One forum to rule them all

Hey forum monkeys! I'm trying to accomplish some changes around here but need your input.

Recent conversation about cruise topics swamping other discussion in the forums has revitalized my interest in solving this problem—and it is a problem. The forums are a place for all JoCo fans, regardless of sea monkey/land pony/sad vampire status, and it distresses me that any members are feeling pushed away.

So what can we do about it? My ideal solution is the "unfollow category" option that was present in a previous version of this forum software. This would allow each user to unsubscribe from any category they don't wish to see on the main page, while leaving everything accessible from the "Categories" menu. Unfortunately, the newer version we're running broke that function. I found a plugin that I thought would work the same way, but it turns out to be an admin-level tool: I can hide the cruise topics from the main page, but they will be hidden from ALL users, and accessible by anyone only through the Category menu.

The authors of the Vanilla forum software say that the unfollow function will be fixed in the next major release, but given timelines of open-source software, who knows when that will be. So I spent a few hours last night digging through the codebase. I'm confident that I can code something to do exactly what I want, but I won't have time for it for a few weeks.


  1. Immediately implement the Hide Category plugin

    • Instantly makes the non-seamonkeys less alienated in the forum.
    • Easy to use.
    • May confuse people who are looking for cruise topics, especially those who don't come here often.
    • Categories sidebar currently not available in mobile version of site.
  2. Don't change anything for now, but actively work on developing a more refined, user-specific Hide Category function

    • Changes not forced on anyone who is happy with the status quo.
    • More flexible solution in the long run.
    • Will take time to write and test; at the earliest I'd expect to have time in July. Unless someone else has the skills and time and is willing to put up with me trying to micromanage.
  3. Some other solution, which one of you clever people will suggest

JoCo is serious about wanting to make the community happy, but since I have far more enthusiasm for forum software, he and Scarface have given me a lot of leeway over deciding what to do. I've promised to collect feedback, and they'll turn anything we decide on into reality.

What do you think?

PS - Since I was looking at code anyway, I dug into some other highly-requested features from the original forum update thread. Specifically, proper RSS feeds (which are sort-of fixed, though the links to them aren't) and a search that actually works. I'll get into those when it's not 2am.


  • Thanks for doing this @chicazul.   I will ponder and comment further later. :)
  • edited June 2012

    I'm new here, but I had a thought/suggestion/question – If we vote to remove the JoCoCruiseCrazy from the main page (I understand where land monkeys are coming from so I can completely get on board with this), could we have a Seamonkey Announcement/Sticky that then contains a link to the JoCoCruiseCrazy category? It would give seamonkeys a quick way to get to the cruise discussions and only be one thread for land monkeys to scroll past.

    Edit: Holy formatting weirdness, Batman! What did I dooooo? LOL Let's see if I can fix it. Edit2: All better! :)

  • @jessageek - I forgot to mention that in my post, but that's exactly what I thought too. Thanks for bringing it up!
  • edited June 2012
    I'm one of those people who has a lot of ground to cover if I am to keep up with all of the things I follow -- which are on many different sites around the Web -- and then still get my work done. So, I would opt for whatever would let me follow the forum with the smallest number of clicks and page loads. I don't have an issue with seeing general JoCo fan threads mixed in with cruise-related ones; in fact, having a view available to me that shows all of the active topics is more efficient. But I also wouldn't take issue with a feature that would allow folks with different preferences to filter.
  • Jessageeks idea is pretty much what I had asked for- one link/section that all the JCCC stuff is put in, stickied  to the top of the page so those interested in it can get there fast and check on things like ride and room shares.  I don't want to wipe them from the site, but the JCCC3 headings in the forums is like salt in a soup- a little is fine, too much ruins the taste. Don't go with option 1, that would be unfair to them; keep working on option 2, which is also good.  The only thing about option 2 as opposed to there being a link to where the discussions are is that if someday a person who has blocked the JCCC topics wants to go in and read them, they probably won't be able to easily.  You know how things can get very silly around here when things are going well- if someone points out that a JCCC3 post has gone off the deep end ( pun intended) and turned into an insane joke war, I would want the option of just ducking in to read it, then be able to avoid the rest at a later time.
       Thanks for what you are doing and all the hard work!  Techy stuff scares secret name is "Killer of Hard Drives".
  • @JoAnn_in_VA I imagine that if you chose to hide Cruise threads using option 2, it would only block the Cruise threads from showing up on the default page you see when you log on.  If you purposefully clicked the "Cruise" category in the upper right hand side of the page, you could find the Cruise threads if you wanted.  At least, this is how I *think* it should work.
  • Thanks, @chicazul! These options look great.

