Evaluating new forums

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Re: Evaluating new forums

Postby fluffy » Mon Dec 14, 2015 10:40 am

Well said, jb.

And Crates, I do definitely appreciate the offer. My biggest concern is whether the Drupal forum allows ingestion of existing phpBB content, ideally with a means of retaining a mapping of old thread IDs to new ones (so that we can also migrate the "view discussion link" links on the archive).

Also as far as long-term hosting is concerned, I'd like to keep the hosting situation under our control, and also keep it cheap - which means probably sticking with Dreamhost. I know Dreamhost works quite well with Flask (I use it for a bunch of stuff now), and given that Drupal is PHP-based I'm assuming that will work well enough as well. I'd been investigating building a unified Flask-based CMS for Song Fight!, but I'm not entirely opposed to Drupal if it's got a few key features we care about.
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Re: Evaluating new forums

Postby Crates » Fri Dec 18, 2015 12:38 pm

jb wrote:Hey Crates, I would love to see that test instance of Drupal, and thanks very much.

One thing I've mentioned recently is that even though there is the occasional hiccup, PHPBB has been really quite maintenance-light for us. Every so often we have to fix something but I bet there have been years when nothing was required, which I find amazing.

All the admins have day jobs in tech, so do please forgive any curmudgeonliness you may encounter as we come together to wrangle a good "next step" for Song Fight's forums. When people with a lot of expertise come together there's always a negotiation to help our minds meet and move forward.


I can certainly appreciate the sentiments, and I'm on the same page with regards to seeking a solution that is relatively hands-free. For the sake of security and stability, I'd recommend using Drupal 7 over the 8.0.0 beta version. For those same reasons, it also makes sense to do regular updates for security purposes if no other reason, and that can be largely automated with the use of drush to install them automatically, if you so desire. That would be the route I'd go, ideally, with automated daily, weekly and monthly backups (keeping 3 previous iterations of each time period for reversions in the event something goes wrong); this way, you'll hardly notice the updates taking place, but if something goes wrong, it should be a relatively direct path to get back to a working edition (unless you ignore it for 3 months, in which case you're gonna need some more direct support). Of course, those timelines can be realigned to whatever you feel makes sense.

fluffy wrote:My biggest concern is whether the Drupal forum allows ingestion of existing phpBB content, ideally with a means of retaining a mapping of old thread IDs to new ones (so that we can also migrate the "view discussion link" links on the archive).

Also as far as long-term hosting is concerned, I'd like to keep the hosting situation under our control, and also keep it cheap - which means probably sticking with Dreamhost. I know Dreamhost works quite well with Flask (I use it for a bunch of stuff now), and given that Drupal is PHP-based I'm assuming that will work well enough as well.


I wouldn't have it any other way, on both counts. The goal would absolutely be to consume the existing phpBB content and existing user accounts, and use those to prop up the initial site. I found an extension that will even create the mod_rewrite rules to redirect your old links to new ones, so peoples' bookmarks and Google results will continue to function. I have also set up Drupal on Dreamhost in the past with no major issues, but you will definitely need your own VPS shard. However, if you're buying your own VPS, you can probably get a better deal dollar-for-dollar elsewhere; I can make some recommendations if you're interested.

Your choice in hosting is immaterial to me as long as we have the ability to execute as sudo and harden the system against attacks (using basic principles such as dropping ping floods or SYN stealth scans via IPTables, etc... nothing too esoteric; we don't need to hot-patch the kernel or anything), and as long as we have somewhere to store back-ups offsite (which is the only solution that makes sense, from my perspective). This could be as simple as FTPing the nightly back-ups to someone's home system that's running an SFTP server, or uploading them to Google Drive or Dropbox, or however you feel like doing it.

This is by no means going to be a small undertaking, but if it's worth doing, it's worth doing right. Just my $0.02. =)
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Re: Evaluating new forums

Postby fluffy » Fri Dec 18, 2015 12:49 pm

Crates wrote:I wouldn't have it any other way, on both counts. The goal would absolutely be to consume the existing phpBB content and existing user accounts, and use those to prop up the initial site. I found an extension that will even create the mod_rewrite rules to redirect your old links to new ones, so peoples' bookmarks and Google results will continue to function. I have also set up Drupal on Dreamhost in the past with no major issues, but you will definitely need your own VPS shard. However, if you're buying your own VPS, you can probably get a better deal dollar-for-dollar elsewhere; I can make some recommendations if you're interested.


Yeah, Dreamhost's VPSes are overpriced garbage (source: tried using it for a month, had nothing but problems with the asinine way they provision capacity). Their shared hosting is what I'm talking about. Do you think Drupal is really too resource-intense for a shared hosting setup though? Or does it require a persistent process or some weird mod_php configuration? Keep in mind that as large as the Song Fight site is, we actually don't handle a whole lot of traffic, nor are we a target for DDoSing or targeted hacks or the like.

