This manual documents the properties, setup and usage of self-branded online communities that are based on the Edgeryders technology stack, which is again based on Discourse. This is a current commercial offer by Edgeryders OÜ, the company operating the edgeryders.eu platform. It is open to all online communities dealing around innovation, social change and activism, in the widest sense.
1. What is an Edgeryders Communities platform?
As a platform, the Edgeryders platform edgeryders.eu is open to a wide range of topics and contributions, without a hosting or membership fee of any kind.
For organizations who want to have more of an “own space”, we offer two options for a collaboration:
Option A: Own category on edgeryders.eu. We usually accommodate collaboration requests from organizations who want to simply have discussions in their own online communities on the edgeryders.eu platform, as part of the larger Edgeryders community. For that, we provide them with an own category (also called “discussion board” or “forum” in other places) on edgeryders.eu.
Examples: All projects listed in the left half of the navbar on the top of this page lead to own categories, demonstrating how such a space would look like.
Option B: Federated Discourse platform. We understand that the “own category” solution does not suit in all cases, given that a large and diverse amount of platform content can also be distracting or confusing to less experienced Internet users. Also, organizations may be interested in using the same set of tools for network and online dialogue analysis in their own online communities that we at Edgeryders use for edgeryders.eu content in our research-related projects. (We call this the semantic social network analysis (SSNA) software stack). And lastly, organizations will often want to put their online dialogue platform on an own domain, with an own logo. For these cases, Edgeryders offers an edgeryders.eu-like platform as a self-branded solution. Technically, that platform will be a full Discourse platform, so the client has full admin control over the site.
Examples: All platforms listed in the “Communities” menu in the top right.
Please see the dedicated chapters below for more details about each of these options.
2. Option A: Own category on edgeryders.eu
A single top-level (or sub-level) category is created for the customer, and all content of the customer’s project lives there. If a top-level category is created, the customer can create sub-level categories below it in a reasonable amount (usually 10 is a reasonable limit).
This is not exactly a whitelabel solution, as the edgeryders.eu platform is used and the Edgeryders branding is applied. However, for some customers this might already be enough, as there are some limited ways of branding:
- category logo and category description
- own domain that forwards (visibly) to the customer’s category page on edgeryders.eu
Also, there are advantages of this solution over one that includes a complete own Discourse site:
Full integration with the existing Edgeryders user community. All content of the customer’s category is immediately and directly visible to our community, not “one menu removed” as with the federated Discourse sites. Also, in contrast to the federated Discourse sites, any member of edgeryders.eu can be @mentioned. Together, this means more interaction with that community, making it simpler to get valuable input, to publicize the site, and to show that it has an active community.
No administration. The client does not have to care for any administration, like adapting Discourse configuration settings, downloading backups etc… (On the other hand, the client also cannot do this, as he or she will get only moderator permissions on edgeryders.eu but not administrator permissions. That’s for technical reasons, as Discourse administrators can see all content on edgeryders.eu, which would include all our internal content.)
This is work that will be done by an Edgeryders OÜ admin when launching a client’s platform.
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3. Option B: Federated Discourse platform
You get a Discourse platform on a separate domain and can adapt and change (nearly) everything there. The platform is connected to edgeryders.eu and all the other Edgeryders Communities platforms through a system of shared user accounts: a user account registered on one can also log in to all the others. A menu in the top right of each page allows users to discover these platforms and to quickly switch between them. All these Discourse platforms are hosted on the Edgeryders server (though there can be exceptions).
This gives full freedom to the Edgeryders Communities platforms, as they indeed get their own Discourse installation (with full admin rights, unlimited categories etc.). Still, the sites are somewhat integrated through the cross-link menu and the shared user accounts, so in a way they all contribute to and share the benefits of one large community of users.
Technically it is possible to provide these Discourse platforms hosted by Edgeryders without the integration features (“federation”). However, we are interested in a symbiotic platform development with respect to community and content and don’t see ourselves as purely a Discourse hosting provider. For that service, we highly recommend you book the hosting service from the makers of the Discourse forum software.
