We'll be moving the forums to Discourse! Here's the scoop
We’re moving our community forums to Discourse in June! After researching and testing several solutions to address the shortcomings of our current forums platform, Discourse became the clear winner. It provides many advantages, including flexibility, configurability, tag-based filtering, and a more modern conversational approach. The new platform is modern, feature-rich, stable, and brisk.
- Primary transition work is happening in May with the launch expected in the first half of June.
- Features galore! We've detailed some of the new features we're excited about below, but here's a recap:
- Flexible posting drawer: The auto-saving drawer lets you reply to a thread while reading, referencing, or quoting another topic. See who is typing in real-time and load replies (and their edits) dynamically even as you write, without refreshing. Get a real-time preview of your formatting, too.
- Dynamic thread reading: No pagination, replies load dynamically as you scroll. A timeline slider lets you jump to a specific moment in time, or to the end. The URL is coded with your exact location in case you want to share or reference a specific reply or a place in time in the discussion. It's brisk!
- Topic details at a glance: An expandable drawer shows thread stats, community participation, and a roundup of the links posted in the replies.
- Control over notifications: Granular control over how you are notified for subscribed topics, categories, and tags, with different options clearly explained.
- Smart search: More relevant results in less time using a combination of search terms, categories, and tags to refine results in one step.
- Forum usernames: We'll be separating the forum user identity from your regular Plex account. Effectively, this means that you'll have a separate "forum username" in additional to what you may already have been using with your Plex account (and thus in the existing forums). You'll be able to see and edit your forum username upon first login to the new forums. Discourse has stricter username requirements, that include not allowing emails, special characters, or spaces.
Read on for the complete details!
The title says it all, right? Ok, not quite . We’re excited to share with all in the Plex community that we will be moving our forums over to Discourse in June. The community is an incredibly important part of Plex and we want to ensure smart tools are available for users to get the full benefit of participating in the community, make it easier and simpler to get better answers in less time, while bringing critical functionality to help users, Ninjas, and employees identify and track issues. We’re aiming to solve a number of limitations the existing forums platform has, that make it harder for users, Ninjas, and employees to learn from others in the community.
This is a big move for us that we’ve been working on for some time now. We’ve researched a bunch of solutions, including exploring building a custom platform in-house. We looked at other communities to see what worked for them and what didn’t. After much research and testing, we landed on Discourse as the ideal platform that would give us the flexibility, customizability, expandability, and reliability we need in a community platform.
We’re also taking the opportunity this move presents us to clean up the forums, improve the organizational structure, making it simpler to find your way around and discover new and interesting things to read about. All posts and content that exist in the forums through the day of launch will be migrated. We realize that things will look and function differently, but we hope to make this transition as smooth as possible by providing advance notice — including lots of details on the “what”, “why”, and “how” — and preparing users, Ninjas, and employees by providing user guides. Understandably, there will likely be questions along the way. Feel free to respond in this thread to discuss and ask anything related to our move to Discourse.
We're starting the forum migration process with a focus on communication, design, configuration, data migration, and testing – basically everything we need to do to ensure a seamless transition for users and data. All of this is planned to be delivered in June.
Once we've successfully gotten our forums running and available on Discourse and let folks settle in a little, we'll continue working to make the experience even better for everyone. We won't be going into specifics yet, but we're definitely looking to level up the integration between content in the forums and other areas, as well as bringing in new tools to help users find what they need or get assistance with issues they're experiencing.
For our initial efforts and work, we'll be focusing on:
Planning really ramped up in March as we found a clear winner and started making decisions based on our research and experimentation. Our sights are set on the first half of June for launching this!
Migrating the data
A lot of forum data has accumulated over the years! We’re coordinating with our existing platform provider to ensure we get all of it out; images, file attachments, the works. This includes multiple data dumps along the way and a final delta on launch day. We expect we’ll only need put the forum into read-only mode for a few hours on launch day, though it could take as long as a business day. On the Discourse side, we’re working with our account representative and their migration engineering group that has been assigned to us. They’re experienced at working with data coming from our existing provider and will ensure all data moves as expected, including URL references to other threads. It will all link back up.
