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Website Technology Issues Forum

    
How do I start a Forum on my site?
Any recommendations on software?
Macro




msg:664285
 5:08 pm on Aug 27, 2003 (gmt 0)

Hi guys, I'm sorry if this has been covered before but I've been trying to find something with webmasterworld's search and am not getting anywhere.

I'm looking to start a forum on our site (or as some threads advise - on a separate site called forums-mysite.com). I've done the site in Frontpage and it's hosted on a Windows server. I would prefer something that is easy to use and run. I've heard of one or two programs like vbulletin.

Any suggestions on where to start looking, and/or on the software or services that I need to be looking at?

Thanks in advance.

 

Marketing Guy




msg:664286
 5:14 pm on Aug 27, 2003 (gmt 0)

Most forums come with easy install and system requirement instructions - have a look at a few sites for more info.

I run a Snitz forum on a FP site - all is needed is that your host supports ASP and Access databases (and you are able to setup a DNS through your hosting package) or MySQL databases.

It's fairly simple to setup (gawd knows I managed it! ;)) and to customise.

Only thing is that you cant edit the ASP in frontpage - it messes with the code - you need to use something else (I used dreamweaver, but I think notepad would do).

Scott

rogerd




msg:664287
 5:17 pm on Aug 27, 2003 (gmt 0)

Hi, Macro. Sometimes Google works better for searching WebmasterWorld than the internal search.

There are lots of free and paid packages for forums. A few key considerations:
-what is the expected volume?
-how important is search engine indexing?
-is powerful moderation needed?
-what languages are you comfortable with?
-what special features are important, e.g., subscribing to a thread or forum with e-mail notification, etc.

vBulletin is quite popular, and is now on Beta5 of their 3.0 version. InvisionBB and phpBB get mentioned frequently. There are also quite a few ASP forums that will run nicely on your Windows server.

Tell us a bit more about the application, and perhaps you can get some specific suggestions.

Macro




msg:664288
 10:13 am on Aug 28, 2003 (gmt 0)

Marketing Guy, RogerD, thanks for your help.

I don't know how difficult it is to build a community so don't have any measure of how big it will get for the amount of time I am devoting to it. It's a technical website in a niche market (see my profile) and if in the next year I have 200 regular users I will consider it a success.

Search Engine indexing would be crucial. I'll have to ensure that a la webmasterworld I request that titles of threads reflect the discussion therein. I won't need fantastic moderation tools as typical users will be responsible professionals, but I would appreciate some control like being able to remove threads that could get us into trouble (illegal, hate, porn, copyright theft etc). Perhaps I need to do some research into what facilities are actually available - like subscription to a thread - before I decide which ones we need.

what languages are you comfortable with?
Ouch! I was afraid that would come in somewhere. I'm not. I can make some changes in FP's html view, have figured out one of two asp tricks by looking at other asp pages, can setup the DNS connection, copy and paste the odd javascript (wow!) and that's about it.

In my defence may I add that I'm not a webmaster per se ;-)
I just happen to know a little more about FP than my mates here do.

mcavill




msg:664289
 10:29 am on Aug 28, 2003 (gmt 0)

I found the snitz forum very easy to install, on IIS and using Access for the moment (until i hopefully get some good hits) - it's got reasonable documentation and a support forum - you only need to setup the DNS on your server and change a couple of lines in a config file to get it up and running - and google has indexed a few of the forums.

Marketing Guy




msg:664290
 11:26 am on Aug 28, 2003 (gmt 0)

Theres a thread on the Snitz support forums about traffic volume compared to type of DB your use (MySQL or Access).

My forum has a lot of its threads indexed (500 plus threads - 2.6k posts), gets 2 or 3 new members a day on average and around 20 or 30 posts. The Access database is currently around 6mb in size and I havent seen any reduction in performace.

In terms of setup for a Snitz forum:

1. Setup of a DNS - you can email your host and they will do all is needed - you will be given a secure database folder and instructions on where to FTP your DB to.

2. Knowledge needed - common sense! ;) There is minor editing of ASP code required for setup (literally a line or two) and the instructions tell you exactly how to do it.

You may need to ask for help from your host - the ASP required determines the location of your database (which you setup in stage 1).

3. Setup - FTP the files to your host - dont publish with FP (keep a copy of the forum folder in your FP web so you dont get asked if you want to overwrite them everytime you publish).

4. All the rest is configured in the admin section online - layout, colours, fonts, forum orders, members, etc etc etc - very easy (remember to make the forums publicly viewable if you want them indexed).

5. That's your forum setup. Next step is to customise it to fit in with your site. Find all the graphics in the forum folder and edit / customise / replace as you see fit.

6. There are a number of mods (modifications) available on the Snitz support forums. These allow you to add more features such as private messaging, headers/footers, etc (theres lots of stuff). These require that you download the required files, upload them to the appropriate location.

A lot of these require some editing of your exisitng forum asp files, but they do provide (usually) step by step instructions and support on the forums.

Thats it! :)

Main thing is to remember to not edit the asp pages in Frontpage - use dreamweaver or notepad or something! :)

And building a community is really a pain in the ass! ;) It does take ages. My forum is only a part of my site, so i didnt expect a large use of it, but it's been going for a year and only beginning to see regular contributions and feedback. It's worth it - but keeping it clean from spam and flames, and building the community is hard work.

