I think it very much depends on the type of discussion you're having. It works really well for Q&A forums, as there's always a right and wrong answer, but once you start delving into highly opinionated topics, then the popular opinions are the ones that make it to the top, and you begin to see things like vote brigading and the concept of a "hivemind".
Inspiration from other modern forum software
I tested some forum software to find the "best one" and so I also tested esoTalk
It based on php instead of nodejs. EsoTalk forum is different to php forum software like smf or phpbb. It's fat free and really fast.
- conversation list with channels and filter option instead of category view (channel = category = tag)
- private conversations (share topic with users and groups only) could be an alternative to private messages and maybe also chat
- A blog post about 10 hidden features like multiple channel filter, private or group conversation, ...
NodeBB is already modern and full of new ideas, but public / private / group conversations and some other esoTalk approaches could also improve NodeBB any more?
The only thing I liked when I used esoTalk was the filtered channels (which was an idea I had pitched to the developer in the beginning when it was pretty new to the scene, however it was implemented brilliantly just as imagined).
The search was pretty powerful with the use of gambits.
The private conversations were cool too.
Other than these 3 things, thats about all that makes it stand out for me.
Spiceworks does some interesting things and has a massive userbase being supported.
Filtered channels and private conversations are a great approach, but I think NodeBB won't go that way in the future.
So esoTalk is an alternative to NodeBB because it's also fast and comfortable to use.
The combination with all the benefits of both would be the absolute best solution...