has to really kick ass, or it isn't worth it to foist a radical change on our users.

most board software is all the same as far as raw functionality

what would be nice is more modern look (skins) to attract the next generation of users

also better image/video/mobile-browser support
 
That's pretty much what i found. Little difference between message board software. Mostly it is nicer looks.
We can do nicer looks on this forum. I've put a small dent in it so far and will continue chipping away at it over time.
We've looked into nicer themes and came up empty handed because people are not producing them.

I've asked the phpbb team what their plans are for the media embed plugin because it gives us item #3 with some hacking on the plugin.
I will happily do the hacking if 3.3.x doesn't break it.
 
If you want ES Facebook users to move over here, you could do what Trump did and hire a bunch of Russians. I got no idea how or what Russians did on Facebook, but I am curious. Ask R****. :wink:

To get new members over here. Here is what I would do. Pretend you want to find a electric bicycle forum. I go to Google and type in electric bicycle forum

electricbike.com/forum is number 1
electricbikereview.com/forum is number 2
electricbikereview.com/forum/forums/general is number 3
endless-sphere.com/forums is number 4

The next thing I would do is look at each forum and look at the Last posts to see if they were a year or hour ago. I like forums with active members and recent posts from hours or minutes ago. From my knowledge of the internet the way to get to the top of the first page in a search is text. Yes TEXT. Search engines use spiders who crawl around and look for text.

Wondering why endless-sphere.com/forums uses the word forums? Top 3 sites in my search use the word forum. These guys do it differently.
phpbb.com/community
In the Community they have Support Forums, Extensions Forums, Styles Forums, or phpbb.com/community/viewforum.php?f=6

After my FORUM search and poking around in different forums. I be looking to buy a electric bicycle hub motor

See the local place is closed for the winter.
Pedego Electric Bikes Buffalo - Temporarily Closed til May 1st

https://www.ebikes.ca/product-info/grin-kits.html is on bottom of the first page. I like this picture.
2016_MotorSpread_900px.jpg

If you selling electric bicycle hub motor or electric bicycle hub motors or ebike motor these are the words that should be on the web site.

I might be weird but I enjoy looking at web sites and right click / [View Page Source] to see how it looks to a search engine spider. I might have been a spider in one of my past lives?
 
You are right; our forum has been spread by word of mouth for over a decade, but we've been out-SEO'd and SEO matters in this day and age since web indexer bots cannot understand the difference in content, we need to play the search engines' game.

Certainly part of the plan we'll need to have a discussion on in the future.
 
@neptronix: As we just see in this "If 48V paired with 25A controller And 60V paired with 20A controller....." topic right now: There is SO much false information on FB.
There is no discussion, and people just claim that they know the truth and don't even realise that they have no clue what they're talking about.
It's not like "i THINK ..." or "in my opinion". No. It's clear statements and ppl take them for truth.
 
I'm gonna say it right now since my FB users are probably not reading this... :mrgreen:

Facebook's design encourages shrill content and makes it far too easy to re-post garbage content without really thinking about it. In addition, their algorithms prioritize more bombastic content which is more often than not, garbage as well.

It is also great to use on a mobile phone, and most people use it on a mobile phone.. but this is a very limited computer and researching things to find the facts is much harder, especially searching.. so most people don't even bother.

Facebook is actually more like a chat room with -15 IQ points than it is a forum.


We do some quality control on ES FB posts and discourage people from posting garbage, but it is a daily job of nudging people in the right direction for me, other moderators, and long time forum members. The smart people do not spend time on facebook; so it is a place for ES oldtimers to teach the next generation.

( although that's somewhat true here as well. It's just that we have a better oldtimer to noob ratio. )

I have looked at other facebook groups on our topic. ES Facebook was the first large ebike DIY group, but now there's hundreds. 95% of them have no quality control and even allow spam in their groups. These places are wastelands of misinformation to me, but that is what most people are used to seeing on facebook, so that way of thinking slips into our group as people bounce out of those groups and into ours.

The future of electric vehicle discussion is absolutely on web forums. But web forums are stuck in the early 2000's, design wise. I've taken this board to maybe mid 2000's standards, but there are a lot of blockades to get it to 2018.. some technical.. most of them personal..
 
Good afternoon:

I just found your forum looking for some information on building an electric motorcycle conversion.

Your discussion is similar to the dilemmas I face with my vintage motorcycle boards. Facebook is a great marketing tool for your web community if well used.

I also have a PHPBB forum I administer as a volunteer. I inherited the board and know little about it. My sites have been built in Joomla using Kunena as a forum base. Lots of website options, responsive design. Active open source development community. The problem is no easy conversion from PHPBB to Kunena, though I have a line on a converter that has promise.

Just tossing that out for information if you hadn’t looked at Joomla/Kunena.

My site if you want to look at it is www.Yamaha-Enduros.com that runs the Joomla setup.
 
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