The Perfect Forum Software

Discussion in 'Forum Software' started by Wayne Luke, Oct 29, 2004.

  1. Wayne Luke

    Wayne Luke Tazmanian

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    What would be the ideal or perfect forum software for you? Everything on the market today has its flaws and imperfections. How would you fix those as an admin?
     
  2. Lugh

    Lugh Habitué

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    The one general thing I'd like to see in the advanced boards is a switch in the User CP to select the degree of complexity in the interface. So I could set new members' default to eg
    SIMPLE
    and users could choose to go
    INTERMEDIATE or
    ADVANCED
    as their needs and comfort level required.
    This might be as easy as just implementing different skins, I don't know.

    I see the complexity as the major hindrance to acquiring non-technical audiences.
     
  3. tekkitan

    tekkitan Forum Junkie

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    have the forum software commented out the wazoo so i can mod it better. lol
     
  4. The Sandman

    The Sandman Administrator

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    Let's see, before we get fancy what characteristics can we all agree would be desirable?

    • Fast
    • Efficient use of resources
    • Easy to maintain and update
    • Secure
    • Full set of Admin and Mod controls
    • Easy to customize templates and files
    • Integrated CMS, Arcade, Gallery, Store, etc.
    • Strong customer support
    • Incorporate customer feedback into updates and new releases
    • Good value for price paid
     
  5. Kathy

    Kathy Tazmanian Veteran

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    I have to agree with the need for this one. Basic forums require simplicity for the simple reason that most forum visitors (to my forums at least) are newbies. The more gizmos they have, the most confusing to them.

    In fact, it would be good to turn off features....and allow the user to decide in their user control panel if they want more features or less...based on their comfort level. And of course a way for the admin to set the default at newbie, intermediate or advanced based on their regular visitor.
     
  6. Loony BoB

    Loony BoB Newbie

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    What The Sandman said, then throw in regular upgrade releases and put emphasis on incorporating ideas - especially the ones that won't affect loadtime for the average user but will add to the user-friendliness. I could summarise the 'perfect board' to a few points.

    1) Better than the rest in terms of control over what you can do and what the place looks like without having to upload/download the files (post install, obviously).
    2) Updates just as regular as the other boards. You don't want to just be using a product that is ahead of the pack, you want to know that you won't get passed.
    3) Understanding team - A team that doesn't just say "That's not important enough" or "You can't do that" or "It's too much trouble" but instead says "That's an interesting idea and we'll be sure to have a look into it." We don't need to know how long away it is, so long as we know that you're actually going to make the effort to see if it can be done. If you've already had it requested before and weren't able to integrate it, say why it can't be done. And keep looking into it. There can be a thousand different things you have to look into, all we need to know is that you will actually make the time at some point. Even if it's a year away.
    4) Fast and efficient - You want to make sure that the board runs fast and doesn't give your server a headache.

    I like everything there is about vBulletin, however I've been looking at phpBB 2.1.2's admin CP and I've seen something I asked about at vBulletin that wasn't entirely dismissed at vB but it wasn't exactly a response that I found encouraging in any way. Not so much as a "We'll look into it." if I remember rightly. I think it was because it would require re-organising how a feature worked altogether, however I always felt that it would be nice if it was at least looked into seriously, even if it did indeed result in a recoding of a feature or something. Just to know that it's on some kind of list that the coders check over time. To get the perfect support for the perfect board, I'm guessing the support would have to be willing to rework features to improve them. But hey, nobody's perfect. :)

    The perfect board is impossible to imagine because new options will always come up. I'd say the perfect board exists not just in the present but in the future, and the future is always going to be decided by the support group. 50% what you have, 50% the team behind it (what you're going to get and how fast).

    I went to watch TV half way through this post. I think I lost my train of thought somewhere. I hate it when that happens. Bad TV. Bad.
     
  7. rooshine

    rooshine Adherent

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    I think Sandman summed it it very well. I'd place a check mark next to all of those.

