Downsizing and renewing UniLang? Ideas for the future

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proycon
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Downsizing and renewing UniLang? Ideas for the future

Postby proycon » 2015-03-14, 20:57

Hi all!

As you know, the state of development on the site has been rather poor for the past few years. The current codebase is old and it is hard for new developers to add things due to the complexity. The phpBB software, however, matured further in the past years.

To bring new life into matters, we could start afresh with a down-sized UniLang consisting basically of the single most active asset today: the forum. The would allow us to start with the latest version of phpBB3 (3.1.x) in a pretty vanilla setup.

The main goal for this idea is maintainability towards the future, and to breath some fresh air into things, and making sure what we have, although less than now, works.

We would lose a bunch of things:
- all multilingual custom 'static' pages (about, news,, etc etc))
- search members based on languages spoken or country [can be re-added, but not too easily]
- scraps & blogs [can not be re-added easily, unless starting afresh with a new extension]
- the special character input method and some custom edit options that are not simple BBCode.

What would be maintained:
- all forum data content and all user accounts (obviously)
- our custom BBcode
- our theme (ported)

What I would port to the new system:
- language details in profiles (My Languages)
- nationality/country/region details in profiles

What is gained:
- Latest phpbb (3.1), easy to upgrade
- Ability to install any phpbb 3.1 extension (the extension system is new and a big improvement over how MODs are handled in the current version)
- New codebase (stored in github for easy development), hopefully making the threshold for developers much lower
- Far better mobile experience
- Better forum experience

Aside from that, the things we have under Resources and Wiki would be pushed to some kind of archive section (basically a trimmed down version of exactly what we have now, without the forum then and with some interacive portions disable), so it's still accessible as it is now, as there is still a lot of valuable content there. Hopefully the entire resource section, which I've always been the most passionate about, can be salvaged and brought back to life at a later point in time, semi-independent of the forum. For now, it would revert to a read-only state , and things like the Translation and Development Center would be taken down completely to prevent confusion. This is of course a loss, but with these things not well maintained and not always functional it's perhaps for the best.

To facilitate development by others, as I still don't have much time with work and all, all code will be published publicly on github (https://github.com/proycon/unilangforum), there is an initial version there already, in case we want to add custom mods of our own again. It would be great to have some developers who would want to contribute then, otherwise things may quickly return to be as stagnant as they are now.

An initial version of this idea is online at, note that the database is an separate copy not tied to the real database, so don't post there, it will be lost:

http://dev.unilang.org


What do you think of the idea?
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Re: Downsizing and renewing UniLang? Ideas for the future

Postby Yasna » 2015-03-14, 21:19

Sounds fine to me. I never use anything but the forum.
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Re: Downsizing and renewing UniLang? Ideas for the future

Postby Патрислав Андреевич » 2015-03-14, 21:40

Generally, I really like it, it’s a good idea! :)

proycon wrote:We would lose a bunch of things:
- all multilingual custom 'static' pages (about, news,, etc etc))
Keeping the ‘about’ section might be a good idea though, I think.

proycon wrote:- search members based on languages spoken or country [can be re-added, but not too easily]
Aww, I’ve used it only for fun, but it could be useful for some.

proycon wrote:- scraps & blogs [can not be re-added easily, unless starting afresh with a new extension]
This is a big loss. I really liked scraps, as something between forum posts and private messages… And many members use it extensively.

proycon wrote:To facilitate development by others, as I still don't have much time with work and all, all code will be published publicly on github (https://github.com/proycon/unilangforum), there is an initial version there already, in case we want to add custom mods of our own again. It would be great to have some developers who would want to contribute then, otherwise things may quickly return to be as stagnant as they are now.
That is a really great idea! Even though PHP is not my weapon of choice and I haven’t actually used it in… years, I might contribute sometimes and help with the development. :)

proycon wrote:An initial version of this idea is online at, note that the database is an separate copy not tied to the real database, so don't post there, it will be lost:

http://dev.unilang.org
UniLang looks really weird so wide. :lol: And flags as language subforum icons are a must. I hope you aren’t planning on getting rid of them, IIRC they shouldn’t be hard to re-add. :|

All in all, good news!

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Re: Downsizing and renewing UniLang? Ideas for the future

Postby Lauren » 2015-03-14, 21:49

I love it! I mainly use Unilang on my phone so the mobile site is great. If you can do blogs and scraps with extensions then I don't see why not.

Sad we won't keep our profile language lists. Could reimplement it though. Also, would we be able to translate the forum into other languages like we used to be able to do?

I don't know anything about phpBB, but I could possibly learn and contribute a bit to development, if I'd be allowed.
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Re: Downsizing and renewing UniLang? Ideas for the future

Postby proycon » 2015-03-14, 22:52

Even though PHP is not my weapon of choice and I haven’t actually used it in ... years.


Same for me, I'm mostly a Pythonista and C++ developer, and have grown to hate PHP ;) But phpBB3 is simply one of the best forum software out there, and we've been on it for ages, so we're stuck with PHP I'm afraid. With this downscaling though, we'll be free to use other stuff for other parts of the site in the future (python/django is my favourite).

Lauren wrote:If you can do blogs and scraps with extensions then I don't see why not.


I'm sure there will be some kind extension for it sooner or later, and installing those will be easy, only disadvantage is that we'd start with clean slate.

Lauren wrote:Sad we won't keep our profile language lists. Could reimplement it though.


We will! I'm currently porting that part, so we would retain that. Same for out extensive location details.

