tl;dr: We’re going to try to move the mailing list and web forums to a new piece of software. Please go to https://discourse.libsdl.org/ and claim your account. You can still use it as a mailing list or a web forum. This list will (probably) be going away soon.
So this is an experiment with Discourse (https://discourse.org/), to see if we can solve our mailing list and forum woes:
Problems we currently have:
- The forum software is wildly out of date, and couldn’t be upgraded without losing the email bridge. Upgrading the software breaks a fundamental feature we rely on, not upgrading it is a massive security risk. We tried–and failed–to move the web server to PHP7; the forums needed massive work to just run at all. Serious problems, like not being able to register an account or post a reply, were failing silently, so we could never be sure if we ever really had fixed it up completely. For now we have dropped the web server back to PHP5, but being trapped on old versions of basic software to support old versions of custom software is doubly bad.
- The spammers on the forums were brutal; they couldn’t actually post because we had to approve the accounts, but they’d just flood our SMTP server with backscatter trying to make thousands of accounts, all day long.
- We have to manually approve forum accounts in the first place.
- The mailing list was unreliable, and would lose mail, lose the archives, etc. This was largely a problem with the list provider and not mailing lists in general, but migrating somewhere more reliable was non-trivial, so changing direction entirely was a reasonable option if we had to do that.
- The glue that bridges between the mailing list and the forums was not great in general.
As I see it, these are the primary benefits of Discourse for us:
- It runs on our server.
- Is well-maintained and constantly improving open source, concerned with what modern Internet communication looks like (silly things like Emoji and Gravatar, really important things like Unicode and REST APIs and downloadable archives of your posts, etc).
- Is one central place where all communications happen.
- If you like the mailing list, you can use it exclusively through email.
- If you like the web forums, you can use it exclusively through a web browser.
- If you want to use it through the web interface and occasionally shoot off a quick reply by email, you can do that too.
- The web interface looks modern and responsive, with all that AJAX-y goodness. It runs well and looks good on mobile devices, too.
- It has all our email archives imported! After a lot of manual cleanup and one-off perl scripts, all the existing mailing list content, all the way back to 1998 has been turned into Discourse topics with threading intact. More than 20,000 topics, more than 100,000 posts!
- It has all the old forum posts imported too, thanks to a lot of manual cleanup and one-off perl (and PHP!) scripts.
- It has all the users (more than 2000!) imported. We took efforts to try to merge people that posted from different email addresses over the years into one account, using the latest email address we saw, and deal with people that used both the forums and mailing list interchangeably over the years.
- An actual search function that works.
- Lots of bells and whistles and control over everything…not just as an administrator, but as a user, so you get the experience just how you like it.
So we’re going to give it a little time and see if we can turn off the existing list and forums. So that we don’t end up with two separate communities, we’re going to make this decision pretty quickly. As such, if you have problems (including a generic “I hate this”), please speak up loudly as soon as possible.
To get started: Go to https://discourse.libsdl.org/
If you sign up for an account and it thinks your email is already in use, we probably generated a user for you when the list archives were imported. Just tell it your forgot your password and it’ll email you a reset link so you can take control of the account. In this case, we assigned you a best-guess username, but you can change it yourself once you log in.
If you exclusively used the web forums, we have an account for you but not your email: hit me up and I can hand the account over to you, or you can just make a new one, if you like.
If you want to use Discourse as a mailing list and never see the website again, you can; there is an option to turn on “Mailing List Mode” in your user prefs. New topics can be started by writing to email@example.com, or you reply to the address on whatever email you want to reply to, and it ends up in the right place.
If you have trouble, we can fix things (including getting you a username from a legacy account, assigning ownership of old posts to a new account, etc). Just let me know!