JB and I already know about many other VPS options, and we've also been toying with the idea of just AWS/Heroku-ifying everything but of course that is an even bigger undertaking since everything on the site is set up for classical static-hosting-with-files-in-local-storage.

Your choice in hosting is immaterial to me as long as we have the ability to execute as sudo and harden the system against attacks (using basic principles such as dropping ping floods or SYN stealth scans via IPTables, etc... nothing too esoteric; we don't need to hot-patch the kernel or anything), and as long as we have somewhere to store back-ups offsite (which is the only solution that makes sense, from my perspective). This could be as simple as FTPing the nightly back-ups to someone's home system that's running an SFTP server, or uploading them to Google Drive or Dropbox, or however you feel like doing it.


Nice thing about Dreamhost shared hosting is they already take care of hardening and do a pretty good job of it. I also have a bunch of my own scripts that run on top of it to verify that certain things are correct (like a daily permissions check and an md5sum scan to ensure that all code changes are things we're aware of - we've had problems in the past), and I also have a nightly rsync-over-ssh process to back up my own crap and vital Song Fight stuff to my home NAS and to Crashplan (including the private git repo for all of the site scripts). And of course I have a complete mirror of the Song Fight! archive in my iTunes library, although with all the id3 tags normalized.
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Re: Evaluating new forums

Postby Crates » Wed Dec 23, 2015 10:29 am

fluffy wrote:Yeah, Dreamhost's VPSes are overpriced garbage

Yeah. I didn't really want to be a negative Nancy, but yeah.

fluffy wrote:Do you think Drupal is really too resource-intense for a shared hosting setup though?

Technically, no. However, I'm thinking more about the performance of the site. Depending on the number of concurrent users on the site, you can suffer some pretty bad performance issues beyond (let's say on average) 1-2 dozen users hitting it at the same time. You can accommodate up to that number via the configuration of Drupal's internal caching mechanisms and with some modules and plug-ins that assist in the way that MySQL caches queries, but realistically, the greatest gains come from being able to add services that speed up the performance of MySQL and PHP more directly, by tuning your mysql.conf, your php.ini, and most importantly, adding things directly to the stack like an APC, FastCGI or Opcache daemon to speed up the performance of PHP, by creating a RAM disk for storing the most commonly-accessed static resources in the past day or week (e.g. songs from the current fight), and by setting up a Varnish or Nginx reverse proxy overlaying everything else for the least-dynamic pages, nodes or blocks of pages (e.g. artist bios, FAQs or forum pages served to unauthenticated users).

The bottom line: I'm not just looking at what WILL run... I'm looking at how your site will perform and scale on the platform. In practice, you'd ideally have something that is always stable, capable of handling traffic spikes (if Frontalot decides to compete again and blog about it, for instance, or getting attention again from Penny Arcade or Slashdot or Reddit or whatever) and is user-friendly (which generally means getting the page in front of the user and interactable in less than half a second from the initial request, and keeping RESTful requests sub-200ms).

fluffy wrote:Or does it require a persistent process or some weird mod_php configuration?

Essentially, yes; both.

fluffy wrote:Keep in mind that as large as the Song Fight site is, we actually don't handle a whole lot of traffic, nor are we a target for DDoSing or targeted hacks or the like.

Duly noted, but also bear in mind that we're accounting for search engine crawlers, which will visit your site far more frequently if the content is well-formatted for search consumption (for instance, your completed fights can be structured with Schema.org data that the crawlers can aggregate if you validate the parameters in Google's Structured Data Testing Tool, which in turn will cause you to rank more highly in SERPs and get more click-throughs as rich content is often highlighted via Google's Knowledge Graph engine).

Long and short of it is, ideally we plan for scalability, not necessarily accounting for past results as the primary metric for how you'll grow in the future.

fluffy wrote:JB and I already know about many other VPS options

Yeah. There are some great ones. I have a couple servers that cost about $40 a month with redundant SSDs, ludicrous upstream bandwidth quantity and speed, and pretty much act like standalone boxes despite living on virtualized hardware.


fluffy wrote:... we've also been toying with the idea of just AWS/Heroku-ifying everything

I'd strongly advise against using AWS if you decide to do that. It's crazy expensive compared to literally any other option, and I'm speaking from experience as someone who's had several AWS EC2 instances running for the past 5 years, both personally and for clients. Honestly, if you're going to keep your data on Heroku, Firebase, Hoodie, etc. you can just as readily build a bespoke client-side single page app that GitHub will happily host for you, for free, with the best uptime and content delivery speed in the business (for instance, I currently host cr8s.net there, although I'm not doing anything with the domain at the moment). Yes, your client-side software would be prospectively open-source at that point, but I don't see that as a negative thing at all. Since you mentioned you have a private GitHub instance, which I'd assume you're paying for, you wouldn't even have to open-source the platform if you didn't want to.

fluffy wrote:Nice thing about Dreamhost shared hosting is they already take care of hardening and do a pretty good job of it.

