Best Forum Software in your opinion

Discussion in 'Forum Software' started by meetdilip, Jun 24, 2014.

  1. Burning Board

    19 vote(s)
    9.9%
  2. IPB

    39 vote(s)
    20.4%
  3. vBulletin

    6 vote(s)
    3.1%
  4. MyBB

    16 vote(s)
    8.4%
  5. phpBB

    9 vote(s)
    4.7%
  6. NodeBB

    4 vote(s)
    2.1%
  7. SMF

    11 vote(s)
    5.8%
  8. Others

    13 vote(s)
    6.8%
  9. XenForo

    74 vote(s)
    38.7%
  1. Maddox

    Maddox Habitué

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    Circular point scoring - you're obviously convinced there is no problem so it's a futile discussion - you're right, I and many others are wrong, you're wrong and everyone else is right and around and around it goes and still the problem remains that new forums starting out have little or no chance of succeeding in their expected goals. This happens time and time again and until people realise that forums are not the popular platform they once were and no one is prepared to address the situation we end up where we are now, going around in circles and ending up going nowhere.

    For those who have vibrant forums and have been for some time, good luck to you - at this point in time you are the exception and not the rule.

    I'm a great advocate of 'if it ain't broke don't fix it' - if forum software isn't broken and doesn't need fixing then we are in a whole lot of trouble for future admins who want to try their hand. Go to any of the forums on here that state 'show us your forum' (any platform) and go back 12 months and see how many are still alive and, more importantly, how many are actually vibrant and active.

    It's a sad time - a sign of the times - and as long as old school protagonists insist there isn't a problem then we will forever being going in circles. I'm done now and will not continue in a futile debate.
     
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  2. Pete

    Pete Flavours of Forums Forever

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    Ever heard of 'devil's advocate'? Or, in this case, trying to provoke some kind of thought to the problem from a different direction than 'we're all doomed', especially as it's long been known that you can't solve a problem by observing it from the same perspective.

    Everyone's talking about innovation. Can't innovate a solution if you're constantly staring at the problem the same way. I was trying to provoke a bit of fresh perspective on it by starting from first principles and questioning what it is we think we're so sure of.

    Sorry to burst your bubble.
     
  3. Maddox

    Maddox Habitué

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    No bubble to burst - there's a difference between playing Devils Advocate and simply dismissing everything that is being said - that is being stubborn and not being prepared to give any ground in the light of the problems being faced by Admins and would be Admins today; not as 'you' see it, but as they see it. There is huge competition out there with SM being at the forefront coupled alongside huge changes in people's attitudes. It's people like you who can't see that there is a problem that is killing any possibility of change - you don't believe that there is a problem so therefore the problem does not exist and nothing needs to change.

    Perhaps there is nothing that the developers can do to implement changes that will help to off-set this imbalance, perhaps there is. There have been a number of suggestions that 'might' help out, but first party developers are unwilling to make those changes, because, like you, they do not see that there's a problem. Perhaps if people were to stop buying their software, stop paying the renewal fees and walk away, they may have to rethink their position.

    No one is asking for 'massive' changes, no one is asking them to innovate the 'next big thing' - just to show some willingness to make some (if not all) of the changes that people are asking for to give them some kind of fighting chance. Innovation doesn't have to mean a complete change of the way things work, just to give some thought about what is being asked for and then either implement those changes or give a reasonable and believable explanation as to why they won't. That is not a 'big' ask and it could help to breathe some life in flagging, floundering and fledgling forums.

    Just take a walk in the park around TAZ and look for those topics that cover what is being asked for. IPS appear to have opened their ears and eyes and have given ground to adding some of those features that have been asked for. Not everyone wants to rely on third party add-ons that may or may not work, that may or may not be supported, that may or may not be updated. If you give people the right tools for the right job then they may have a chance of making something worthwhile. The old adage of 'a poor workman always blames his tools' just doesn't cut it anymore, if the tools are crap then the workman is starting out at a disadvantage. I'll say no more now because no doubt you will attempt to pick apart what I've said and around and around we will go. It would be best if we just agreed to disagree and see what happens over time.

