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Forum software advice needed

edited November 2010 in Vanilla 2.0 - 2.8
Hello All ... we want to migrate our sites current forum (proprietary built) to a newer, more modern (feature rich) platform. I've been looking around at the available options and have narrowed it down to vBulletin, Vanilla or Phorum (unless you have another suggestion ?). I hope someone here can give me some feedback on their experiences either migrating to a new forum or working deeply with one.

The current forum we have has approx 2.2 million threads in it and is contained in a MySQL database. Data Migration is obviously the first issue, is one of the major Forum vendors better or worse in this regard ?

The software needs to be able to be clustered and cached to ensure availability and performance.

We want it to be PHP based and store it's data in MySQL.

The code needs to be open to allow us to highly customise the software both to strip out a lot of stuff and be able to integrate our sites features. A lot of the forums I've looked at have a lot of duplicate features to our main site, in particular member management, profiles etc. I realise we'll have to do a good bit of development in removing these and tieing it all back to the main site so we want to find a platform that makes this kind of integration as easy as possible.

Finally I guess if 'future proofing' the forum (as best as possible) given the above. Which platform will allow us to customise it but also allow us to keep instep with upgrades. Which forum software has the best track record for bringing online new features in a timely manner ? etc. etc.

Obviously I'm hoping I can find out here why Vanilla is the best solution for our needs ?

- David


  • no one has any advice ?
  • LincLinc Detroit Admin
    edited November 2010
    @Synapse There is a difference between not having advice and not having time to adequately dispense it. :) You've asked a tremendously detailed question that would take a solid block of time to adequately answer, which is something I generally cannot do during the work week. However I'll ping @Todd to see if he can help you.

    The short version: Vanilla is a spot-on match for most of your requirements, but I'm not sure where we stand with caching for self-hosted installations.

    As a former vBulletin user / plugin developer, I'll simply say that yes, it scales well (perhaps even the best still, if not for much longer), but no, I'd never lock my future into that quagmire of code again.
  • TimTim Operations Vanilla Staff
    edited November 2010
    Hi David,

    That's quite a big forum you've got there. I'll try to answer your post point by point.

    1) Data Migration
    We have an importing system called VanillaPorter (written by @Todd and @Lincoln). It uses an intermediate format for transporting data, so we could make a custom 'driver' for your proprietary format.

    2) Clustering and Caching
    We're not there just yet. We have the technology to cache things now, but we haven't put much / any work into implementing it at the moment, though it is constantly creeping up the priority list.

    3) Coder Friendly
    Vanilla is (we think) quite well designed. We also have several plugins that could, out of the box, allow you to integrate with your mainsite userbase easily and effectively. Check out

    As far as modifying the Core, its pretty easy to do. On the other hand, if you make direct changes to core files you'll lose the ability to automatically update. Its far better to augment what is already in the core with additional applications and plugins. These have the ability to dramatically alter the way the software works and should, for the most part, be sufficient.

    Get in contact with us via email if you want to take this further :)

    Vanilla Forums COO [GitHub, Twitter,]

  • Thank you very much for the feedback guy's
  • ToddTodd Chief Product Officer Vanilla Staff
    A few other things to add:

    Data Migration: Our migration is pretty easy and is a matter of writing sql statements to select from your tables and then providing the column name mappings to our tables. If you have a single-threaded forum then this will be a pretty straight translation. Otherwise, Vanilla might not be for you.

    User Management: We've done a lot of work with single sign on and would recommend this approach to getting another app integrated with your site. We originally wanted to make the system set up to completely rip user-management out, but users are joined on tables so much that this is hard to do.

    In the end, having a system where we still keep a user table, but the user is synched whenever they log in to Vanilla through your site is the best solution we can find. I don't think any other forum has done as much work in this area as us.
  • LincLinc Detroit Admin
    edited November 2010
    "I don't think any other forum has done as much work in this area as us."
    They absolutely have not. :)
  • Thanks for the further details Todd ...

    As I read more about the various offerings and testimonial around the forums it seems like what we need is really between Vanilla and Phorum, both of which seem to come from more of a open development philosophy and should make customisation on all levels easier.

    How do you all feel Vanilla sets it self apart from Phorum ?

    Again thank you all very much for your time.

    - David
  • LincLinc Detroit Admin
    edited November 2010
    The last release of Phorum was January 2, 2008. The last Vanilla release was Thursday.

    //edit: I lied, phorum-5.2.16-RC1 was Oct 15. Their news page hasn't been updated since 5.2.0 was released apparently. Frankly, I haven't been aware of that project so I can't comment on it on a feature-per-feature basis.
  • Vanilla is an awesome bread and butter forum, but advanced theming is atm and in all honesty a pain in the ass and takes a little time, except you stick to pure css (only).

    Anyway! I suggest a testing environment with Vanilla on your localhost and do some test-customisations before you make a decision.
  • tmilovantmilovan New
    edited December 2010
    I absolutely love Vanilla and direction it's development have taken comparing it to the other popular forums. However, I feel obliged to point out a few things that bothers me a little:
    - First, there are some bugs that make my forum users sometimes accuse me I migrated them to alpha software (like pagebrowser on popular view). User submitted bug list on my forum is quite long, and I have mine longer still.
    - Second, some bugs are taking a long time to be solved and developers feedback is a bit "thin" :). I can understand they are busy though.
    - Third, there are some things I'd like to control but cannot manage to find out how. I'm used to detailed documentation like you can find in Python/Django environment, but Vanilla is just not there yet.
    - Fourth, user management and moderation tools are a bit lacking for now and that can be a problem on big forums.
    - Fifth, some addons can break things badly :)
    - And last, I think development team is a bit trigger happy when it comes to publishing new functionalities so often we end up with quite a few new bugs after upgrading, along with old ones.

    Oh, but did I say, regardless of all that I really love Vanilla :).
  • thank you keesha and tmilovan it's great to get actual feedback from people using it in production
  • LincLinc Detroit Admin
    @tmilovan All your known bugs are represented on GitHub, right? :) I have full access to deal with issues on there now so it's a significantly different situation than a month ago.
  • Most of them are. Some reported by me, more by other users. I can recheck my list and post what is not there.

    Btw, what is code of conduct for addon issues? I am reporting them here on forum because I didn't find appropriate place on github. Is that ok?
  • LincLinc Detroit Admin
    @tmilovan If they're in core, then the main repo. Several others like Pockets and Voting are here. Mine are all under my GitHub profile. Otherwise, yes, I'd post them under their plugin on the forum for their respective authors.
  • Right. Thanks.
  • ToddTodd Chief Product Officer Vanilla Staff
    Thanks for your honest thoughts @tmilovan. These are things we really do want to address and I think we are getting better. @Lincoln has been amazing with the issues lately in particular.

    Just to let you know that I appreciate the thoughtful comments.
  • Great to be heard too:). I appreciate your work, and would like to be of some help. Unfortunately Vanilla code is still too abstract for me to solve some bugs by myself no matter that I was for years php developer (lately I'm with python).

    However, I hope I will be able to help with some real debugging some time from now :).
  • MarkMark Vanilla Staff
    @tmilovan - Very good points, indeed. We are aware of our "trigger happy" stance with getting features out there. It took a long time for us to get the core to a state where it could be released, and now we can finally push the features and addons that people have been begging us for since 2007 (!). In the coming months our goals are going to be shifting to an approach of stabilization. We want to get rid of all core bugs and reduce new feature releases (at least by the core development team) to a minimum. With the release of 2.1, the community is going to start to see this push.
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