Recent forum changes

In this thread I’ll keep you up to date on changes implemented on the forum. This includes recent major updates, new plugins, different setup of categories, UI/UX changes, etc.

Major changes may be treated as Projects and carry the discourse tag.

I’ve enabled an official plugin for topic thumbnails. It makes the multi-media topics a bit more attractive. I’ve only enabled it for Videos and Images… Since many topics don’t get a thumbnail and then you’re just wasting space with default thumbnail icons that are distracting from the real content.

I also installed the latest update last week, check out the changes below.

I added and enabled a theme component which makes it more clear what a category is about by creating a banner of the “about category” text. Example can be seen here: Videos

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The Jitsi provider (for video/voice meetings) is now using the public instance rather then our own self-hosted solution. The reason for this is that this service isn’t used much. The main benefit of hosting it ourselves is more flexibility and moderation. By not hosting our own Jitsi anymore we will free up resources on the server, allowing us to downgrade the resource requirements and cut down the financial cost to host the forum in half. Our own Jitsi will retire in the coming month.

Another change is that we will move from Plausible to Matomo. Both are self-hosted, but the Matomo instance is hosted on another server from @chapter_netherlands. Both Plausible and Matomo are privacy friendly alternatives for Google Analytics. Plausibe will also retire the coming month, freeing up resources as well.

Maintenance announcement

On the 15th and 16th of July the forum will be in maintenance and thus limited available. On these days I’ll move the forum to a new VPS (virtual machine in a data center). If the maintenance is done sooner it will be of course available sooner. It will most likely go into read-only mode on the 15th until sufficient backups/snapshots have been made.

As an experiment, I’ve put the latest view as the default view on the forum. With that the footer becomes mostly invisible, thus I moved those items to the top in collapsible menus. This will put latest content more in the forefront rather than categories. And may engage people more. You can always change this in your profile. I’ll add icons to the menus sometime later. Hopefully soon I’ll be able to add the social media buttons to the hamburger menu in the upper right corner. But the current theme component doesn’t let me (yet).

I’ll change it soon as well, I want it to be more simple but still with all the info. Suggestions are welcome of course. I also have to make sure it doesn’t become confusing what can be found where. There are now 3 areas where info can be found. Hamburger menu, top menu and the menu where you can select docs, wikis, latest, categories, app and such. I’ll improve this ASAP :slight_smile:

Also installed the latest Discourse version, change log is below.

Edit: I think I’ll revert back to the categories layout with the original footer. Much easier to find things that way. People can always change their layout themselves.

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Tomorrow late in the afternoon (CEST timezone) the forum will go into read-only mode. You can still visit the forum, but you cannot post, comment, like or change anything else. This is to prepare for the maintenance scheduled for the day after.

The forum may be limited available during the next few days.

Installed a security update, which also added some features and bugfixes.

The forum was successfully moved to the new server! :tada: Thanks @kublermdk for the assist!
For those who missed it. I’ve moved the forum to a cheaper hardware tier. This makes the forum also financially more sustainable and attractive.

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If you feel like it, it’s always nice to have some images on how much it all costs to host.

We now have this hardware tier and after contacting the VPS provider, I could get a 50% discount for one year. So it’s 6 euro per month, some taxes is added to that. So it’s around 10 euro per month. This is totally fine to sustain for the long haul. The features of the VPS dashboard are also advanced enough (snapshots, automated backups, firewall, monitoring, reverse DNS, etc.) The previous setup was a more beefy system because it also ran Jitsi and Plausible.

This smaller VPS runs just fine as you notice, also because of some hardware tuning with tuned and adjusting some systemd units with cgroup constraints for memory, CPU and IO priorities.

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I’ve disabled the user cards and user overview for anonymous users (people that don’t have an account and thus cannot login). This may give some privacy boost, it may also make the forum look less social. You can check it out what I mean by opening the forum in a private browser window. People will not be able to open your user card and know the last time you logged in, commented, your badges, etc. Some stats are still public, such as the about, groups and badges pages.

If you have an opinion, let me know.

Disable user cards and lists for more privacy?
  • Yes
  • No

0 voters

I enabled 2 awesome features. I already enabled category banners, such as can be seen at Train of thought. I’ve also enabled tag banners. I haven’t created a description for all, because most of them are self explanatory. But for example the transition tags (strategic_access, open-source, localization, automation and digital_feedback) may be unclear to people, as well as culture_in_decline. There is a bug in there, the hyphens cannot be hidden in the banner at the moment. Once that’s fixed I’ll re-enable that option to make the headers look more natural.

