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Important We are phasing out the Social Group feature on TCF

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Tunnel King

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Good day Terrarians,

When Terraria Community Forums (TCF) launched in September of 2014, we debuted a feature called Social Groups.

Introduction to Social Groups

The Terraria Community includes a Social Group/Forum feature that allows groups of like-minded members to connect in their very own private section of the Community. Whether a group is a gaming clan, a roleplaying community, or about another topic that requires more space than a single thread allows, Social Groups will allow you the opportunity to carve out your own “clubhouse” within the forums. This, in essence, gives groups their own private forum, this helps to keep the main forums/threads clean, and greatly assists in group discussion/management – which has typically been conducted via massively long mega-threads. So, how does this all work? This section will help you get started!
In the 4 1/2 years since then, Social Groups have been a mixture of success and confusion. Some social groups have been very successful: T-MEC, Adult Swim, and several non-trivial roleplay groups are examples. In other cases, people have seemed to not understand how to use them, the feature has complex privacy/membership rules, and some people just treated them as ordinary threads without making any use of the special features. There is also the annoying quirk that threads cannot be reliably moved into and out of Social Groups.

There are other reasons why we will not be supporting Social Groups moving forward, but before we get into those, we want to make a few things clear.

  • Social Groups that are active as of today will continue to work normally for the time being. The date of this post will be the determining date for SG activity.
  • The forum staff will be working to transition existing Social Groups to existing sections of the forum, and will create new sections as needed.
  • Effective immediately, creation of new Social Groups in all four existing SG sections is suspended.



Why are we doing this, and why now?

Our primary reason for moving away from this feature is to ensure the continued stability and security of this forum and its users.

TCF is built on the Xenforo platform, enhanced with custom graphics (the Terraria styles) and a few third-party add-ons, one of which is for the Social Groups. Re-Logic purchases the licenses for these packages, and relies on official updates to them from the providers to keep the forum running smoothly.

In March 2016, we attempted to perform a fairly routine, recommended upgrade to the base Xenforo package. After several hours of work, we discovered that the Social Group feature no longer functioned at all, the author of the Social Group add-on had sold his "business" to another add-on provider, and the new owners had promptly put the add-on into "Unmaintained" status with no indication that they would ever work on it again. In the interest of getting the forum back up after an already extended outage, we rolled back to the previous version. Social Groups were the only feature that would not update properly.

Fast forward nearly three years later to now, and we are still running on a very outdated version of the forum software, and unable to update because of Social Groups still not being maintained by the provider. It has become crucial that we find a way to move forward with essential upgrades. Failure to do so means that basic features may start to malfunction and break (and some have recently begun to), and that known security holes cannot be patched and may well be exploited. We feel that we must "bite the bullet" now and remove our dependence on this particular feature as soon as possible.


We will have details of the transition plan very soon in the next posts.
 

Tunnel King

Administrator
Staff member
Administrator
Detailed Transition Plan (updated 23 January 2019)

This will be evolving, keep checking back for potential changes.

We have not yet settled on a deadline for complete closure of Social Groups, but count on it being much sooner rather than later. Anyone who is anxious that their content will be removed should make their own backups of that to your own media. Please do not make 'archive' threads of screenshots etc. on this forum to do that - such threads will be removed.

We plan to complete the transition/removal process no later than 28 February 2019.

FORUM ROLEPLAY
  1. A new section under Non-Terraria Topics will be created for Roleplay. Here it is, it will be opening soon.
  2. Roleplays will be restricted to 1 or 2 threads. (If you remember how RPs were handled on the old TO forum, pretty much the same as that.)
    1. A two-thread RP can have an In-Character (IC) thread, and an Out of Character (OOC) thread. They should link to each other in the first posts. The OOC would be for applications, character discussions, etc.
    2. A single-thread RP would be for simpler situations where you don't really need a separate thread for applications etc.
    3. There will no longer be separate threads for idle chat/bickering/etc. permitted. That's what you use the OOC thread for. This will be strictly enforced for now.
  3. Roleplay "owners" will have to rely on the forum staff to deal with problem members, locking/unlocking threads, etc. by using the Report system.
  4. As before, ALL forum rules will apply regarding content. Erotic/sexual content in any forum will be strictly forbidden and may lead to serious restrictions or banishment.
@Charmander27 and @Matsu will be spearheading getting this set up and rolling very soon. We will try to preserve active roleplay as we can, but you should also consider the possibility of wrapping things up and resuming from a new start.

