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Hacker News post about Pony Forum

Show HN: My forum project; a different philosophy than Discourse

tl;dr: http://pony-forum.com, forums are in again, baby!

I was abroad earlier last week, so I unfortunately was not there to join in on the discussion of Jeff Atwood’s Discourse[1].

Atwood’s project has received a lot of attention, and revitalizing the forum software of yore has suddenly become a part of the public conversation. Because of this, I feel like I should bring your attention to my own forever project[2], which has been years in the making from the idea stage. I am not quite planning on “launching” it any time soon, but the project, Pony Forum, is relevant to the discussion for a few reasons:

  1. As another “modern” take on forum software, it allows us to conceptualization modern forums from multiple perspectives.

  2. My approach is entirely different than Atwood’s—just look at the screenshots(!).

  3. All of it is open source, available for your immediate perusal and comparison at GitHub.

  4. It is based on Django, increasing the potential for some hilarious fanboy wars.

    The Project

The name of the forum CMS is Pony Forum, for one because the domain http://pony-forum.com`[3]` was available (together with the Twitter account @ponyforum upon a later inspection), and second because, you guessed it, it is built on Django. (I shudder at the brony community reaction.)

All of the project is described (in very nerdy language only developers will understand) on the GitHub page, which the site URL (http://pony-forum.com) currently links to.

For the most part, I created this project for the practice, but it turned out that this provided a great opportunity to conceptualize something I had thought about for many years.

The project may be in alpha (or whatever), but it is very easy to set up locally or on dotCloud, as the README and _installation/INSTALLATION guides explain respectively. It comes with all the bells and whistles of Travis support and basic unit tests, too.

In fact, I may not yet have a guide for setting it up locally, but it basically goes something like this:

1. git clone
2. Use example_settings.py to make your own local_settings.py
3. Create a psql database table based on local_settings.py
4. Set up virtualenv
5. pip install -r requirements.txt
6. sh build_forum.sh
7. You can now log in as admin using admin//password
8. ... assuming all goes well

I am currently trying to figure out how to port it to Heroku, but as you can tell by the related branch and issue, there is a ways to go. At that point, I will be able to set up a sample app to play around with. The idea is actually to make a PaaS-like service aimed at normal human beings, not just open-source software to be used by developers. A big problem with forums today is that they are still hard as nails to set up for people—hell, myself included!—and they still look and work like shit, once they go up. (And the upgrade process, oh God, the upgrade process.) Still, I think Pony Forum is fairly easy to set up (not update, alas) for people who can only be considered fledgling developers. It sure as hell beats your old time-y FTP drag-and-drop GUI, not to mention the horror of finding a server host who treat you to good old cPanel.

/ ###

Why do I post this? Not because I plan on “launching” this soft anywhere soon—perfect is the enemy of the good and all that—but because it makes me happy that Jeff was able to draw so much attention to the trusty old forums that have received no love at all from people in something around a decade. It means that the iron for doing something about the situation is as hot as it will ever be, and and now is the time to have that discussion for how forums (or “bulletin boards”, ungh) should be in the year 2013.

As you can tell by comparing both of our projects, Atwood and I probably only agree on the state of forums, and how important it is that we do something about them. But now what?

And that couldn’t be a better beginning of bringing forums to the second decade of the 21st century.

http://pony-forum.com

+++

PS: Don’t let this be the end of that important discussion, because, deep down, we all know that the “X is broken” meme is the most insufferable hobby horse at Hacker News, when it devolves into empty discourse perpetuated as unproductive circlejerk click-jacking and karma-gaming.

PPS: Please don’t spam the GitHub repo with feature requests in the Issues system—if you look at the bottom of my README at the repo link, you can see that there are about a billion planned features ahead of you in line. There is plenty to help out with, though, both on the existing Issues and Milestones list as well as the to-do list for features in the README.

Do get back to me using the information in my profile, be it through brief tweets or long-form e-mails.

PPPS: As someone who has spent a lot of fucking time on a project that is still so woefully incomplete it’s not even funny, please cut Jeff Atwood and his coworkers some slack, and bear in mind just how skull-numbing the amount of effort it gets to produce a project of this scope to just work moderately well. Five minutes playing around with Pony Forum will show you just how much this stuff takes, and most important why no one has bothered to touch this kind of project from a commercial stand point with a ten-foot pole and produced something great.

[1]: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5172905

[2]: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5096009

[3]: http://pony-forum.com

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