Own domain. It can be registered by the client at a DNS hoster of their choice and under the name and account of the client’s organization. The client keeps the full control over the domain at every time.
Own categories. As many as the customer likes, as it’s simply an own Discourse installation.
(Categories in our platform are equivalent to “forums” or “message boards” in other online dialogue software.)
Online community integration. Edgeryders has a large, international online community of changemakers and innovators and you can involve it in your Edgeryders Communities platform as follows:
The user accounts are seamlessly integrated with those of edgeryders.eu and all the other Edgeryders Communities platforms, using a system of shared accounts and automatic synchronization of e-mail address, username and realname. This allows to log in to all these platforms without having to create a new user account for each.
Note that only the identities of user accounts are synced, not the content. A user’s content will only be visible on the platform where it was posted.
Platform-switch menu. To connect the various Edgeryders Communities platforms together, the very top right of each platform has the “Communities” menu. This way, visitors discover the other Edgeryders Communities platforms and can comfortably switch back and forth between them.
Cross-site notifications. (not yet) For a future extension, we plan to list the number of new notifications from Discourse for the users, behind each of the platforms listed in the top-right menu for cross-linking the Edgeryders Communities websites. The plugin providing this menu would get these notifications from the Discourse APIs of all associated sites in the network, or if necessary for speed reasons, directly out of the various databases.
Content cross-promotion. (not yet) Again for a future extension, we plan to create a Discourse plugin that cross-promotes posts between multiple Edgeryders Communities platforms. It would be listed at the bottom of normal Discourse topic pages, comparable in function to the “Hot Network Questions” sidebar feature on Stack Exchange network sites like stackoverflow.com.
Open Ethnographer. All Edgeryders Communities platforms have access to Open Ethnographer, a custom tool that we added to Discourse and that allows semantic annotation of online discussions. Our existing Open Ethnographer manual applies, with the exception that admin users are different people on a Communities platform as they are chosen by the client. API access to the Open Ethnographer data is also included as documented in our API manual, with the exception of access to ethical consent data as this is not part of Open Ethnographer.
Graphryder (not yet). Graphryder is our second custom tool in our SSNA software stack, and clients will get access to it for analyzing the online discussion incl. the annotations added to it by Open Ethnographer. This feature is available on edgeryders.eu and can be tested there on request. We need to extend Graphryder somewhat to work for multiple data sources at the same time; ETA for this feature is 2020-05. Existing clients will get access to it at no additional cost.
Backups. All content and configuration of the client’s self-branded platform is automatically included in backups of the edgeryders.eu platform. We keep daily server snapshot backups for the last 14 days, database backups for the last four months, and additional long-term backups. (Backups and data integrity are provided on a best-effort basis. The client is expected to occasionally download the provided backups for additional data safety.)
Archiving. If you ever decide that you do no longer want to operate your own Discourse platform, we will take over your public content to edgeryders.eu, and keep it online there, both free of additional charges. It will still be attributed to the users who created it, and these users can still continue the discussion on edgeryders.eu as they their account also works there.
Additional offers. On a case-by-case basis, we can offer clients for a fee customized services related to the management, growth and analysis of online communities. For example, our two-day “Online Community Management Masterclass” workshop, or permanent help with online community management.
Using Discourse as SSO provider and client. Discourse comes with integrated functions that allow making one Discourse site the single-sign-on (SSO) “master” and others the SSO clients. This way, one account can log in to all federated sites. We have set up a dedicated Discourse platform just for the signup and login processes: communities.edgeryders.eu.
Hosting as a Discourse multisite on Edgeryders’ server. In the case of Discourse, this is a way of saying “one codebase, one server process, multiple domains, multiple databases”. All platforms are hosted on the Edgeryders server, and each gets its own database. This would be our preferred way of hosting since it hardly consumes more server resources that a single Discourse platform.
