Armchair Arcade 3.0: Your Thoughts Appreciated

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Mark Vergeer
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Facebook is limited

Discussions on Facebook are limited in length. I am on there but still am not sure what to think of it. I like the way the site works right now actually despite the issues.

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Mark Vergeer
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Yes!

Very interesting disussion. I share rob's concerns. Like the real forum-functionality. Busy Nightshift! Enjoy the 4th of July!

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Rowdy Rob
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Possible Basekit forum method.
Matt Barton wrote:

Basekit looks easy to use, but I can't seem to find if it has good blog and/or forum functionality. As far as I can see, it has widgets that lets you import blogs and such from Blogger and so on.

It appears that Basekit does not have its own forum capability built-in. However, there is a "widget" that allows you to add a full, phpBB-style forum to Basekit, but it appears to be an external, 3rd-party, web-based forum software.

Check out:
http://basekit.zendesk.com/entries/20078088-add-a-forum-widget

To be honest, this tal.ki forum system seems quite good, comparable to what you have now, and it appears to be web-based! However, it also is a separate registration/account from Basekit, meaning an extra monthly expense (an extra $5). Still, it definitely appears to be quite worthy of a look.

If there was a way to attach a forum to a "blog," like you have right now, that would be ideal.

Matt Barton wrote:

Let's face it, we could scrap this site altogether and those of us who care could stay connected via FB or Twitter. The only real reason to keep the site is for blogs and feature articles. It seems to me that guys like Gnome's Lair and Tales of the Rampant Coyote have the right idea; the blog is just a hub site and most of the social stuff happens on Twitter and/or Facebook. They also tend to socialize with other bloggers like themselves, mentioning each other and having discussions that way. I could see folks like you, Rob, creating a blog and using it to respond to posts or start new discussions. The "trackbacks" feature should make it possible to ensure we (and the readers) are aware of those discussions.

If that's the "future," then I'll be an old curmudgeon! This sort of nebulous, "my-blog-in-response-to-your-twitter-response-to-a-facebook-response-to-Joe's tomato sauce recipe" seems to lack a coherent, single-topic site-based place to meet up! My old fogey self sees no reason to use Facebook or Twitter, which are more personal-based stuff than topical stuff. Both Facebook and especially Twitter are terrible places for all-out, lengthy discussions, so "Gnome's Lair" and "Rampant Coyote" must be having far more limited discussions than we have here now (although admittedly I haven't visited either site).

Matt Barton wrote:

Even if we had a dedicated forum such as phpbb running here, I don't think it would go anywhere. It'd just be the 6 of us on there sporadically posting. We just can't compete with the existing forums that cater to our clientele, such as Monroeworld, Atari Age, English Amiga Board, etc. Honestly, I think the guys who enjoy forums are a dying breed, perhaps holdovers from the BBS days. Everyone else who wants to interact is content to make a small comment or just click a like button.

I don't think forum users are a dying breed. They CAN'T be. There HAS to be a way to have deep discussions on the internet, and forums are the way to do it. Facebook, as ubiquitous as it is, has a HORRIBLE discussion format, only suitable for a couple of quick sentences per post (and most likely your post will be truncated on the page). This new generation of "Twitterers" ("twits?" "Tweeters?" What's the terminology) will eventually want more in-depth ways to discuss and argue, and forums are the way to do it!

Anyhow, check out the tal.ki link. It appears that this Basekit/tal.ki combo might be a very acceptable alternative to your Drupal system, if you're willing to shell out the monthly fees. One concern, though, it that the ".ki" domain is based out of "Kiribati," a small island country that I've never heard of!

Matt Barton
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What do you guys think of the

What do you guys think of the phpbb3 site I set up? Any interest in pursuing that?

