Future of Nexus' Dragonlance Forums

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Dragonhelm
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Future of Nexus' Dragonlance Forums

Post by Dragonhelm »

Folks, I have just posted this announcement on the Dragonlance Forums that the Nexus hosts. I will quote the text here.
Dragonhelm wrote:Dear friends,

I recently got a message from Shannon Appelcline, who hosts this forum and the Lexicon on the RPG.net servers. They are making some changes on their end, which means that I'm faced with a choice. I can either move the forums and Lexicon, update them to a new format, or in the case of these forums, kill it. Or I could take over this server at a cost of $20 a month. Note that I am not a server admin.

The Dragonlance Forums have existed for 17 years. However, the version of vBulletin that it's on is severely dated. The back-end gets hammered with thousands of spam accounts.

The simple truth is, as much as I love what we have built here, it's become a very niche forum with little traffic. So I am considering shutting it down.

I can set up a new instance of vBulletin and start over, moving over the threads that are the most important to keep. Or we could go to the vBulletin Cloud format, which would have automatic updates, but would cost $15 a month.

Or, I could copy the important threads over to The Piazza's Dragonlance forums and call it a day.

Also, we need to consider that the Dragonlance fan community is mostly on Facebook now with the Dragonlance Adventures group.

So tell me, what scenario would you like to see?
I wanted to give a heads-up here as there is some crossover. If I did make this move, that means the Piazza would be the home for Dragonlance message boards.

So give me your thoughts on this move.
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Re: Future of Nexus' Dragonlance Forums

Post by Havard »

Sad to see the DL Nexus forum in this position. All DL fans will of course be very welcome here tho!

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Re: Future of Nexus' Dragonlance Forums

Post by shesheyan »

I've seen so many forums close in the last 3 years. It can't be helped. We are at the end of an era. No one I know, under the age of 35, wants to register to forums. They only use social media.

Thank you for doing what you did for so long. I've used the Nexus from time to time over the years. Very helpful.

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Re: Future of Nexus' Dragonlance Forums

Post by Big Mac »

Copied over from the topic on the Dragonlance Forums (at the Nexus):
Dragonhelm wrote:Dear friends,

I recently got a message from Shannon Appelcline, who hosts this forum and the Lexicon on the RPG.net servers. They are making some changes on their end, which means that I'm faced with a choice. I can either move the forums and Lexicon, update them to a new format, or in the case of these forums, kill it. Or I could take over this server at a cost of $20 a month. Note that I am not a server admin.

The Dragonlance Forums have existed for 17 years. However, the version of vBulletin that it's on is severely dated. The back-end gets hammered with thousands of spam accounts.

The simple truth is, as much as I love what we have built here, it's become a very niche forum with little traffic. So I am considering shutting it down.

I can set up a new instance of vBulletin and start over, moving over the threads that are the most important to keep. Or we could go to the vBulletin Cloud format, which would have automatic updates, but would cost $15 a month.
I'm really sorry to see this. I've had an account here longer than I've had an account at The Piazza. And would be sorry to see these forums go.

Is there any way you could migrate the vBulletin database over to phpBB? phpBB is free to use and many hosting companies support it.

If you set up the software correctly, you can have questions that block spambot sign ups. And if you add in a Stop Forum Spam module, you can report anyone who manually signs up to spam, so that all forums using Stop Forum Spam automatically ban that spammer. (So you can join a neighborhood watch" organisation that keeps spammers away.)

That would be a bunch of work, but it could get rid of your vBulletin costs forever and maybe give you the option to raise funds for a one-time-process to save your forum (instead of having the forums leech cash).
Dragonhelm wrote:Or, I could copy the important threads over to The Piazza's Dragonlance forums and call it a day.

Also, we need to consider that the Dragonlance fan community is mostly on Facebook now with the Dragonlance Adventures group.

So tell me, what scenario would you like to see?
I've not spoken to the rest of the team at The Piazza yet, but I know that we would be happy to have the DL fans here come to our Dragonlance forum (and Taladas forum), if it comes to that.