Lauren wrote:Also, would we be able to translate the forum into other languages like we used to be able to do?


Yes, but not in the user-friendlier way we currently have. We now have our own translation system on top of phpbb's one, we would revert to just using the phpbb one, and translation would entail modifying some files on github that define the labels.

I don't know anything about phpBB, but I could possibly learn and contribute a bit to development, if I'd be allowed.


Certainly, all good contributions will be allowed! Everybody is free to submit pull requests on github.
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Re: Downsizing and renewing UniLang? Ideas for the future

Postby Lauren » 2015-03-14, 23:29

Sounds good, proycon! :mrgreen:
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Re: Downsizing and renewing UniLang? Ideas for the future

Postby linguoboy » 2015-03-15, 0:44

Yasna wrote:Sounds fine to me. I never use anything but the forum.
Ditto.

I never understood the point of scraps in the first place. Furthermore, I find them actively annoying to deal with. I would love to see that feature go away.
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Re: Downsizing and renewing UniLang? Ideas for the future

Postby vijayjohn » 2015-03-15, 6:22

linguoboy wrote:
Yasna wrote:Sounds fine to me. I never use anything but the forum.
Ditto.

I never understood the point of scraps in the first place.

I guess for contacting specific users without making it private :P

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Re: Downsizing and renewing UniLang? Ideas for the future

Postby księżycowy » 2015-03-15, 16:52

I'm liking what I'm hearing. Like Yasna and Linguoboy, I just use the forum, so it's not much of a loss for anything else IMO.

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Re: Downsizing and renewing UniLang? Ideas for the future

Postby proycon » 2015-03-15, 17:10

I finished the port of the language infrastructure, we have full language lists in profile as well language flags for the subforums. See http://dev.unilang.org for the result.

I also added a link for the chat, which directs users directly to the webchat and always used the #unilang room, the language-specific rooms have died out over the years.
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Re: Downsizing and renewing UniLang? Ideas for the future

Postby Johanna » 2015-03-15, 17:37

Would it be possible to make the width static, the same as it is now? Posts get a lot easier to read when you don't have to follow the text for a mile before the next line begins :)
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Re: Downsizing and renewing UniLang? Ideas for the future

Postby proycon » 2015-03-15, 19:07

Johanna wrote:Would it be possible to make the width static, the same as it is now? Posts get a lot easier to read when you don't have to follow the text for a mile before the next line begins :)


Sure, I just made it static again, at 1024px (will scale up for hidpi displays anyway). Is this better? I also added some new art :)
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Re: Downsizing and renewing UniLang? Ideas for the future

Postby Varislintu » 2015-03-15, 19:14

Yeah, sounds good. :)
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Re: Downsizing and renewing UniLang? Ideas for the future

Postby Lauren » 2015-03-15, 19:42

proycon wrote:I finished the port of the language infrastructure, we have full language lists in profile as well language flags for the subforums. See http://dev.unilang.org for the result.

I also added a link for the chat, which directs users directly to the webchat and always used the #unilang room, the language-specific rooms have died out over the years.

The flag icons, on my 1600x900 monitor anyway, on the main forum page are really small. Way smaller than the current ones. Are you aware of that?
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Re: Downsizing and renewing UniLang? Ideas for the future

Postby proycon » 2015-03-15, 19:48

Lauren wrote:The flag icons, on my 1600x900 monitor anyway, on the main forum page are really small. Way smaller than the current ones. Are you aware of that?


Yes, I sized them down, they're handled differently than in the current version and are smaller so it all blends together better, the font size is slightly smaller there too and the columns are flexible. I've checked on full-HD screens and it looks fine, am on an ultra-HD display myself and that works too.
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Re: Downsizing and renewing UniLang? Ideas for the future

Postby Lauren » 2015-03-15, 20:18

Ah, well everything seems really small on my screen. ):
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Re: Downsizing and renewing UniLang? Ideas for the future

Postby Johanna » 2015-03-15, 20:33

proycon wrote:
Johanna wrote:Would it be possible to make the width static, the same as it is now? Posts get a lot easier to read when you don't have to follow the text for a mile before the next line begins :)

Sure, I just made it static again, at 1024px (will scale up for hidpi displays anyway). Is this better? I also added some new art :)

It looks much better, but I think the forum itself should be even narrower and the border stay where it is, like now :) But it's all just fine tuning, isn't it?

The font should probably be a bit bigger too, I'm on a small-ish screen (13.3″, 1280x800) and I feel the need of using cmd+, which feels weird on a pretty standard forum like Unilang.
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Re: Downsizing and renewing UniLang? Ideas for the future

Postby proycon » 2015-03-20, 15:03

I can't really replicate the font issues, it just looks the same on the new and the current forum. Can you make a side-by-side screenshot perhaps?

I can tinker a bit with the margins, if things seem too wide. That's all pretty minor to adjust.

Since there have been no further comments, I'm planning to bring us over to the new site sometime this weekend, so we'll have a bit of downtime then.
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Re: Downsizing and renewing UniLang? Ideas for the future

Postby Johanna » 2015-03-20, 16:19

This is how it looks on my desktop computer, but it's the same on my laptop. The former runs Linux Mint and the latter OS X.

The difference isn't that big, but on the current site it's just above the critical size for me to be able to read it comfortably, while on the new site it's just under that limit instead. Not everything is a bit too small either, it's mostly the names of the subforums.
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Re: Downsizing and renewing UniLang? Ideas for the future

Postby Lauren » 2015-03-20, 16:42

Yep, looks pretty much the same for me as Johanna. :)
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