As part of the jetsetting life of a secret agent- I mean, forum guy; I'm occasionally required to take trips on aeroplanes. As good as Air Canada were, I couldn't help but notice several bizarre gaps in their feature list that leave them lagging significantly behind Vanilla. I thought that as an expert, a lover and a DJ it was my duty to set them right.
1. User Curation
With great plugins like Warnings, Reports and Flagging, a forum running Vanilla need never worry about some of the issues that plagued my Air Canada flight. If, for instance, a user were to hog the arm rest even though everyone knows the guy in the middle gets both armrests because that's the worst seat and come on guy, you get the window to lean on or the aisle, for extra leg room and easy bathroom access. On a Vanilla forum you could use a graded system of punishments through Warnings to let them know that their behaviour is unacceptable. For instance, Air Canada might start by slamming his stupid hands in his laptop that he keeps clacking away at (a minor warning). If the behaviour continues, they could then graduate to a more serious, but still proportionate punishment (major warnings) such as a prolonged tazing, or perhaps being forcibly sterilised. This kind of graded punishment gives you options, rather than going straight to a ban. In serious cases, such as spam, abuse or guffawing every five seconds at the video of Chuck you're watching, because apparently this is 2009, there's no reason why you can't go straight to the most serious option, such as a banning or being thrown out of the hatch at 30,000 feet.
A Vanilla forum ships bare by design. They don't turn a bunch of useless plugins on just to show that they have those features. Every client can pick and choose the features they want. If Vanilla offered, for instance, an in-flight meal; they wouldn't wake you just as you'd finally found a way to lapse into unconsciousness in the cursed middle seat while sandwiched between two accursed armrest hoggers; leaving you to live through the full 10 hours of your wretched existence without the blessed oblivion of sleep. No, a Vanilla forum would give you a simple checkbox marked "Enabled". Then, when you're done you could simply click Disable rather than waiting for a steward to return for your tray and dealing with the distraction of an episode of Chuck searing into the periphery of your retinas.
3. Private Conversations
On Vanilla, if you have a particular thing you'd like to share with another user, you can simply start a private conversation with them and converse to your hearts content without ever bothering another user. If, for instance you were sitting in a window seat and wanted to chat loudly about your love of the show Chuck with the guy in the aisle seat; you wouldn't need to simply talk right over another user who just please god wants to go to sleep and forget that he's alive. No, you'd simply start a private message and say "hey, I heard you like Chuck too, I'm watching through it now despite the fact that it's 2014 and we're in a golden age of television and I could be watching literally anything else but Chuck. What do you think will happen in Season 3 of Chuck?" Spoilers: they will continue to run every joke into the ground. Even in the public forums, if someone is having a conversation that you're not interested in, you could use the ignore function to take it out of your field of view. While this isn't a feature that I ever use on a Vanilla forums, I've been on several flights that have made me wish I had an ignore function.
Air Canada are a fantastic airline, and I've always been happy with their reliability, great service and wide variety of Paul Gross films on in-flight entertainment. As great as they are though, these three features make me really glad that my forums are on Vanilla.
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Guest post by Patrick Groome. Patrick is the Administrator of the Penny Arcade forums. Penny Arcade is one of the most popular and long running gaming webcomics and organizer of the PAX gaming conference.