I don't think we could promise the large range of forums you have here, but The Piazza has a long history of supporting projects, that includes private project forums (for things like the Mystara fanzine and Spelljammer fanzine). So we might even be able to help you transfer over a small number of Nexus admin projects, that you want to continue running on forums.

I don't think we could have the massive range of forums you have here, replicated at The Piazza, but, if things have slowed down here, concentrating all the discussions into a central Dragonlance forum, will create a situation where all the Dragonlance fans see everything that people want to talk about. (And if people wanted to build up to having things like an Adlantum subforum, they could use '[Adlataum]" tags, and that could be looked into later. Check out the Mystara forum at The Piazza, to see what a campaign setting forum, with lots of projects looks like on our website.)

What sort of deadline are you up against, if you decide to dump these forums?

You might want to put out the word, to see if anyone can make a script to suck posts out of topics.

You might also want to see if someone can make a script to crawl the Dragonlance Forums and submit every single URL to the Wayback Machine, so that you can store a backup there. (You might also be able to reach out to someone who works for the Wayback Machine, to see if they can crawl the Dragonlance Forums for you.)
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Re: Future of Nexus' Dragonlance Forums

Post by Havard »

shesheyan wrote:
Wed Jul 29, 2020 9:37 pm
I've seen so many forums close in the last 3 years. It can't be helped. We are at the end of an era. No one I know, under the age of 35, wants to register to forums.
Most of the people here at The Piazza are probably 35 of older. I hope most of us will be hanging out here for a long time still though :)

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Re: Future of Nexus' Dragonlance Forums

Post by Tim Baker »

I wonder if it's possible to automate the migration of the existing forums to the Piazza, to retain that content. Seems like the type of challenge that people have faced in the past and likely have solutions for. I was able to work with the folks at Tapatalk to migrate the 13th Age and Kobold Press G+ communities' content to the Tapatalk forums, for example. That exact solution wouldn't work here, but it made me think there might be an equivalent way to automate the move. I hate to think so much history would be lost.

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Re: Future of Nexus' Dragonlance Forums

Post by shesheyan »

Havard wrote:
Wed Jul 29, 2020 10:25 pm
shesheyan wrote:
Wed Jul 29, 2020 9:37 pm
I've seen so many forums close in the last 3 years. It can't be helped. We are at the end of an era. No one I know, under the age of 35, wants to register to forums.
Most of the people here at The Piazza are probably 35 of older. I hope most of us will be hanging out here for a long time still though :)

-Havard
I did sign up with several Old School D&D FB groups for a time. The age groups are the same as here. But it is not the same experience. I prefer having everything under one umbrella.

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Re: Future of Nexus' Dragonlance Forums

Post by maddog »

DL Nexus fans are very welcome here. New ideas are what keep the settings alive.
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Re: Future of Nexus' Dragonlance Forums

Post by Falconer »

I would like to at least explore the possibility of a full migration of the DLForums database into The Piazza database. If the admins here are unwilling to do it, that’s fine, but I would like at least to consider it, and not just assume it’s impossible or even improbable. There is HUGE value in the DLForums backlog of posts. If you Google anything Dragonlance-related, some substantial discussion from that forum is likely to come up. So I’m just putting this out there as an ideal, if not super-easy, solution. Here’s how I think it would work:
  • There are three main forums on DLForums of archival value: Novels, Gaming, and Community. I don’t suppose any of the other areas need to be saved (feel free to chime in if you disagree).
  • On DLForums, delete all other forums than the three mentioned. Then, delete all members who have 0 posts. (Of course you have backups.)
  • On DLForums, merge the remaining forums into the future configuration, i.e., into however many forums The Piazza is going to allow us.
  • Export the DB of (remaining) posts and members.
  • In the DB, edit the post id numbers wherever they occur, adding 260000 (?) to each instance.
  • Find the members who are already on The Piazza and edit their id numbers to match their id numbers here. (For example, I am 439 there and 2685 here. Change all posts “owned by” 439 and change that value to 2685.) Then delete those members.
  • Edit the member id numbers of the remaining members wherever they occur, adding 18000 (?) to each instance.
  • The forum ids would also have to be changed to new values. Alternately, this can have already been insured as part of step 3, above.
  • Import the members and posts into the Piazza DB.
It would be a bit of effort (I of course volunteer to help, if it’s welcome), but honestly it’s not really a new thing that hasn’t been done before, rather it is definitely a thing which is doable. The question is whether there exists the will to do so. Are the Piazza admins willing and able to host such a large addition to their DB?

