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Brainstorming help: We WANT to migrate to XF, but there are snags.

Discussion in 'XenForo Pre-Sales Questions' started by Tigratrus, Feb 5, 2011.

  1. Tigratrus

    Tigratrus Well-Known Member

    First off, Susan and I have been here since the start, we LOVE XenForo, and I've been chomping at the bit to move from vB -> XF. We're desperately seeking a way to go to XF instead of IPB (which has importers for everything we need) because we love the XF experience and fundamental architecture a LOT more. Please help us?! ;)


    #1 (with a big fat bullet) Gallery. We have a Photoplog gallery with 16,000 + images in it and simply cannot drop that.

    #2 We have member blogs (vBlog) that we can't simply abandon as it would be terribly unfair to our members.

    #3 Need a good front end CMS solution either WP or Joomla (we're actually using both presently). I've been digging through xfrock's mod threads and there seem to be issues with stability.


    What I'm wondering about is what's the feasibility of maintaining the legacy systems (Gallery and vBlog) until there are effective replacements for them that we can migrate to? My testing on our testbed shows that we would need to leave vB etc running after the migration for the redirect script to work anyway, correct? So the only problem is that once we migrate, there will no longer be a sync between the vB and XF user accounts/logins so new members would lack the ability to use the legacy systems.

    Am I correct in thinking that if we had a system to keep the XF and vB accounts tables in sync and cookies that worked on both systems we could have the vBlog and Photoplog remain active and useable for the immediate future until there is a migration path? Anyone have any feedback/thoughts?

    I know there are a LOT of sites out there (just counting the ones I've seen posting here on XF) that want to migrate to XF for the good of their community, but are prevented because they have vB based functionality they cannot abandon.

    Thanks in advance for any assistance anyone in the community can provide, I'm sure it'd be appreciated by other customers with complex sites too. :)

    (of James and Susan)
  2. fattony69

    fattony69 Well-Known Member

    Hey! I am surprised not many people swarmed this thread, either way, I can help. Definitely xF looks like the best way to go from vBulletin! I know this because I am slowly making my main forum towards it. Let me see if I can answer your issues.

    1. I've learned galleries are a huge issue with many! I can understand this myself as I've ran graphics forums and have a huge portion of my forum dedicated to photoshop. That said, there are a few options I would recommend.

    First (but probably not ideal for most), you can take the route I did, by making a small image hosting site. It is not connected to my forum, but it turns out my members love it just as much because it is small, lightweight, simple. You can view it here: http://www.theimageigloo.com Not saying this works for many because it doesn't.

    Second option is buy PhotoPost: http://www.photopost.com/ Being in vBulletin, I've bet you have at least heard of them and such. They seem to be a great photo gallery and I almost went that way when I was running strong with vBulletin (price stopped me at the time). According to this post: http://www.photopost.com/forum/phot...87-photopost-pro-7-1-released-01-24-11-a.html It does integrate with XenForo!

    Third option is more of a waiting thing. I know a member here, King Kovifor is working on a gallery to release to everyone. It is still in private beta, but from what I've seen, it looks good. He is a great coder and he won't let anyone down. I won't doubt there will be others released soon.

    2 & 3. This sort of goes together with the option I am going to suggest. xFRock's modfication works for many, but has issues with nginx and server configurations like that (from what I understand). I know there are multiple forums out here that have it working and running fantastically. I've seen a few. That said, I suggest trying that method which would work great. Now, for the blogging, when you run this as your homepage, turn the Wordpress Network option on and you will be able to have blogs for everyone and give them a lot more options than they had before. Importing could be done by RSS I believe, so there should not be an issue there.

    I believe all of what I said currently works, if not, just wait and develop a test site to get ready. I know many big users here are doing it, if not already made the plunge to xF. I can show you my test site. It is basically ready to be switched, but there are small things that are keeping me from switching.

    Hope I have helped.
    Jeremy and Peggy like this.
  3. Tigratrus

    Tigratrus Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the reply and the effort you put into it :).

