I had planned to do a blog post later this week, once Liners had got a preview of the forums. And since it's not possible to respond in Lines chat to all of the conversations going on, here's the short version.
We're launching TouringPlans forums today to take some of the discussion burden off of Lines Chat, and to provide new features, such as search, to help folks find information quickly.
When we wrote Lines Chat many years ago, we thought it would be a good way for people to communicate while they were in the parks. Over time, Lines Chat grew into a thriving, busy community, and that community works better than any of us could have possibly hoped. My sincerest thanks go out to every Liner who's every posted in Chat. (Even you, Mr. Itty. But don't push your luck, bub. )
Here's the problem: We wrote the code for Lines Chat ourselves, and while it works, it's not great. Something like half of all of our computing resources (and half of our server costs) go to support chat. Our move to Amazon's infrastructure has helped with scaling, but even with that, at our current growth rate, we'll exceed Amazon's largest database server in less than 2 years. At that point, Lines will crash.
We've already limited the number of Chat threads displayed and the number of responses per thread, and that has helped. We could also try more exotic database solutions, but at more staff effort (and cost). Or we could limit the number of posts in Chat. None of those are great choices.
The best long-term move is to migrate most of these discussions to a professionally-written, scalable, supported discussion forum software. That's what we've chosen.
Lines Chat will still exist, and will run alongside these forums. Eventually, we'd like Lines Chat to be used for in-park questions and answers and discussion forums for everything else. This way, urgent, in-park questions can get prompt attention without being buried by less immediate posts.
So if you're in the parks and have a question, use Lines Chat. And if you're not in the parks, reading Lines chat, and see a question you can answer, go ahead and answer it on Lines chat.
We haven't set a date for Lines Chat's transition to in-park discussion, and we'll give at least a month's notice ahead of it. We also haven't formulated a policy for dealing with "not-in-park" posts on Lines Chat - the Lines community tends to guide itself, so I think it'll work out on its own.
As you try out these forums, please post issues and questions to the Bugs thread here. If the problem prevents you from posting here, however, send email to email@example.com.
Finally, I realize that the change in software is a disruption to all Liners. You have to learn a new interface, everyone's chat counts go to zero, and there's a whole different thread organization system to learn. It took me a good half-hour to get comfortable with the software. I know it's inconvenient, but I ask you to give it 30 minutes.