And as you might’ve noticed, sometimes there is a banner at the top of the forum, providing some useful info for new users. I’ve replaced that with a more fancy banner that’s only visible to users that aren’t logged in or have trust level 1 or lower. Trust level 2 can be reached when being active on the forum for about 2 weeks. This way new users will hopefully be familiar enough with the forum in a more natural flow without bothering veteran users that otherwise have to dismiss this message. And it allows me to use the topic banners to inform people of really important stuff, such as maintenance.

Screenshot 2022-07-23 at 12-00-30 TZM Community Forum - The Zeitgeist Movement Community Forum

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In addition to the previous privacy enhancement, I’ve now also made group memberships invisible to users that are not logged in.

Installed the latest security update. This also includes some new features, more info below.

I also replaced the category Uncategorized with Lounge. Just a category for off-topic stuff but then more manageable since the Uncategorized category was a default one in Discourse. This didn’t allow any customization. It also contains the Templates (for quick replies, only for TL3 and higher) and anything else that’s not really TZM related, but has a place here as well. Since we don’t have the default Uncategorized category anymore, I also enabled the option that people first have to chose their category before they can type a message. This will hopefully make people more considerate of where they want to post their topic.

I’ve changed the description of 2 trust level groups. TL3 was called regular, which is now called core member. You can promote yourself with good behavior on the forum to TL3. This is based on how active you are on the forum and how the community appreciates you back. Like described in the TZM Activist Guide, core members are the people that keep the bunch together and take the initiative.

Then there is TL4, which was called core member before, and is now called trusted member. These are basically TL3 users, but have shown a nag for being examples on the forum and uphold the ethics and are actively helping new users to re-organize their topics and such. TL4 basically is a soft moderator role and allows much of the abilities of a moderator. A true moderator is still able to do more, as can be seen in the table below.

The naming change is to make things a bit more clear. Discourse originally calls a TL4 user a leader. But since we’re a grassroots movement, that label doesn’t fit very well. A TL3 user originally is called a regular by Discourse. Which is fine, but core member is more descriptive in our lingo.

It’s a small change, but aligns the forum a bit more to our movement and also makes these trust levels a bit more descriptive.

I’ve also reset a few users to their trust level based on their reputation on the forum. That also includes myself! :stuck_out_tongue: I was TL4, but that doesn’t add anything, since I’m already an admin. I actually have a TL2 reputation. TL3 is close though, for me it just requires one more like from an unique user.

I’ll restrain myself from promoting users from now on because the natural flow of these trust levels make more sense. The abilities require understanding of the forum. No shortcuts can be taken there, unless experienced on other Discourse forums of course.

In addition, TL1 was called basic and is now called a sympathizing user. Basic sounds borderline offensive I think, although it should be seen in the context of trust level, not like a status.

Hopefully soon the theme “Focused Sidebar” will become publicly available . It’s now being tested by Discourse, you can try it out there already. It merges also very well with the recent feature release of chat. I’m considering switching to this theme once it’s out and works stable. It also has dark mode builtin, like the theme we use now.

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I’ve added 2 more plugins. One is for online status, but without showing usernames. I think forums work less stressful because things are asynchronous. If people see someone online, they might expect that person to respond. I don’t want that. But at least people will be able to get a general idea of how many people are there in the moment. Which could still be harmful, in the sense of still having expectations from people and then be disappointed. But I’ll try it out and see if people enjoy this, or not. This is visible to TL0 and higher.

And then the “best” one I suppose. There are just 2 channels. One is for staff (admins and mods) and one is called Lounge, which is for everyone with TL2 and higher. Note that channels auto-delete messages after 90 days. This is for a reason. Chat is always meant to be ephemeral and should be treated as such. This is also the default in Discourse. But no worries, you can quote chats and export them to a thread, making them persistent, when needed.

So both are an experiment. I’m not a fan of in the moment features, because they create expectations and when those expectations are not met, people might get frustrated. That in combination with more real-time interaction could be toxic for an online community. But I’m ready to be proven wrong here :nerd_face:

There is no integration with Matrix yet… So no bridge to Discord either. Which really sucks. But at least we can already have a go with chat on the forum.

Tomorrow morning I’ll install the update below.

Building tables is now easier!

Column 1 Column 2 Column 3 Column 4
Just a test Seems to work nice and easy

I also only allowed Chat for trust level 1 and higher. This is not to exclude people. If people are active on the forum (read, comment, like, reply) in total for 10 minutes, they already get TL1. It’s mostly to combat spam bots (in case they get through) and to limit exposure to too many features for new users.