    I would much prefer option 2, personally -- that's kinda what I had in mind for my ideal solution, except for the part where it doesn't exist yet :)

    I haven't looked at the Vanilla code at all -- do you know if there's any possibility that any work we do could be pushed back into the major release, since that's functionality they want anyway? I am a little worried that the next release will supersede all the work we'd end up doing for this, but pragmatically, of course, that release will probably come out around the time of JCCC10. (At which point we will probably have threads open for JCCCs 1-15.)

    I could live with removing the cruise discussion from the main page, but I don't know whose interests that's serving. Realistically, we landlubbers seem rather outnumbered, so that would end up hiding a large proportion of the traffic by default, which doesn't seem desirable.

    If we do decide to code something up, I would be interested in allotting some of my Copious Free Time to this pursuit.

  • Suggestion for option 3: Split the forums.

    One of the design choices made by Vanilla is to not have strong differentiation for categories on the main page.  This works well for a small community, but as we have seen, it can be quickly swamped by a small number of active topics.

    By splitting the forums into a general JoCo forum and a specific JCCC forum there will have a strong differentiation while still keeping the simple Vanilla format.  Another option is to switch to something like phpBB that has much stronger categorization.
  • @Grimoire You took the words right out of my mouth. It's not about filters or silencing categories--it should be about organization. I'm not sure how Vanilla implements their forums on the back-end, but there should be ways to categorize sub-forums, while still providing the "all you can eat" view that others are requesting.
  • I felt like JoCo was hinting at phpBB as an option.  I'm mostly wondering how hard it would be to migrate the older data; it might be best to keep the old forums around read-only and start more or less from scratch.  I expect users would be easier to migrate than threads, especially when private messages are treated as threads.

    I don't have a lot of Copious Free Time these days, but I'll probably be in a better position to help with whatever in a month or so.
  • @BrettGlass What you've described as your preferred option is the default for this forum, and option 2 matches your last sentence.

    @JoAnn_in_VA As @mrgoldenbrown guessed, any of these changes would only affect the main forum page. Cruise topics will *always* be available to anyone through the sidebar.

    @Bry Option 2 is my preference as well, but I thought it was important to get feedback before implementing anything by fiat. (:

    In theory we could ask to have our revisions merged into the main codebase, but to do that we'd need to fork from the most recent revision on GitHub ( I'm leery of upgrading the current install ( to something that has a whole new, unknown set of bugs unless it's a major improvement over what we have. It's something I was looking into (I installed a test forum with the latest stable release) but without a proper data set I can't test if, for example, the search is fixed for our purposes—ie if upgrading would cause any less work for us.

    My slightly kludgy plan was to fork the code, hot fix the issues that matter to me, and make Scarface install the custom version. If I have the time I'd like to contribute to the main codebase too, but I want a fixed version here sooner rather than later. The Vanilla authors have been mentioning a 2.1 release for months, but judging by their blog it's not a priority.
  • edited June 2012

    The more I've thought about it, the more I'm behind Option 2. I don't think it does anybody any good to hide anything be default, and I really, really don't want to see the forum split. As I mentioned in that other thread, I have enjoyed, and even posted in cruise threads. Regardless of what happens to the cruise threads, I think the best solution is to have more non-JCCC threads. I've decided to do my part and start becoming a more active member of this forum community. 