    :)
     
  4. we_are_borg

    we_are_borg Administrator

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    Where not asking divine intervention we are asking common sense. Like Maddox said IPS started to listen not all the way but they are trying at least. Now the rest need to start paying attention to us the customer, the longer they ignore us the harder it gets to build a community. If we fail because the software was not up to par or they dropped the ball then their company will fail over time. They need us to buy new licenses and keep renewing so they can take a wage, it does not only benefit us but them as well. At the moment lots of companies are like we know better and deal with it or why should we help you with this. Never think you know better as company that will be your downfall.
     
  5. Pete

    Pete Flavours of Forums Forever

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    See, I'm in the boat of literally working on a forum platform, so I am necessarily invested in understanding this. I'm mindful that my market has different rules but that doesn't mean it's immune, and I find starting by questioning every assumption is a valid place to start because right now we have a lot of assumptions on all sides about how things work.

    And yes, there is a lot of reticence on the platform dev front to assume they know best. They too need to question their assumptions.
     
  6. Steve

    Steve Administrator

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    That's been true for years and years, this isn't a new thing that just started happening. One can't just build a site and expect the magic to happen. Even back in the day it wasn't that easy, you have to have content and advertise in some form to get users to your site. Content alone will likely take ages so you have to reach out and make yourself known but doing this before you have content is just a waste.

    Sounds like you had the wrong tool for the job. Forum software is just that, a forum. Trying to make it FB/Twitter/Reddit is just fail.
     
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2017
  7. Tracy Perry

    Tracy Perry Opinionated asshat

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    That is not always the reason. Most niches are already saturated with forums for them (guitars, cars, boats, fishing, cellular devices, Apple devices, etc). Trying to break cold into established niches is hard, even in a real brick and mortar business, much less a forum. You just simply become a "me too" site most often.
    Those niches that are NOT covered well have a tendency - as long as they aren't flash in the pan type niches - to do well when they have a forum come up for them.

    The other major problem is that the end user has become primarily consumers. They don't WANT to give anything away (specifically active meaningful posting) but want others to provide the information to them that they need/want/desire.

    The problem is that there comes a time when the code can suffer from bloat.... and yes, it's a real thing.
    What the "right tools for the job" for you may not be the right ones for me. So now you have lots of stuff that is being added that is not needed by all. A more MODULAR system makes more sense, but most forum owners would not want to pay what that would most likely cost from the developers.
     
  8. doubt

    doubt Tazmanian

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    That real thing is only an excuse to develop and maintain less functions in the core.
     
  9. Tracy Perry

    Tracy Perry Opinionated asshat

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    Nope, there IS such a thing as code bloat. Not everyone has unlimited storage capacity and "piggish" size scripts can cause issues with limited storage space as well as with code execution.
    A more modular system makes much more sense than shoving everything (including the kitchen sink and the bathroom toilet) into the core.
     
  10. doubt

    doubt Tazmanian

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    Is it possible to do the dishwashing and clearing out things from the body in the backyard?
    Yes...but when they are missing the tenant looking for a more comfortable home.
     
  11. Tracy Perry

    Tracy Perry Opinionated asshat

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    So, you expect your house/apartment/condo to be fully furnished when you buy it? With the exact furniture/household items that you desire?
     
  12. doubt

    doubt Tazmanian

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    Currently renting one, I'm looking for something I would be more comfortable in it.
    Willing to pay good money for it...
    ...but house lords know much better what is good for me.
     
  13. Maddox

    Maddox Habitué

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    I notice it's mainly the coders who are defensive about forum software and picking up on small issues within this discussion whilst ignoring the most discussed issues at hand, being 'blinkered' comes to mind. Yes, some of the issues have been around for years, but that doesn't make them any less an issue today; in fact they are more of an issue today than ever.

    Sure content is important, that is banged on about over and over - yet there are sites out there (and I've done this myself) jam packed to the rafters with content and still no one comes, or if they do it's only to look and not participate. I've said it numerous times that society has been reduced to being consumers, all take and no give; the self-interest level has never been higher, so that is also an issue one which software alone cannot cure, but that doesn't mean that the software should not change and at least make an attempt to appear more attractive.

    To fail is miserable, to 'try' and fail is an achievement, to try and 'succeed' is incredible.

    As for the 'bloat' syndrome - most hosting companies come with generous amounts of disk space, far often not even close to being saturated least of all by scripts. Disk space comes in gigabytes, whilst the scripts only consume megabytes - what you do with your space beyond the script (images, videos, music, etc) is your call as the user and it's your responsibility to ensure that your hosting is adequate for your needs. Even if scripts went up to 100MB it's still only scratching the surface.