The reason I consider it ideal is because it would be seamless. Users could log in here, search their posts, quote their posts, make new posts, etc. Hosting it here has the added benefit of an active community that will respond to posts if you make it, because people are in the habit of coming here.

There are other good solutions, but, I hope this one can be considered. I don’t think The Piazza has ever imported an entire forum before, but, this could be a good test case, because I think we all know DLForums are not the last forum that will ever close which The Piazza may be in a good position to rescue.
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Re: Future of Nexus' Dragonlance Forums

Post by agathokles »

As a general note, people may also want to explore the option of creating static mirrors of boards that are being dismissed. While obviously suboptimal with respect to a true migration, a static mirror is easy and secure to host -- it requires only space, but no special software or authentication, so it can survive longer than an unmantainable instance of an old bulletin board software.

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Re: Future of Nexus' Dragonlance Forums

Post by Sturm »

Falconer wrote:
Thu Jul 30, 2020 6:13 pm
I would like to at least explore the possibility of a full migration of the DLForums database into The Piazza database.
If it could be done, that would be a great solution. I'd love to have The Piazza as the home of the Dragonlance forum too with full archive. I was registered there too but I think I've only lurked, but still Dragonlance is one of my favorite campaign settings so it would be great to save its discussions here.
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Re: Future of Nexus' Dragonlance Forums

Post by Falconer »

Falconer wrote:
Thu Jul 30, 2020 6:13 pm
There is HUGE value in the DLForums backlog of posts. If you Google anything Dragonlance-related, some substantial discussion from that forum is likely to come up.
And BTW, maybe this will be boon to The Piazza, too—if all these hits from Web search engines lead here.
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Re: Future of Nexus' Dragonlance Forums

Post by Dragonhelm »

I need to catch up on this topic, so bear with me. In the meantime, here is my last post on the topic at the DL Forums.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Making a decision here is hard for me, as I was here when this forum was built and it's been my baby.

So here are our options.

1. I pony up $20 a month to take over this server. We continue to run on an outdated version of the software. We continue to have issues with about 250,000 spam accounts. While most have never been activated, we see too many of them on a regular basis.

2. I create a brand-spanking new DL Forums on the same hosting I have the Nexus. I have a license for an updated version of vBulletin, the software that runs these forums. Basically, we start from scratch, but we port over those topics that are worth keeping.

NOTE: My prior attempts at updating this software have not worked and I was advised by a friend with knowledge of vBulletin that I should stick with the current version.

3. We go to the cloud version of the software. It would be a $15 a month fee, BUT the software updates automatically. Huge bonus there.

4. We scrap this forum, and you guys head over to the Piazza's Dragonlance forums. The folks over at the Piazza are very friendly and welcoming and they have said they will welcome anyone from this forum. Plus they talk about other RPG settings and game systems. So if, for example, you're a huge Ravenloft fan, you would have a place to talk about that there. No matter what, check those forums out.


My take...

I would rather not deal with #1. I just feel tired when I think about it and I hate not having the control I want. I'm tired of relying on others, even when they have been most generous.

Part of me is excited at the idea of a new forum, but I just don't think there would be enough traffic. Prove me wrong on this!

So I don't know. I'm trying not to make any rash decisions and I am trying to keep all of you in mind. At the same time, I'm trying to keep in mind trends with online communities.