    I know all about Photopost [​IMG]. And I'm quite familiar with the way they treat their customers, which is WHY we have Photoplog instead. Honestly 'Plog is a *much* better gallery system, with much MUCH better integration with a vB forum than Photopost has. AND... Photopost has no importer for Photoplog and have been pretty rude to people in the past that have asked about one. Either you pay for the entire creation of the import script yourself, or forget about it. Anyway, I should stop there. There are those that are happy with PP.

    King Kovifor's gallery sounds good, and we certainly hope he has great success! If it's something we can use, that'll be wonderful :). But that's an unknown quantity, and I'm trying to figure out how we can migrate, and maintain the legacy systems till they have native XF replacements :).

    Honestly, I think if we can get a jFusion plugin for XF, we can probably just use the legacy systems (Photoplog and vBlog) until their functionality can be ported to XF.

    I'd think that a bridge between the vB install and XF might provide a migration path for those that are stuck unable to migrate to XF because they also have sections of the site that are not (YET!) replicated by anything in native XF. But I doubt that Mike/Kier have the time to build such a bridge, and we'd probably have more support trying to get a jFusion plugin vs trying to get a direct vB/XF bridge that's only real purpose would be to help sites migrate.

    (of James and Susan)
    ge66 likes this.
  4. TNCclubman

    TNCclubman Well-Known Member

    My members NEED to upload photos to their albums and if I know Kier, its coming, just let him launch the forum 1.0 It is coming.
  5. Tigratrus

    Tigratrus Well-Known Member

    I agree. :)
    I'm just thinking that this is a way to migrate over and keep our old gallery and blogs on life support until Kier and Mike can get the time for it. ;)
  6. Dean

    Dean Well-Known Member

    No, you just need a few files in the existing directory you have now. No need to continue to have the existing forum running.

    The import populates the lookup table during import, then when the old links are accessed there is re-direction. I am assuming that if you left the existing forum you have running then you would close it so no more replies could be made - otherwise links to newer posts after the import could not be re-directed.
  7. Tigratrus

    Tigratrus Well-Known Member

    Right, but we're using VBSEO, so we'd need to leave VBSEO running in order for the URLS to get redirected correctly. At least that's my understanding. I'd close the forums to posting, but if I left the Gallery open that should still be useable as long as the user has an account in the vB User table and the cookie's right.

    Might have to close all the forums individually, and leave vB itself open to leave vBlog running, but I *think* as long as I can keep the vB User and XF User tables in sync and the cookies right...

    Does that sound workable? I'd test it on our testbed server, but I need to re-spawn it and without either a working vB <-> XF bridge or a jFusion plugin for XF I have no way to test.
  8. Shelby

    Shelby Active Member


    Honestly, I can't in any way reccamend XenForo in it's current shape for a community like yours. I'm not going to argue that it can't work, only that in order to make it work, you're going to create additional barriors for your community, and for youself. Invariable compatability issues down the road will arise due to these barriors. Yeah XenForo is pretty nice forum software. But from the sounds of things, your community is not just a forum.
    ragtek, ENF and Xarcell like this.
  9. Xarcell

    Xarcell Well-Known Member

    I agree... I think your jumping the gun a little early.
  10. Business Coach

    Business Coach Active Member

    Thanks Shelby and Xarcell,

    that is a very honest answer, and I have been struggling with whether or not to put $500-$1000 into IPB or Xenforo...as those are the only 2 I am considering now.

    $500 plus a couple hundred to mod ipb...or 140 plus several hundred to mod xen - doesn't matter to me, long as it id done quickly and efficiently.

    I am not building simply a "forum" but a community, as forum only has limited niche in todays society.

    Everyone here seems to point to "how easy it is to do yourself"...thats fine for DIYers..but for people like myself, who learned a long time ago you make a lot more money by NOT micromanaging and trying to do everything on your own, I just don' thave the time or inclination to sit and tinker with a forum.

    A far as my community needs, Yup i could install, skin and probably do some basic mods myself. But I would rather pay someone else to do that and focus on the 1000 other things that have to be done for the business. Just because I can does not mean I SHOULD. That seems to be the response I am getting though, sadly, in my quest for people to work.

