What's your (online community platform) flavour?

(Nick Emmett) #1

I noticed quite a few reports coming out over the last few months about the various platforms and associated pros and cons. I thought it might be interesting to see which platforms users of this Community had their own communities on, or ones that they’ve used in the past.

Kicking things off, our community is built on the Salesforce Community Cloud, which works really great for us as our business is based on the Salesforce CRM and our products are built on the Salesforce platform too. Integration with Salesforce is common to all our customers and makes a lot of sense to base our Community there too, bringing all the integrations with it. One downfall is the need for development/coding resource to customize to what you want and, more than likely, link to the various api’s etc needed to really get the integration with your CRM, if needed.

In a previous life I used Yammer with an internal community, which worked perfectly, it could probably be a bit more customizable, but as far as the workings of a community, it did everything we needed it to do in order to get people engaged and sharing.

So what do you guys use and what made you choose that platform?

(Richard Millington) #2

We’re very much platform agnostic.

We advise our clients to use whatever platform makes te most sense of them at the time.

I went with discourse / wordpress integration for two reasons. The first is cost. We spent around $50k developing this but that’s pretty much our only cost on this side. We don’t have to pay annual fees anymore. Which I like.

The real reason though is I wanted us to be based on open source. There were two reasons for that. I like to maintain our platform neutrality. We go with whatever platform is best for our clients. I also like the ability to do our own design and development. I think having contributions from members show up on the feverbee site the way they do is beyond anything ese out there today. We can tweak/optimise things whenever we like. I really wanted that power.

I went with WP/discourse especially because I think they’re both the best open source platforms around. Widely used. Discourse has all the modern features and a LOT of talent/money behind it.

(Robert Strick) #3

Invision Power Board is usually our go-to solution for building communities. Certainly not without it’s flaws (IP.Content), but for the most part we’ve seen success on it.

Discourse is an interesting option, however I’d like to see how it evolves more before jumping on the bandwagon.

(Steven Hermans) #4

I am on phpbb. I can’t say it’s good, but for a budget of 0$, this is the best I could find. I tried out bbPress beforehand since my site is on Wordpress, but I found that to be just terribly low in functionality, and not very well supported.

(Sarah Hawk) #5

I manage a forum on vB Cloud, and but I would most definitely not recommend it. It’s cumbersome, buggy, and their support is patchy at best.

(Steve Bridger) #6

I must say, I’d not heard of IPB before now, @Robert_Strick. Not well known in the UK?

(Darren Gough) #7

I’d echo @HAWK on vB. It’s not a pleasant developer experience especially if you want to, you know, actually DO something interesting with it.

I was chatting to Vince Boon (of Giffgaff fame) recently and they’ve just pushed a platform out which has been a while in the making and looks interesting

I’d be cautious around Adobe’s “experience” for community. Saw a version of this with a client back in April and it needs a lot doing to it, much of which is being promised in an update “around November”, but I’m unconvinced.

If you want something with a completely different flavour, Peter Nixey’s Twistilled product is interesting. It’s not community per say but it’s an interesting concept.

I have experience of Yammer with a client - I actually quite like it, but I wish they’d develop updates quicker and faster, although the app store and the integration with Zapier is quite interesting.

How big is your Salesforce community @Nick_Emmett?

(Nick Emmett) #8

Hey @Darren_Gough, realistically we have just over 1K members at present, of which around 10-15% are actually using the forums, others are either doing nothing or using other areas of the community such as submitting ideas or, more than likely, submitting support cases. Engagement is definitely on the up though as we’ve just had our biggest month to date in terms of page views and forum contributions.

(Alessio Fattorini) #9

Worked on google groups and facebook groups but Discourse is way better! Never regretted so far

(Darren Gough) #10

Thanks @Nick_Emmett.

Great to hear engagement is up. Has that been the direct cause of any
action or is it organic?

(Robert Strick) #11

It’s a fairly well-known solution. Again, not without it’s issues. For example the content system (IP.Content) is still not where it needs to be, and some of the development on the theme side can be a pain in the ass. I’ve usually been able to launch those sites for around $2,000. I also got lucky and found a stellar developer, so mileage will vary. I usually set aside 5-10K toward the platform just to be safe.

Companies like Bethesda (Fallout, Doom, etc) and Evernote use it.

(Richard Millington) #12

I think one of the bigger challenges in picking a platform is looking at which platforms have the best future.

That might mean:

  1. Looking at google trends to see how they’re doing.
  2. Looking for latest product updates/press releases (are they very active here?)
  3. Looking at any financial information. Do they have good investment?

This gives you an idea of whether they will still be a good platform in 5 years time.

