What software would you use to power a digital community today?

Specifically an RP community (this is for )

Traditionally, it was BBSs. Then Forums. And now, I guess, Discord and Slack and Matrix, mostly (but that's not the workflow or the usecase I want. At All.)

I'm half tempted to reach for Buddy Press, if that's even still a thing (but there has to be a better solution to this problem than Wordpress.)

If my expected userbase was slightly more technical, I'd just set up a linux box that they could log in to, and use a news server, on system email, and gopher to accomplish what I need.

But I'm worried that would exclude potential community members because of the perception of having to learn something new in order to interact, and I want to lower the barrier to entry.

Suggestions are welcome.

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@ajroach42 RP = Role playing? If you haven't checked it out, Discourse is the world's best forum (and it's #FOSS) for chat, Matrix is great or I've also got a lot of experience with - and can recommend - Rocket.Chat - also FOSS - self-host or use their SaaS (you can always self-host if it makes sense - an option you don't have with Slack or Discord - I recommend staying away from them -

@ajroach42 Discourse is the most widely used forum in the world, far as I know, so it's not a barrier to use. Rocket.Chat is almost identical to Slack, at least for a beginner, and it just loads in a browser tab, so no cognitive overhead there, either. Similarly Matrix.

@ajroach42 I host a couple instances, so can perhaps assist if you need it. I set it up using Docker and Nginx for a reverse proxy on Ubuntu cloud instances... Works great!

@ajroach42 Communities and tools tend to mesh together over time.

An option might be to offer a menu-driven system (old-school BBS-style), though that's going to play poorly with any mobile devices. It's _very_ light on load and fast as blazes if you've got a keyboard. Less so if not.

Your other options generally are protocol-based tools, Web-based tools, or app-based tools.

#FreedomBox probably deserves a look.

What are your goals / constraints, generally? How many users?


1) communities and tools mesh together over time. - Sure, but this is easier if the tools don't suck.

2) Menu-driven system. - ??? Does such a thing exist, or are you suggesting that I write it?

3) Protocol-based tools, web-based tools, app-based tools. ??? I guess I just don't understand what you mean.

4) freedombox - I don't see a forum in freedombox?

5) requirements - A few dozen users. semi-permanent conversations, organized around several topics, mostly in character.

@ajroach42 2) It exists, though I'm not specifically familiar with any. "menu driven bbs software linux" as a search turns up hits:

SE question (closed, natch) on BBS systems:

3) I'll explain, in a follow-up.

4) #FreedomBox is A Thing -- "your own inexpensive server at home. It runs free software and offers an increasing number of services ranging from a calendar or jabber server to a wiki or VPN."

@ajroach42 ... which gets us back to 3), which I'll unpack:

Protocol-based tools: individual services, running on Well Known Ports (generally), such as email, SSH, Usenet, Web, etc. Users bring their own clients to the party.

Web-based tools: the app is a web client you install and/or design. See Meredith L. Patterson's "On Port 80":

Apps: generally: mobile-based iOS or Android apps.

Each has strengths/weaknesses, Web and Apps are presently popular.

@dredmorbius I understood this much.

I was wondering if you had something more to say about it.

Apps are usually frontends for protocols or websites, yeah?

Making a decision about "protocol" vs "website" is less meaningful to me than deciding on a specific workflow or piece of software. I don't much care what it's doing on the back-end, if it's usable.

@dredmorbius 2) - Ah, you meant a menu driven BBS system. Yes. Several exist, synchronet and WWIV look pretty promising, but neither has a web interface.

4) - I'm familiar with the FreedomBox concept, but looking over the software that they include, I don't see a forum.

I see chat, calendar, wiki, lots of stuff I could make use of, but nothing that solves my direct need.

Still neat, just not exactly what I wanted.