    I am going to spend some time looking at all the features of IPB as it is difficult to find people to work as 3rd party developers for xen currently.

    Thanks to all those who took the time to pm or respond to my posts.

    Clearly there are a lot of self coders, hobbyists etc here. And they all love xenforo and love working ON THEIR OWN SITE. I bet you there are a TON of people, like myself who do not fit that category, and just need reliable workers on a regular basis. I will say, there is a clear void here for that, and anyone who bothers to take the time to start a COMPANY (as one freelancer would just be bogged down) doing work for xen...would clean up.

    then again...maybe i should do that instead :p
    gordy and ragtek like this.
  11. Tigratrus

    Tigratrus Well-Known Member

    Actually we're faced with the same choices. The thing is, if you think there are few developers available for XF at this point, you need to take a *really* hard look at the IPB scene.

    My take, based on working with both systems for about a month, popping for a "Hosted Community" with the full IPS Suite loaded on it (if you get the "Plus 40" for $29.99/month and pay $5/month more you can get the entire package including IP.Content and IP.Nexus) is:


    Benefits of IPS:
    1. IPS is a very mature system with a LOT of capability. The development pace is rapid, and they have come a long way from a few years ago. The have importers, and seem to provide excellent service on tickets, the forum based help is spotty, but as long as tickets work that's fine with me. IP.Nexus is a gem, seriously impressive what you can do with an integrated ecommerce solution.
    2. The mobile skin and built in iphone app are definite benefits.
    3. The IP.Content article system being able to promote from forum topic to an article and fully integrate the comments and topic replies is a major plus.

    Downsides to IPS:
    1. The 3rd part dev community is very VERY thin. The core products change so frequently, and break skins/mods with incredible rapidity. The end of last year IPS was releasing a major upgrade to one of their apps EVERY WEEK! That has driven a tremendous # of the Mod and skin developers away from the IPS platform simply because they can't afford to be updating everything they do so often. There are currently a LOT more mods for XF already built, than there are 3rd party mods that work with the current version of IPS.
    2. The IPS platform (while it makes vB 4 look like stone tablets and chisels) is somewhat dated, and despite all it's technical capability, feels clunky to me personally. There are a lot of inconsistencies between apps, and the CSS is really hard to work with.
    3. The promise of IP.Content is largely unfulfilled as it's very awkward to deal with. The documentation is quite lacking, and it's flat out hard to work with.
    In short: If you like the stock IPS system *as it is* you will probably love IPS and it's what you should go with, it's a great product. But if you want to extend it in any significant ways to meet your communities specific needs, you are likely to be fighting an uphill battle and a rough time finding someone to help you with the development, and a rougher time maintaining your customizations. Same for styling, if you don't like the stock skin or a fairly simple variation based on the stock skin, you CAN find some custom skin devs, but they are expensive and maintenance will be a major problem with every app release requiring significant work to maintain the skin multiple times a year. IPS has some very technically capable solutions. IMO They need a better UI designer (little inconsistencies like things not being exactly aligned and the CSS being hard to work with).


    Benefits of XF:

    1. XF is FUN. Seems shallow, but using XenForo is a very engaging experience. The #1 goal for a forum (IMO) is to reward people for their efforts. They need to feel appreciated by their peers, they need a sense of affirmation. XF does that better than any system out there, hands down. In my opinion, this is a crucial thing, hard to achieve and absolutely priceless for a community builder.
    2. The community. The XF 3rd party dev community is bursting with energy and people getting mods built. XF is built from the ground up to be modification and styling friendly, that that's a benefit that will draw the modification community in droves..
    3. As XF has been built from the ground up with a fully modern design with a single, well architected CSS styling plan in place, it's very easy to customize the look/feel of the forum. The ability to put virtually ALL your styling changes in a single extra.css file means that XF upgrades have very VERY little impact on custom styles.
    4. Once you get below the surface of the ACP and look at the templating system, you quickly find just HOW powerful the system is. It's designed so that you can take any part of the system and extend it (both templates AND code) without modifying (hacking) the original. Again, that will make it a lot easier for mod developers to maintain their mods ad XF upgrades.
    5. XF is built as a platform like IPS. Kier and Mike have said from the beginning that they will will building a CMS, Gallery etc. Based on the best of breed nature of the Forum component, I have a high confidence level that those components will also be innovative and best of class. Looking at how fast their development cycle is, and how fast they built the whole platform AND the Forum component on top of that platform, I'm willing to bet that other parts of the platform will be available much faster than many people think.
    6. The SEO is superb out of the box, the fully semantic markup is the best we've seen.
    Downsides to XF:

