I considered a few options before deciding to test out this forum software — Discourse.
Firstly, it needs to be free or have an affordable once-off cost. It’s probably unreasonable to expect a commercial system to only charge once and still constantly deliver security and feature updates, so a free open source system was the likely option.
Secondly, there are a few nice-to-have features from the old forum I would like to carry over: @mentions, and medals and awards (called badges here).
Most modern systems come with @mentions nowadays, but of the free forum projects I checked out, only Discourse had badges built in.
If you have an opinion on this, please feel free to weigh in. It is not too late to change the underlying software if there is something better out there.
Here are some features Discourse has built-in that I think are cool:
Markdown support. Nothing wrong with Ye Olde BBCode, but I’ve been using Markdown in my everyday writing for 5 years or more now, so it’s safe to say I’m a convert.
You can turn any post into a “Wiki entry”, making it possible for anyone to edit it.
Private messages are just threads (topics, in Discourse parlance) that only certain people may see, and which you can make public at a later stage.
Full emoji support, rather than the set graphic-packs older forums require for emoticons.
“Reply as linked topic” — If I understand it correctly, you create a new thread based on an existing thread, linking to it from the old thread, but creating a separate discussion. Instead of derailing a thread or discussing two topics in one place, fork it! (Give it a try!)
Post and reply by email — Not active yet. I’ll try and enable it once we’ve decided on a domain. Though imagine how cool it would be to quickly post from wherever you are (e.g. rAge) by sending a simple mail rather than trying to use a full forum interface or app.
Plugins — even the old forums had this. Essential if we want to use a feature (like spoiler tags) that isn’t part of the core system.
Focus is on threads/topics rather than on categories/sub-forums. Most modern “reboots” of forum software do it this way now.
Built-in spam protection with rate-limits, trust levels, and other cool tricks.
Trust levels — more on that in a seperate post (linked below).