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Introducing our new associate member forum!

by Andrew Engelbrecht Contributions Published on Oct 15, 2018 03:16 PM

I'm excited to share that we've launched a new forum for our associate members. We hope that you find this forum to be a great place to share your experiences and perspectives surrounding free software and to forge new bonds with the free software community. If you're a member of the FSF, head on over to to get started. You'll be able to log in using the Central Authentication Service (CAS) account that you used to create your membership. (Until we get WebLabels working for the site, you'll have to whitelist its JavaScript in order to log in and use it, but rest assured that all of the JavaScript is free software, and a link to all source code can be found in the footer of the site.) Participation in this forum is just one of many benefits of being an FSF member – if you're not a member yet, we encourage you to join today, for as little as $10 per month, or $5 per month for students.

The purpose of this member forum is to provide a space where members can meet, communicate, and collaborate with each other about free software, using free software. While there are other places on the Internet to talk about free software, this forum is unique in that it is focused on the common interests of FSF members, who care very much about using, promoting, and creating free software.

The forum software we chose to use is Discourse.

One of the technical requirements for the forum was that it needs to work well with single sign-on (SSO) systems, specifically our CAS system. In the process of launching the new member forum, I patched our CAS server so that it would verify FSF associate membership. I also wrote a patch for the Discourse CAS SSO service so that we can require email validation when users log into Discourse for the first time.

We built our own patched instance of Discourse's base Docker image to resolve a freedom issue, and as preparation for any times in the future that we may need to make changes to the upstream source code for our local installation.

I spent some time trying to set up Discourse without using Docker, but getting email delivery to work without a Docker image proved to be very challenging. In the end, we decided that using Docker adds complexity when making patches to the software, but think that it makes using Discourse easier overall.

One of the reasons we chose Discourse is because it allows users to respond to conversations via email. Users may enable the "mailing list mode" in their user settings, which allows us to interact with the member forum as if it were a mailing list.

I would like to thank the Discourse team for creating this software, and for their responsiveness to my questions about Discourse patching, new features, configuration, and deployment. They responded very quickly to a security issue that I reported, and donated a hacker bounty to the FSF.

If you want to chat with other members via IRC, I suggest joining the #fsf-members channel on Freenode, where I made an early announcement about the member forum launch.

I hope you are excited to use our new forum. I certainly am! I look forward to the great conversations that we will have among members who care very much about free software. Happy hacking!

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