The discussion forums are back!

In May 2017, after 9 years of lively activity, we had to shut down our discussion forums due to massive spam problems. It was just some simple code I had written in literally one day in 2008 to add a sense of community to the site, and it was great until the last year or two when spammers arrived en masse. The code was pretty old and crusty and I didn’t want to deal with updating it, so I just decided to close it down, if only temporarily.

We definitely lose a sense of community when that shut down though. I really enjoyed seeing our users talk to each other and help each other out with problems and ideas and things like that. So I was happy in the short term to be done with the spam, but long term I’m really unhappy about losing that.

Fast forward a few years, and we’ve having some spam issues elsewhere in our site. In early Feb 2023, I finally had enough and learned how reCAPTCHA integration worked and added a custom “I’m not a robot” checkbox to a few key forms – login, register, and forgot password. While doing this, I realized this would help eliminate most of the spam problems we were having on the forums before. But I wanted to see how these other areas went first. So far so good, so I spent most of today (Feb 22) updating the forums to integrate our reCAPTCHA there, and also cleaning up a bunch of the code as well.

We moved the entire site to flex/grid CSS layout back in 2019, but I never updated the forums for that because they weren’t active anymore. So the list of categories/topics still uses a table for layout, which bothers me, but it’s a simple one and there’s no tables when viewing a thread or anything, so I’ll live with it for now. Pretty sure it’s the only table on our entire site! Phew.

All the places that previously linked to the forums or displayed previews of content (such as the user homepage), have all been updated to again have these links/content. The user homepage used to show the last 3 discussions, now it’s just 1, since there’s not as much room as there used to be.

I hope this brings back the sense of community that we’ve been lacking for the last 4 years. I miss talking to you all in a more casual setting than support emails!