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Current state of Vanilla OSS?

Hi there, I administer what I believe to be one of the largest forums running on Drupal 7. The future of Drupal is not looking good, less than a year of support left for Drupal 7 and the project is turning into a framework for developers instead of a flexible platform with plugins to enable nearly turnkey functionality like it used to be. So I'm looking for migration options. This would be for a dedicated forum website, not a secondary community help section, but rather for a site that has the primary function of being a large and active forum.

I have been dabbling in Vanilla since 2007, so I'm familiar with the basics, but I haven't used it in production for a long time. I'm interested in knowing how well (or not) Vanilla OSS actually works in practice for current administrators. Specifically, I wonder about:

  1. With respect to development and maintenance health, is Vanilla going anywhere, or is it dying out? I see warning signs here: https://open.vanillaforums.com/addon/vanilla-core where the latest announced version is from May 2021, whereas the Github page shows much more recent releases. This sort of issue https://github.com/vanilla/vanilla/issues/11103 from October 2021 without any response is also worrisome.
  2. I am an experienced LEMP stack administrator, but I am not a web developer. How much of a disadvantage would this be for me as an OSS user? How limited or restricted is the functionality for OSS users compared to Vanilla commercial users? The "go code it yourself" solution won't work for my needs.
  3. The plugin situation for Vanilla OSS seems to be quite stagnant. The vast majority of the plugins look like they're not even compatible with the current supported Vanilla versions. Is there something that I'm missing?
  4. Could I pay for Vanilla commercial service just to migrate my current Drupal forum and then maintain and configure it myself?
  5. This would need to include private message migration, is there any equivalent for Vanilla and any migration path from other CMS/forum system private messaging systems?

Thanks in advance for your replies.

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Comments

  • I use both Drupal and Vanilla and I don't think they are really comparable. Drupal is much bigger and more complex.

    I'd suggest that the underlying issue perhaps is that the social media platforms have absorbed much of the demand for forums so that self-hosted forums and blogs are less common. There are still good reasons to host independently but it means reduced activity, although Vanilla has its own business model via cloud hosted forums which is a good thing from the point of view of open source users.

    A lot of plugins are now included in the core software.

    Tim

    rahim123Vivant
  • Thanks @timanderson , appreciate the response.

    Two very important features for me would be:

    1. An option to make post reply notification emails only be sent once until the user revisits the thread.
    2. Community spam moderation. I don't want vote up or general Reddit-style popularity contests on my forum, but I do need a mechanism for users to flag a post as spam or otherwise inappropriate, with admin-configurable automatic actions including putting the post into a moderation queue and even disabling the user account depending on the number of flags it receives. I understand that the Vanilla terminology for this appears to be "gamification", but I'm not sure if it's a currently maintained feature or plugin or if it's only for commercial Vanilla users, or if it can do what I describe here.
  • LincLinc Detroit Admin
    1. Personally, I'm planning to migrate to Flarum this year. It finally reached stable in 2021 and has an active open source org.
    2. There's no limits in core per se, but because so many things are plugins (like a sensible search solution) you'd need to evaluate whether the quality of what's available in OSS works for you.
    3. That matches my impression.
    4. I don't believe they offer migration-only service. They only provide migrations at-cost to get you onto the cloud subscription. However, I do know of a developer that does migration-for-hire to Flarum.
    5. There are PMs in most forum products. The migration tool ("Vanilla Porter") doesn't currently support bringing private messages from Drupal 7 to Vanilla.

    I've forked the Vanilla Porter tool as a new project ("Nitro Porter") that will support additional platforms, like Flarum. I'd be interested in giving you a hand if you want (by adding PM support to Drupal 7).

    rahim123Vivant
  • Hi there @Linc , also thanks to you for the useful response and offer to help. I've also had my eye on Flarum for years. I like many aspects of it, but it looks like it's still far too raw for my needs. It looks like they're really focused on refining the bare minimum of core features, which I respect, but unfortunately that doesn't really help me as someone who's not a coder. For example, the developer response to a request for a feature that I would also need is illustrative of what I'm saying about the "go code it yourself" mentality that is driving me away from Drupal:

    https://discuss.flarum.org/d/23061-flag-options-and-extended-moderation-by-post-authorcommunity

  • LincLinc Detroit Admin

    That's a very fair criticism! My needs are very different as a developer.

    To be clear, the offer of assisting with Drupal 7 private message support extends to either Vanilla or Flarum. The goal of my migration tool is to support both.

    rahim123Vivant
  • Ok, great to hear that, I'll keep looking into the options a bit more and definitely keep this in mind!

    A question about the migration tool(s): Do they care about the Drupal concept of post "input format", or just rendered HTML as it appears on the final rendered web page? One of the reasons I might have to migrate away from Drupal is because most of the forum posts are created in the Textile markup language, and there's no Textile support yet for Drupal 9. Then maybe 30% of the posts are created with pure HTML as generated by TinyMCE.

  • LincLinc Detroit Admin
    edited January 18

    The existing Drupal 7 package appears to assume discussions & comments are in rendered HTML. Vanilla does have the concept of input formats, and the migration tool does have the concept of filtering data as its being processed. So your options are:

    1. Do nothing and let the non-TinyMCE posts look like raw Textile.
    2. Get someone to write a simple Textile parser plugin for Vanilla.
    3. Get someone to add a simple Textile filter to the Porter.

    Personally I'd go with option 3 if you're not super attached to Textile. There's already a PHP library for parsing Textile so I imagine it'd be pretty simple. I may be able to do that as well.

    rahim123
  • rahim123rahim123 New
    edited January 18

    Thanks again for the helpful reply. I had a similar conversation with a dev that offers migration services for Discourse, and it was looking like piping the raw posts through Pandoc would be the best way around that, although it would be considerably slower and more resource-intensive with that additional step. (We're talking almost 80,000 nodes and getting on 2M comments.) Wouldn't there be a way to pull the rendered HTML out of Drupal, either by accessing the node and comment cache tables directly, or else asking Drupal to process the node and comments and output the HTML somewhere?

  • LincLinc Detroit Admin
    edited January 18

    I don't have experience with Textile conversions, but it looks like Markdown-adjacent, and I've never really had concerns about the processing speed. If you have a Vanilla forum using Markdown, it's doing the HTML processing in real time at pageload. It's pretty darn fast. I don't honestly think it would have a major impact on the migration time.

    I don't know enough about Drupal to offer any specifics, but if you know of a way to pre-process and store the rendered HTML on the table in Drupal, that would be a nice way to sidestep the issue regardless of what platform you head to.

    rahim123
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