We realize this is a much more restricted environment than you've been used to, but that cannot be helped. If you find that this no longer fits your needs in the roleplay area, we humbly suggest that you seek out one of the many RP forums elsewhere that cater to specific roleplay situations.

TERRARIA CLANS AND SERVERS

These have have all either been closed after discussions with the group creators, or transitioned to Dedicated Servers.

TERRARIA DISCUSSION GROUPS

Another small set, we will make arrangements with most of them individually. Please wait for us to contact you privately.

T-MEC is the big one here. We definitely want to have this in some form going forward, but we need to find a way to cut the bloat (850 threads!). We are thinking of having a new section within Community Projects as the new home for T-MEC, and will work with the folks there to identify what needs to be moved.
T-MEC's new home is here, and is open for business. We are in the process of moving most of the content now (~20%); this will take a while.

NON-TERRARIA DISCUSSION GROUPS

Adult Swim - will be moving to Mature Discussions. We will be judicious about what is moved, since there is a significant portion of threads dealing with current events that have since passed. It will remain restricted to serious, possibly volatile topics, and the rules of discussion there will remain pretty much the same. We will investigate an opt in/out system for it, but it likely won't happen right from the start.

Q&As/AMAs - have been moved to "Ask Me Anything" (AMAs) in the new Social section. We had a minor mishap with moving the existing threads, but we've got a way to recover those and will be doing so soon. The section is open for anyone wanting to post a thread.

The remaining groups - we will contact the group creators individually about what can be done.

-------

Please bear with us, and understand that we have few options and little time to deal with this. It's going to be unpleasant for some, and I apologize in advance for that.
 
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Tunnel King

Administrator
Staff member
Administrator
Here are better detailed instructions for how to save any pages of content that members want to save, using the Wayback Machine at Internet Archive.

Instructions from them: https://help.archive.org/hc/en-us/articles/360001513491-Save-Pages-in-the-Wayback-Machine
[there are browser extensions (that may be faster?) for Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Android, iOS.]

PLEASE NOTE: Each page needs to be saved. Archiving a thread will save the first page of it. If a thread has four pages, you'll need to save page one, click on page two, save it, click on page three, save it, etc.
  1. Make sure that the Social Group forum status is set to 'Read Only'
    • 1 - read-only.png

    • If you need help with this, contact a forum staff member
    • The status can be changed back after archiving
  2. Copy the url of the Social Group
  3. Go to https://archive.org/web/
  4. Paste the url into the 'Save Page Now' box, then click 'Save Page'
    • 2 - wb save.png

    • The Internet Archive will then save that page
    • 3 - wb saving.png
  5. After it saves, you'll be presented with the page as it is within the Internet Archive. From this saved page, click on the next page that you want to save. For instance, click on the first thread in the social group.
    • 4 - wb-result.png

    • If that page has not been saved yet, you'll get a message to that effect
    • 5 - wb confirm.png
  6. To save the page, click on 'Save this url in the Wayback Machine'
    • It will go through the same saving process as before, and will show you the saved page afterwards
  7. Continue clicking on the pages that you want saved
  8. You'll need to save each page that you want to archive. If a thread has four pages in it, you'll need to click on page two of the thread, save it, click on page three, save it, etc.

h/t to @Unit One for looking into this and figuring it out.

As an example and proof that it works, one largish Roleplay SG was completely archived there.

Social Group: https://forums.terraria.org/index.php?social-forums/tcf-roleplay-section-archives-2014-18.1103/
Wayback archive: https://web.archive.org/web/20190120174313/https://forums.terraria.org/index.php?social-forums/tcf-roleplay-section-archives-2014-18.1103/

Interested parties are welcome to archive their Social Groups this way.
 
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Grumpy Squid

Duke Fishron
I'm not sure how big of a project moving the various threads in the social groups to other sections is going to be, but just know if you need some extra temporary help for this project I can be of service.