    1. It's new. As it's not *quite* gold release (though I feel sure that it will be very shortly :)), a lot of Devs are waiting until they have final code in their hands before putting out their mods.
    2. There is a degree on uncertainty regarding the future of XF based on the legal disputes with IB. Personally, after reading the pertinent documents, I think IB is clearly gaming the legal system in an attempt to bleed XF dry before they really get rolling. I think they will fail, but it's a legitimate concern that must be considered as a person who has a BUSINESS building and running a community (as you and Susan and myself do).
    3. XF as a platform is nowhere *near* as comprehensive in functionality as IPS, nor do they have the corporate resources that Invision Power Systems has.
    4. Migrating a complex community to XF is currently going to be a somewhat complex, phased process. To start the process requires a level of faith in the platform and it's future development that many will be uncomfortable with.


    After working with our IPS installation for a couple weeks, getting a feel for what's involved in making it what we want for our community, we came back to take another good hard look at XF. Honestly, I wish it was an easier decision, IPS is a GOOD system, with a ton of capability (esp IP.Nexus if you are selling ads and or any memberships or tangible/digital goods).

    In two days we made more progress in XF than we had in 1-2 weeks in IPS. If *we* can do things that much faster, a real developer will be able to give us *far* more bang for our buck, IMO.

    At the end of the evaluation we asked ourselves 2 questions:

    1. Would you regret going with the other platform later?
    2. Which do you think will encourage community participation more?
    As a final reality check we chatted with a developer that's a good friend of ours that both runs his own vB forum and is looking to move. He said that he's looking at XF, and is very excited by the platform. He's never looked at IPS though so that's not a comparison, just an opinion on the XF side.

    What it comes down to is both are good systems. VERY good systems. Both make vB 4 look like stone tablets and chisels. But we've been doing this for 5-6 years now, and we've learned that a modern system, built right from the start is a better fit for us. We never... NEVER seem to be able to use an out of the box system, we always push the envelope. For us, that makes IPS less of a good fit than XF.

    Obviously YMMV widely, but since we're in such a similar postion, I thought you might find our experience evaluating the same two platforms useful. I'd be glad to chat/Pirvate Convo if you'd like to talk about any specifics.
  12. Business Coach

    Business Coach Active Member

    annnnnndddd with that

    i think i am falling off the fence.

    My success has been on taking risks....not foolish ones, but calculated ones. And being an early adopter has its pros and cons

    WITHOUT a SHADOW of a doubt the FOUNDATION of XF is superior to all platforms. I showed one freelancer, and he said this forums load time is so fast it "scares" him...he wanted to know what the heck they did!

    So do i take the established, yet inferiour code base (ipb is still based off of last gen coding)

    or take the scaled down version and risk with these business newbies. I think these 3 will find that running a business is NOTHING like RUNNING a business. IN other words, as employees, things like lawsuits, cashflow etc were of no concern. Now they must learn marketing, and as they grow management and accounting, and yes legal.

    Lack of customers is not what kills businesses, lack of knowing how to manage a business kills it...case in point the many IB customers who are LEAVING VB to find another solution. People, like me.

    That is my real concern...can these guys hack it? I hope so.

    Entrepreneur is not the same as freelance or self employed....it involves risk..so with that.

    Worse case scenario, XF goes belly up, the code breaks and no one can legally use it...then i go to IPB..either way VB is on my SHHH list for some time to come.