    The modular approach already exists - official and 3rd party add-ons. Not every feature needs to be core, but the ones most desired ought to be in the core for the many reasons stated by numerous topics on the subject; and there has really been no consultation with consumers on a meaningful and productive level for what is desired, in any camp. When was there any time any coder/developer went out of their way to actually 'ask' their clients what they would like to see, beyond a suggestion forum that is more often glossed over?

    It's all too easy to come up with excuses as to why the software is perfect and does what it's meant to do - I've used forums for 20 years or more, been an Admin for close on 20 years and I've seen very little being added to the feature set until the last few years and even then they are minimal in comparison to the number of years that have passed.

    I've also stated many times that I have no quick answer to how new Admins can get some traction in return for their efforts, but I have witnessed people asking for more features and for changes to be made that these Admins believe can give them a fighting chance - and out come the defenders of the faith, those who languish in the status quo, stating there is nothing wrong. What chance has any new contender got when faced with an assault from both sides?

    Action speaks louder than words and there's very little action but a whole lot of words.

    ;)
     
  14. Pete

    Pete Flavours of Forums Forever

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    The problem is if you ask people what they want, they usually don't know. And when they do know, it's usually minor quality of life things that don't qualify as major improvements.

    Even when you tell people they can have literally anything they want, I guarantee you they don't suggest bold things. This is even true amongst groups of coders that are quite capable of building it.

    Very occasionally you get asked for a feature that is dramatic and daring. It's also usually already been done somewhere else and the consequences of it are known, and it ends up being a feature that maybe three sites would actually use, or it backfires and has a different result to intended, so it gets undone again.

    Also, people invariably frame their desires in terms of what they already have and frequently how they want to modify something in a very specific way rather than expressing what they actually want to do. Too busy staring at the tools rather than sizing up the finished result.
     
  15. Maddox

    Maddox Habitué

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    Again we have an 'excuse' not to try it - try it and see what happens. If nothing happens then nothing is lost except a small amount of time, if something does happen then you have a result. If you try you'll find out (either way) and something may happen, if you don't try then the obvious outcome is that nothing will happen, and that's where we sit now. No one is willing to try so nothing happens and we are back to the status quo.

    When Zuckerberg founded FB he probably never realised that it would become the behemoth it is today, but he stuck his neck out and tried and now he is rolling in it and FB is probably the most popular SM site out there. If, instead, he chewed on his fingernails and worried about whether it would work or not, FB may never have been born.

    If all that's going to be is what has already been done elsewhere then forums will always be falling behind and end up being the poor relation, second to all else.

    I'm not just blowing hot air, forums are in distress and something needs to be done to raise the bar and take them out of the mire. I really do feel for anyone who takes a slice out their life, expends time, energy, money and resources in the belief that what they are doing is something great, only to find that there is no interest and no one cares. How debilitating is that? I say this to all those who have flourishing forums, how would you feel if tomorrow you found your site an empty house and all had left? That's how new admins feel from the outset - the lucky few who do manage to get some traction are the exception not the rule.

    If developers (and Admins) do nothing, try nothing and achieve nothing new - then forums will eventually disappear and that is something I would really mourn over, because I love forums and what they represent, but the adversaries out there have bigger sticks and more pulling power.

    ;)
     
  16. Pete

    Pete Flavours of Forums Forever

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    I've been trying this for *years*. I used to be part of the dev team for SMF, I've been watching that community for most of the last decade, seeing what people suggest!
     
  17. doubt

    doubt Tazmanian

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    Have they developed the most popular suggestions?
    I don't think so, and don't blame them.
    That's a free script, developers do what they want to do, what they have the time to do.
    With paid script seems the same. Developers do what they want to do...
    ..."because we know that's good for ya!"
    Take my money and do what I would like to have!
    No.
    OK. I keep my money you keep your script.
     
  18. Pete

    Pete Flavours of Forums Forever

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    In the case of SMF, it's hard to judge 'what is most popular'. That said, the biggest suggestions I can think of in the last few years - alerts and reCAPTCHA by default - were made core. Unfortunately the opposite situation of scope creep has come along and meant that they haven't pushed out a stable release of the 2.1 branch in the 6 years of development it's had.