What about GDPR?
We’re paying careful attention to Europe’s new privacy law with regard to this move. We are ensuring that our current provider will delete all user records by the time our contract with them ends on July 8, 2018. This includes backups. We are also ensuring GDPR compliance with our new provider, Discourse. They are US-based and hosted and have completed their Privacy Shield certification.
Back end nuts and bolts
We’re aiming for a smoother single sign-on (SSO) experience than what we have now. The URL (https://forums.plex.tv) will remain the same, and all links within threads will redirect. Discourse does have stricter username requirements (covered in more detail further below) and we’ll be building an interstitial page to guide users through updating their username, if it will be necessary (example, no spaces or email addresses). We’re introducing Forum Usernames as part of this, which will add increased privacy control over how other users see your Plex username. You’ll be able to have a separate username for the community forums, if you so choose. Read further down under Forum Usernames for more details.
Design and configure
Our top design priority for the community forums is to make sure there is a high degree of readability and comfort for prolonged reading and writing sessions. We’ll leverage feedback from our community to make needed adjustments after launch. Expect to see some of the same customizations we did with our current provider, such as color-coding Ninja and employee posts. We’re aiming for a custom theme that is less busy, less confusing, and easier to find things.
Sentiment and feedback
After launch, we’ll be monitoring the new Discourse platform for user reactions as well as inviting everyone (yes, users, Ninjas, and employees) to take part in a survey to help us complete our planning for future work after the initial launch.
One notable difference between Discourse and our current forum platform (and our regular Plex accounts, for that matter) has to do with username requirements. Broadly speaking, Discourse has much stricter guidelines for usernames, since the only characters accepted are letters, numbers, and underscores. More specifically, this means:
- “Special characters” and foreign-language characters, including accents, are not valid (which means that email addresses are not valid)
- Spaces cannot be used (they'll be replaced by underscores)
- Usernames must begin with a letter or number
- Periods, hyphens, and underscores are ok as long as they are not the first or last character
This is definitely quite different from our current situation, where none of those restrictions are in place. As such, it means that the usernames being used in the forums for many existing users won't be valid for Discourse.
So, what's going to happen with usernames?
As part of our migration to Discourse, we're going to be taking this opportunity to separate the forum user identity from your regular Plex account. Effectively, this means that you'll have a separate "forum username" in additional to what you may already have been using with your Plex account (and thus in the existing forums).
To make this as painless as possible for users, there will be a short, one-time process the first time you sign in to Discourse, which will allow you to choose or verify the username to use with Discourse. To make it as simple as possible, we'll be working to help provide suggested usernames where possible, assuming an existing username isn't already valid. Users can also always go back later and update the username, if desired, of course.
Improvements headed your way
Over the past (almost) three years, our community has shared feedback on many issues or shortcomings that have been experienced with the current platform. We’ve read them and they have helped to shape our planning. Here are some of the great new features and functionalities to expect from Discourse. This only covers some of the improvements and new features we'll be gaining from our move to Discourse. Please keep in mind these screenshots are based off of the stock installation, prior to design and customization.
Stacks and Tags
Discourse was co-founded by one of the co-founders of Stack Overflow, Jeff Atwood. As such, there is a decidedly “stack” approach to the organizational and navigational structure for Discourse. If you’ve used Stack Exchange or Quora, this will be familiar. Stacks are essentially topic lists that can be (or have been) filtered, using a combination of categories and tags. Stacks can be filtered using only a tag, which can be useful to see if an issue is arising across multiple categories.
Flexible posting drawer
Posting doesn’t require you to be viewing the topic you are replying to. Navigate to other topics (even across categories) without losing your progress. Reference and quote across topics and categories. The drawer can stay open as you navigate or be closed without losing your post. Use the included WYSIWYG editor or markdown to add images, links, and to style your post. Next to your post, you get a real-time preview that can be hidden if not desired. If new replies get posted to the topic you are replying to, those get dynamically loaded (even their edits) without having to refresh or wait until after replying to see what's been posted. Discourse also shows you who is typing in real-time, similar to chat apps.
