Federation between Discourse instances?

I’m maintaining the OSM-France Discourse instance that replaced our 12+ years phpBB a year ago.

In order to prevent too much fragmentation, I’m about to test some kind of federation through RSS.

Discourse provides RSS feeds, globally (each post, each new topic) or per category (maybe even by tag).

The discourse-rss-polling plugin allows to pool external RSS feeds and create topics automatically. That’s what I’ll test between this Discourse and the OSM-France one, in order to have new topics created here being visible on the other one.

If the setup is fine, I should get this new topic on the other side :slight_smile:


On the other side…

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Why would we want to duplicate things across instances? Surely that just creates more fragmentation when we’re trying to reduce fragmentation.

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Reducing fragmentation is one thing (and I fully agree with this move), but it does not mean only one forum.

The initial discussions I’ve seen that caused this Discourse to be setup was about fluxBB and OSQA deadends, not about having only a single worldwide place that would phagocyte all other communications channels.

I don’t think OSM France will consider shutting down it’s own Discourse instance, especially if no content/account migration is planned as I’ve read here.

So, to reduce fragmentation, we could set such “down” links (it’s read-only), otherwise I think we’re close to this famous XKCD:


s/standards/communications channels/


What are the reasons why content migration from the French forum to here will not be done?


Because :


No current plans doesn’t mean we can’t evaluate options once there is bandwidth for it in the future (note there are tons of priorities right now).

But, in general, it’s usually easier to provide a static html version of the old content and start fresh with a similar structure, than dealing with the amount of conflicts of content migration and a different user database.


<Disclaimer: I’m a happy user of the French Discourse but I’m not involved in its management nor in decision making>

Because, if done well, it would multiply available resources beyond what can be expected in a centralized solution?

Maybe it can contribute to fragmentation, maybe it can reduce it. It depends a lot on the consistency of the chosen architecture.

Suppose for instance that automated translation does not work, that OSMF chooses to do like Wikipedia for its wikis and have one server per language, and that it delegates some languages to local chapters who can afford to do it. If this architecture ever proves worthy, then having the French server managed in France brings exactly zero fragmentation and contributes to an architecture aimed at reducing it.

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Even assuming a solution based on separate Discourse instances for each language, having these instances organized under a common umbrella could offer benefits for usability and discoverability:

  • Shared user identities. (I believe the French Discourse does not currently use OSM user accounts?)
  • Common URLs such as lang.community.openstreetmap.org for easier discoverability, and perhaps a prominent language selector and/or a shared front page to guide each user to the forums for the language(s) they speak.
  • Consistency regarding software versions, available plugins and so on.
  • Reduced administrative burden, at least if we go with a multisite installation.

I see good reasons for local chapters to have a role in moderation and content governance (and that does indeed become easier with separate instances because I don’t think Discourse supports per-category user privileges), but I’m not sure that it’s beneficial for them to also run their own technical infrastructure.

OSM France is also unusual in that you already have a Discourse installation. Most communities either rely on OSMF-hosted infrastructure or only have local channels on proprietary platforms. At least in those two cases, I would definitely expect the OSMF to set up a space for those communities on our central Discourse installation.


This was not my intention when I started this topic. We do have a Discourse local instance, do not plan to stop it, at least in the short term, so to reduce fragmentation I just experiment this RSS based federation. It is not perfect, but better than completely isolated forums.

We do support OAuth2 like here since it has been deployed on osm.org

I fully agree with that approach. The main issue for me is the use of (closed) proprietary platforms (and their multiplication) which is weird for an open project.

I think proprietary platforms have been used mainly because they were offering a more pleasant, modern and feature full way to communicate compared to mailing-list or a aging bulletin board.

I’d like OSMF to consider also the synchronous chat channels… like setting up a matrix instance, but this is another (big) step towards defragmentation :wink:

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I’m involved in another community that is making a transition to using Discourse. We had a Google Group and continue to allow posting and we have it set up so the posts show up as Read Only in the new Discourse instance, but you cannot reply to the Google Group posts from within Discourse. Not sure if that’s something the France Discourse is interested

That’s more or less what I did using the RSS polling plugin in Discourse.

It creates a topic in a separate category that is setup as read-only.