I hope everything goes smoothly for you guys and that it isn't too much extra work.

Good luck and godspeed.
 

Agastya

The Destroyer
I'm not sure how big of a project moving the various threads in the social groups to other sections is going to be, but just know if you need some extra temporary help for this project I can be of service.

I hope everything goes smoothly for you guys and that it isn't too much extra work.

Good luck and godspeed.
I think the worst bit of this entire ordeal is this little part:
There is also the annoying quirk that threads cannot be reliably moved into and out of Social Groups.
Since social groups are built off a third-party add-on then these threads may behave like normal threads, but they exist in user-generated sub-forums. I've got no idea how the actual forum handles this; with normal subforum removal you simply just move threads into their new home but in this case it feels like larger social groups may be in a bit of a jam. More conventional, Terraria-based groups (such as T-MEC) could easily be merged into the main forum (with "easily" being subjective compared to the work involved) while off-topic social ones like the "Ask Me Anything" group or any of the active role-playing groups are in a bit more trouble as they're popular enough to warrant a social group but not popular enough to warrant a sub-forum.

I don't know much about how Xenforo works (latest thing I really dealt in was phpbb3 and invision power boards) but if it's under a third-party plugin, ideally all the threads in a social group would be in their own little database and could be imported into the main forum's database... but that's just conjecture on how an outdated plugin that's not supported works.

Worst case is that forum users have to start doing manual backups of every thread and migrate to newly created sub-forums, if relevant.


Either way, we're about to have a lot of content on the forums disappear, and as heart-breaking as that sounds, forum security is more important 100% of the time considering this is the official face of the Terraria community. Using outdated forum software for over a year is horrifying when you're the primary, official forum for a game. The fact that nothing has happened in that time says that Xenoforo is more secure than we think or that Terraria is smaller than we think.. and I'm willing to bet it isn't the latter.
 

Tunnel King

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Staff member
Administrator
I don't know much about how Xenforo works (latest thing I really dealt in was phpbb3 and invision power boards) but if it's under a third-party plugin, ideally all the threads in a social group would be in their own little database and could be imported into the main forum's database... but that's just conjecture on how an outdated plugin that's not supported works.
It's a lot more complex than that, unfortunately. And the third-party support for this feature ended a few years ago. It's not really feasible to try to fix it to make it continue to work.

Everything that gets 'moved' out of Social Groups will involve a lot of manual, thread-by-thread work by forum staff. There will be some hard choices to be made as to how much gets moved and what gets left behind. Those choices would still have been hard a year ago, fwiw.

Using outdated forum software for over a year is horrifying
Well over a year by now, more like three. There have been some security updates in the interim but even that has past for what we have currently. I do believe we're 'secure enough' at this point, given that we don't really have any personal data of interest other than email addresses. But it would be a reassuring feeling to be update, from my viewpoint.

To use Windows OS as an approximate analogy - we're creaking along at about XP level. We need to get to at least Win7/8 in the short term, and Win10 to be safest before long.

I really don't want to get further into why it's taken this long, because it doesn't solve the problems going forward. It's been on our radar for a while though. Once we can get past this particular issue, we can focus more clearly on updating/upgrading.
 

Tunnel King

Administrator
Staff member
Administrator
Sorry for being useless
but i did not use this feature in my whole time on the forum
You are not alone, many people didn't use it. You can safely ignore this.

This is primarily to alert the people who do use the feature, some use it extensively
 

Agastya

The Destroyer
Everything that gets 'moved' out of Social Groups will involve a lot of manual, thread-by-thread work by forum staff.
Yikes. Worst case scenario, then.

The one thing worse than death.. administrative paperwork.

The staff body here seems like a very well-oiled machine though, it'll probably drag on but I'm confident that y'all will get things going as smoothly as can be, regardless of how bumpy the upcoming road is.
 
So how long do we have to move stuff out and archive things off site? There are like, 3 RPs that are hundreds of pages for me to archive cleanly onto google docs and I can't do that in a few weeks alone
 

darthmorf

Moderator
Staff member
Moderator
A real shame to see it go, but a completley understandable move. I have a lot of things to look over now, though (luckily?) most of the SGs I was once part of are pretty dead these days, which makes it easier.

