Vanilla Forums And Magento

Magneto Admin

In a previous life, I built a couple of Magento sites and I as you may recall I did a Magento review in the past. Magento is a super great choice for anyone who is making a serious ecommerce site. One thing that Magento always lacked, in my view, was a great way to allow for comments on products and also creating a solid community. I always meant to get around to building a connector for Vanilla Forums, but I kind of got side tracked from doing so. Thanks to a couple of weekend coding sessions, this is no longer the case. If you have a Magento shop and you wanted the power of Vanilla Forums, it’s now available. May I present:Vanilla Comments for Magneto 

comments product and comments

This extension for Magento allows users to comment on products in your Magento shop and create a corresponding conversation in your Vanilla Community. To fully integrate Vanilla and Magento, you can add a link to your forum in the nav bar. The final last piece is an experimental JS connect plugin for Magento. This allows shop customers to be automatically signed into Vanila  if they have an account on your Magento shop. It was made possible by some small changes to the amazing work of  Bastian.

Final thoughts: This is not an official “Vanilla” release. It is a side project made by yours truly. Please test before you use in production. The best way to give back is to help improve code on Github. If you have questions or need support ask below. If you need a Vanilla Forum, get one here.

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Saturday, July 12th, 2014 at 20:16

Moving From Self-Hosted to Hosted Vanilla Forums

As you may or may not know I started work at Vanilla Forums (corp) about a year ago and I wanted to share some thoughts and learnings on moving from self-hosted to a hosted solution.

If you are on the self-hosted version, it’s relatively easy to make the switch to the hosted version. There is a free migration to the hosted version (with some exceptions). If you are not using the open source version of Vanilla, but want to go hosted and you want to save on the migration cost, you can always use the Vanilla Porter.

As much as I at first abhorred using .tpl files and smarty, I am so glad I did. It makes it much easier to upgrade and it’s just cleaner. Sure you can’t bring theme hooks in or custom views, but in most cases these were extras not needed anyway. Trust me. If you think there is even a remote chance of upgrading, stick with .tpl files for themes, it will make the upgrade seamless.

It’s really nice to be able to do theme work in the backend, and have revisions. It makes changing things on the fly much easier.

Loss of Freedom
Some may fear the loss of freedom, and it’s true, you do lose some freedom. The trade off for stability, performance and the latest features does compensate for a lot of that, though. Also while custom plugins cannot be supported — you can have it code reviewed by the team (for a fee). Let’s be honest, though, security is paramount and adding an unknown into the environment may cause issues. With the extensive API, there are lots of ways you can integrate with Vanilla. In short, I don’t really see a loss of freedom, I once thought there would be. It’s just a different way to approach things.

It’s also not the same
One thing I learnt too, is the hosted version is not just a version of the self-hosted. Sure it shares the same core, but there a ton of tweaks for speed and performance. There are also a many great plugins, beyond badges and reactions, that make an upgrade for a company a serious consideration, like: Advanced Search, Salesforce integration, LinkedIn SSO, Vanilla Pop and more.

Amazing team
There is a dearth of amazing talent on the team, and much more than you would see from the casual glance at Github or the open source community. There are some seriously talented developers, who are just doing great things to make the product (open and hosted versions) . The support team is also pretty great, with experience using platform and managing communities too.

I use open source for small personal projects, but in a business critical situation I would not think twice about using Vanilla’s cloud-based solution. Who needs the trouble of upgrades, patches and troubleshooting when the focus should be community building. I hope this gives you some insight.

If you have questions ask below. If you want to take Vanilla Hosted for a spin, you can try it out for 30 days free: here.

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Saturday, July 12th, 2014 at 19:43

Discourse vs Vanilla Forums vs Xenforo: Who Makes The Best Forum Software


This is not an attack on Discourse or Xenforo. It’s not  even really a comparison of Vanilla vs Discourse vs Xenforo. Rather I’d like to talk more about Vanilla Forums and the mistakes I see in the comparisons others make when they compare it to other forum solutions.

State of the Market

The reality of the community software market is that most of the makers of forum software offer ugly products. The traditional or legacy software is bloated, ugly and not a pleasure to use. As an administrator or owner of these forums there are tons of features and plugins you need to setup, because it doesn’t just work. You can lose days trying to figure things out and stay on-top of bug reports and patches so you don’t get hacked. Of all the old, legacy products, the only one I see that has any sense of looking half way decent is Xenforo and lots of other users are seeing that too. I think the ditch vBulletin band-wagon is really growing and they are getting a fair share of disillusioned self- hosting forum owners.

In terms of the next-generation of forum or community software, I think the field is really a battle between two. Discourse is a newer product, but like Vanilla Forums  it pushes forums into a more modern framework. More and more I am seeing people asking, should they go with Discourse or Vanilla Forums. Unfortunately, it seems the discussion about Vanilla Forums is usually based on an old pre-conceived notion of how Vanilla was. Today I hope to set the record straight for those looking to compare and invite you to ask you questions if you have any.

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Saturday, November 16th, 2013 at 10:17

Your Forum Is Ugly

I didn’t have the heart to tell you, but your forum is ugly. Your members might not tell you because they’ve gotten used to the ugly table format that plagues the internet. As you go about your merry way, your traffic might ok, but new sign-ups keep going down and old members are starting to disappear. You can keep scratching your head –or you can maybe accept that one of the reasons is your forum is ugly and no one wants to be there.

A look at modern forum software usability
Sometimes modern forums gets criticized for looking to much like a social network. Some even make comparisons to Facebook. It’s an opinion for modern forums makers to embrace. How can 1.2 billion customers using Facebook be wrong? Let’s forget comparisons, though and look at facts. Modern forums make it easy for people to join a community with social logins and integrations. Forums should not be afraid to embrace Facebook and Twitter. People are also tired of creating more accounts, so why not give them an option to use a service they already use? Modern forum software has gamification features that make it fun to participate, and reward those that create good content. Last but not least, modern forums just make the community easy to use. I know it’s hard to accept, but it’s not 1995 anymore. People don’t want to figure out how to use your forum. They want something intuitive, easy to use and connect with others.

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Saturday, November 16th, 2013 at 08:12

Why Semiconductor Companies Need A Community

This article originally appeared on Medium,

The Electronic Component industry, especially the makers of semiconductors and high end boards are missing out on a huge opportunity to connect with engineers. That’s right as you read this you are missing out.

Actually that’s not true. Some manufacturers and suppliers have realized the opportunity. Lucky for you, they are still using old legacy forum software. This keeps them stuck in a one-sided conversation perpetuating the old way of doing things. It’s probably why they think it is not a worthy venture to spend time on or the main reason you have shied away from creating a community of your own. With the old school bloated solutions they are using, I can’t blame them or you for thinking this way.

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Monday, September 16th, 2013 at 15:51