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Community Building and User Generated Content Forum

Pluses and Minuses of the Major BBS software packages.
What's your take?

 9:53 pm on May 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

There's a whole pile of prefab BBS packages out there for us to tap into, and I was wondering what people's opinions were on some of the majors:

BesTBBS (your looking at it here in WebmasterWorld)
Hosted Solutions, ie: Proboards

Things to take into consideration:

Ease of use (admin)
Ease of Use (end user)
Ease of modification/personalization
Visual Appearance
Server Load
Security Issues

Keep it clean, flame free, and don't use this as a means of promoting your own personal obscure BBS software. If there's a major out there I've forgotten about, feel free to add it.

[edited by: rogerd at 9:58 pm (utc) on May 17, 2004]
[edit reason] minor fix [/edit]


Mr Bo Jangles

 10:05 pm on May 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

One of the things I like about BestBBS is the speed of DB action and the speed of page load - and one of the things I do not like about many of those other majors listed is the detectable slowness and the way the page realligns itself as it is loading - images resize etc. etc and it jums all over the place - it is *very* common with these packages and looks ugly IMO.


 1:08 am on May 18, 2004 (gmt 0)

I can't disagree with you, Bo, though it would be good to get some feedback on currently available packages. I'd add Invision BB to the list, though I've little exposure to it.

Contrasting vBulletin and phpBB, I'd say the admin and formatting features for the former are far more powerful; phpBB seems like a decent package, but requires more "hack" installations to get features standard on other forums.

VBulletin 3 makes fairly extensive use of CSS and control panel format control to reduce the need to hack the code to cutomize the appearance of the board. It also uses templates with a tracking system to find ones you have modified.

All in all, I'd say that one desirable objective in choosing forum software is to minimize the code hacking needed. Not only is changing the code time-consuming, it can introduce problems and affect security. The worst part, though, is that it greatly increases the hassles of version upgrading. If a new version comes out to patch a security hole, you don't want to have to spend hours re-installing all your mods and hacks.


 1:51 am on May 18, 2004 (gmt 0)

You bring up a good point.

One of the things in favor of YaBB, which is in many ways the oldest and clunkiest of the BBS packages out there, is the sheer number of mods available for it, and the ease of installing them.

Also, its CGI based, and the security issues surrounding it have long ago been ironed out.

Downisde, its clunky, slow, has a high server load.


 9:49 am on May 18, 2004 (gmt 0)

Hi, Just discovered this forum as I am currently looking for forum software.

Having been a user of a few systems, the feature that I would like to see in more systems is the Last x days view in Discus V4. The page layout makes it a lot easier to browse all recent topics and by showing the author and first few words it gives me a better idea of whether I want to read it or not.

Example: [support.discusware.com...]

As life gets busier, anything that saves me time is valuable. This view saves a lot of going back and forth between different topics etc.

Do any of the other brands have this feature? Discus misses out on a few of my other requirements eg Polls etc.

Marketing Guy

 1:17 pm on May 18, 2004 (gmt 0)

Invision is pretty similar to PhPbb in terms of admin features. It shows Googlebot as an "active user" but you can turn this off! ;) Also shows some basic stats (search engine crawls and referrals IIRC - cant really remember tho).

It keeps a list of admin/mod actions as standard which PhPbb doesnt do.

I do like PhPbb tho, simply because it's an excellent free to use solution - all the basic features are right there in the install and it's easily customisable.



 1:35 pm on May 18, 2004 (gmt 0)

Hi, Random, welcome to WebmasterWorld. I've used Discus 3.x, and it's surprisingly adaptable to simple SEO. One thing that's good about that software is that it creates static HTML pages which are easily spidered and which don't create massive server loads when traffic is high. Its features are kind of elementary, though, when compared to something like vBB. And, of course, the downside of static pages is that design changes necessitate regenerating them - no small task when you've got 50K or 100K of pages!

One odd thing about Discus 4 is that it seems to append a short query string to its URLs. I haven't looked to see why it does that, but I preferred the cleaner URLs in 3.x.

I agree about the "recent topics" - I think most packages offer something along those lines now, and it's really handy as the number of forum topics grows.


 2:17 pm on May 18, 2004 (gmt 0)

BestBBS is not available yet. I am sure it will be expensive when it is available.


 2:35 pm on May 18, 2004 (gmt 0)

That would be a shame, though understandable. This is very nice software. It is easily the fastest loading BBS I've seen, and it has a very nice clean look to it.

I can say I would seriously think about crushing one of my old forums and replacing it with this if it were open source/freeware.


 6:12 pm on May 18, 2004 (gmt 0)

RogerD, can any of the more sophisticated packages actually be configured for that type of topic list layout?
I have just spent another entire day reading about forum software, not actually seen any examples of what I want however.


 6:29 pm on May 18, 2004 (gmt 0)

Random, vB3 will display the first x characters of the post if you hover over the link. This works in the "new posts" display as well as other thread lists. I suppose it would be an easy hack to display that text in its own column or inline with the title if you wanted to.


 12:00 am on May 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

I'm using phpBB, since I absolutely could NOT abide hosted boards any longer. What I was looking for was the sort of "board vision" exhibited at Delphi before they got greedy. Haven't of course found it yet. I've looked at most of the other forum software available out there, and none of it really even comes close to what I truly want. (Once I re-retire I guess I can try writing my own.... I'll probably be dead before it's "done" though!)

