The forums need a new home - read & apply within

Howdy all—

Due to things, I can no longer maintain an interactive forum with user-generated content unless I move to a different state. I can’t move any time soon, so the forums need a new home. @Nabiki has expressed interest, and that’s great, and so I wanted to present all the details here, in one infodump. If you’re looking to take over hosting and run the forums, this is what you need to know:

What application does the forum run?

We run Discourse. It’s distributed as a Docker package, so it can run on any hosting service that lets you install docker packages.

What are the hosting requirements?

Discourse needs some resources, not gonna lie. The specs list 1GB of RAM and at least 10GB of disk space. In my experience, after running Discourse for almost ten years, I wouldn’t want to try it on anything with less than 4GB of RAM. (Also, Discourse requires a 64-bit Linux-based OS, compatible with Docker. Windows need not apply.)

Oh, and the host needs to be able to send email, or you need an email service you can use.

What kind of hosting is the forum running on right now?

The forums are currently running on AWS, on a t3a.medium EC2 instance. This works pretty well.

For email, I currently use Mailgun with the forums, and we’re well under the limit for Mailgun’s free tier so it’s a zero-cost thing. (The forums generate 100-200 emails a month, and as long as you keep it under 1000, Mailgun doesn’t bill.)

What is the cost of hosting the forums on current hosting?

Taking advantage of reserved instance pricing—i.e., pre-paying for the server for 1- or 3-year terms—means the cost is pretty not-awful. Specifically, a instance costs $193 per year, or $372 for a three-year reservation. The current year reservation is up in November 2022.

Additionally, I pay a few bucks per month for bandwidth costs and for the cost of the EBS storage volume hooked up to the server acting as local disk, and a few more bucks to keep a couple weeks’ worth of backup snapshots on hand. All together, the disk and network costs work out to about $8 a month.

Therefore, the total all-in AWS bill for a 1-year RI is about $289 (with $193 due up front), and the all-in cost for a 3-year RI is about $660 (with $372 due up front). The 3-year pricing has a better ROI, but is obviously more money.

What other hosting would work?

Pretty much any VPS provider that gives you a linux box that can run Docker will work. Vultr has nice quick servers; I have heard great things about Digital Ocean, too. (Discourse itself offers official hosting, though it’s not cheap.)

Can I self-host in my house instead?

Sure—I self-hosted the forums out of my closet for several years when we first migrated to Discourse back in 2013-ish. The requirements are the same—a linux box, 4GB of RAM, and at least 10GB of disk space free.

If you’re self-hosting at home, make sure your upload bandwidth is at least 10Mbps—otherwise, your connection could get quickly overwhelmed if there are more than a couple of folks visiting (especially if you’re also using your home connection for other stuff at the same time).

How do we move the forums to my new host?

Discourse is pretty portable—the migration process is basically A) Take a backup of your current Discourse forum; B) Set up a new host and install Discourse; C) Import the backup to the new host’s Discourse install. The backup is complete and brings everything with it—user accounts, groups, post, settings, themes, metadata, and all settings.

If I host the forums, will you help me get set up?

As much as I can, sure. If you’re having trouble, we can zoom and screenshare and hopefully power through any problems.

When are we doing this?

The forums’ current 1-year prepaid instance expires on Nov 16, after which I start paying hourly pricing for this EC2 instance (which is about a ~3x increase in cost over prepaid). The clock is already ticking.

What if we can’t make alternate hosting work?

If we’re still here after the new year and we can’t make alternate hosting work, the forums will go offline.

Offline? What about my posts?!

If we have to go offline, I’ll make sure everybody has time to back up the things they want to back up.

Why are we doing this?

I am a Texas resident and I don’t have the money to defend a lawsuit against me or the site under Texas’ social media law, even if the lawsuit is frivolously filed. The fact that we’re waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay under the law’s limits and it doesn’t apply to us won’t stop an angry malicious dickbag from SLAPPing the forums because they’re pissed off about moderation. The risk, however small, is too high.

Can’t we just contribute some money and have you continue to host?

The monthly cost is not the problem, unfortunately. The problem is having the forums operated by (or funded by) me as a Texas resident. If it’s run by me or paid for by me, it’s potentially in scope for the Texas social media law. The only solution I can see is to make sure I am neither paying for nor admin’ing the forums.