    I'm partly responsible for this back in 2013 when I looked at the state of the software and said that a release that had almost nothing user-visible beyond a new theme needed some big ticket features to encourage people. Like an alerts system. It also got shiny things as a result, like a system similar to XF's deferred tasks, to make handling alerts nicer.

    I get it wrong, I'm human, but I try to listen to what is wanted and what is needed. The problem is that everything else turned into a merry-go-round of design by committee - the ultimate example of what happens when you don't have leadership with a vision.

    XF, IPS, IB, they all have a vision for their product. I have a vision for my current product, StoryBB. They're not going to appeal to everyone, they're going to appeal to whoever fits their vision. The problem seems to be that their vision is out of date and not compatible with the expectations of today. My vision is very specific, very niche and it doesn't matter that 99% of forum owners couldn't use it, because it's built for the 1% who need those features and that don't fit well into the classical forum niche anyway.
     
  19. doubt

    doubt Tazmanian

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    It's your script do whatever you want to do, I hope you don't expect to feed your family from the income from it.
     
  20. Maddox

    Maddox Habitué

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    I can sympathise with this, having served on committees that are like a fairground ride; the problem is always a difference of opinion and what someone (or group) feels is best. The problem was they didn't ask the people they were serving if they liked any of the ideas - they were either pushed out with opposition, or sidelined and marked for 'future reference', meaning in the bin. The emphasis here is that they did not feed their ideas back to the group body and get a feel for what 'they' wanted as opposed to what the committee wanted.

    Of course they have, but they don't share that vision with their user base until it's ready to roll out - hence they get heaps of praise from one quarter and loads of criticism from another - the other half either put up with it or don't care either way. If you seek opinions about an idea you will always have this, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try to connect with your client base (for developers) and users (your members); put an idea out there, or take one that has been suggested, and 'actively' seek opinion; pushing it into a post poll is often meaningless because not every client/user is onsite as often as would be liked. All of these 'paid for' scripts have a user base, they have their email addresses and if they have agreed to receive emails send one out to all of them saying this is what you have on the table, what do you think? That is 'active' marketing not 'passive' as seen in 'suggestion forums'.

    I find this amazing, that you have the skill set to do this and make it exactly as you would like it to be and I'd be very interested in seeing the script in operation. But when it comes to the rest of us who are not coders/developers we can't do that - we have to rely on others to create something we want to fulfil our visions and it's just not happening.

    I'll give a couple of examples:

    Friends! I can't remember what script this was in (XF/IPS or both) and it was dropped much to the horror of a lot of people. This is one of the defining aspects of SM in that you can pick and choose your friends. Now we have 'follow', which, personally, I find creepy; it's a bit like being stalked (that's my opinion, not to be taken as read that others think the same way). Part of being in a community is making friends; people you share the same views, interests, beliefs, etc. Was anyone consulted about having this removed and replaced?

    Registration! There can be two kinds. Fast, for those who know about forums, and 'guided' for those who don't. One of the most recently asked for feature is to make the registration process simpler. Post before registering was also something asked for, the belief being that if someone has gone to the trouble of writing a post they will want it to be seen so they will register (perhaps). In a guided form, for those who haven't a clue about forums, the registration process could be done in stages, explaining why the information being requested is important and necessary. OK this is hand holding, but many people need to have this in order to feel confident and comfortable in what they are doing; especially when almost every time you turn on the news or read a paper there has been another data breach or hack.

    These are only two - I can't begin to count what else is out there that people have been asking for. I do understand that not everything is possible and if it isn't then an understandable and reasonable response as to 'why not' can be given. Simply saying 'no' is condescending and gives the impression that 'we know best who are you to disagree'.

    It's time that admins and end users were taken into consideration. It has taken IPS several years for this to sink in and they are now seeing the results in a positive (and perhaps profitable) way with people going back and giving them another go; some even asking is it easy to migrate from XF. That was something very rarely seen not so long ago, in fact it was the other way around.

    There's a lot more to this than the 'them and us' scenario that some would play it out as; good marketing, good customer relations and listening to your clients and delivering wherever possible and feasible can only be good for everyone. A blind man on a galloping horse can even see the sense in this.

    ;)
     
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