    Guess what, after I hit post, i am hitting the shopping cart button :)
  13. glorify

    glorify Well-Known Member

    I have IPB and will port to XF. Right now I am playing with an import using vb as a middle man.

    Hoping to do the Kings gallery as well, and will wait to see what kind of home I use. My homepage is not used very often, just mostly for landing.
  14. Digital Doctor

    Digital Doctor Well-Known Member

    Q: Why do you want to switch away from vBulletin NOW .. vs. in 4 months ?
    Besides that Xenforo is awesome ?

    The only way I think this could work would be using Wordpress for everything other than the Forums.
    CMS = Wordpress
    Gallery = something that plugs into Wordpress
    Blog = Wordpress MU ?

    For stability, I think doing alot of stuff in Wordpress is a relatively safe bet.
    I think Wordpress for non-forum stuff and Xenforo for forums is a smart long term move.
    It's certainly alot less risky than using Photoplog.

    So far, I think the best think for you is to stay put.
    Your site looks good from here.

    Another option, for the Gallery, would getting a customized version of Gallery3 or some open source product be an option ?
  15. whynot

    whynot Well-Known Member

    Is it mature enough now?
    I have installed it a few months ago then abandoned it because it did not even have a registration option.

    Edit: seems still missing
  16. Digital Doctor

    Digital Doctor Well-Known Member

    I haven't really used it enough to say, sorry. On top of that, for Tigratrus, he actually has relatively specific gallery needs, which most gallery software won't meet out of the box (that is if he wants to replicate what Photoplog does).

    If Tigratrus thinks Wordpress is possible, I'd look into what are the best Galleries for Wordpress.
  17. Tigratrus

    Tigratrus Well-Known Member

    No, can't move the gallery out of the current Photoplog folder structure without breaking almost every single image in the forums. Putting 16,000 images into any wordpress based Gallery I've seen isn't likely to work either. There's probably a good, searchable one out there somewhere, but every gallery I've seen for wordpress is built to hold simple groups of images for use in articles. I haven't seen one that's designed as a community resource.

    I've looked at Gallery3 and it's vastly better than most systems I've seen, but the redirects would be a PITA. We're thinking about building a frontend using Fabrik and having it connect to the photoplog DB and file structure. That would avoid any redirect problems, but it'll take time. Hence the idea of keeping Photoplog online for the immediate future.

    Blogs -> WP Multi-site is a strong possibility, it would add something like 2300 tables to the WP database, but they would be largely empty, and rarely used. It would certainly get the blogs some exposure!

    Hrm... Need to check if there's an integration to have Wordpress use Gallery3? We might be able to do something to pull in the images from plog but link them in the databases. Hrm. Need to ponder that.

    We're not rushing actually, we've needed to do a site redesign for a while now, and if we're gonna do it, I want to be on XF if I can make it work! :)
  18. Shelby

    Shelby Active Member

    Heya Tig,

    You've made some excellent points.
    1. Would you regret going with the other platform later?
    2. Which do you think will encourage community participation more?
    I'm going to answer question 2 first. I honestly belive that a revamp with either piece of software will encourage more participation. There's nothing XF can do that I can't do in IPB. The opposite definately isn't true. Which kind of brings me to question 1.

    You will not regret going with IPB. You will be able to do whatever you want. Between Nexus, IP.Content, IP.Converge, the sky is the limit for your community. They're amazing pieces of software and if you look at the foundation of Nexus and IP.Content, they're very sleek, very sexy. They're attractive in the same way that XenForo is to me.

    With XenForo, the future is murky at best. If could turn into something amazing, but it's only one step from the grave also. No offense to the very talented folks of Kier, and Mike, but from a practical point of view, they're just two people. It's a company with more limited resources that exposes you to a greater level of risk than any other compeditor.

    From a perspective of something whom professionally builds communities, I look at it like this.

    If I told you your community was dying and that there were two treatments. One treatment will ensure that your community will live on for years to come and has reletively low risk. Then I told you about an experimental treatment which is newer but is very high risk, which would you choose?

