TSL Update: vBulletin forums are now shut down

Will Stewart, TechSideline.com, on January 19, 2014
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We here at TSL have decided to shut down the vBulletin boards, and steer our users exclusively to our threaded boards for message board commentary and discussion.

The rest of this article is divided into four sections that explain the decision and what it means for the site:

  • What does this mean?
  • Why is TSL doing this?
  • What happens next?
  • Can we talk about this?

Read on, and skip any sections you’re not interested in.

What does this mean?

  • Our vBulletin forums, effectively immediately, are shut down and will no longer accept new posts or registrations.
  • We’ll leave the archived vBulletin posts up, so they will be indexed by search engines and will serve as a valuable archive of past discussions.
  • The subscriber vBulletin forum archives are now opened up to non-subscribers and are no longer walled off.
  • The vBulletin boards will no longer be included in our site navigation. You can find them here, and we’ll leave a link to the archives in our “Message Boards” menu for a while, but eventually we’ll remove that, too.
  • We’ll add the necessary boards to our threaded board system to round out our offerings in that format.

That will get everyone talking in the same place, which is what many of you have said we should do all along.

Why is TSL doing this?

We realize there’s a ton of history here — two years’ worth — and a lot has been said (a lot) in those two years about what board system we should use, whether we can split the user base like we did, etc. There have been more polls and more discussions than we can count in the last two years.

We are NOT interested in rehashing those discussions. Nonetheless, we thought you would be interested in our reasoning. (Or maybe not, in which case you can stop reading right now.)

Ultimately, we decided to nix the vBulletin forums and go with the threaded “chat” boards for the following reasons – we’ll expand upon each one in more detail.

  • Those of you who said it would split the user base up too much are correct.
  • Having multiple places to comment spread us here at TSL too thin.
  • vBulletin doesn’t play well with our other software.
  • People gravitate more towards the threaded boards.
  • Our threaded boards are different. No one else has them.

For more explanation of these points, read on. Otherwise, scroll down till you see “What Happens Next?”

1.)  Those of you who said it would split the user base up too much were correct.

Our comments/posts are now split up into at last three areas: article comments, threaded chat boards, and vBulletin forums. Add in Twitter, and there are just too many places for our users to go to interact with us and each other.

Those of you who warned us that a dual board system would do that were correct. We never said you were wrong, we just wanted to give it a try before making a final decision.

2.) Having multiple places to comment spread us here at TSL too thin.

I think this is as big a problem, perhaps bigger, than #1. Chris Horne and Chris Coleman and I now have to look in all the places that are listed in #1, plus answer emails, plus answer texts, plus answer phone calls.

Our users ask us questions and make comments all the time, everywhere, in all these different places, and it’s very, very difficult to do a good job of answering everyone’s questions in all these different venues.

And posting each article in all these different places — we haven’t even mentioned Facebook — is also a pain after the 500th time. And before you ask, we currently can’t automate the process. It’s manual.

3.) vBulletin doesn’t play well with our other software.

vBulletin is a good discussion forum, but it doesn’t integrate well with our other software that we use. Just ask our subscribers who renewed their subscriptions, got booted from the pay vBulletin forums, and had to email us to get hooked back up. We can’t find and fix this bug. And it’s just one of many problems associated with vBulletin.

vBulletin has caused us a lot of headaches since we installed it in January 2012, mostly because it’s a HUGE piece of software with a ton of capability we’ll never use, and we have no control over it. None. Because it’s not our software. There are things that go on that we simply can’t control or stop. (“Cheap jersey, very nice quality” anyone?)

The threaded chat boards, which we have spent a lot of time and money modernizing from what they used to be, are completely in our control. We can make them efficient, we can add features if we want, and we can control how they tie in to all our other software. And most importantly, if there’s a problem, we can fix it quickly ourselves.

4.) People gravitate more towards the threaded boards.

We’ve always liked the deeper-discussion aspect of the vBulletin forums, which allows a very detailed, in-depth exchange of ideas and opinions. But as you can tell from the success of Twitter, the ability to fire off — and read — quick comments creates a more dynamic, engaging environment.

In other words, the majority of people like the threaded boards better. They’re drawn to them, in a way that they’re not drawn to vBulletin. I won’t bore you with tons of traffic statistics that support this, but I will say this: overall, since the new year, page views on the threaded boards outnumber page views on the vBulletin forums by a 9.3 to 1 margin.

On the subscriber side, the page views on the threaded chat boards outnumber the vBulletin boards 34 to 1. Not everyone prefers the threaded boards, but most do. Especially our subscribers.

And as I write this late on a Sunday night, the threaded boards have received 144 posts in the last 1.5 hours. The vBulletin boards have received 11.

In addition, we have the ability to watch real-time statistics, and at any given time, there are 7 to 8 times as many people on the threaded boards as there are on the vBulletin forums.

Last … and definitely not least…

5.) Our threaded boards are different. No one else has them.

Our “space” as we say in the Internet world is getting very, very crowded. New sites and networks spring up every day. And they all have either article comments, or linear (vBulletin-style) message boards, or both … but no one has threaded “chat” boards like what we’ve got.

That makes them a competitive advantage, or at the very least, a competitive difference, something that we do that other people don’t do. Love it or hate it, it’s different.

So we’re going to keep them, emphasize them, and hang our hat on them. That means pulling the plug on vBulletin forums.

What happens next?

First, we’ll shut down the vBulletin boards as described in the “What does this mean?” section above.

Over the next few months, we have some enhancements planned for the threaded boards that will make them display better on mobile devices, add in some much-needed functionality like an edit feature and social networking capability, and more.

We’re also going to take a look at adding the capability to expand and collapse threads, and the ability to view an entire thread at once (without having to click-click-click). We’re going to code a widget that will display the hottest threads on the home page, and we’re going to add some code that will show the most recent posts across our board system all on one page …

You get the idea. There are a TON of things we can code our threaded boards to do that they currently don’t do. The challenge is to do that, while still keeping them easy to use, fast and stable.

So what you see with the threaded chat boards is NOT what you get. We’ll be working on them and improving them over time, not just in the next few months, but … forever.

Can we talk about this?

Actually, no. TechSideline.com has aired waaaay too much laundry on this topic in the last two years. There’s been way too much ranting, cajoling, criticism, encouragement and advice in the last two years. Let’s put all that aside and get back to talking Tech sports … on threaded “chat” boards .. which will now just be called “message boards” by the way. It’s back to the future for us.

If this makes you angry, and you’re going to cancel your subscription, or … do whatever, we totally understand. That’s your prerogative. We can’t make everyone happy and have made too many mistakes and spent too much time and money trying to. So we understand if you go elsewhere, and best wishes.

Thanks for your time, support and feedback for the last two years, and we’re eagerly looking forward to moving onward and improving the site.


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