Choosing a forum engine for my "portfolio" server


#1

I have a cheap VPS server which I plan to use as a host for my “portfolio” - a simple homepage describing who I am and some demos (or even official/production instances) of various open source projects I made or plan to make in the future.

(If you wonder what this has to do with PBBGs then the answer is simple: one of those future projects may be a PBBG :wink: )

There is a chance that one of those projects will gain some popularity, and that means it may be a good idea to anticipate that and install some kind of forum software on my machine - to serve as changelog, bug tracker, developer blog, support, or even simply a chatbox for those potiential users.

And that brings me to my problem: what forum software should I use?

I need something secure, modern-looking “out of the box” (as I will probably not have enough skills or time to customize it), but it should also not be a resource hog because it will be sharing space with many other applications.

A nice bonus would be if the software was easy to integrate with external applications. For example to automatically synchronize badges, ranks, privileges, profile data etc with my PBBG.

On the other hand, the forum will share disk space and resources with other applications, so it should not be a big resource hog even under a heavier traffic.

I did a bit of research and two applications look promising:

  • Discourse is popular and nice-looking and it seems it has some nice support for integration with external apps… but its official hardware requirements are quite overwhelming, compared to my machine’s capabilities
  • Flarum is a new and modern-looking project, it does not look like it would require much hardware… but its a work in progress so it may have some security bugs or lack a feature I will need

Do you have any opinions on that matter, or know some other software that may also fit?


#2

I can’t speak to Flarum’s ability to integrate, but I’m partial to Discourse specifically for that reason. I very much enjoy its API, and the community has some great plugins. Some integrations and plugins I’ve found useful so far:

  • Discourse -> Discord announcements
  • Patreon group sync + access control
  • Custom PMs sent to me from my game to help troubleshoot specific scenarios
  • Automated team-based private forums
  • An ideas plugin to let my users vote on requested game features

That said, Flarum does also look nice.

What’s your current budget for your VPS?


#3

As low as possible :stuck_out_tongue:

This is just a side project, with no realistic chance to earn any revenue, so I want to keep costs low. If I ever get lucky and gain some popularity then I will of course upgrade, but I don’t think its a scenario I should prepare for now.

I feel that you plan to recommend me some offers, but the provider I am using (OVH, if you are curious) is quite decent, comparable to things people have recommended me before on the chat, and it has an added bonus of being located in EU so I can use the fact to nurture my local patriotism :stuck_out_tongue:

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Besides, I still feel that Discourse’s official requirement of 2GB of RAM is quite expensive. I understand that it includes a whole Docker image with all dependencies (database etc) included inside, but it still feels bad to dedicate a big chunk of RAM for “just a forum”.

I know I could instead manually install all required components, so that the forum would share at least some of the resources with other applications, but such mode of installing is completely not supported by official documentation so I would be walking blind there and probably mess up something.

So yeah, that’s my dilemma in a nutshell: I could either follow the fashion and install Discourse (probably messing things up trying to conserve resources) or ignore the trend and install something else, something more simple and less resource-heavy… but what?


#4

I run this Discourse (on others) on Digital Ocean’s cheapest option at $5 USD. It isn’t as cheap as OVH but still a great deal for what you get. They offer EU servers as well. :slight_smile:

The 2GB RAM is just recommended btw, I’ve been running on 1GB just fine. My largest forum only needed to bump to 2GB recently, but it’s definitely more than a side project.

For Flarum’s part, it does appear to run on even 512 MB RAM.

You can run flarum on a 512MB just create a 1GB of swapfile to deal with composer.

However:

you can always use a sandbox OVH instance, they run $3.49/m for 2GB just realize these are massively oversold, and intended for test projects. You can use it for a small forum, but there will be irregular latency in your requests. You could get a good day without any users noticing issues, and then a bad week where on and off requests have significant delay.

Given the above, the requirements are smaller but the performance may also degrade as a result if you’re using their cheapest option. Whether or not that matters for a portfolio is up to you. Fwiw, that’s more of an issue with OVH than Flarum itself.

Between these 2 specifically, it comes down to how you prioritize your own requirements:

  • Lowest Price and Minimal Hardware: Lower-cost host running Flarum

  • Software Maturity and Better Performance: Higher-cost host running Discourse

There are of course other options, but I haven’t seen any that compare well to these.


#5

I thought about this a little more and I think I will start small with a Flarum installation instead of Discourse.

In the end the deciding criteria were not cost or performance but a technology stack. Discourse is a voodoo black box to me (written in a framework and technologies that I do not have any serious experience with) while Flarum is a standard “PHP+database” application - which is exactly the stack that I work with every day so I should be able to troubleshoot it or tweak performance if needed.

And if it turns out that it’s lacking some important features… well, I can always implement them myself and thus have some more entries in my portfolio :wink:


#6

That’s a reasonable course of action. Good luck with everything. :slight_smile: