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. Pete

    Pete Flavours of Forums Forever

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    Yes, I fully expect to feed my family from a script already available on GitHub under a free software licence. Or, maybe not, because I recognise that it's not a business venture and that I don't intend to make money out of it, and I understand what that kind of thing looks like. Not all niche software has to be for-profit because not all ventures are meant to reward in money.
     
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  2. Maddox

    Maddox Habitué

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    One of the things I will NEVER do is monetise anything that I put forward. I know that some people use their sites as a source of income and I take my hat off to these people for doing something they love and earning a living from it. However, having said that, I absolutely detest going onto sites that are littered with adverts, detracting from the content being delivered.

    When I put something forward it's for two reasons; firstly because I enjoy the challenge and seeing the end result and secondly in the hope and belief that someone else will benefit from my efforts - that may seem altruistic and strange in this disposable world we live in, but I enjoy giving something out that comes from within.

    Finding the right software, and coming back to topic at hand, it's difficult to choose where to lay my hat. I see good things in one script, better things in another and items in others that I could care less about. If only it were possible to 'pick 'n' mix' I reckon I could get fairly close to a 'best forum' software lol.

    ;)
     
  3. emanuele

    emanuele Bugs Developer

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    To your version of the best forum software. :p
     
  4. Tracy Perry

    Tracy Perry Opinionated asshat

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    Sometimes I think that's part of the reason why forums aren't as "busy" as they used to be. Back when I was growing up, most of us were willing to help out others without any expectation of being paid. It was not unusual seeing neighbors mowing other neighbors yards when they were not able to due to health reasons or being out of town, running errands for your neighbors because they were busy or unable to, etc. Don't see that any longer as folks believe in being paid for doing what used to be referred to as "being neighborly". That same attitude seems to be reflected in the forum world where many think that you "owe" them for them posting or participating. There's this all-encompassing concentration on money and getting paid.
    In many ways, society is worse than it was 20-25 years ago.... and a lot of it is due to the self-centered nature of society today.
     
  5. Maddox

    Maddox Habitué

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    That's what I said "If only it were possible to 'pick 'n' mix' I reckon I could get fairly close to a 'best forum' software" note the 'I reckon I' bit lol.

    ;)
     
  6. Pete

    Pete Flavours of Forums Forever

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    I think part of the problem with 'following' is the terminology itself. It does imply a stalkerishness that isn't really there, but it doesn't appear to have hurt Twitter in any way, I suppose precisely because their model is that you can follow the tweets from people you are interested in, even if you don't know them.

    But I ask you, you've seen this feature, 'friends' in a context other than Facebook. Beyond it simply tracking who the people are that you're interested in (which is what follow typically does), what does it do in a forum context?

    On FB, sure, it has a concrete meaning by implicitly showing you content of theirs, essentially opting into their content (with their permission). On a forum, this can be - but isn't necessarily - viable. I have to be honest, I haven't seen a site with IPS 4.2 on it yet so I'm not familiar with what the Groups functionality there looks like, but that seems like it fulfills part of your criteria?

    Thing is, on plenty of forums where I've seen something like it, it's a thing I've never used. I've used the ignore feature to hide content from people I don't care about, but I find I don't need some kind of filter to show me content from people I do care about - because that's just not a format that works on a forum, in my experience - the value to me in a forum is precisely because you don't know who's going to participate and share and the value to me comes from it not being implicitly an echo-chamber of my friends all having similar opinions to me. YMMV.

    I'm just trying to understand what it is and how it might work, because you've mentioned it as though I should be familiar with the idea you have, and relating my experiences on the features that seem similar, but I think I'm missing something :(

    What I find interesting about this registration argument is that virtually everyone who says that registering on a forum is hard has no problem registering on Facebook where they ask for more information. That said, I think there is something to be done about limiting the amount of information required on registration - and I think there's scope for making it easier for people to register by default on platforms. Login with FB, Twitter, G+, etc. is something that would simplify that problem.

    The post-without-registering angle is an interesting one but the biggest problem you have with it is preventing abuse by spammers, because if a guest can post, so too can a spammer without registration, and I don't know many forum admins who'd be too enthused with having to manually review all the posts just to filter out the few that won't be from a bot. Certainly the approach can work - it does on some level for blogs, but they have a very similar problem. (For blogs it's a little different, the dynamics of replying versus pure content creation mean that things like Akismet stand a chance of working there)

    Please note that I'm not trying to just give you reasons why they're bad. I think there is merit to these ideas - just there needs to be some exploration of the ramifications and consequences before running off and implementing. Certainly if a forum is amenable to some kind of guest posting, it should be easy to convert the posts into a regular account. And I could see uses for having some kind of prioritisation for content from 'my friends' vs content from everyone, but I feel this would need to be a choice that I as both a user and an admin could make - because if I were pushed down the angle of needing to 'find' content to opt into in order to see it, chances are it would push me away from it.

    This I think is the core of the problem. What you want and see as good in a script may not be what I want and see as good. Like your friends feature, I can see uses for it in some contexts from what I think you're suggesting - but it's something I don't think I'd want or use.

    I think you're right there.
     
  7. Tracy Perry

    Tracy Perry Opinionated asshat

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    Actually, the inference you gave was "a best forum software"... but not specifically best for you, so his clarification would be apropos. ;)
     
  8. Maddox

    Maddox Habitué

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    You got to 'choose' your friends - if someone asked to be your friend you had the option to say yes or no. There is no choice in the follow incarnation. Perhaps I do not want people to follow me or hang on my shirt tails, I get no choice in the matter. As for Twitter, it's a totally different beast as that's the the way it was designed from the outset.

    This one is easy, the guest can post but it doesn't appear until they register. The intent being that they've gone this far, so why not complete the process. Personally I think this is a great idea - whether it works or not will be proof in the doing. I suppose a time limit can be included, if the guest walks away without registering the post is automatically deleted, so no need for admins to get their hands dirty with mountains of moderation.

    And this is where collating responses from people, when they are apprised of the ideas, comes into effect. Of course you can't please everyone, that would be insane; but ideas that can be put to good use by a large number of people shouldn't be trashed because another group doesn't want or need it. The idea being that a balance is arrived at that makes these things feasible and make them switchable; you want it switch it on, you don't switch it off. And I know someone will complain about 'bloat' but it's only 'bloat' if YOU don't want it. Why should one group of people be deprived because of another?

    It isn't a case of trying to please 'everyone' that's an impossible task, it's about trying to please more people than it displeases. It's also a difficult task, but one that isn't insurmountable. It just needs for everyone to be realistic as to what is and isn't feasible - and it doesn't all have to go into the core. There are some things that don't need to be in the core - such as a gallery, blog, articles, etc. All of these can be made modular - which is what IPS (and others) has done; you can take any of their modules and use it alongside the core framework without having to utilise any of the others, including the forum module. You pay for what you need, and if further down the line you see a use for a different module you can add that without issue (unless there are bugs lol). I suppose that's about as near as it gets to being pick 'n mix.

    :)
     
  9. Pete

    Pete Flavours of Forums Forever

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    Ah, OK, I see how that would work.

    Yeah, that makes sense. Worth trying, although hard to do in most of the existing scripts (unless there's some fudging around with post approval)

    But that's exactly where the devs have the problem. They have to balance out whether they think more or less people will benefit from a feature, plus whether it will have consequences, plus whether it will be seen as bloat.

    It's the same problem Word has at this point; it has a million features, each person probably only uses 2-5%, but they all use a slightly different 2-5% of the features. Short of including all the features - which does have a tangible cost and problem (which is why Word is as sluggish to use now on a high end machine as it was 15 years ago on what was then a high end machine - the additional power is eaten by the additional complexity)

    I get where you're coming from but in reality the only way to really get the pick 'n' mix deal is for third party devs to make it happen, because first party devs cannot - and should not - attempt to satisfy all the permutations of all the things that all the people want. Unfortunately this holds true for all platforms in all environments.

    Then again I look at other environments and I wonder what we can learn. For example, Moodle, the e-learning platform, literally ships with about 380 plugins out of the box... mostly contributed by the core team, but still, that's massively modular (except where it isn't, Moodle is great like that) - but I wonder at the same time how maintainable that is given that I keep finding bugs that are several years old in there, and they introduce new subsystems to help out but don't retrofit existing modules that could use them.
     
  10. emanuele

    emanuele Bugs Developer

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    I guess my eyes were caught by the 'pick 'n' mix' and skipped the following word. lol

    In my opinion (that is the one of a person not using social media apart from twitter to post the releases of his software and that's all), the problem is on a completely different scale.

    Registering on facebook means registering once and access "everything" (i.e. any people registered to facebook and (kind of) discuss about any thing). Registering on a forum just means have registered to exchange comments with an handful of people on a certain topic, if you want to discuss another topic with a different set of people you have to register somewhere else, and so on.
    I tried to suggest different approaches to forum owners (I was not saying I was able to build the solution, but I proposed the idea of "sharing" (I know there are several implications) accounts among forums), but the reaction has been *NEVER*, because, of course, forum owners are jealous of their users and fear the possibility that one of them will have easy access to a "competitor" website.

    This is indeed interesting, so the approach would be:
    * box for reply always visible
    * guest posts
    * forum takes the post and sends back "hey, if you want to see your post fast, why don't you complete the registration clicking the link in the email we have sent you?"
    * guest can decide to leave or click.
    Nice.

    I don't know how good it will turn, but the approach I started implementing in elk 1.1 is to extract anything that doesn't belong to a certain controller into it's "module" and each "module" can be turned on/off. This makes almost any "auxiliary feature" (like attachments for example) optional. It's not an addon, it's "core", but still if the feature is off, the "core" doesn't even know the feature exists (except maybe for few translatable strings hanging around in a common file. :)
     
  11. Maddox

    Maddox Habitué

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    I understand this, but it's back to what 'they' think, they rarely if ever ask their clients; it's based on an assumption taken from a pool of their opinions. I'm not suggesting that 'every' idea be fed back to the client base, that would be unworkable, but for ideas that present a major code investment they should not be dismissed because the developer thinks it's not wanted. In a roundabout way, it's like we (in the UK) vote for a Government and we expect them to govern the general day-to-day running of the country, but when it comes to major life changing issues they ask the people, much as they did with the referendum for staying or leaving the EU. We have to place 'some' trust in developers to keep the general day-to-day wheels turning and they input some nice touches here and there, but they don't ask their clients what they think of an idea, especially if it's a major change or feature; they either just go ahead and do it and wait for the praise or fallout, or they bin it. If developers and clients could work together more closely then we might see some changes, both small and monumental.

    It's a bit like if you were offering your services as a developer and a client comes to you with an idea, you would (hopefully) work closely with the client to deliver what is being asked for. Along the way there may be some issues, but you work with the client to resolve these. Naturally, we're talking one-2-one here, which is different when you involve many people, but the principle is the same and end results could be massive.

    I must admit that I've been using Word since it more or less came out and I use it on a daily basis and I've never found it sluggish (but that's me) and I agree with you that I only use a fraction of the features, but those I do use work, those I don't just never get in my way, but at some point in the future if I want to use one of those features I know that it's there to be used. I'm using what I consider to be a high end machine, though there are many out there that would make mine look like a snail by comparison lol.

    I get this wholeheartedly and I have stated that it's impossible to cater for every whim, but the major stuff and add-ons that people want to make their sites more that just a forum would greatly appreciate the ability to do this pick 'n' mix - ISP have done it with all their major add-ons and are now including some of the more sought after features into the core, such as groups and reactions; not exactly ground breaking stuff, but it beats the hell out of searching for a 3rd party add-on that may or may not stick around, or even play nice with others. It's actually very refreshing to see this - sure, not everyone wants everything, but it can be switched on and off, and as I said earlier (with Word) if I need one of those switched off features further down the line, I know that all I need do is switch it on and configure it - job done.

    It's never easy to move out of a comfort zone, to step outside the box and take a fresh look, but sometimes doing so can reinvigorate and give incentive to do things differently from all the others - really, it's often like watching sheep following each other but none taking the lead and being more adventurous. They do it, so will we and the wheel goes around and around, but never gets anywhere - like being on a treadmill lol.

    ;)
     
  12. Pete

    Pete Flavours of Forums Forever

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    There's the simple matters of logistics that make this unworkable.

    On the one side, none of the forum teams has the manpower that Word has. None of them are even close, and aren't likely to be - Microsoft has tens of thousands of developers, and at any one time hundreds of those can be working on the flagship products. If you got the core dev teams of all the major forum platforms together, it would make a few dozen at most.

    On the other, there is the small matter of testability. For each piece of code it's possible to write tests to prove that things aren't broken, and that you can add new features without breaking them.

    Every new on/off switch doubles the testing workload because you have to prove that for all the code, all permutations work. So adding a new checkbox doubles the number of permutations you have to deal with at any given time because you have to test everything else with it on, and everything else with it off. 10 checkboxes = 1024 permutations. 20 checkboxes = 1048576 permutations.

    That's already too many permutations to meaningfully test all the combinations. And the pick 'n' mix approach makes it worse with each modular item.

    It's a neat idea theory but in practice but there's nothing that makes first party devs any better than third party devs at making things work together, and what ends up happening is that core devs frequently cull less used features to keep the testable surface testable.

    I sometimes think the way to actually solve this is for all the dev teams of all the forums to be bought out and have one larger team producing the software.
     
  13. emanuele

    emanuele Bugs Developer

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    Anyway, delegating the "checkbox" to an "extension writer" simply means deny the need of cross-testing, because no extension writer will ever test all the possible permutations with all the possible other extension ending in just test its own work and calling it good. ;)

    And I guess you already know that it would not solve the problem because complexity grows exponentially, while the team will never be able to do the same. :p
    j/k anyway. ;)
     
  14. Maddox

    Maddox Habitué

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    If it's in-house code (the first party developers) then the testing would be good because they know their product, or ought to. I understand the problematic symptoms that come with all the permutations, we see it now when one 3rd party add-on plays havoc with another and there ensues an argument as to whose add-on is the culprit. This is one of the reasons I try very hard to steer clear of 3rd party add-ons unless I know the developers are on the ball with customer service and 'want' to clear up any misgivings; I've mentioned that there are a 'few' exceptional developers who go the extra mile to appease the client who becomes the victim of said incompatibilities. Which then gives way to why I believe that first party developers should up their game and either add features to the core or create their own add-ons. I also appreciate that this can be difficult (though not impossible) for small teams of developers as opposed to the likes of Microsoft who have factories full of people working away at any given issue or feature upgrade.

    If a developer knows their trade, and they should, then they ought to know what will work - at least in theory. I know that the real world scenario is different, but there is nearly always a work-around. I believe developers would call this 'bug busting' lol.

    I know when I develop websites for clients they want the latest and greatest, I also know what will and won't work together and where conflicts can arise. I also know that keeping your finger on the pulse and staying up-to-date with the latest innovations are important. I also have to contend with the different browsers that people use, which is why I have to become familiar with all their quirks and differences, which, thankfully, are becoming less as time progresses. I believe that the same applies to developers in the PHP world, as opposed to the HTML world that I work in.

    It can be tough, but hey this is the industry that we have chosen to work within and clients becoming more demanding as time goes by and we have to try our best to placate them if we want to retain their business.

    ;)
     
  15. Pete

    Pete Flavours of Forums Forever

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    On the contrary. Firstly, knowing the product is actually more likely to be contemptuous - you 'know' it works, therefore you don't need to test it so thoroughly.

    Secondly, my experience of first party developers doesn't magically make them better than third party developers. Just more invested in theory in getting it right, but as we've seen that's not always true.
     
