A funny thing happened on the way to the forum

04 May 2007
It's been a long time coming. No, really it has. You wouldn't believe it, being on the outside, but here on the inside our internal software team has been working hard in solving this, that, and several other kinds of problem. It's one reason why there haven't been any blog posts here for a little while: we've been holding off on them in case they got lost in the transfer.

In case you didn't get the email (and believe me we're very careful these days about who we send them to), we launched our new forums this morning and have retired our old, original newsgroups.

This effort is in response to a large number of our customers who have been asking for searching facilities on our peer support newsgroups. And not just our customers either: search in these days and times is all-pervasive, and we ourselves needed some ability to see what had been discussed before. And what better search engines than those that we don't have to purchase? That are available to all, the prime example being Google.

So moving the peer support newsgroups to a web-based system makes a great deal of sense from that viewpoint.

Another aspect to newsgroups is that, these days, many customers have moved away from that style of discussion forum. We didn't particularly want to use an aggregator (like Google Groups, for example) since they're generally read-only and so you could have two different places to go (one place to read and one place to post). Google Groups can be even more confusing: you can reply to a post in an aggregated newsgroup that's displayed in Google Groups, and it won't appear on the original newsgroup.

Along with that move away from newsgroups, there's been a move towards newreaders and RSS to notify us of new information rather than us having to go look for it. I use FeedDemon and Newsgator for this, but there are many different applications that do this for us nowadays: Outlook 2007, Internet Explorer, Firefox, and so on. Newsgroups, being rather old-guard, don't have this support and so you are forced to regularly (and in person!) go to the newsgroups to see if there are any new posts.

All in all, then, newsgroups seem to have had their day, especially where we're concerned.

Over the past year, we've been blogging on a fairly regular basis using Community Server. It's worked extremely well for us: in fact, I don't recall it going down unexpectedly during this period (whereas our overall internet connection has gone down a couple pf times in that time).

So, we've decided to use Community Server for the new forums that will replace our old newsgroups. It has some extremely good forum support with some nioce features (including a tree view of a thread, which is something I wish a lot of forum software would support). We've migrated over all of the posts in our newsgroups to the forums, and, even better, matched up those users we could identify to their logins on our main system. To ensure that no posts are lost in the transfer, and afterwards, we made the newsgroups read-only. From now on, all peer support posts will be made via the forums.

Once Google spiders the new forum pages and indexes them, we'll all be able to search for information on our forums to much greater degree than we can at present, all by using the "site:community.devexpress.com" parameter.

Anyway: enjoy!

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