    It's classic risk vs benefits and from my point of view, there is nothing in XF that I can't do in IPB.

    As a side note, I would say that I really, really want XenForo to succeed, just that I'm realistic in the risks I undertake should I choose to develop a community that extends beyond just forums. Whatever you end up choosing I hope you succeed and I'm happy to hear about your adventure.
    ragtek likes this.
  19. Tigratrus

    Tigratrus Well-Known Member

    Thanks very much for your thoughts! This is very much the reason we've been so conflicted on IPB/XF. It would be sooooo much easier if there was a clear cut "Better" answer :confused:.

    IPB is indeed quite excellent. IP.Content and IP.Nexus are certainly two of the gems of the system. Unfortunately IP.Content's potential is largely unrealized as it's quite awkward to work with, and despite a certain dev's avowed desire to provide documentation, the things that really need to be documented for non-IPB devs are apparently too much trouble to put together :rolleyes:. I'm not slamming anyone on the IPB staff, honestly they do a good job, and are FAR more open with their customers and keep them updated with what's going on. My concern is that the IPB devs are honestly trying to push their platform forward into the future, and when that breaks backward compatibility, it's a necessary casualty of progress. That makes me VERY nervous about the consequences of spending the huge amount of time needed to build thing that we want to do in IP.Content. Based on the recent past (and even what's going on in the IP.Gallery revamp), I can totally see all the custom IP.Content development being broken sometime in the nearish future.

    The standard response from IPB staff (and totally understandable from their perspective) is: "Well, you don't HAVE to upgrade."

    Frankly my biggest concern with IPB is the lack of third party devs. I can clearly see why there aren't many, and it has nothing to do with IPB not being a good platform, IMO, it has to do with technology churn as the IPB team works very VERY hard to modernize and improve their platform. They are doing a great job, but it's gonna be very rough on folks doing a lot of customizing to meet their communities individual needs.

    Gallery3 *might* be a possibility, really hard to tell without getting deep into it. Problem is, it'd be a LOT of work to set it up as a replacement for 'Plog. I think I'd rather stick with 'Plog for now and wait and see what evolves for gallery support in the XF space.

    I think there is a fundamental difference in a Gallery designed as a COMMUNITY solution, aimed at facilitating discussion, and a Gallery that's designed to support showing off one's photography and/or in support of a chronological conversation with essentially a single voice, like a Blog.

    Given the way the XF Message system is used with separate wrappers for both forum threads and Personal Conversations, I'm hopeful that K/M(i)e/kr/e will see the benefit in being able to fully integrate images into the forums, and discussions about images likewise. If the Forums are the heart of the community, then IM(strong)O, all conversations should lead back to the forums, not be split up into penny packet stove-piped "Comment" systems that fragment your community's interaction.
    Kier likes this.
  20. Tigratrus

    Tigratrus Well-Known Member

    I really appreciate all the honest advice above! :)

    What we're kind of thinking is that we should take some time to do some of the content reorganization we need to do to set the stage for a migration (whichever way we go), and work on laying what groundwork we can.

    1. Move Worpress out from Joomla! and make straight WP 3.x the home page.
    2. Move all articles into new topic section based categories (to support the topic focused landing pages that are a cornerstone of the nex gen of our site in the wireframing we did.). With all J! articles being consolidated into WP.
    3. Look into the realities of moving all the vBlogs into WP multi-site (I expect the redirects to be a major PITA.)

    That's enough to keep us *quite* busy for awhile, and in the meantime we will be watching the evolution of XF and hoping for a STRONG community gallery to appear. And/or for Fabrik's next release to provide the toolset needed to build a front end and upload solution to take over Photoplog's DB and file storage structure. Who knows? Calorie has been around here on XF lately, maybe there will be a XenPlog?! :)

    We'll also be watching the rollout of IP.Gallery 4, and IP.B 3.2 with VERY careful eyes. IPB has the huge advantage of having importers to bring in essentially our whole site: Forums, Blogs AND 'Plog. All with redirects. That's an incredible difference in the amount of work we'd have to go through during the migration.

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