Clients have full admin user access to their Discourse platform but not to the server. So, changes to the software such as installing plugins requires intervention by Edgeryders OÜ admins. Installing custom plugins, incl. plugins developed by the client, is however possible that way. The plugin would be installed for all multisite platforms, but enabled only for those that want them.
Alternatively, hosting as a standalone Discourse installation. Complex sites that require extensive changes to the Discourse core code will not be hosted as part of the multisite setup. They would be their very own, independent Discourse installation, but still on the Edgeryders server. They can still take part in the shared account scheme with the other Edgeryders Communities platforms, as that only requires enabling the SSO (single-sign-on) functions.
Alternatively, hosting on the clients’ own server. For really special cases where the client needs full server access, we can provide our customized Discourse software including the integration features of the Edgeryders Communities platforms (shared account, cross-linking) without hosting on our own servers. We will also help with the setup, but software and server maintenance will be up to the client in such a case.
This is work that will be done by an Edgeryders OÜ admin when launching a client’s platform.
This is treated in detail in its own topic: Discourse setup with multisite and SSO.
If you want to adapt your platform’s design, also see “Creating a custom Discourse theme”.
4. Ordering and launching a platform
Audience. Since all Edgeryders Communities are integrated, there should be a minimum of overlap of concerns and interests for them to be a cohesive, vibrant online community. This is so far defined by what the largest community of them (that of edgeryders.eu) is about: innovation, social change and activism. We are open to accommodate a wide array of projects in that area, including small or very localized projects. However, we reserve a right to turn down a client if a particular project just does not fit in – so if you are interested in this offer, please first send us a small description of your proposed online community to find out if your project is eligible.
Prices. Price components are:
Setup. This includes the basic installation of a new Discourse platform, a certain time budget for design adaptations according to the offer, and content and user import from your previous website (if any). It does not include custom web development work, see below for that.
Price: based on an individual offer, starting from 500 EUR (excl. VAT).
Hosting. This includes the actual hosting with unlimited users and pageviews, up to 600 MiB of new image files per month, and backups via our regular backup system.
Price: 60 EUR per month (excl. VAT).
Tech support and custom development (optional). We provide a free Discourse user manual and Discourse admin manual, and there are a lot of other tips and tricks on meta.discourse.org. For any questions and tasks beyond that, you can get our assistance.
Price: case based via a ticket system, at 60 EUR per hour (excl. VAT). Quick questions, price estimates and issues dealing with software malfunction caused by us are free. (Discourse bugs are not caused by us )
Community building (optional). If you like, we can create and offer you a package that suits your needs, be it consulting on a case-by-case basis or actual hands-on services for online community building.
Price: based on an individual offer.
Editor service (optional). We offer to upgrade user-contributed content to consistent Markdown formatting and correct spelling so that your platform leaves a good impression to potential new members and to search engines.
Price: based on an individual offer, depending on post volume. Prices are very reasonable for European standards though, as we outsource this work to our skilled partners in Nepal.
VAT. All prices above are excl. VAT. If you are an organizational customer, typically our invoice will not include VAT and you will have to apply local VAT with the reverse charge procedure (and get it back if you are eligible for VAT pre-tax deduction). If you are an individual customer, for some countries (esp. the EU28) we have to add your local VAT to the invoice.
Ordering. Please message @matthias here on the platform to let us know your requirements and to get an offer.
Communication. Please never ever e-mail us about your order or issue with an Edgeryders Communities platform. We hate e-mail threads because Discourse forums are so much better Instead:
- Message @matthias here on the platform about your order and requirements.
- Post your issues to the Software (General) workspace category.
- Even better, you could sign up to Dynalist and let us know your account ID. We can then have a shared dynalist for all tasks and issues of a project. If you’re interested, we have a detailed Dynalist manual. But you’ll only need the basics.
- And of course you’re welcome to post in all other categories as appropriate.
Launch. The Edgeryders OÜ tech team will work with you to get all required information, develop your platform according to your needs, and then launch it when you agree that it’s ready.