    I'd like to see a plug-in architecture. Hacks are great (and I mean GREAT), but incorporating an official plug-in system has huge advantages. First, individual plug-ins could be enabled/disabled via the control panel once installed. When performing an upgrade, any plug-ins compatible with the newer version of VB would continue to work without needing to be reinstalled. Plug-ins could also reduce the occurrence of hacks not playing well together. It won't eliminate the need for hacks altogether, but it would be a nice feature to have for the wish list.
     
  8. Kentaurus

    Kentaurus Adherent

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    My perfect forum would have a really simple interface at first, scalable to as complicated as I would like it to be. The features would just be enabled as easy as activating or deactivating modules. Want private messages?, plug them in. Subscriptions?, plug them in, a chat?, a reply-by-email feature?, a search engine?, the calendar?, a user network? a flash interface?

    Since I think I'm allowed to dream here, I also want my forum to be easy to update and, of course, all my custom modules would keep working after that. I still want to manually update my forum but ideally I wouldn't have to go check all the modules to make sure they are still working (and in the event they need to be updated I am only told so).

    Of course, since I am a developer, the forum has available for me a really nice API for programming custom modules and adding functionality. And that API means zero modifications to the original source code.

    And of course, the forum is easy to use, ships with a default nice interface (colors, buttons, layout, etc), and it is fast and optimized. But that goes for granted.
     
  9. Daijoubu

    Daijoubu Speed & scalability...

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    - Fast (& scalable!)/ressources efficient (CPU/memory/light HTML output)
    - Ability to "generate" the script depending on the features you need
    (instead of hundreads of on/off switch and countless if() in the source)
    - Plug-ins/Modules support without sacrifying performance
    - No exagerated DBMS support, vB only works with MySQL and it's selling fine ;)
     
  10. Wayne Luke

    Wayne Luke Tazmanian

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    So more control over the interface at the user level seems to be the biggest request. Anything else that is major?
     
  11. Loony BoB

    Loony BoB Newbie

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    On a more specific level, for vBulletin the most common thing pointed out from my friends (who are, er, less supportive of vB than I am) is that the template system is a nightmare to learn. I think it's not so bad, but the one thing that does bother me is that there isn't (to my knowledge) an in-depth explanation including stuff like "If you want to change this, use this template." The template naming isn't very specific. To quote one of my friends...

    Now, this guy is smart and has been an admin of vB2/phpBB's for a fair amount of time as far as I know, so there's no point in dismissing him - he does have a point, at least to some extent. It would be nice if there was some kind of page in the help that would describe which template controls which area. It could be as simple as adding into each template a comment which reads something like //start postbit_legacy template// (and ends with //end postbit_legacy template//) so that someone who wants to edit something can just check the source code of a page and go "Ah, I see, this code that I want to change can be found inside the postbit_legacy template."

    I know that some people might think this is a very small point, but when an admin uses vB3 for the very first time (I know I remember doing it), figuring out which template it is that does what can be a bit of a nightmare at certain times. I still don't know exactly how he did the negative margin CSS hack (we were trying to decrease the spacing between posts), I can probably get back to you on that one if you like. I think that there are a few aspects to the forum when it comes to being an admin. There's the speed of the forum, there's the control over what you can make the forum do and there's the control over what you can make the forum look like. That's all the technicality you need to make any forum. All forum software could be judged on those three aspects alone if you have a master hacker/coder. "Will it run fast? Can I make it do things I want it to do? Can I make it look like I want it to look like?" But for someone who isn't a master hacker/coder, you have to read two of those questions differently. It's not "Can I?" It's "Can I?"
     
  12. Wayne Luke

    Wayne Luke Tazmanian

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    Specifically speaking about vBulletin. There is an option to turn this on and we recommend anyone just learning the template system to turn it on to make things clearer.

    ACP -> vBulletin Options -> General Settings.

    I do agree about the terminology and think some of it can be made more plain but to find the templates you need for any page (except index.php which is forum home, and you can easily change the name of the script within vBulletin) look at the page name. There will be a template group for that. Since "View Thread" is called showthread.php, the template names reflect that.
     