@ajroach42 As for the menu-based approach: you can create a pretty simple such tool using the rksh (restricted K shell) and a small bash script, running a set of carefully cultivated utilities. Allowing shell access on a system is generally considered to be pretty risky though. Virtualisation and containers make that somewhat safer these days. I'd be very careful going that route, though there are terminal servers, e.g.,

@ajroach42 I got lazy and just created a subreddit "/r/theouterlinux" for any forum related stuff, which was really easy to do. And then, people can either use a heavy web browser, Reditr, or something CLI-firendly like rtv or any forks since the main developer has quit the project. Discoverability is better too, though I'm all alone on mine. I know it's a proprietary platform, but I don't see it the same way as Facefarm, Instagotyobiometrics, or Goolag+.

A BBS would be cool though...

@TheOuterLinux That's an option, but I prefer to self host when I can.

@ajroach42 Ultimately, those functions are always in use on the internet, just the way they are presented to the end user is different.
Getting personal messages
Retrieving database information
Current events.
The informational requirements are the same as always, just the 'acceptable' presentation has changed.


I might appear as silly, ignorant and stupid, but why not a mastodon or frendica instance?

@selea Because I don't want it to federate with the larger fediverse.

It's functionally a project site, should remain internal.


Well, you can disable federation in mastodon actually :)
It is basically just a option in the configuration.

@selea Have you used a forum?

The structure of a forum is vastly different than the structure of a microblog.

No character limit on posts, subject lines, permanent topics, organizational hierarchy.

I could make do with mastodon, but it'd take some real effort.


Yes ofcourse I have used a forum :)
I am a 90's kid, I grew up with it.

But as someone else suggested, discourse is a nice piece of software. It has mailinglist support (and also post-by-mail). The downside is that it is dependent on alot of js

@selea I was just saying more or less the same thing re: JS.


I appreciate the suggestions either way.


@hund recently created a forum based on FluxBB - maybe he can recommend something :)

@selea Post by mail/mailing list support is a neat feature.

@ajroach42 I like Discourse. OSS, fit the same place as Buddy Press, SMF, PHPBB, and the like. It also had nice community moderation, badges, and groups.

@dmoonfire That's another vote for discourse.

But it's a rails app, *and* it requires a lot of JS to run in the browser.

@ajroach42 Depends on what drawbacks you will accept. I run it in a docker and it's "good enough" for me since I can't take writing one of my own with my other projects.

Mainly I look for self contained forums that work enough for me to do what I want too.

I also feel that PHP struggles with things more modern languages have addressed. That would include WordPress and buddypress.

@ajroach42 I would be tempted to go for a forum of some sort I think. I haven't had a forum in ages though so I am not sure what the current open source ones are.

That's the gut reaction for me too, but the available options are ... Worrying.

@Shutsumon Just requires a ton of JS to run on the front end, and a reasonably beefy server on the back end. :-\

Most RP communities are using forums - Simple Machine Forums being the most popular outside of Facebook

That's a use case I'm targeting with Sputnik Opphuichi. The Sputnik wiki engine has role based permissions already, but you manually configure the roles like Discord. Once I've finished the ActivityPub retrofit (3-6 months), I'll be able to template some CMS workflows and permissions

SMF is polished, but it's opinionated. It is open source. I'm not sure of the governance, but it would be better than a chat program. Here's the link:

Sputnik has support for blogs, forums, RSS and binary uploads. You should be able to run the whole podcast site from the wiki if you place it behind a caching proxy. Also I'd welcome the opportunity to improve handling on binaries 😌

Have you ever been the only person in a restaurant with an overly solicitous waiter? Thirty years ago, I was that waiter 😂😂😂

So, yeah. I'll try not to ask too many questions. I need to move the needle on ActivityPub implementation, but I'll put "test binary uploads over 100 mb" and "document deploying with squid" on my to do. If you have any questions, you'd be helping me 😎

@ajroach42 Ever used ? I've used, and know a group, that uses it, and it seems decent enough.

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