@PitaJ replies below.
When was NodeBB setup easier to do?
I can't remember the specific version, but I've been experimenting with nodebb since 2014, so 0.4.
How was it easier back then?
Previously I was able to get it running out of the box was pretty straightforward. Example I didn't have any issues previously with SMTP setup, but this time I had to pull again. I think there was a more fever for plugin development so lots of people were creating things and because it was new and exciting the plugins were maintained.
I think other things is I feel I need to constantly have to
build now. I was used to the
restarts before, but my latest tests I have had to
build a lot more.
How do you suggest we make it easier now?
Look to deployment process similar to Ghost or Discourse. Both initial setup for core services such as domain, https, email and such are handled extremely easy and straightforward. Once setup, an admin can go in and fine tune anything they want.
What features would significantly improve your experience with NodeBB?
Honestly, it isn't a software feature as NodeBB core is pretty strong. It is more moderating the plugins if they work on the active version. Either look to a system like Wordpress which each plugin gives a clear "Last updated" and "Tested on #.#.#" to provide confidence that something will work. Example, I use SES for email and was excited to see a plugin for SES, but that plugin was abandoned and hasn't been maintained to coincide with any changes to NodeBB core.
If there was something in core that I would like added it would be greater moderation tools which I mention here.
Making emails work required a plugin regardless of what you were doing, there was no easy access to SMTP or sendmail.
Why is such an important service not just built into core? If it needs to be a plugin then have it be an 'official plugin' similar to what Discourse does with their Voting and Solved plugins. Which all that means is they understand the community importance of the plugin and make sure it is working with each update.
NodeBB is a very exciting platform, but it feels like a general excitement to build on it was lost leaving tons of handy plugins to go abandoned. The last thing I'd want to see is NodeBB to end up like Vanilla with the SaaS version being stable and feature filled with the open source/self-deployed being entirely community driven including having to replicate features.