I’m interested in hosting it. I don’t have a computer to work on right now (or even a finished house), and no income since my company is struggling, so those are issues.

Let me see what I can figure out.


I know a few members have stated that they would help contribute to paying the cost of running a server and I would be willing to chip in as well.

Thanks for hosting it as long as you did, @Lee_Ars! Things are just as fucked up where I live because madness and stupidity have taken over.


Can the current hosting simply be transferred? Put my name, address, etc. and I take over, would that work? That would be super easy. If not, I’ve been doing some.reading on creating a Discourse server.


Wow. Those are all words. Put together to look like sentences. I can help with nothing computer, but I can send Benjamins. Well, Jackson’s but the sentiment is the same. :woman_shrugging:t3:


The forums basically live on a AWS virtual machine (an “EC2 instance”) bound to my AWS account, which I also use for a bunch of other non-CoG-y stuff. There’s not really a way to put in new ownership credentials of an existing EC2 instance. We could duplicate it on a new AWS account, but it’s a complex procedure and it’s honestly simpler to just start from scratch w/a fresh VM and import the backup from the existing server.

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I just did a speed test on my my connection and the upload barely hits 7Mbps, so I’m out for hosting the forum in-home. But after triple-checking my finances, I can cover the 3-year RI myself for a new AWS setup. That ensures we can keep this going and would just leave the ongoing monthly cost, which you’re estimating is about $8 a month.

What I don’t know is if that means I have to be the one to set up the AWS account and therefore will be hosting the forums, or if someone can be the host and authorize me to make a payment for their account.


The AWS way to do this would be to set up an AWS account with the owner having the AWS root account (plus potentially a backup mgmt account, since you’re not supposed to use root), and a money person having a separate account (an IAM account, in AWS terms) that has delegated billing access. That way the separate IAM billing account (which would be you) could do the money stuff, and the other account could do the mgmt stuff.

Though there’s nothing wrong with you being the AWS account owner and doing the billing stuff, and delegating the machine management to someone else w/an IAM account—or just doing it all yourself.

Basically, if you guys want to stick with AWS, then yes, there can be >1 AWS account that does management, and mgmt tasks can be chopped up by role, if desired.

(AWS is not the only hosting option, but it’s the one I ended up settling on because I already had some vague idea of how it works. We’re not married to it, if it’s too complex and/or quirky. But, OTOH, one might also look upon this as an opportunity to get some hands-on AWS time!)

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Migrate to synchronet?

Too soon?

text-based BBSes are coming back someday, people

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I can’t take on the hosting itself - I don’t have either the technical skills or the time to be able to do it - but I’m more than willing to help out on the financial side of things.

I can also throw in some financial help, but don’t really have time for the technical stuff

Greg Abbott is projected to win reelection in Texas. We better get going on this before he has a chance to get that law active again.

Keeping it on AWS may be the best way to go because Lee has experience with it and I would definitely need help in getting this going. I know the costs start rising in 1 week. Is that the deadline to get a new instance all the way set up?

There’s no real hard deadline—I don’t mind eating a month or two of additional costs if that’s what we need to do.

I want to do it. I need to start researching what to do. Most of it has to be done from my phone since the only computer I have right now is a work laptop, but I’ll start working on it this weekend.

Does anyone have an older system that they’d be willing to sell for super cheap plus shipping for me to work on? I’ll do an AWS hosted system for the forums.

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I have a few let me look around, Imay have something that if you just pay shipping ill just give it to you.
The one im thinking of is a little dell optiplex (micro) that i have floating somewhere. Hell if you can wait till jan, i can drive it to you. It will need a HDD/SSD, but it should have 8 to 16 gb ram, and an i5 of some sort. hell ill give you 2 of them if you want to wait, otherwise i have a 4gb ram rassberry somewhere.

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I have plenty of working hard drives in my dead system. My house won’t be done until January, so I won’t really have a place for it until then.

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Perfect ill be coming back to cali from wash on jan 7/8th
Ill bring you both little pc’s then we will have a new home for CoG!!

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Okay, I’m looking into how to create a Discourse server, and I was wondering if the CoG domain will be migrating too, or if I need to make it on my own domain.

Putting it on the MerriQuail domain isn’t a problem, except for the people who have this site bookmarked.

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Nabiki, have you checked what your internet speed is/will be?

I have Gb service. I was planning on hosting the server on AWS or something, though

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