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I Have a Problem

I finally found some time to work on the Impact website in the last few days. I just wanted some pages with documentation and tutorials along with a nice and simple forum. Nothing special. I looked around to find a forum software that would fit my needs. I couldn't find any.

So I sat down for a few days and put together my own forum. It's called Discuss and you can see the beta here. Account creation only takes a second and you don't need to provide an email address, so please try it.

This is my problem. I love to create my own stuff. My problem even has a name: Not Invented Here.

“Not Invented Here” syndrome is manifested as an unwillingness to adopt an idea or product because it originates from another culture

Ouch, that sounds pretty harsh. Of course there's a bit more to it, as Joel Spolsky wrote some time ago.

The thing is, “Not Invented Here” has worked great for me. This Blog is running on my own CMS, that I created some time in 2004 and it has been virtually unchanged since. It survived being linked by Daring Fireball twice, has seen the Reddit frontpage twice and the Digg frontpage once (when Digg was still popular, mind you). All without downtime or any security issues. I can only imagine what a struggle it would have been if this site was running on WordPress.

Of course, my CMS is not the answer to all problems. In fact, it only does very few things, but those are the things I need and it does them very well. (That also means that I won't release it any time soon. The fact that it works for me doesn't mean that it's “complete” in any way. Sorry.)

Back to my original problem. All the different forums that I tested suffered from feature creep. The big players (i.e. phpBB, woltlab and vBulletin) are trying to let you create your own personal Facebook, with Blogs, profiles, private messages and whatnot. Even those forum applications that advertise themselves as “light” (FluxBB, PunBB) will greet you with more than 200 files and make little distinction between code and layout.

And they all look the same, like they time traveled from 2001 to the present day. It's extremely difficult to make one of these systems feel like a part of your site. I'm still impressed by how Shaun Inman was able integrate his Mint Forum (PunBB) so tightly.

I like simple. I like software that does one thing and does it well. I'm extremely allergic to feature creep and code smell. When I create my own stuff I know what I get. Sure, the “Not Invented Here” syndrome initially demands a lot of time, but I like to think that it pays off in the end.

With all that said, creating my own forum probably is borderline stupid. I will be surprised if this works out and I don't end up installing PunBB or FluxBB anyway.

Monday, October 18th 2010
— Dominic Szablewski, @phoboslab