So...thoughts?
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Re: Future of Nexus' Dragonlance Forums

Post by Dragonhelm »

Falconer wrote:
Thu Jul 30, 2020 6:13 pm
I would like to at least explore the possibility of a full migration of the DLForums database into The Piazza database. If the admins here are unwilling to do it, that’s fine, but I would like at least to consider it, and not just assume it’s impossible or even improbable. There is HUGE value in the DLForums backlog of posts. If you Google anything Dragonlance-related, some substantial discussion from that forum is likely to come up. So I’m just putting this out there as an ideal, if not super-easy, solution. Here’s how I think it would work:
  • There are three main forums on DLForums of archival value: Novels, Gaming, and Community. I don’t suppose any of the other areas need to be saved (feel free to chime in if you disagree).
  • On DLForums, delete all other forums than the three mentioned. Then, delete all members who have 0 posts. (Of course you have backups.)
  • On DLForums, merge the remaining forums into the future configuration, i.e., into however many forums The Piazza is going to allow us.
  • Export the DB of (remaining) posts and members.
  • In the DB, edit the post id numbers wherever they occur, adding 260000 (?) to each instance.
  • Find the members who are already on The Piazza and edit their id numbers to match their id numbers here. (For example, I am 439 there and 2685 here. Change all posts “owned by” 439 and change that value to 2685.) Then delete those members.
  • Edit the member id numbers of the remaining members wherever they occur, adding 18000 (?) to each instance.
  • The forum ids would also have to be changed to new values. Alternately, this can have already been insured as part of step 3, above.
  • Import the members and posts into the Piazza DB.
It would be a bit of effort (I of course volunteer to help, if it’s welcome), but honestly it’s not really a new thing that hasn’t been done before, rather it is definitely a thing which is doable. The question is whether there exists the will to do so. Are the Piazza admins willing and able to host such a large addition to their DB?

The reason I consider it ideal is because it would be seamless. Users could log in here, search their posts, quote their posts, make new posts, etc. Hosting it here has the added benefit of an active community that will respond to posts if you make it, because people are in the habit of coming here.

There are other good solutions, but, I hope this one can be considered. I don’t think The Piazza has ever imported an entire forum before, but, this could be a good test case, because I think we all know DLForums are not the last forum that will ever close which The Piazza may be in a good position to rescue.
I've considered this. It would be a fairly massive undertaking. You would be taking a vBulletin database, merging the appropriate fields with a phpBB database (which is structured differently), merge duplicate users (which may be hard to tell), update the post counts and post IDs, update the BB code (which is slightly different), etc.

It's doable. Unfortunately, it's beyond my skill set.

We could look at CMS 2 CMS. Just a quick estimate using their calculator is that it would cost $1,169 (not including tax or anything).

Big Mac, what do you think? And if you want to take this offline, let me know.
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Re: Future of Nexus' Dragonlance Forums

Post by Tim Baker »

Dragonhelm wrote:
Fri Jul 31, 2020 7:33 pm
I've considered this. It would be a fairly massive undertaking. You would be taking a vBulletin database, merging the appropriate fields with a phpBB database (which is structured differently), merge duplicate users (which may be hard to tell), update the post counts and post IDs, update the BB code (which is slightly different), etc.
I'm sure it's far from trivial. It looks like folks have come up with some scripts to help with the process. Here's one that I found: https://www.phpbb.com/community/viewtop ... #p13252438.
Dragonhelm wrote:
Fri Jul 31, 2020 7:33 pm
We could look at CMS 2 CMS. Just a quick estimate using their calculator is that it would cost $1,169 (not including tax or anything).
That's a great find. It might be worth an experiment just to see how easy/painful it is. That's a steep price, but I wonder if there's enough support across the communities for a GoFundMe to raise the money.

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Re: Future of Nexus' Dragonlance Forums

Post by Dragonhelm »

What would you all think about copying over some of the top threads from the DL Forums to the Piazza DL forums and calling it a day?
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