Good luck with all the extra hard work you lot will have to deal with!
 

Orifan1

Eye of Cthulhu
would it be possible to, should someone feel motivated enough to do this, write a new version of the social forums plugin thats up to date with the latest xenforo version (from scratch, if needed)? the removal of social forums is understandable, but to say i dislike the 2 thread method of forum rp is an understatement.
the answer is no isint it?
 

Tunnel King

Administrator
Staff member
Administrator
would it be possible to, should someone feel motivated enough to do this, write a new version of the social forums plugin thats up to date with the latest xenforo version (from scratch, if needed)? the removal of social forums is understandable, but to say i dislike the 2 thread method of forum rp is an understatement.
the answer is no isint it?
This just isn't feasible. Re-Logic doesn't have anyone who can do this, or know of anyone who can.

The main purpose of the forum is to promote Terraria and connect with the community. There are many other forums that are geared specifically to supporting RPs. We can't be all things to all people, unfortunately. We understand your disappointment, and believe me, we've been looking for an alternative path for a very long time. There just isn't one, and this isn't just affecting roleplay either.
 

Orifan1

Eye of Cthulhu
This just isn't feasible. Re-Logic doesn't have anyone who can do this, or know of anyone who can.

The main purpose of the forum is to promote Terraria and connect with the community. There are many other forums that are geared specifically to supporting RPs. We can't be all things to all people, unfortunately. We understand your disappointment, and believe me, we've been looking for an alternative path for a very long time. There just isn't one, and this isn't just affecting roleplay either.
ah, that sucks. and while there are other forums that are specifically for rp, all the ones i know of are, well, dead. any ETA as to when the new rp section will appear?
 

Tunnel King

Administrator
Staff member
Administrator
So how long do we have to move stuff out and archive things off site? There are like, 3 RPs that are hundreds of pages for me to archive cleanly onto google docs and I can't do that in a few weeks alone
Per discussions with other staff within the past hour, I think we can set a deadline of February 28. As we get closer to that, we may evaluate and adjust, but other matters are pressing on us to move on. I wouldn't count on an extension to that.

ah, that sucks. and while there are other forums that are specifically for rp, all the ones i know of are, well, dead. any ETA as to when the new rp section will appear?
We'll let you know, we're working on it at the moment, hopefully by the weekend but no hard promises.

RPs are not the only things affected by this.
 

Sigma90

Brain of Cthulhu
Adult Swim - will likely reappear as a sub-forum under Off-Topic, and may be named differently. We will be judicious about what is moved, since there is a significant portion of threads dealing with current events that have since passed. It will remain restricted to serious, possibly volatile topics, and the rules of discussion there will remain pretty much the same. We will investigate an opt in/out system for it, but it likely won't happen right from the start.
This may be a sub-group that's better off being deleted and re-created anew. Correct me if I'm wrong, but the requirement of having to join the group will mean that its posts are not visible to search engines and visitors who are not logged in / have not joined? People may have posted things there that they would rather not be made visible to a wider audience.
The rules prohibit overt objectionable content, but some things in Adult Swim are still touchy topics.
 

Tunnel King

Administrator
Staff member
Administrator
This may be a sub-group that's better off being deleted and re-created anew. Correct me if I'm wrong, but the requirement of having to join the group will mean that its posts are not visible to search engines and visitors who are not logged in / have not joined? People may have posted things there that they would rather not be made visible to a wider audience.
The rules prohibit overt objectionable content, but some things in Adult Swim are still touchy topics.
Adult Swim was never intended to permit people to hide their opinions from the rest of the Internet. The peculiar structure of SGs did have the side effect of being opaque to search indexing, but that was not a reason for incorporating them. Any post on threads or profiles on this forum should be considered public.

Rather, we tended to encourage sensitive topics to be kept in AS to allow people who DID NOT wish to see such matters discussed on a game forum. All discussion there had the same rules of conduct for content as the rest of the forum. 'Adult' did not imply '18+', and in fact we are discussing changing that name for the new section to avoid that implication. Nothing in AS threads would break the rules in other parts of the forum (at least that was our intent).
 
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