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Developer Advocate at DeveloperMode

Shortly after I joined Algolia as a developer advocate, I knew I wanted to establish a place for the community to congregate and share their projects, questions and advice. There are a ton of platforms out there that can be used to host communities, and they tend to fall into two categories - real-time sync (like chat) and async (like forums). Because the community was already large, I felt that a chat platform like Discord or Gitter might be overwhelming and opted for a forum-like solution instead (which would also create content that's searchable from Google).

I looked at paid, closed-source options like AnswerHub and ForumBee and old-school solutions like phpBB and vBulletin, but none seemed to offer the power, flexibility and developer-friendliness of Discourse. Discourse is open source, written in Rails with Ember.js on the front-end. That made me confident I could modify it to meet our exact needs. Discourse's own forum is very active which made me confident I could get help if I needed it.

It took about a month to get Discourse up-and-running and make authentication tied to algolia.com via the SSO plugin. Adding additional plugins for moderation or look-and-feel customization was fairly straightforward, and I even created a plugin to make the forum content searchable with Algolia. To stay on top of answering questions and moderation, we used the Discourse API to publish new messages into our Slack. All-in-all I would say we were happy with Discourse - the only caveat would be that it's very helpful to have technical knowledge as well as Rails knowledge in order to get the most out of it.

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Yonas Beshawred
Yonas Beshawred
September 13th 2018 at 6:50pm

I've used the Algolia Discourse site, it's really slick! We're seeing more and more developer tools companies adopt Discourse (New Relic, Atom/GitHub, etc). As a user, the UI is lightyears ahead of other forums and for a company like Algolia that has such an active community, it seems like a great way to bring all of that activity into one place. Being able to have this huge repository of knowledge is a huge win for anyone implementing Algolia.

Where did you guys decide to host it and why? I remember reading something about how Discourse requires a lot of memory so just curious about what it takes to host it- particularly as the community grows.

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Josh Dzielak
Josh Dzielak
September 13th 2018 at 8:28pm

We hosted the Discourse instance on a DigitalOcean droplet with 4GB of RAM and 2 vCPUs, costing just $20/month. That amount of RAM let the processes grow comfortably at our workload, which was light at the beginning in terms of users and posts. We did create some custom Docker containers to run the Discourse process in so that we could do rebuilds and deploys without any downtime for maintenance. Another option for us would have been to let the team at Discourse host it - they have plans that start around $100/month, though it gets more expensive if you need things like advanced plugins. Still, time is money and not having to self-host would have let us move faster on a few other things.

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