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Bill Loguidice
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Basekit and WordPress
Matt Barton wrote:

Basekit looks easy to use, but I can't seem to find if it has good blog and/or forum functionality. As far as I can see, it has widgets that lets you import blogs and such from Blogger and so on. It reminds me of the all-in-one service Ning, if you remember that one (it was free that went to subscription-based). Unless I'm mistaken, it looks like we'd be able to make a nice look with Photoshop, but the functionality would come from third-parties like blogger, Twitter, etc. That might be a better way to go anyway, since everyone has a Facebook or Twitter account already.

Even if we had a dedicated forum such as phpbb running here, I don't think it would go anywhere. It'd just be the 6 of us on there sporadically posting. We just can't compete with the existing forums that cater to our clientele, such as Monroeworld, Atari Age, English Amiga Board, etc. Honestly, I think the guys who enjoy forums are a dying breed, perhaps holdovers from the BBS days. Everyone else who wants to interact is content to make a small comment or just click a like button.

The thing I like about BaseKit is that our host will automatically handle all support and upgrades. We won't have to do anything. That's the future for all enterprises of our size as far as I'm concerned. I would be shocked if it couldn't handle everything that Drupal does and more, without the hassle of us having to administer the thing. We could then truly leverage our unlimited bandwidth and storage space, unlike now where we have to be careful of unknown glitches in Drupal that cause certain scripts/database queries to hang.

The only "competition" that is relevant of what you've mentioned as far as I'm concerned is AtariAge and the English Amiga Board, which are good examples (though I haven't been on in ages, Monroeworld I think has suffered a big audience drop off as well, probably partly because they keep on changing too much over there and as you've intimated, the forum format is mostly the domain of the hardcore these days). The latter is obviously machine (Amiga) specific, while the former has slowly evolved into an everything site, but started out specializing in Atari. It still has a big focus on that. We're going at this from the reverse, sort of a semi-high brow everything site. It's very tough to build an audience like that because most people's interests are not as diverse as ours. We know that, though. The only way around that of course is to offer a compelling reason for people to come. The issues used to be that vehicle. Now it will just be interesting blog posts and our longevity. That's why it will be nice when we can focus on the former.

In any case, whatever we do, it will all have to be single login stuff. There will be no point in having multiple logins or looks and feels. Unification will be key for us. Again, that's why I like Basekit, and that's why I like WordPress as a plan B, simply because it's a well supported standard. In any case, whatever form 3.0 takes, if we can get at least another good 5 or 6 years out of it, I guess it will be worth it.

Speaking of that, one thing I'd like to emphasize is our existence since 2003. I think that's something many sites simply can't say.

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Matt Barton
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I took the

I took the plunge:

http://armchairarcade.com/phpBB3/index.php

Man, I don't know what it is about that software, but you can really feel the pull just by looking at the opening screen!

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Matt Barton
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Basekit looks easy to use,

Basekit looks easy to use, but I can't seem to find if it has good blog and/or forum functionality. As far as I can see, it has widgets that lets you import blogs and such from Blogger and so on. It reminds me of the all-in-one service Ning, if you remember that one (it was free that went to subscription-based). Unless I'm mistaken, it looks like we'd be able to make a nice look with Photoshop, but the functionality would come from third-parties like blogger, Twitter, etc. That might be a better way to go anyway, since everyone has a Facebook or Twitter account already.

Drupal is a great CMS and has tons of features, no doubt about it. However, it's never been quite right for us because it isn't easy enough to make blog posts with images and captions. That seems like a pretty basic thing, but the Drupal devs seem to think it's best to leave that to third party add-ons. For instance, if we switched to 7 now, we'd lose almost all of the images in our posts because the module img_assist is not (yet) available for 7. There's a new system for 7 that lets you easily upload images to posts, but it doesn't have a built-in gallery or an easy way to add captions.

I think it's essential that whatever we move to, it needs to make it easy to write articles (blogs), add images from a gallery, and add captions. This should be automatically formatted to look nice on the screen regardless of browser size. I really don't think that's too much to ask!

