Welcome to the New Forums!
After a nasty run-in with an anonymous hacker bringing down the site, requiring password changes and taking the site down again (for the second time in June/July!), the forums finally came back, with many thanks to chaos and the newest admin (at the time), Joim. I'd like to warn you—this is being written as major changes are happening to Smogon, so if some small parts are wrong or not up-to-date, my apologies. This article will be discussing just how much changed when we stopped using the vBulletin software and switched over to XenForo, which negated the coding error that allowed the hacker to bring us down. However, even without the hacker, there were plans to change the forum over anyway, so I suppose "all's well that ends well" or something similar would apply here.
What are the new features?
- This is probably one of the greatest things added to Smogon in the XenForo change, in my opinion. Gone are the days that witty a forum (or its current equivalent) posts would be followed by one or two 'why can't i like this post' or something similar. Now, questionable "mass likes" aside, it is much easier to gauge how much of a supposed silent majority there is in agreement with your post—I just hope that the Like feature doesn't devolve into a Smogon equivalent of what Facebook has, where the Likes are meaningless. Like this article if you agree.
- Forget Likes, this is the best new feature. For those who don't know, Watching a thread means clicking a little button near the top of the page, "Watch Thread?" Although email is an option, it usually means it will send you an Alert, which I will discuss in a second, that a post has been made in the thread you are Watching, similar to what happens when you receive a VM. It's obvious why this is such an excellent feature. You can even have it tell you if there's a new post in a forum, if you want to stalk CAP or Suggestion Box or something.
- This is an amazing improvement to the old notification system, if only because PM and VM notifications are now separate, and you can Watch threads. While I do not personally know, at the time of writing, if there are any other uses for Alerts (perhaps something for mods and higher), it is still a vast improvement over the basic 'You got a new VM/PM/Invitation to a Social Group.'
Where are the old features?
- This was replaced by the "Follow" feature. I'll be completely fair; I see no purpose in either system. I don't have a need to "Follow" a particular user, nor did I see the purpose of the eye candy that was a friends list. Before you tell me it's a nice way to find users you need to talk to, think about this—is that user going to be on your VM wall? Will your browser have that page if you type in his or her username? Is a link to the user in your inbox? If you answered yes to any of those, then the Friends list is eye candy that you prefer using over a possibly easier system.
- Social Groups
- Whether you liked them or not, social groups are gone for good. While some may recall the good in them—the "iss for moderator" social group comes to mind—others might recall some negative aspects of it, but I won't point fingers at certain social groups. While social groups were always a generally good place to store information, it is about time to look at other places to do such things. Google Docs and PiratePad both are. It's a positive change, the people hurt the hardest from it will simply have to find other ways to continue their needless drama.
- VM Conversations
- For a while, I was distrusting of this change. No longer would it be easy or possible to stalk the conversation between skylight/Vivillon/Starships and Zebraiken, and more than one user can participate in a VM conversation. However, I think I've come to the point that I've realized that while the new VM Conversations don't have anything to make them inherently better than the previous system, they also don't have anything making them worse. I think that it'll eventually become another thing we take for granted, and when it is changed again, we will miss it.
- Webpage changes
- The URLs were changed in the switch. Even though it may have been annoying as hell for a while, thankfully DougJustDoug wrote a script that forwards any old thread or post link to the new forum's link, so nothing was lost (THE IRON KENYAN'S signature), and the URLs are now in an easier-to-format system.
- PMs now function a bit different—instead of sending an individual PM to each user you list, it makes a mini-thread only you and the people you sent the PM to can see. And for anyone who still doesn't know, Inbox -> Start New Conversation. Also, a PM Conversation can consist of more than two users, effectively making PMs a private thread for the participants.
- While unsettling to the normal Smogon user, it's not all that horrible. A bit bright perhaps, but navigation is no less difficult, and it's better than other layouts we could have had. Thankfully, now that the major necessary changes have been made, the layout will be changed, and when this is uploaded, maybe this whole paragraph will be unnecessary!
All in all, through good and bad, the switch to XenForo is a positive change. While some of us, myself included, may not like change, this is a long overdue improvement, and things can only get better from here. Theoretically, at least. Hopefully this article cleared up any rumors being spread around, if there are any, and gave some information on some stuff you didn't know. The last thing a couple of over-worked administrators need is people contacting them about stuff that should be common knowledge.