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My community is looking into replacing our old message forums. We have found three new platforms that we'd like to try, but we can't figure out a way to do so that allows

  • A full test of each platform. We want to be able to test the full work flows for both users, moderators and administrators.
  • During the tests, we don't want to develop a "beta test" clique that has access to the new system and fluants it over the users that are not part of each test.
  • Testing of the major functionalies of each platform. We want to migrate due to the lack of certain features and we want to test these new features on the new platforms effectively.

What is the best way to set up an effective test, without major disruptions to the community during the testing phase. We are already anticipating that disruption during the final migration to whichever platform we decide on ("who moved my cheese?!"). We'd like to keep that disruption almost non-existant during these tests.

How have other communities gone about this?

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  • Will your community be necessarily fragmented during the test, or can stuff done through one platform be seen on the others (e.g. automatic copying of forum posts or whatever from one to another)? Jul 7 '16 at 2:23
  • I believe each of the platforms we are testing has the ability to export posts from an API. However, one of the things we are testing is login integration with third parties (Facebook/Google/Twitter) that we don't currently have. If a member decides to use that versus manually recreating an account with the same associated email address as the current forum, I'm not sure how we'd correctly associate the post back to the old forum user. I'm also not sure how to keep the topic in sync if cross posted - updated on old go to new as well as new to old. It sounds possible, but complicated. Jul 7 '16 at 11:39
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Since you actually want to test all three of them, I suggested setting up 3 'sandboxes' with fake content (like Discourse does), together with a separate section on your old forum to debate the pros and cons of the three. This ensures that:

  • your users are involved voluntarily
  • your users can do actual comparisons
  • you can ask specific questions
  • you create support for your final choice

You can also leave out the login integration in the test sites (just provide dummy logins).

Do 3 migration tests yourself, invisible to your users; and maybe before your user tests.

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