    As for helping with the coding, I'm just a geologist, so regardless of how much free time I have, I can't contribute much unless there are rock-related problems. Then I'm more than happy to help!

  • Well this IS a geek-rock site; you fit in perfectly
  • Personally, my only preference is that I only want to use one login to access the threads.  Otherwise, it doesn't really matter to me.  I like all of the content!

    As a side note, I have heard some quiet whispers implying that this whole thing may be a bit of a squeaky-wheel situation.  I guess, in other words, is there an issue significant enough to require a solution? *shrug*
  • I'd prefer that people who want to see all topics/threads not have to view two streams (basically -1 to  @chichazul's option 1 above).  I'd rather not require that everyone need to pick between cruise/non-cruise options. Ideally individuals should to be able to hide whatever topics they choose, not just cruise ones (e.g. I have little interest in the Joco Tabs threads and might choose to hide them were the option available). 

    I have an option 3 to suggest (which might help until the topic hiding option can be implemented). Caveat: I know nothing about Vanilla and next-to-nothing about coding generally (I married my code monkey), so this might be an unworkable suggestion. 

    I know that only members can see the content in the member's only thread, so I was wondering if it is possible to create a second tier/level of membership? Would it be possible to have regular members, cruise members and non-members, with cruise threads only available to cruise members?
  • Hmm… I don't know if it's possible or not, but the cruise threads would have to be visible to non-members too, since otherwise people who've signed up for a cruise (or are thinking about it but need a room/ride share or some more information) would not see the cruise threads they're interested in and wouldn't know that they have to sign up to see them. Also, I presume even people who would otherwise want the cruise threads hidden would still want to be able to go to a specific post or thread if somebody linked to it because it was relevant to a non-cruise thread.
  • edited October 2012
    I've avoided weighing in here, but some kind of "hide this thread" option that could be applied by users to whatever thread they didn't want to see seems like the best option. It doesn't exclude anybody from any particular thing or require additional/separate logins or membership levels. It's also flexible for things besides just cruise stuff, like threads for show meetups for specific locations or threads that people just aren't interested in.
  • I like the phpBB option, because I'm familiar with it and it seems to solve the categorization problem.

    Of course, vB and others would do the same.
  • I am absolutely in favor of moving the cruise chit chat somewhere else. As I've said before, the cruise obsession, in my opinion, makes this group look like a long, sad, unintentional parody of "Shop Vac": The only thing the participants are concerned exclusively with is the amount of junk they are stockpiling for the next cruise. I'd like to think there are a few JoCo fans who are actually still interested in the music.

    It seems as though there's a very simple solution: already exists. Attach a forum to it. Let the materially obsessed ones obsess there.

    If you want a single login, use the same user name and password when signing up for both.

    For people who find it too painful to type a URL, add a link.

    Good luck!
  • edited October 2012
    "The only thing the participants are concerned exclusively with is the amount of junk they are stockpiling for the next cruise. I'd like to think there are a few JoCo fans who are actually still interested in the music."


  • I haven't been on the cruise and don't expect to be able to go next year, and I'm still active. And I don't think there's that much preoccupation with "stockpiling junk." Mostly people seem to be coordinating which tabletop games to bring.
  • edited October 2012
    While the cruise is expensive and therefore more accessible to people who have the means to stockpile junk, stockpiling junk is generally not what we discuss here. For one thing, I don't think a cruise ship counts as a junk (sorry :)) and for another, I'm mainly excited about the JoCo fans I will meet and do things with, and then with the concerts I will see (music! Yay!) The single pair of cheap moustache earrings I have stockpiled for the next cruise hasn't even been mentioned on the forum until now.

    I guess you could say I should prioritise music over the other fans, but if I did that, I wouldn't be on the forum at all.

