v2 brought more users, more demand for support and more community activity. Ditching our self-made, self-hosted forum was inevitable, and Discourse seemed like the right alternative at that point.
It was fantastic to benefit from all the features Discourse offered. The community grew steadily, technical support requests via email dropped despite the growing activity and users started to help each other. We should have done this a lot earlier, but you are always smarter in hindsight.
Two folks stood out more and more: Texnixe and Lukas.
Texnixe is the alter ego of Sonja Broda: A technical writer and developer from Mainz, Germany. She had built a couple Kirby projects over the years and started to help out other users with their technical questions. Her answers were always friendly, always focused on practical solutions, always very proficient. Her reply rate was off the charts. She often answered questions long before I even had a chance to look at them.
Lukas Bestle was the same guy who was always present on GitHub and had contributed his very first improvement in June 2012. He knew Kirby inside out by now and already started his own business after finishing school when others still tried to figure out what to do with their lives.
I was blown away by their professionalism at a point when they contributed all the answers and solutions on a voluntary basis. The forum benefited massively from their support and it became a logical next step to hire them both.
While Sonja is still the heart and soul of the forum, docs and Kosmos, Lukas shifted more towards core work later and is now deeply involved in our CI setup, security and backend development.
With a bigger community, you need merch. It's the obvious next step. 🤷♂️ After looking at various services with huge markups, we found a pretty affordable shirt printer in Berlin that was a better fit for our tight budget.
We started collecting pre-orders and printed the first batch of roughly 100 shirts. One day, a huge box arrived in our small apartment.
The shirts looked amazing. We added self-made tags with a K stamp and hexagonal paper cutter my wife had given me for Christmas. We had a huge Excel list with all the pre-orders from all around the world, and we packaged and shipped them manually.
It was a hell lot of work. Some shirts never arrived at their destination. Some packages took more than a month. While I'd never do it again, it was also a lot of fun.
More and more work for v2 piled up. We didn't have a proper CI workflow and tests back in those days, and every release was an adventure. It got clear that we need to invest more in a professional setup. Nico was another frequent member of the community, who had built some very impressive projects with Kirby. I asked him to help us out with frontend work for the Panel and other parts of the system. Over the years we had endless experimental coding sessions together and built some really cool things that sometimes even ended up in releases 😄