Fall Cleaning: simpler navigation, new server coming

Some time in the next few weeks, Maker Forums will get reorganized.

We have over 100 categories here, mostly as a side effect of importing from Google+, and it’s simply too hard to pick the right one.

Simplify, Simplify, Simplify

On the left, the current organization, which doesn’t fit onto a single screen page. On the right, the proposed reorganization, showing all the active content. All the same posts are there, just grouped into fewer categories:

In the old (current) organization, we have two partially-overlapping top-level categories from two separate Google+ communities of laser cutter/engraver enthusiasts. We also have two for 3D printers. Since we already had lots of categories we kept adding more new ones.

What Changes?

  • Some posts will just move to the right place. For instance, there were posts about the K40 Whisperer software in two different places, so those will be consolidated.
  • Many sub-categories are disappearing, and top-level categories being consolidated. The disappearing categories are being replaced with tags. For example, all the woodcraft sub-categories and the leatherworking category are combined as a single Crafts category with tags for the type of woodcraft (e.g. WoodCraft / Wood Turning posts will be in Crafts tagged as woodturning.
  • Several top-level categories currently have “Discussion” sub-categories. This is an artifact of Google+ communities being set up to require choosing a category within the community. We don’t need that with Discourse, so we’re just tagging those posts as discussion and moving them into the top level. So posts in K40 Laser / Discussion will move into the combined Lasers category and be tagged discussion.


This reduction to eight main top-level categories will make the new Discourse sidebar a useful navigation tool! It’s not quite ready yet for us to enable for Maker Forums, but it’s getting there, and when it is we do plan to turn it on. The sidebar can be dismissed and recalled using the “hamburger” menu, which has moved from the upper right (next to your “avatar”) to the upper left, much like the current gmail menu.

New Server

With these changes, Maker Forums will be moving to a new server with more resources than we have previously had, running a new and better operating system. Our gracious host has provided us with additional memory and CPUs to improve your site experience, and the new OS will make site outages for security updates shorter.

See This Live

A generally read-only copy of Maker Forums is now available! You can log in and look around. I’ll be bringing it down from time to time to refresh the copy of Maker Forums, or to make changes inspired by your suggestions here, or make other changes, like improving the way site backups work. If it’s down when you try to look at it, feel free to ask here about it, and I can respond when the site is again ready to view.

If you authenticate to Maker Forums with Google or Github, neither will work for the staging site. Just DM me and ask me to set a temporary random password for you, and I’ll do that and then restore that same temporary password for you each time I rebuild the site for testing, but not when I rebuild the site for real.

If you log in to the staging site while I’m in the process of modifying it and before edits are disabled in public categories, and you make changes, those changes will be wiped out the next time I update. Please keep posting here; the staging site is only for seeing what the new organization looks and works like.

Your Opinions Matter

Maker Forums site leadership have been working on this redesign for about a month, and it’s been tweaked every few days to improve it. There’s no reason to think that it’s perfect yet! Comment here with your thoughts. Are there any posts that seem to be in the wrong place? Categorization not clear? Category descriptions need to be changed? Let’s talk!

The site rearrangement is scripted, so many changes are as simple as changing a configuration file, restoring a backup, and running a script. Don’t be afraid of bringing up ideas that you think might be hard. Some things are hard, but lots of things are actually easy, it turns out. Your idea might be both good and easy to implement!


AAAAAAHHHHH! My eyes! Dark mode, dark mode! :laughing: :sunglasses:

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Oh, that’s interesting.

You should still be able to log in, just not post, and I would expect it to honor your chosen theme after login.

Dark mode hurts my eyes. :sunglasses:

Please tell me either of these is true:

  • The site doesn’t let you log in
  • The site lets you log in, but doesn’t honor your selected theme

Login is disabled while the site is in read-only mode. Can’t log in.


Same here…

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TIL! Then I’d like to do something to make sure folks aren’t accidentally posting on the wrong site. I’ll think about the least disruptive way to do that after I get back to a computer… :thinking:

I’ve made the public categories read-only to avoid accidental posting on the wrong site — a possible danger when part of the point is high visual fidelity for useful feedback.

Please try again to log in, look around, and let me know about any problems!

Thanks again for letting me know!

I login using github authentication which doesn’t work in the staging site. But it does get me to the login screen now.

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Login with email works.

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Oh, because github migration sends you back to the official site. I’d have to get a separate login flow running for staging and move your login over.

DM me if you want me to change your login auth temporarily on the staging site so you can poke around. (The next time I re-provision the site will of course blow that away…)

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We have three top-level categories that are light blue, and two adjacent categories are the same shade of light blue. I’ll want to tweak colors before we go live!

If anyone has strong opinions on colors, let me know, otherwise I’ll pick what looks good to me.

I updated the conflicting colors using colors that went away from collapsing categories. I have updated the live site, and also updated the script so that the colors will be right the next time I rebuild the staging site.

If anyone hates the colors, please complain soon. :relaxed:

It turns out that neither github nor google auth work for the staging site. I guess that’s fair.

If you log in here using github authentication or google authentication, just DM me and I’ll set a temporary randomly-generated password for you on the staging site. And I’ll set things up so that I will restore that password on the staging site each time I build it only until we move for real, at which point that password will go away.

There is another aspect of the move that I haven’t yet implemented.

There are posts that reference categories by hashtags. For example, #lasers:co2-intro for the current K40 Laser / Getting Started category. That will not only change name to Lasers / Getting Started with CO2 Lasers but also change its hashtag. I’ll want to rewrite #lasers:co2-intro to #lasers:co2-intro as part of the migration. (That migration will make this comment look silly because it will also rewrite the references to the old tag name to the new tag name!)

the menu on the left invites the use of monitoring activity in a category over everything so I took a look at the laser category and while I like there being pinned items, the 4 items and their descriptions take up the majority of the first page. So not something which can easily be scanned for interesting discussions. Could the pinned items NOT show the description since a mouse-over does that?

Good point: revisiting pinned posts, especially after consolidation will be important. We had pinned posts in different categories that will now be pinned posts in a single consolidated category.

Pinned pages can be dismissed, but I don’t think we have reviewed recently whether we even need all our pinned posts!

I don’t actually know whether it’s possible to un-pin the category topic! We really don’t use most of them as “please read this before posting in this category” like some Discourse sites do. I should look into that.

@NedMan any objections to moving this to the Getting Started category?

Similarly, we have two places with alignment help.

Could we make the Getting Started post canonical, and unpin the other?

I think that pointing to @donkjr’s stuff is great, and we should consider where in Getting Started a link to this stuff should go! Or is the better thing to scatter more specific links throughout annotated “for more information”?

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Yes, we can un-pin them and even un-list them if we want, so that’s definitely something to consider for site cleanup!

Thanks for bringing that up!

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I have implemented this handling, so when I rebuild the staging site, it will fix up the tags to follow the site rearrangement.

they are handy to have pinned but with the description and the title they take up the whole page and require scrolling to see the first of the “last” posts.