Dynamic thread reading
Say goodbye to static page loading and pagination and hello to dynamically loaded topics with simple tools for visually moving through time. Want to read more replies? Keep scrolling at your own pace. Want to jump to the end or a specific point in time? Drag the date slider to where you want to go, or click right on your desired destination. The URL is coded with your exact location in case you want to share or reference a specific reply or a place in time in the discussion.
Topic details at a glance
Located below the first post in a topic is an expandable drawer with the topic’s details, including usage stat, frequent posters, and a shortcut to links mentioned in the topic. Quickly collapse the drawer to reduce vertical space used.
Granular control over subscription notifications
More options with less complexity. Subscribe to a category, tag, or an individual topic. Control your notifications for each subscription based on how involved you want to be. Straightforward descriptions help in making the right choice. You can also use these subscription options to “mute” categories and tags so that no notifications are received and so they don’t show up in the topic listings.
Suggests existing topics
A tooltip appears as you write a new topic providing suggestions for existing topics that might be relevant. This can help with reducing duplicate topics and point users in the right direction without having to context-switch to searching. If not desired, simply close the tooltip to make it disappear.
Suggested topics also appear at the very bottom of each topic. They’re out of the way, not adding clutter, but easily reachable by scrolling manually to the end or using the date slider to jump to the end.
Automatically expandable links
Bring more context and information to your post with automatically expanding links. The preview pane shows you what it will look like in your topic, and you can always hide the preview if you prefer not to see it. You can also prevent expanding links by adding a space before the link.
Summarize a topic
Use the Summarize button to condense long topics to just the most interesting and popular posts. The estimated read time can be helpful in giving you idea how involving the topic will be, if not summarized. Summarizing is predominantly based on the number of likes a post gets, with the top 10% most liked posts in the topic getting included in the topic summary.
Smart search with categories and tags
Enjoy better searching with auto-completion, suggestions, and fuzzy logic to handle misspellings. This allows you to drill down to a specific category and/or tag to get closer to what you are looking for in fewer steps.
Voting and tracking for suggested features
We will be implementing a new voting system for feature requests. This will mean you need to re-vote for your favorite feature, but we are also opening up voting to all members now. Voting on feature suggestions is more robust with clear totals by the topic title. Votes are visible in the topic itself and also in the topic view (which are also sortable by vote count), helping with tracking popularity. While voting for feature requests is not a guarantee they will get implemented, they do provide us with insights from the community that help shape development planning.
Categories & Tags
It’s not just about fewer categories. It’s about categories that make more sense and don’t necessitate “drilling down” to look for what you want, only to end up in the wrong place. We’ll be reducing the hierarchical levels so there are only 2 levels of categories to leverage a flatter (but not completely flat) organizational structure. Pre-defined tags will be used for additional organization. This will involve some moving of threads. Here’s an example of how an issue will be organized by category and tags:
A user experiences Live TV playback failing on their Apple TV and they have a Mac PMS. The user could post their issue in one of these categorical options:
Plex Players > Streaming Devices or General > Features since the issue involves both an Apple TV and the Live TV & DVR feature. By adding the
mac-server predefined tags, the issue can be discovered (and filtered) by users, Ninjas, and Employees looking at issues related to Apple TV, Live TV & DVR, or Mac servers. The thread is now associated by server/client platform and feature and thus easier to find, both for other users and Plex employees.
In making the community more open to all members, we will no longer have areas exclusive to Plex Pass subscribers. Once we transition to the new platform, all categories in the forum will be accessible by all members of the community. One caveat is that the beta testing categories will be readable by all but only those participating in the betas will be able to post in them.
We’re excited, and we hope you are too! Stay tuned for more updates and resources to help make the transition as smooth as possible. Feel free to use this thread to ask any questions or discuss the move.
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