    ETA: I do offer to bring CERN junk for people, but I do that when I go to land-based concerts as well; it's not a cruise thing.
  • edited October 2012
    I'm not interested in stockpiling junk for the cruise, but do like the infectious, year-round enthusiasm that regular group events engender. What's happening here happens in many communities. The larger the number of people who attend a regular event -- such as a yearly convention -- and develop ongoing relationships, the more enthusiasm is fed back into the group.

    Maybe it's because this particular event is expensive and logistically hard to attend that some folks cannot come, feel excluded, and therefore resent the chatter. They feel permanently left out.
  • I wasn't here back in the old days, but I don't think is just about the cruise talk.  The cruise threads take up less than 30% of the front page right now.  There is opportunity to participate in other threads or start new ones, but the few that have been started have been abandoned by those that started them, but have been popular amongst the more active posters.  Their voices aren't being ignored because people are responding.

    I have seen a phenomenon many times where I like relatively obscure performers and while their fans want the best for them, when the performer increases in popularity and succeeds, the fans for some reason turn against the performer and/or community that they were once a big part of.  I wonder if that might be what is going on. 
  • edited October 2012
    I've slept on it, and I'm still angry about this flat-out accusation of being "materially obsessed" and not caring about the music.

    I don't know what the ports of call are on JCCC3. I don't really know who the performers are beyond JoCo and Paul and Storm. I don't have "junk" that I am "stockpiling" for the next cruise.

    I'm going for the other Sea Monkeys, because Sea Monkeys are the most loving, supportive, accepting group of people I have ever been in. The first time I got on an airplane after more than a decade of flying phobia, Sea Monkeys were cheering me on and sending me suggestions for a playlist of airplane songs for my iPod. Sea Monkeys made me a video and put it on YouTube out of love and support. When I'm upset or depressed and I say something about it on Twitter, Sea Monkeys are the first people to comfort me and try to cheer me up. Sea Monkeys have rallied and supported me while editing my first novel and now trying to get it published. Sea Monkeys basically funded other Sea Monkeys' staterooms and travel by supporting one another's businesses and crafting ventures and have been first in line to help one another with creative and professional works.

    Because of the cruise, and because of the community of fans that has become more active and more robust as a result of the cruise, Sea Monkeys are recruiting more fans to buy music and come to shows. Sea Monkeys are recording audio and video of shows and uploading them so others can share. Sea Monkeys are putting together all kinds of other creative projects that are solidly rooted in the music. I'm not at all suggesting that Sea Monkeys are the only fans who do this -- just because we are so connected to each other, we are maybe more visible.

    Like @tmentz1 said, cruise threads are in the minority for active threads on the forums now. There are far more active threads that are not related to the cruise. So I really don't know where  this anger and judgement is even coming from.

    I understand being frustrated that a lot of people are talking about an event that is too expensive, too far away, or scheduled at the wrong time of the year for everyone to be able to attend. But characterizing Sea Monkeys as a bunch of materialistic, shallow jerks who don't give a crap about anything but hoarding souvenirs is sadly, blatantly false. I mean, look at just this thread. Before it turned into name-calling, it was all about how to be most sensitive to the whole community and make the most people happy.
  • edited October 2012
    I agree with everything @vilicious said about sea monkeys, and would like to re-emphasise that from my experience going to other concerts, all these nice things are true of JoCo fans in general, and sea monkeys are just the ones lucky/rich/motivated enough to go on a cruise (and yes, on average there's a stronger connection between sea monkeys because they've met in person for a week.) I don't consider them to be superior to other fans in any way. But the point is, it's absolutely not about stockpiling junk; we're discussing buying airfares, nights in hotels (yes, these things are expensive, extravagant, wasteful, bad for the environment, you could find all sorts of criticisms of that, but they are not really stockpilable commodities, so the "stockpiling junk" phrasing makes no sense here), fezzes (which help @chicazul raise enough money to go on the cruise, because we want to see her) 25-cent 'hug me' markers... okay, maybe the occasional formal dress, but that's not the focus of most of our discussions and not an important part of the cruise. We've said that nobody cares if you wear the same dress twice, or don't wear anything fancy.