I'm NOT thrilled with how difficult phpBB is to tweak. Mods are fine.... Until one has 3 or 4 that one NEEDS because they add a decent level of functionality/usability - and one immediately discovers that they ALL mod the same sections of code in the same files, and boy is THAT a nightmare! Yeah. I've actually got boards that have 5 mods all of which have tweaks in the same code and files, and it took me DAYS to get them "right". Of course, I wasn't by any means a php code jockey to begin with (MUSH soft-code, yes - but they aren't ALL that similar!) And THEN guess what? phpBB produces an update (for security reasons, natch), and it won't just leave the mods alone.... *sigh* Repeat above, ad infinitum ad nauseam....

So anyone here know where I can find a not too expensive (not more than $100 US tops) replacement for Delphi forums as seen in about 1999-2000?


 1:21 am on May 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

Don't know what the Delphi look and feel your talking about resembles.

But, as I mentioned before, YaBB is probably the most mod-friendly package out there. Its open source, and I just ducked into the boardmod homepage, and there are over 400 mods available for it. There's even a mod installer available, that's 99% reliable, which is great if you're installing multiple mods.

There are a lot of downsides to YaBB, but its endlessly tweakable. YaBB 2 is supposedly going to fix a lot of the speed/clunkiness/server load issues, but if they don't have any visible progress on it this summer, then it could very well qualify for next year's Vaporware Awards.


 2:32 am on May 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

All in all, I'd say that one desirable objective in choosing forum software is to minimize the code hacking needed. Not only is changing the code time-consuming, it can introduce problems and affect security. The worst part, though, is that it greatly increases the hassles of version upgrading.

You called me a hacker! ;)

Truth be told, I don't care about the upgrades. After a while of working with the same application, tweaking it, rewriting some of it's peripheral functions - and perhaps some of the core functions, sooner or later you'll realize you've got a completely new BBS. Sure you can't upgrade it easily but then why would you want to? You've spent hours modifying the board to suit your needs because the original creators hadn't. Yes, you have to be careful when making edits, especially to ensure security, but it can be done and done professionally.

At this point the upgrades to original board no longer matter. Take WebmasterWorld for example. This isn't the original board Brett started with. It has evolved into what we use today after several years of evaluation, testing, and reworking the code.

I've loaded and played with a couple of the commercial products but wasn't overly impressed. I tried PHPBB and ditched it because I felt it was cumbersome and slow. I looked into a few others but I decided to go with my basic rule of thumb - keep it simple. Primarily because I didn't want to have to start off with an overly complex application knowing full well that I intended to modify it to suit my needs. So I chose a rather simple board based on PHPBB and have be modifying as I need to.

The catch is that I'm comfortable with PHP. For someone who is not, then choosing a OTS board can be a bit tricky and yes, the points rogerd makes with regards to upgrades etc become more important.

So from my point of view, choosing among the major BBS players wasn't an option. I wanted something simple but reliable. A board I could modify easily as I learned what I wanted and wasn't too complex such that I'd have to take hours to wrap my head around another programmers code.


 1:39 pm on May 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

Which free software would people recommend for low server load. I know miniBB will probably be the one, but the next version of that is likely to cost. This will mean the current version won't get much support. Are there any others that are also light on server load?


 9:46 pm on May 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

Okay, I admit, I have no brains so I'm a Microsoft drone. No need to flame me since I've already done that ;-)

I'm looking at ASPPlayground. The feature set is impressive. It's used to support another forum that I visit and I like its functionality (Outfront.net - another sign of my incompetence - it's about MS Frontpage.)

After a lot of reading I'm inclined to go with it, so I'm asking: Besides all the obvious reasons had anyone heard a bad rap about ASPPlayground? I'm looking for something that can scale and it's configured to run with MSSQL server. I'm concerned about scaling just in case any of those dot org sites of mine every take on a life of their own.


 10:07 pm on May 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

There are some decent ASP boards - before you buy, I'd ask for some examples of very large forums that run on the software. It might be worth contacting the admins of a couple of biggies to see what kind of problems they have, if any, and whether they extensively modified the software.

I'm aware of one busy forum that recently switched to ASPPlayground - their volume tanked, but that may have been due to site-related issues. There are a few million-plus post ASPPlayground forums out there, so they must do something right.

If you really want to stick with ASP, Web Wiz is another package that has some big boards.


 1:34 am on May 20, 2004 (gmt 0)

Don't know what the Delphi look and feel your talking about resembles.

Hiya Grelmar - y'know, I just went surfing again and actually found a board sys that would replicate Delphi. But they want $4k for it. Sorry - WAY out of my league, since all I do is a few small private boards! *sigh*

What that system does (like Delphi) is give one a left "menu frame" of about 175px in which ALL the options appear: each forum as a clickable as well as other selectables like mail to someone; a link to the admin forum; go to chat; etc. When you click on a forum title, all the threads (well, really just the first 20 maybe, with the rest accessible through a "more" link at the bottom) display; when you click one of the thread titles, the complete thread opens in the main frame to the right, and you can scroll down through however many pages it takes to read the whole thing.

The reason I like this sort of functionality is twofold: first, it's clean; second, it's customizable. I looked at page source back when, and it seemed to be js-operated. Unfortunately, I'm not that good at programming. I may still give it a try when I retire again....

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