Thank you for the detail and reasoning. That makes a heck of a lot more sense - not so much the vBulletin is awful bit because to be fair all forum software is to some extent awful, you just decide whether you’re drinking cyanide or hemlock, as far as I can work out this forum software works great for really small communities with really small threads but the moment you get past 100-200 posts it just turns to mush and there’s very little way of rectifying that.
A forum where lengthy winding convos tended to be the norm probably wasn’t the best fit for discourse, so I think it may be the case a second overhaul may be needed if only to try and bring back the people that have decided that the current forum software isn’t for them. I’ll accept your word that vBulletin 5 isn’t the way forward and vB4 was a dead end, so that brings up the noodle question - If Discourse isn’t a good fit and vBulletin 5 solves nothing, what’s a better option?
SMF? Mmmmaybe, that does look like it could be work to make it fit though.
Invision? When it was free it was excellent (I worked with several Invis board at the time it was), the feature set probably remains excellent but I can’t imagine the price is as amazing.
PhpBB? V3 ripped the bandage off in a lot of ways but I get the sense it’s still kinda a work in progress, again, I’ve worked with a lot of PhpBB boards and much like vBulletin, they can be pigs, but at least they’re friendly pigs
Not going near Drupal with a 100ft barge pole. Tried it once, it didn’t work.
Xenforo? Not heard too much about that one, seems to be aimed at commercial uses though, may need a lot of effort and manual work to refit to purpose, depends on your manpower.
Look, I’d be willing to put my paw up and work with alms and your good self for a temp volunteer duration because the forum needs some TLC and once it’s back on its feet I’ll slink off to my comfy corner, my frustration comes from the fact I want this forum to work and not die. As it stands now it is slowly withering on the vine and there are enough people not happy with discourse (pagination, lack of useful tools like ignore which whilst divisive, does help some people in existing on the forum) that if the forum is to survive, alternatives need to be re-examined. I’d rather be part of the solution if possible.