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Old 08-12-2006, 10:15 AM   #1
JimM
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Default Web forum questions

This looks like a very good forum, I'm curious how big the technical speed humps are to getting it this far.

Is the interface out of the box, or did it take a lot of customization to get it where you, the members and staff, want it? Are skins something to avoid?

Is chat something anyone misses? Would you use it if it were available?

So far I like what I see here!
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Old 08-12-2006, 10:42 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JimM
This looks like a very good forum, I'm curious how big the technical speed humps are to getting it this far.

Is the interface out of the box, or did it take a lot of customization to get it where you, the members and staff, want it? Are skins something to avoid?

Is chat something anyone misses? Would you use it if it were available?
We spent almost a year getting ready to move. We were on four different hosts, tried a bunch of forum programs, crashed a couple of them by looking at them oddly, finally decided to spend money instead of blood and set up vB.

After that we spent time streamlining the look and testing the operation, first with staff and then with invited guests, so we were sure it was stable. (We also had a test forum — changes were tested there first, then copied over here. The vB contract allows for this, and I would certainly recommend it.)

Than we opened the doors, and have had very few technical problems.

We also have a manually updated static home page that links to the forum as a whole and to the message sections (i.e., forums), and highlights some threads (now quite out of date; we were trying to update it every week or two, then every month).

We are working on a sort of library for old docs (and possibly new ones). Right now I think I may have tamed WordPress sufficiently to use that — it provides for search and takes care of internal links. All things that are a pain when wrestling manually with HTML. (I tried Textpattern and Big Medium too (and even looked at Joomla), but WordPress seemed more tractable and appropriately scaled in the end.)

Some would like to have all these things integrated, but we are not that big, so this approach seems to be okay, at least for now.

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Old 08-12-2006, 10:54 AM   #3
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Is chat something anyone misses? Would you use it if it were available?
Dunno. When the old HMI DTP Forum began on CIS (1989) we had formal COs every week or so, and they were well attended. Not too much casual chatting though. After a few years, the formal COs also declined (the crazy font-war days were over, for one thing).

That pattern held when CIS moved to the web. Among other factors, that Chat didn’t work with Macs at first, and we have many Mac members.

We haven’t had requests for Chat here, and few members have Chat icons listed in their profiles. The separate Chat programs (AIM, iChat) seem to work fine for those who use it.

But a different crowd might have a different position on it.

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Old 08-12-2006, 12:04 PM   #4
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There was a good deal of thought put into editorial decisions, such as the nature of the main page that leads here, how to arrange the topics, etc. There was much time and disappointment in looking for solutions to make this closer to the old CompuServe. But in terms of the software you see now, it was easy to install, and mostly out of the box.

As for templates/skins, most third-party mods and code examples are built to run on the default template. So we decided to start with the default template and tweak it ourselves.
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Old 08-12-2006, 01:11 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by JimM
This looks like a very good forum, I'm curious how big the technical speed humps are to getting it this far.
While we were still debating and testing other software, I went ahead and set up phpBB on another site I manage. It worked reasonably well, but didn't have threading built-in, and attachments also required a mod. I never installed the threading mod because the attachments mod was reputed to clash with it.

It was interesting to be involved at management level in forums using both phpBB and vBulletin, and I found myself more and more irritated with phpBB, which was also under attack from nasties and issuing new versions almost on a daily basis.

So I moved to vBulletin, and the usage shot up immediately. Allowing for the novelty factor, the users have still used the forums a lot more with vBulletin. And it is a lot more stable.

I took the skin we use here and modified it slightly. You can see the result at this URL. It shows the latest version of vBulletin. We're planning that upgrade for here in the very near future. It's a major upgrade, and was applied on DressageIT with the forum running. The whole upgrade took only a few minutes, was totally painless, and reinforced my satisfaction with the software.

About the only noticeable change we've made here is in the 'Get Posts' dropdown, which we modified to allow selection of New Posts, 1 day etc.

   
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Old 08-12-2006, 01:16 PM   #6
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Oh, and the bots love vBulletin forums, if you are after high page rankings.

My other site now figures on the first page in Google, MSN (most relevant for the topic and viewing public) and Yahoo!. Previously it was always down around pages six or seven.

   
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