  16. Maddox

    Maddox Habitué

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    I would be wholeheartedly dismayed if this were truly the case - one of the most important aspects of trading is 'trust' and if what you say is true then that trust is going to be hit hard and make people think whether they're buying quality or crap. What also derails this comment is the amount of Beta's that are released, if what you say is true then their would be no Beta's.

    I would agree with this other than if it's first party it's more likely to receive better support (I know there are excellent 3rd party developers out there that give great support) in the long-term and, providing the applications in question remain of value, they are more or less guaranteed to receive continued support and future upgrades. Take your pick from amongst first party apps and they all offer this.

    ;)
     
  17. Pete

    Pete Flavours of Forums Forever

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    I may have made it sound more callous than intended, but it's absolutely true in every single software development team under the sun. There's a reason you try to have separate people who aren't the devs doing QA, it's because devs have a habit (and it's normal, they're human) to assume things. They assume certain behaviours that worked before still work as they remember. They assume that just because they plug in 2 and 2 to a routine and get 4 that it works to add numbers in all cases. It may happen that it generates 4 as a by-product.

    It's also why automated tests are important - but as has been observed too many times, devs that write tests are still relying on their assumptions, and I can remember having arguments with developers about how amazing unit tests are right up until the point where something goes wrong and they claim unit tests would have solved it... except if you assume something can't ever happen, why test for it? You don't test for things that can't happen, right?

    Like all things, it's a spectrum and some devs are better at catching it than others, but no-one's infallible. If there were infallible devs, there wouldn't be any bugs.

    In theory, but this assertion is not held up by the software industry as a whole. Forum software actually seems to be something of an outlier there where the first party devs are generally - but not unilaterally - better at supporting than third party devs.
     
  18. Maddox

    Maddox Habitué

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    I understand the 'assumption' part and I do agree that third party QA is a good idea, providing this third party don't also make assumptions lol.

    For the most part I would give ground to forum devs as being more supportive than other areas of software development, though I do believe that this is improving (there are still exceptions) as competition ramps up.

    Whilst my area is different from PHP development (though I do use it at times) anything I produce for a client is 'always' put into a test environment so that others can play with it on a variety of devices to ensure that it works as intended, and I 'never' make a site live until the client is 100% happy and I am 100% happy, if there is the slightest problem it is scrutinised and corrected and if it can't be corrected (mainly due to conflicts, which are rare) it is replaced. I would like to believe that if any dev values their reputation and work, they would at least try to do the same with their products before unleashing them into the public domain.

    I understand that bugs do creep in, especially if there are thousands of lines of code, which is what the Beta's and RC's are supposed to iron out and I would rather see 50 Beta's in order to get as clean a code out as possible than have it rushed and then fall over.

    ;)
     
  19. Pete

    Pete Flavours of Forums Forever

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    I wasn't even talking about third party QA. I literally meant just someone who isn't on the dev team - but could still equally be first party. At my place we have a dev team and we have a couple of people whose job it is to do a bunch of stuff, but certainly QA before it goes to the client.

    A typical forum platform runs into the couple of hundred thousand lines of code and invariably not all of it is first party code either. XF 1 for example is built on bits of Zend Framework but also has components like SabreDAV. Haven't looked at the others to get a feel for integrated third party code though.
     
  20. MagicalAzareal

    MagicalAzareal Magical Developer

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    Gosora because I created it :d

    Well, there is a reason I like it.

    I can soak up large numbers of requests without paying more than I really want to, I can have it precisely how I want it, trim the fat (forums have like a million and one features no one cares about), keep things simple, little dashboards showing me how much CPU / RAM I'm using, etc.

    There's more to come there too, it's very MVP-ish.

    For other software... Don't tell rafalp I said this, but I kinda like Misago.
    For traditional things, there's MyBB, I guess.
    Off the top of my head, Gosora is 20k lines of code and around 10k lines of generated code.
    I should probably get around to chopping this down tbh.
     
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