Right now, we seem to only have about 6 active users on this site including the editors. That leads me to think that if we want more participation, we're going to have to make it so that we're integrated somehow with Facebook, Twitter, universal logins, etc., so that people can effortlessly make comments or discussions without having to register or even visit our site to do it. I'd like to see a system that would let people respond to posts by using Twitter or Facebook and have it all consolidated.

Let's face it, we could scrap this site altogether and those of us who care could stay connected via FB or Twitter. The only real reason to keep the site is for blogs and feature articles. It seems to me that guys like Gnome's Lair and Tales of the Rampant Coyote have the right idea; the blog is just a hub site and most of the social stuff happens on Twitter and/or Facebook. They also tend to socialize with other bloggers like themselves, mentioning each other and having discussions that way. I could see folks like you, Rob, creating a blog and using it to respond to posts or start new discussions. The "trackbacks" feature should make it possible to ensure we (and the readers) are aware of those discussions.

Even if we had a dedicated forum such as phpbb running here, I don't think it would go anywhere. It'd just be the 6 of us on there sporadically posting. We just can't compete with the existing forums that cater to our clientele, such as Monroeworld, Atari Age, English Amiga Board, etc. Honestly, I think the guys who enjoy forums are a dying breed, perhaps holdovers from the BBS days. Everyone else who wants to interact is content to make a small comment or just click a like button.

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Bill Loguidice
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I share your concerns, Rob,

I share your concerns, Rob, but there is one other possibility that our host will be offering soon and that's BaseKit: http://www.basekit.com/ . I think WordPress is a fine plan B, but I really hope we'll be able to make the switch to BaseKit.

Sadly, Armchair Arcade has always had technical issues and we've wasted far too much energy simply making the site function properly. It's always a hassle upgrading, let alone doing a full switch (which we've done once before), but if it's for the long term good, we simply have to do it. If the end result is more content and less hassle for everyone, it will be well worth it. If we can make the switch to something like Basekit or WordPress where the upgrades are handled for us on the host side of the equation, all the better.

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Rowdy Rob
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Wordpress concerns

Hi, Matt. I am concerned about a "Wordpress" switchover. Here are some of my concerns:

1) Is Wordpress conducive to the "discussion" motif that AA has always had? Most Wordpress sites/blogs I've seen seem to be limited in discussion. They all seem to have "comments" like Youtube videos, rather than full-on discussions that have been so fun here. So the focus is primarily on the original "blog" post, and not the discussions. I don't know if that's inherent to Wordpress, or if it's just the way most Wordpress "blogs" are configured.

2) Can any "member" start their own "blog" on the site, or is that feature limited to just the "Ops" of the site? Many discussions in the past on AA were not initiated by the "ops," so I'd hate to lose that "community" feel.

3) Does the "discussion/comment" system have much flexibility? Can I quote another post in my own response post? (That's a feature that gets used tremendously here.) Is there a "post/comment" length limit?

4) The "comments" on most Wordpress blogs, on popular articles, seem to go on forever, with no "paging." A popular article would be a huge mess if comments cannot be divided into "pages," meaning users would have to load a massive page to read the latest comments at the bottom of the page. Needless to say, that would be a chore, and would discourage comments or discussion, particularly the lengthy posts we often have here.

5) The "front page" system of Wordpress, based on what I've seen, only seems to show the latest "blog," meaning if several AA "ops" post new content, only the latest one is seen. Again, I don't know if that's inherent to the way Wordpress operates, or if some flexibility is allowed in that regard.

I could come up with more concerns, I suppose, but my primary concern is that AA remain discussion-friendly, and Wordpress blogs I've seen don't seem to be designed with this in mind. That having been said, perhaps Wordpress itself is popular enough that it has a system in place to bring in more traffic, which means new post-happy members!

I admit I have no answers to the "Drupal" dilemma. While I understand that AA may be having technical difficulties with the current system, I'd hate to see AA switch to a format that kills off one of its most attractive features: it's inviting, friendly discussion format. Perhaps Wordpress is more flexible than it appears to be, and may work out very well for AA. But Wordpress seems to be designed more for readers than posters.

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