The Community Club

Dorian Cave
Dorian Cave

Posted on

Transitioning away from Facebook and Ning

Hi all,
The Deep Adaptation Forum is an online community dedicated to exploring inner and outer adaptation to the impacts of climate change, and fostering mutual help. Our community is powered by over 100 volunteers, and supported by a small team of freelancers working part-time and on a shoestring.

Right now, our community is spread over a Facebook group (12k members), a Ning site (3k members), and a LinkedIn group (3k members). Our volunteers and core team members mainly interact within a paid Slack workspace.

We want to introduce a new platform to our community that would enable us to let go of our Ning site (which most users find clunky and outdated), and which would also prove user-friendly and attractive enough to many members of our Facebook group (which is a platform that sucks for many reasons: data ownership, notifications, the algorithms, etc.)

A group of our volunteers went through a strategic consultation process, involving lots of folks, to figure out what our needs should be. Our conclusion is that ideally, this new platform should serve the following functions:

  • Including participants from various linguistic backgrounds, with different degrees of technological ability and access to the internet;
  • Enabling small teams to gather and collaborate over their own projects;
  • Supporting the emergence of local groups and mutual aid initiatives (maps, etc.);
  • Setting up and managing online courses and trainings;
  • Front-end scheduling of events;
  • Smoothly setting up video-conference events.

Our budget is pretty low: about 50-60 euros per month.

So far, among the solutions we've looked into, BuddyBoss seems to be a pretty decent choice, as it supports:

  • course creation and management (via LearnDash LMS);
  • event management (via TheEventCalendar);
  • group creation;
  • Zoom calls integration; etc.

Besides, BB is built over Wordpress, which is the platform we're already using for our official website infrastructure, so we can actually self-host BB. And even while we would need to purchase several WP plugins to enable the functions above, the total cost would only be around $46/m, which is well within our budget.

The main drawbacks we've identified so far would be:

  • the need to spend a fair amount of time customizing the platform to make sure it works well and suits our needs;
  • the smartphone apps have to be purchased separately, and are too pricey for us atm.

A runner-up to BB would be the open-source version of OpenSocial, but like BB, it would require a lot of hands-on effort to make it work well it seems (and we don't have any Drupal developers among us).

I'm wondering whether we might have missed any other options that would suit our needs as well or better than either of these options? Please let me know if you have any recommendations or advice!

Discussion (7)

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ben profile image
Ben Halpern

Disclosure, I'm about to pitch my company's service:

Poke around this platform to see if it might be a decent choice. It's Forem, which is open source community software extracted from DEV, and here is another example. It will not offer all the features you get on WP variants, but it's thoughtfully extensible and the mobile story is going to be much more palatable for your end users.

A bit more on mobile:

Forem is new to market and we don't even have a proper landing page yet explaining the features, but we'll be rolling out the baseline version which you can host for well within your budget pretty soon.

I don't think anyone should use our thing right now if they aren't 100% sure because the last thing we want is to tease you away from more established players to be disappointed in our offeringβ€” but I'd be remiss if I didn't answer in this way. πŸ˜„

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marygreencny profile image
Mary Green

@benhalpern how long did it take to get forem set up?

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daoyang profile image
Dorian Cave Author

Thanks Ben. As we need to be transitioning to a new platform very soon, it looks like Forem might not be the best choice for us right now. But thank you for letting me know about this new solution.

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ben profile image
Ben Halpern

Yeah, no worries. Good luck!

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rosiesherry profile image
Rosie Sherry

Circle.so is a popular option these days.
Discourse too.
I would seriously consider Forem too.

We used Ning back in the day and ended up going for Discourse, we moved over a few years ago now though and there are so many options available today, the trouble is choosing something that has long term potential so that you don't end up with in the same situation as with Ning and FB.

But perhaps the reality (and the challenge) is that these days it's nearly impossible to have community all in one place, everyone is dispersed.

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marygreencny profile image
Mary Green

Have you played with the BB demo? I have it installed on my site and with the theme it comes with it's very minimalistic, doesn't look bad, etc. I'm welcome to chat if you want to take a look, etc.

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daoyang profile image
Dorian Cave Author

Thanks Mary! Yes I've played with the BB sandbox, and it does look convincing. It seems like a bit of work is needed to make sure things are nice and slick, though - how much time did you have to spend on setting up your community space on BB?