Why use the Discourse forum software?


Continuing the discussion from About the Meta category:

Why Discourse? As their FAQ begins, Discourse serves as a mailing list, a forum, and a long-form chat. Mailing lists and IRC (chat) have worked for decades for thousands of projects, and forums are looked down upon by net old timers. But forums seem much more usable by everyone else, and WIFO wants everyone to be involved.

Discouse also serves as a lightweight wiki (posts may be turned into wikis editable by all but the newest users; this is one), and wikis are another very useful communications tool that nonetheless aren’t very usable by everyone. Discourse can also provide the commenting feature of a blog (forthcoming).

One day WIFO may outgrow Discourse as its primary communications tool (that’ll be a good problem to have) but until then, we’re very happy to use a forum-centric tool that subsumes mailing lists, chat, wikis, blog comments, and has improved the forum state of the art.

Still, it’s worth noting a few concerns that came up while evaluating Discourse:

  • It seems quite resource intensive on the server (it’s a Ruby-on-Rails application, meaning it consumes lots of processing power and memory) and probably on the client too (lots of javascript). It must be acknowledged that this is bad for the environment. We are not confident that d.wifo.org will hold up to getting linked from the front page of any high profile news/discussion site, nor that a single user will have a good experience over a bad net connection. Discourse developers’ general answer to this sort of concern is that it is software for the next decade, during which computing and communications will get much cheaper and faster (a near certainty, modulo disaster likely accompanied by the net not continuing to work as we know it). If we should have the good problem to have of being too popular, we can buy hosting from the Discourse developers and let them keep the site up no matter the volume.
  • A nice feature of mailing lists is that they are easiy archived by many parties, and lots-of-copies-keeps-stuff-safe. A centralized web forum is not as amenable to such distributed archiving. Web archives such as the Ineternet Archive’s wayback machine do archive Discourse forums, since Discourse provides a very plain HTML interface for non-JS clients. We try to remove one tiny obstacle to archiving completely, by requiring posts to d.wifo.org be public domain.
  • Discourse doesn’t federate.
  • It isn’t clear after some extremely cursory research what the best practice is for supporting forums in different langugages on the same Discourse site (another problem we’d like to have), nor just how accessible the software is by default (update: apparently now pretty good). As Discourse is becoming super-popular, it’s probably a fair bet that these will be addressed, as they’re things that large numbers of users do care about and some organization will eventually want to (perhaps for some policy compliance reason) pay for.
  • Discourse is getting super-popular. It could be just a fad, marking any site running the software a decade from now as a mid-2010s vintage site. The Discourse developers seem to have a solid business supporting ongoing development, so there’s some reason to hope that Discourse will be more than a fad and will stay fresh for more than a decade (as for example WordPress has).

If you enjoy this site or Discourse generally and feel strongly about one of these concerns, consider getting involved in Discourse development or learn about and help us better implement current best practices achievable with the software on this site.

Shuttleworth fellowship application open draft
Mozilla 2015 Advocacy Plan

I am suprised your instance is working so well for me. I’ve considered Discourse before, but I use Firefox for Android, and it is not supported: http://www.discourse.org/faq/#tablet-phone

I normally can’t read Discourse site on my mobile, but your works. Writing this is less fun though (random weirdness).

Hopefully it get better. :slight_smile:


I should’ve thought to test with phone. Am posting this reply with Firefox Android. Seems to work, and look reasonable.


Just looking at discourse.org, great there is a company behind this and looks like their eyes are on mobile and tablets, so that is good enough in my opinion. There are some clients as well, but this really gets the ball rolling. Goodjob.


Testing reply-by-email which I thought was working but one report of not.
It works (if this makes it to the site)! :slight_smile:


Testing reply-by-email which I thought was working but one report of not.
It works (if this makes it to the site)! :slight_smile:


I was having some issues with my version of Firefox on my mobile, but that may be an isolated instance.

I wanted to say that after reading up on this a bit more, I think it is a good idea. Discourse is one of those projects that I check up on every six months, and it has grown a lot in the last half year.

Are you running it out of a Docker image on DO?

I had no idea it had revisions, BTW, and that is a huge deal! I could be using Discourse for a project I have coming up.


And I wanted to test out the reply by email feature… :slight_smile:


Yes, I’m running on DO, followed https://github.com/discourse/discourse/blob/master/docs/INSTALL-cloud.md as closely as possible.

Revisions were the thing that tipped it for me.

I was also enthusiastic about Discourse when it launched. 2 year time capsule: http://autonomo.us/2013/02/06/discourse/


I added the Discourse tagging plugin as it’ll be useful to see topics related to some particular problem (say patents) or organization (say mozilla) or something else that categories aren’t structured around. Topics can have multiple tags and users who have contributed a bit can create new tags (the only UI for doing so seems to be when creating or editing a topic). Anyone can browse current tags.

How to help/get involved with WIFO?

Apparently Discourse made lots of improvements to accessibility recently, see https://meta.discourse.org/t/accessibility-software-and-discourse/13711/34

With these enhancements in the past few days, the major functionality of Discourse became much more accessible! I will probably run into other little things as I continue to use various instances of Discourse, and will report them ASAP. But if all these are so easy to fix, we should be in good shape!

I don’t know whether these updates are deployed here yet, but probably will be soon as the software gets frequent updates which I duly install. This progress makes me feel much better about choosing Discourse.


Had no idea it had e-mail integration. That’s awesome. Now all it needs is NNTP support, then we have perfection. :wink:

( http://what.thedailywtf.com/t/discourse-to-nntp-gateway/4660/6 !! And IRC! )


That’s great! Also edited bullet on archiving due to your pump.

BTW regarding forum software with NNTP support, http://forum.dlang.org/help#about looks impressive, perhaps mainly because it is very fast. I would’ve seriously considered it, but didn’t look ready for relatively pain-free deployment yet, and as mentioned above I got hooked by Discourse’s wiki-light features.


Very cool. Will check out DFeed in my Copious Spare Time.


Web fonts are one of the things that can make the web seem slow, bloated, and help surveillance, so I occasionally try turning them off. But lots of sites use them for navigation icons (and there are good reasons) making such sites much less usable with web fonts turned off. Apparently the last time I tried was last year as it hadn’t occurred to me that Discourse uses web fonts for navigation icons. A recent HN discussion spurred me to try again.

A couple threads on Discourse Meta: Please no icon fonts (2013, closed), Are icon fonts like Font Awesome necessary? (2015).

It’s not that big a deal to either turn web fonts back on (or I suppose manage on a per-site basis with something like NoScript) or to deal with I guess less than half of Discourse navigation being invisible or a random character (seems a substantial amount of it falls back something semi-reasonable; I suppose ones that don’t could be fixed one at a time, starting with the “search” magnifying glass).

Just recording my notes here, but if anyone reading this is really worked up maybe above gives some hints about where to start fixing things. :slight_smile:


Icon fonts were neat back before browsers got decent SVG support, but mostly they have that now.

As long as such fonts are hosted locally of the server the site is on it’s not too bad from a privacy point of view.


A US$25k vote for Discourse (in addition to/because of Mozilla running several Discourse instances; noted):

Somewhat apropos of other topics as well:

  • Supporting commons-based projects a company/organization depends on ought be a relatively easy open private policy to adopt; hopefully the Mozilla Open Source Support program will be widely copied.
  • I wish and hope that Mozilla will support its own Persona (noted) as part of MOSS or in a more substantial way.