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Revision as of 04:13, 27 April 2011 by Chriswaterguy (Talk | Contributions) (merge from to "Desired features" section; content substantially by Jason Smithson & myself. (converted markup with Wikedbox).)

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We're talking about installing a forum being implemented for Appropedia.


A forum:

  • Provides an easy way to engage for the many, many people who find a wiki daunting. We want people to feel comfortable with the wiki, but this can help provide an "on ramp" and provide support during the process.
  • Provides an easy way to have discussion on particular subjects, groups of pages or activities.
  • An easy way to monitor discussions, bring active threads to the top, and make important threads "sticky". (MediaWiki talk pages can be useful for specific articles or projects, but it's hard to get an overview of discussions or follow threads. It's rare for newcomers to post to the Village Pump, and no doubt it's hard for them to make sense of that page. LiquidThreads is one way to try to improve discussions within MediaWiki, but it still has problems.)
  • Helps build a sense of community.

How is this different from other forums?

There are many forums on sustainability, permaculture, transition etc - it's possible to join those communities and discuss these topics. The Appropedia Forum is different in being:

  • Focused on building a knowledge resource. While topics and tangents may abound, we have a mutual understanding that we want to turn that knowledge into an open knowledge resource - i.e. a set of wiki pages.
  • Open licensed. The terms of contributing are similar to the wiki - your contributions can be reused (for example on the wiki), with attribution, under the CC-by-sa license.
  • A place for Appropedians to get to know each other and inspire each other. This helps keep us inspired to build this living library.
  • Somewhere where we don't have to constantly explain why something belongs on a wiki page - because we're talking with people who "get it".

Desired features

This is currently documented at BetterMeans - Forum Specification (and possibly that should just be merged here). But in brief:

Single login with wiki

Should be easy enough with an OpenID backend. (Sounds easy, but haven't tried.)

Smooth integration with Appropedia's other platforms

Some advantage here with a WordPress-based forum, as it should deal with blog logins at the same time.

Ability to embed forums or forum threads into an Appropedia page.

Appropedia:Widgets seems the obvious way - we need to test how well this works.

Open source

For practical reasons (easier for us to tweak, we can get all features for free) and reasons of principle.

Sticky threads

For important announcements, guidelines.


Including stealth mode.

  • Social features: profile, link to other sites, feed activity to Facebook or elsewhere
  • RSS feeds for each forum and the entire site
  • Open source
  • Widely used
  • Easy formatting, preferably WYSIWYG (or at least, a fairly standard method, not a unique and obscure method)
  • Focused
  • Gives context to comments
  • Allow users to flag spam

Possibly desired features

Replace talk pages with forum pages

We talked about this in early days - there's no obvious way to do this within the site,

Email notification of replies. (phpBB does this - e.g.

This may actually be a disadvantage, according to one writer about online community, as it means people don't have to revisit the site to check for answers. (My feeling is that people can still forget to come back, and it is a useful feature. --Chriswaterguy 22:21, 7 April 2011 (PDT))

  • Reply by email
  • Compatible with WordPress and/or MediaWiki


  • Fragmented interfaces that expose content and comments without context

Proposed solutions

Standalone options

  • Vanilla open-source, standards-compliant, customizable discussion forums.
    • Standalone but has a clean look and good documentation, integration possible
  • phpBBW proven and highly supported.
    • One downside: doesn't do blogs itself, so it's yet another platform on top of our MediaWiki + WordPress.
  • Simple:Press[1]
  • BBPress[2] - should integrate nicely with WordPress.
  • DrupalW
    • only feasible if we have a committed Drupal person pretty much on call. Drupal is much trickier than WordPress.
    • highly customizable, but we probably don't need this much power if we just want a simple forum.
  • Vanilla Forums[3]
    • looks easy to use
    • can be embedded in WordPress
    • not clear that we'd be able to export easily (they seem to be working on an export tool, and even then it depends on the format). However, being open source makes it likely that there'll be an export solution.

WordPress options

  • BBPress forum software with a twist from the creators of WordPress
    • Can share login with WordPress or be entirely embedded within it
  • Simple:Press the feature rich, completely integrated and fully scalable forum plugin for WordPress
    • Clean and plenty of functionality
  • WP Symposium is a suite of WordPress plugins to provide social networking features
    • Still in beta - looks promising, but not yet proven. Doesn't describe itself as a forum, but as a kind of online meeting space...
  • Mingle Forum a Forum Plugin for WordPress that just works
    • Optionally integrates with Mingle


  • vBulletin
    • Neither gratis nor libre, trying to become a CMS
  • WagN
    • Requires wagneering to be a forum
  • BuddyPress Social networking in a box.
    • Unfocused, gives sense of activity rather than a sense of purpose.
  • Extension:AWC's Forum (MediaWiki extension)
    • The only reasonably mature option for MediaWiki
    • Appears to be no longer actively developed

Next steps (April 2011)

Make a shortlist, then install them on our dev site, test and see which we like.

Is anyone interested in doing this?


This is a proposed Appropedia policy. You can edit it, or discuss it on the talk page or at the Appropedia policy discussion page.
For now, this should be considered an essay by one or more Appropedians, and not as a policy or guideline.

The forum will operate under these policies:

  • Be friendly and positive: Relevant wiki policies of civility, no personal attacks, not disrupting to make a point...
  • The policy of rigor is less strictly applied, as the forum can be a place for questions and wild ideas. Though if someone is promoting perpetual motion machines or other baseless claims (e.g. the water fuel cell), we may gently point to this policy and explain why we don't give attention to such things; if someone insists on exploring such ideas, we can ask them to take it to the PES wiki, or to come back when they have a working model, or when they want to focus on other issues.
  • All posts are released under the CC-by-sa License, so that relevant content can be easily adapted for use in the wiki (or elsewhere) with attribution. (Attribution in the edit summary is enough when contributing to the wiki? This way it's equivalent in attribution terms to the person posting it directly to the wiki.)

External links