(David Silvernail) #13

I moved from vBulletin 4.4 to XenForo 1.2 (now on 1.5) a year and a half ago and never looked back. Virtually all of my users gripes with vBulletin were answered with XenForo.

Kier over at XenForo is very responsive to the community and their updates have been rock solid and have added well-thought out features on the front-end and back-end equally.

(Darren Gough) #14

That’s good to hear @dvsDave. We were interested in XenForo in a previous role when on a vB install, but it was around the time of the JelSoft court case and we shelved it.

I know Stuart over at AVForums did the migration and loved it also. On 1.5, what are its killer features would you say?

(David Silvernail) #15

To me, the new Welcome Message system. https://xenforo.com/community/threads/user-messaging-improvements-and-welcome-contact.100503/ (Although I would kill for an autoresponder feature for the PM system)

Also the new UI for uploading pics and videos. Much cleaner, clearer and painless for even a new user.

(Darren McKay) #16

vBulletin 4 here and despite the glitz and glamour of Xenforo, and resultant shift of market share, I see no major driver for change right now.

I self-host and the site is ultra-reliable and scalable. We hit 3000-4000 concurrent users at peak times and the site never misses a beat.

There is still a big community providing functional enhancements off-the-shelf and the same who will build bespoke for generally reasonable fees.

(Gear Buzz) #17

VBulletin 3.8 here

Have an eye on Xenforo but have been tipped off by Xenforo aficionados that my caution to wait it out will pay off.

I too cooled my enthusiasm while they were being taken to court. They are back solidly on my radar now.

Allegedly a lot of add ons (people use a lot of these) will need to be totally re-done for the improved and most importantly, easier to code for version 2.0

New features will only come with 2.1

So am waiting it out for Xenforo 2.1 to settle down and for developers to learn it. Might be late 2016 or even 2017.

Meanwhile I am a development junkie and my addiction rages on. I have custom coded stuff made for my VB forum continually. (By 2 developers and looking for more) so by the time I get to Xeforo 2.1 I will have a LOAD of code to replicate. I can’t stop.

(Adrian Speyer) #18

First off, let me say I work at Vanilla Forums, but the reason I work there, is actually due to what brought me to platform several years earlier (Hopefully you’ll ignore that fact to know what drove me to Vanilla).

I have always had a couple of forums running. I’ve had ones for baseball, marketing, food and more. I have sold a couple of forums along the way and unfortunately had to lay some to rest ( that sometimes does happen). In the process of launching and being part of communities I have pretty much used every software along the way.

One day, I had an idea for my fast food website to add a community. Being that I was serious about learning all I could ( as I usually do on any subject), I downloaded every forum software I could find.

You name it I tried it: from MyBB to Simple Machines. They all were pretty good, until it came to customizing or getting to things that mattered to the community, which was ease of use. I don’t recall exactly how I found Vanilla, but it was called Lussumo at the time. It was perfect for what I needed.

Every once in a while I would get a project and try a new community software, or even paid solutions ( when I was working at a large enterprise with a budget), but I would always end up comparing it to what it had or didn’t have compared to Vanilla.

Regardless of what system I used (and at my old company I got to use a lot of enterprise community systems), I would still contribute to Vanilla project in my spare time. There was something cool about contributing to Vanilla’s growth. It was also a great way for me to learn code being that it was written in PHP/Mysql and I was learning that too.

A couple of years ago I was looking for a change and a opportunity to work at Vanilla was available. I have to say it really is a dream job ( and I am not saying that because this is a public space).

Now what specifically do I like about Vanilla?

I really appreciate two things: the customizability and integrations.

In terms of customizing, you can do a lot. From changing the language to your community lexicon (like you can make a discussion be called a thread) to adding community badges that reflect it’s spirit, or even something as simple as creating a System user with an appropriate name, Vanilla is totally changeable to your needs.

In terms of integrations, Vanilla has a simple free plugin for WordPress. This makes it dead simple to to replace the horrible native WordPress comments, create a simple SSO between the blog and forum too and even show recent commenters with a handy widget.

I also like the MailChimp integration, which made it easy to build my mailing list. The other integrations I don’t need as a non-business, but knowing I could always have an integartion to Saleforce, Zendesk, Github and more is always handy.

Overall what I like most is that it’s easy to manage a busy community (2500+ members) when you are not tied down with 1000’s of dials and knobs to make things happen. Front end moderation is easy and there are lots of tools for dealing with various situations from spammers to warnings.

(Carl Sonic) #19

I’m using xenforo and i’m totally enjoying the experience

(Sarah Hawk) #20

Hi @calsonic – that’s good to hear. Were you previously on vB or did you start with Xenforo?

Any particular pros and cons?