I agree that you can't include every single feature requests in a product. I know all that too well because every other client that I meet with has a grand idea that would revolutionize my security product which of course is already the only leader in Gartner Magic Quadrant. It is virtually impossible to listen to every FR especially when most of them are "nice to haves". You can't please the world.
But over the years, we realized that functional features that should be implemented but left out created opportunities for our competitors to try and take the backdoor into an account. As a result, functional features that actually solve problems often get escalated to deal breaker level with real revenue riding on them.
When I relate that experience to NodeBB development, I believe there are core features missing that still prevent full adoption of this engine by major forums out there. I've been following this project for over a year and done enough research to understand what the core requirements are and from my experience of administering a forum for over 6 years.
To be clear, I am forever in awe of NodeBB's engine. It remains the best that I thus far come across due to its sheer speed and excellent rendering of posts. But there are gripes that always become quickly obvious every time I have visited the site. These possibly slow the adoption of this great product. I'm going to be very blunt here, but I hope it is seen as productive rather than troll event.
The layout on the homepage is very messyThe layout is wonky at best. Lack of alignment of the objects make very hard to find anything worthy of clicks. If I go to https://community.nodebb.org as a new user, I expect to find the best native rendering out of the box. Most adopters don't have enough time to be playing with code just to get a decent look out of the box. They want it functional layout from day zero.
Lack of "Real" Private Messaging System (Inbox)
I brought up this point last year, but the response that I got back was that chat does exactly the same thing and doesn't need to be evaluated. That assertion to me is simply flat out wrong if you have a successful forum. Heck, even Twitter has a PM system.
What is wrong with the current chat system on NodeBB? For one, there is no subject line. Two, messages are kept in linear form even if the topics being discussed are not related. For instance, when I try to send Julian a message, I click on chat, and I'm seeing chat messages from 8 months ago like I would on instant messaging app. To me, that is major fail on messaging system for a community and it astounds me that this is now in beta 7 yet never discussed as a necessary tool. I should be able to start a new message with defined title.
Lack of simple way to list sub categories
Again , this is one of the points that avid members here fight over as not necessary. I keep seeing workarounds such as tags used to replace sub-categories. Why the conflict? Tags solve completely different from presentation standpoint. You cannot replace categorization through form listing with tags.
Stop reinventing the wheels
What initially sold NodeBB to me as I was researching best forum engine to use for my projects was core engine. But the lack of wiliness to acknowledge the aforementioned functional features always pegged me back. Those are not nice to have features. They are essentially what most forums are built on which solve real forum problems.
Now, it could be that I simply don't understand the mission statement of NodeBB as a product. I wouldn't rule that out. But if you are thinking of displacing the likes of Vanilla, IPB, XenForo etc, then it would be great to at least provide the fundamental features that those engines have out of the box, then start to build on what they don't have to give NodeBB a real edge that would take it into the next level that would reward the hard work that your team have put in.