There are a cacophony of voices coming from all sides in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, and understandably so. I studied World War II propaganda in the Film Studies and Communication Studies programs at Concordia University in Montréal, so I like to think I am not that susceptible to misinformation, but I am of course human, and no one is immune.
That is basically why I decided to put up some better technology than what seems to be on offer and create a Discourse Forum called The Cote Saint-Luc Independent Forum for the community in which I live in Montréal, Québec, Canada.
I am a technical writer, not a developer, so some of the tech to setup the forum took some real work. The forum is being hosted on something I am very familiar with, a DigitalOcean droplet (server) in their data center in Toronto. I deliberately used the Discourse software because I respect and trust its creator, the marvellous Jeff Atwood.
People who know me well and read this blog, and the derivative eBook I wrote from it called Survival in the Relentless New, know I am a big critic of Facebook. I realize it may be the only channel of communication available to some people, but I am an adamant believer that it has been a net detriment to the internet in its echo chamber of propaganda, pinpoint marketing, and its dollar-comes-first outlook. Not to mention its recent inclusion of who I think is quite right wing investor Peter Thiel to its board.
My new forum very well may not catch on and may not ultimately prove useful to people but, as I explore in It’s a Fediverse Planet, alternative more unmediated forms of online communication, especially during times of turmoil, I feel, can be a g-dsend to otherwise overlooked users and topics.
I had some challenges putting up the forum, including finding a transactional email provider and setting up SMTP necessary for the forum to communicate with its users. After seeing Sam Saffron’s suggestion on Discourse’s own forum to use Mailgun I chose that and it worked!
Furthermore, because I tried several times to run the Discourse installation script on different droplets using the same domain name I broke the ssh functionality on my Linux Mint Desktop. I then registered a second, I think better and shorter domain on Namecheap, created the forum subdomain in the Networking tab in DigitalOcean, and was then able to ssh in and run the Discourse installation script successfully, but not before for some strange reason having to for the first time edit the /etc/hosts file in vim (vi didn’t work) to declare the new host, and do an overwrite of the file with the w! command.
So technically I had, and overcame, some challenges, but whether the Cote Saint-Luc Independent Forum actually gets any users: that’s a whole different story 😉