    If you want to accuse people of stockpiling junk, go after the Artificial Heart level 4 participants, or the people who buy every available T-shirt at concerts, such as, uh... me. :) Even level 4 turned out to be more of an experience than an object.
  • I agree that comments made yesterday were very out of line. As someone who will likely never get to go on a JCCC, I can sympathize a little with the reason that post is in this thread. If last year was any indication, as we get closer to the cruise, the boards will lean more and more to cruise talk. This is natural and something I don't think we really need to address as a community. Like I said above, I think the best option is to have a more active community. I think we're on our way.

    I've read a lot here on the boards about how neat the Sea Monkeys are individually and as a group. I believe this, and it makes me really want to meet you guys. My concern is that the shared experience you guys have had on the cruise sometimes seems to overwhelm the shared experience we all have as fans of the music. I get this feeling a little bit whenever I see threads asking if any *Sea Monkeys* are going to be at such-and-such show. Like I said, there's little hope of me getting to know anyone in the context of being a Sea Monkey, but I'd love to meet other JoCo fans who are excited enough about the music and community to be here on the boards (hoping to be at the SLC show in November).

    That being said, I'm over being upset about the excitement about the pre-cruise. The forums, the fans, should stay as one community. Even though I didn't get to go, the talk here exposed me to a bunch of new stuff that have made me happy. I've bought music from Paul and Storm, The Long Winters, and Marian Call and Hodgman's books because of the accounts and videos you Sea Monkeys were kind enough to share from the cruise.

    I hope to meet some of you forum members in person at some point. Until then, let's all be friends here.

  • edited October 2012
    I know it is not the proposed solution by @Chicazul, but in the mean time I threw together a UserScript you can install that will let you hide and show forums (and all threads from those forums).

    If you are using Firefox, you need the Greasemonkey extension:

    Once installed, go to this url and you should get a prompt to install:

    For Chrome, the process is even more convoluted due to their dumb new policy.

    2. It should trigger a download of the script (you can ignore the warning)
    3. Open chrome://chrome/extensions/ in a new tab
    4. Drag the script off of your hard drive into the Extensions page and it will install.
  • ahh, Alice, you are the best! Thank you for this!
  • Thought I should bump this as the cruise threads are taking over the front page again. If you want a fairly easy way to hide them, see my larger post above!
  • So I have Tampermonkey, the Chrome version of Greasemonkey and I installed a script called PhpBB Thread Blocker. Now I just need to figure out how to work it.
  • @robgonzo That is not going to work as this is a Vanilla forum, not a PHPBB forum. If you have Tampermonkey, you should be able to install the script I wrote which will add the ability to hide specific forums.

  • Thanks! it works great. 

  • just as a note loverevolution21 was blocked at my work. I had to copy the code at home, email it to myself and then paste it into place here at work. 
    Now the only issue is incorrectly categorized threads. :-/
  • As I opened this thread, I found a big Bry-response to earlier posts in this thread that I'd drafted but never posted... no point replying now, I think (but if you want my thoughts, feel free to PM me).

    @aliceandstuff Awesome, thanks for putting that together! I hope those of you who do want to hide forums will report back on how well it works. (Also, you might be amused to know the parser in my brain keeps breaking the URL into words the wrong way.)

    @robgonzo and others: if you see any threads that are miscategorized, please let me know -- my official job description is Categorizer of Threads, after all. (Or if you prefer, feel free to leave a note in those threads.)

  • Hi forum monkeys!
    At some later time (I know things are a bit hectic in JoCo world right now), may I request that you look into this Vanilla plugin:


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