Scott

rogerd




msg:664291
 1:05 pm on Aug 28, 2003 (gmt 0)

I'll ditto Marketing Guy's comment about the hard work. Be prepared to do a lot of nurturing in the early days, as well as plenty of spam cleanup, etc. As volume grows, you'll do less nurturing and keeping conversations going and more moderating.

In evaluating software, avoid any product that has Session IDs in the URL, and avoid query strings if you can. A few boards produce static pages, and particularly if your volume is low that may be a good way to go. (Discusware does static html pages, and I think it can run on Windows.) Rewriting URLs on a Windows server is more difficult than on Apache. If you must have query strings, keep 'em short.

dvduval




msg:664292
 1:37 pm on Aug 28, 2003 (gmt 0)

Keep in mind that Snitz hasn't had an update since September 2002. The big 2 are phpbb and vbulletin. In my opinion, it would almost be worth it to get a second domain running on linux just for the forums.

Nuttzy99




msg:664293
 8:09 pm on Aug 28, 2003 (gmt 0)

I can't say enough good things about phpBB! I have a forum with nearly 50,000 users and it runs like a dream. Very easy to setup too :D Also the community developing it is very active.

Good luck,
-Nuttzy

Macro




msg:664294
 3:29 pm on Aug 29, 2003 (gmt 0)

Thanks for the useful advice and tips guys. I'll do some research into the names mentioned, like Snitz.

Nutzy99, sounds good but it's got PHP in the title. I know you said it's easy to setup. Is my dread justified? ;-)

Scott, thanks for all your useful advice
Setup - FTP the files to your host - dont publish with FP (keep a copy of the forum folder in your FP web so you dont get asked if you want to overwrite them everytime you publish).
Do you know any quick way of setting a whole folder to not publish? I know that in FP2000 you can set individual files to not publish but it would be easier if I could set the whole folder to not be disturbed.

I suppose it will take some effort to build up but I'm hoping it will be worth it.

In evaluating software, avoid any product that has Session IDs in the URL, and avoid query strings if you can. A few boards produce static pages, and particularly if your volume is low that may be a good way to go. (Discusware does static html pages, and I think it can run on Windows.)
Good advice. There's no harm in getting more traffic from search engines.

dvduval




msg:664295
 3:34 pm on Aug 29, 2003 (gmt 0)

I've setup 2 Snitz forums and 5 phpBB forums. I'm nearly positive you'll be more pleased with phpbb, because it has more features, a much more robust administration panel and larger supporting community.

Macro




msg:664296
 7:29 pm on Aug 31, 2003 (gmt 0)

Thanks dvduval, I have checked it out. It does look good. I especially like the New Pricing Structure on their home page :-)

But I'm going to have to scrap further research on phpbb and concentrate on the others as my stupid host doesn't offer PHP on Frontpage sites as... get this... it is a security risk!

Ryan8720




msg:664297
 3:55 am on Sep 1, 2003 (gmt 0)

PhpBB is definiely one of the best, and it's free. VBulletin and IkonBoard are also very good ones. YaBB is free and has nice features, but it's sloooowww.

Since your host won't allow PHP, try VBulletin or IkonBoard.

Nuttzy99




msg:664298
 2:13 pm on Sep 1, 2003 (gmt 0)

vBulletin is also PHP based ;-)

-Nuttzy

austinstace




msg:664299
 8:04 pm on Sep 1, 2003 (gmt 0)

I am a fan of phpBB as well. If you are not too loyal to your current host, you may want to look around for one that supports php. There are too many great scripts written using it to pass it by. The hosting company I use and many others offer everything for a very reasonable fee and also include a set of "one-click" scripts that install different cgi scripts. You may want to consider looking around for one of these. At some point, your site will grow and you don't want your host to be the limiting factor.

MonkeeSage




msg:664300
 10:40 pm on Sep 1, 2003 (gmt 0)

I just installed YaBB (v1 Gold - SP 1.3.1), and I'm pretty happy with the results. Took about two and a half hours to get it all tweaked how I wanted it (that includes setting up forums, editing the template, playing with the posting script, and setting all the little goodies and miscellaneous stuffs).

For a small community it seems ideal. Only 1.3 megs in all (w/ all the images I've added included in that), and uses a flat-file so a dufus like me doesn't have learn mySQL to do manual edits and such.

This is the first community I've set up, but it wasn't the horror that I imagined at all, in fact it was relativly easy. Good job YaBB team! :)

Jordan

Macro




msg:664301
 5:37 pm on Sep 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

Thanks for all your useful input guys.

Maybe I need to think afresh. There is the asp option that looked good but maybe I do need to dump this host. The problem is that we have so many things setup ...from databases to stats to secure site to everything else I know it's going to take me AGES to get all that working with a new host. But maybe that's something I need to think seriously about.

Again, all your help is most appreciated.

tracylee




msg:664302
 8:04 pm on Sep 3, 2003 (gmt 0)

The host I use also has one-click phpBB setup, very easy to install and maintain. I've done very little tweaking, and the support community is great at helping. The mods are very well documented. There is a mod to allow spidering for forum pages, so they all get indexed.

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