Yeah, I definitely agree with that; however, they are also a common target for attacks on the broader scale, and I have definitely seen clients on DH disrupted because an entire ARIN block was taken offline temporarily via a DDoS attack on someone else entirely, and the client had the misfortune of being in the same block.

fluffy wrote:I also have a nightly rsync-over-ssh process to back up my own crap and vital Song Fight stuff to my home NAS and to Crashplan (including the private git repo for all of the site scripts). And of course I have a complete mirror of the Song Fight! archive in my iTunes library, although with all the id3 tags normalized.

Brilliant; my preference is rsync over SSH as well. You obviously know your shit... so, I'd suggest that whatever software and server solution you go with, you continue backing up via the same methodology.
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Re: Evaluating new forums

Postby fluffy » Sat Jan 02, 2016 3:44 pm

So in the meantime I've upgraded the forum to phpBB 3.1. The old theme (subSilver) is still not mobile-friendly, but proSilver and Simplicity are. I've set the default to Simplicity for now but all three are available for your use.
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Re: Evaluating new forums

Postby RangerDenni » Sat Jan 02, 2016 6:20 pm

thanks for taking care of us, folks! It's nice to read all this on my scratch n' sniff mobile phone! :)
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Re: Evaluating new forums

Postby hillbilly » Sat Jan 02, 2016 10:35 pm

don't know what you did but it turned red on my end, looks like a bunch of added sites and features, thanks for the effort and time, but I'm only here for song fight. What are the benefits? lets say to me?
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Re: Evaluating new forums

Postby fluffy » Sat Jan 02, 2016 10:38 pm

the benefit to you is that the forum stays working
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Re: Evaluating new forums

Postby Lunkhead » Sat Jan 02, 2016 10:50 pm

Wow. No offense, fluffy, but, I don't think the SoundCloud embed being broken really justified an unannounced/untested forum upgrade. And why does every theme have to have a reds-only color palette? Kinda hurt-y on the eyes. Could we please have at least one option that has some more neutral/cool color options for people? Something less likely to make people angry, give them headaches, etc. Like maybe something with light/neutral blues like the theme I used to use? Not sure what my old theme was now and I don't know if I have any way to find out what my old theme was since it appears to be gone from the menu. :/ Maybe in the future it would be great if the forums weren't just updated on a whim with no advance notice to anybody, but thanks for fixing the SoundCloud integration...
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Re: Evaluating new forums

Postby fluffy » Sat Jan 02, 2016 10:57 pm

It wasn't just that, I'd put in a bunch more monkeypatches for even more code-rot issues that I'd been fixing today as well. Something had to give. of course I completely backed up the old forum in case this didn't work, but this has fixed a lot of problems (including making it easier to keep things up-to-date in the future).

The old theme was subSilver. I've enabled that now. The themes that are here were just what I'd set up quickly to make the site not look horrible. I've enabled more of the color variants that came bundled, and downloading more is pretty easy.
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Re: Evaluating new forums

Postby Lunkhead » Sun Jan 03, 2016 12:34 am

Thanks for adding the other themes, I appreciate it, and thanks for fixing the other miscellaneous stuff.
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Re: Evaluating new forums

Postby josh » Sun Jan 03, 2016 7:49 am

Looks great and works better on Mobile phones. Thanks, Fluffy!
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Re: Evaluating new forums

Postby Rone Rivendale » Sun Jan 03, 2016 9:07 am

I don't know if it's my OCD or if I'm just the old guy in the room, but I hate change. Stop it. :P
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Re: Evaluating new forums

Postby fluffy » Sun Jan 03, 2016 10:06 am

Nearly all of the installed themes (except subsilver2 and songfight_subsilver2) are mobile-friendly. AllanStyle-SUBSILVER is an update of the classic subsilver2 to be a bit more modern/clean and also to be mobile-friendly, and it's what I'm using (and what I've set as the default for now). You can of course change your theme over at the board settings.
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Re: Evaluating new forums

Postby Chumpy » Sun Jan 03, 2016 11:31 am

The new theme looks excellent, thanks Fluffy!
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Re: Evaluating new forums

Postby king_arthur » Tue Feb 23, 2016 8:02 am

Thanks for all your work on the forums... one small request, there used to be a link on the forums header that would take one back to songfight.org, would it be possible to put that in again? Maybe clicking on "negative people..." could get one back to SF :-) Thanks!
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Re: Evaluating new forums

Postby fluffy » Tue Feb 23, 2016 10:56 am

I'll see if there's an easy way to do that which doesn't involve modifying every theme by hand.

EDIT: Turns out there is!

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