  13. AWS

    AWS Guest

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    A couple things I would like to see.
    A nested mode like /. uses. This makes it easy to follow the flow of a thread like threaded mode. You know who is replying to who.
    A true archive that creates html files for each archived thread and forum.
    Taking that one step further I would like to have the ability to create all static pages like the way the old UBB did it. This would be used to keep the strain off the mysql server. The software would operate as it does now. Reading and writing to mysql. There could be an option to create html pages out of threads that are older then x-days. Sort of like the archive, but, these old threads could still be replied to. You could choose to run the script that creates the html threads at off peak times.
     
  14. The Sandman

    The Sandman Administrator

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    So far we've mostly been looking at this from the Admin's POV. We should also consider it from the member's perspective. The ideal Forum Software product would provide them with an intuitive, easy to use, and highly customizeable interface.
     
  15. Loony BoB

    Loony BoB Newbie

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    I think for the most part the admin controls the user's experience more than the forum software does. However, having said that, it might be an idea to include multiple default skins including one which would be extremely simplified for people on 56k modems - ie a simpe, image-less version which runs less queries per page, something similar to the archive only functional with regards to being able to reply etc. This would also help vB owners who are trying to save bandwidth.

    As for the template issue, thanks Wayne, I'll look into that and throw it in my friend's face sometime. :D

    EDIT: Another idea on the user-end perspective... one thing I really like about vB3 is the ability to create custom fields which change the layout, ie quick reply can be made into a user option, as can other things such as postbit location, disable-smilies-by-default etc. These simple options give the users a lot of control. If you give them four custom options to do with the layout when using this ability, you effectively give them four times the amount of style options. The downside to this is having to figure out the "if" codes which are needed in the phpincludes_start template (again, that's when using vB) etc. However, if you were to create a 'code generator', you could save a lot of non-coders a lot of trouble, and at the same time they will learn how to give their users many more options. If there is a way to create some kind of "phpincludes_start template generator" that would be awesome. It could be based from your site or it could be a DIY sort of thing built into the admin CP. I know that this idea is very much at concept level, which I apologise for - I'm merely using my imagination as I'm not good at knowing what can actually be done.

    To simplify that last big paragraph: A code-generator for the phpincludes_start file. You enter what option you want the users to be able to change and to what settings you want them to have access to, and it generates the code for you. This could be set up within the admin CP or at the site, where the code would be ready to copy/paste into the phpincludes_start template.
     
  16. nhynes

    nhynes Participant

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  17. ibeblunt

    ibeblunt Aspirant

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    The option to run it on PostgreSQL would be nice.

    Maybe some kind of MATH TOOL to help determine what your my.cnf settings *should* be. Like you'd input your processors, ram, hd space, etc. and the app would generate custom my.cnf predicitions.
     
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2004
  18. phoenixdown21

    phoenixdown21 The Man with the Plan

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    Everything that Sandman said for the most part.

    - A plug an play modification structure.

    - Intergrated products like a CMS or Gallery

    - Open User DB artictecture (while alot of other software has catered to the needs of thier customers by offering ways of intergrating thier software with a forums user db, many have not -- not sure what can be realistically done about that).

    For the most part, vbulletin (which I have been using) offers what I want and need.

    I like the suggestion about the simplified user interface and even Kathy's idea of a user selectable user preference on complexity. I wonder if that can be achieved with different styles? Even just a basic, plain vanilla, welcome to your first forum kind of thing would be ideal.
     
  19. Ian Griffiths

    Ian Griffiths Habitué

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    I'd like to see forumdisplay take some tips from thinkmap.com

    Visualisation of information by relevance. That would certainly redefine your journey through the archive...
     
  20. mojo

    mojo Habitué

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    all that, plus a button in the admin panel that you can click to upgrade the software at any time. Some of us simply aren't into any of the technical stuff, and just want to have a simple, update forum on our website. (me). I would love to be able to go into my current forum (VB3, release candiate 4), and push a button to upgrade. At that point, I could be taken to a page that allowed me to pay for the new license, and a program would do all the work.

    I realize that is never going to happen, and I just need to find the time to learn how to do all of this stuff, but it would be nice. :tup:
     
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