Forum Technology - What's the best?

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Forum Technology - What's the best?

Postposted on Sun Apr 27, 2014 8:24 pm

Hey everyone,

I know I know long time no post. I got out of the distributed computing effort a couple of years ago and got too old to play videogames. I'm a bad Gerbil.

Anyway, I am not sure where to post this but was hoping to solicit feedback on forum technologies, and which is the best to use nowadays. I've always loved TechReport's format (and the old school blue background rocks!) so maybe maybe phpBB is the way to go, but TR has been around forever and who knows maybe there's a better horse to bet on. Here is a list of wants I have for the forum.

1) Must work with TinyPass. That's the way we're getting paid so we're stuck with it. Ideally tinypass and the forum talk to each other for login information and forum privileges
2) Must allow badges. And those badges must have different authorizations... Like what TR has with silver member able to print or have more votes in polls
3) Must allow avatars to be turned off. Avatars suck
4) Must have - It must be easy to upload pictures. This is a showstopper if average joes can't upload pics. IT savvy will not be normal for these folks. We can host the pics if that is an option.
5) Must have - It must be compatible with google advertising... and ideally this could be turned off for premium paying members.
6) Must Have - Voting! We want members to vote often... It would be great if high paying members have triple vote abilities like TR.
7) Nice to have... We want to give out badges to people that succeed in certain forum activities. And every time they succeed the badge sums up the successes and reports the total... If you click on that badge it takes you to a badge profile screen that details all of the members accomplishments
8 Nice to have... The ability to limit what can be put in signatures and how big they can be. We want a clean premium level experience for users similar to what TR offers.
9) Nice to have... Cannot be seen in a web search and cannot be viewed by non members. We may not allow public access. That is still up for determination
10) Nice to have... The forum recognizes mobile browsers and for logged in paying users has a better presentation than non paying members.
11) Nice to have... Works with Tapatalk

What else should I be thinking about?

Cost is not the highest priority. We're willing to pay for a better user experience, but we don't want to pay needlessly (who does?).

Thanks in advance for any and all help and MODS please move this post if I have it in the wrong area. like I said it's been years since I've posted and I'm sorry but I've forgotten where everything goes. Back in the day I was the biggest folder for the TR team UnitedGerbilNation. =) Where are they in the rankings nowadays? We used to be top ten but were getting hounded by several upstarts.
Last edited by Gerbil Jedidiah on Sun Apr 27, 2014 8:45 pm, edited 5 times in total.
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Re: Forum Technology - What's the best?

Postposted on Sun Apr 27, 2014 8:25 pm

OUCH! According to my sig we aren't doing so well anymore with the distributed computing. Man those were fun times!
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Re: Forum Technology - What's the best?

Postposted on Sun Apr 27, 2014 9:14 pm

PHPbb is probably going to be your best bet, it has a boatload of addons that should provide whatever special functionality you need. I'm having a hard time even thinking of another forum package that's been actively developed since 2005 or so, excepting WordPress--which isn't really a forum--and large companies' in-house solutions integrated with all their other products and services.

edit: Oh, and to address your issues from some simple forums I've set up in the past:

1. I'm not familiar with this, not sure how it would work. Are you trying to paywall the forum itself? SA.com is the only forum I can think of that's successfully done this, personally I wouldn't be looking at them for protips but whatever.
2. It has a robust group-management system built in, I've done it. Not sure quite what you mean by badges, like small icons in addition to the avatar? Should be possible, I've not done it though.
3. This is really easy, I've done it.
4. This is really easy, I've done it. Can be based on permissions if some groups shouldn't be able to do it.
5. Never heard of something not working with google advertising, but you'll likely need to alter some of the PHP files yourself.
6. Voting, like topic polls or upvote/downvote stuff? I've done the former, and can't imagine the latter not having at least a dozen modules.
7. This will require some coding but it doesn't sound difficult and you'd have to do it for any forum technology.
8. It's easy to limit the size of signatures and disable markup. It won't filter objectionable content out of the box but there's probably modules, most likely they will apply to the whole forum though not just sigs.
9. Disable bot access, it's in admin settings somewhere. Can do the same for unregistered members. I've done both, and also nuked the member list though that required some coding. Do be aware that if someone really wants to find a way in, they will...web forums are inherently rather low-security systems.
10. Will probably require coding. But you're using that money to pay the coders, right? :)
11. Not sure what this is.

General advice: be prepared to deal with whiners, spammers, and jerks. Especially if there's money involved. Setting up effective moderation and user access regulation ahead of time will pay dividends.
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Re: Forum Technology - What's the best?

Postposted on Sun Apr 27, 2014 10:42 pm

NovusBogus wrote:PHPbb is probably going to be your best bet, it has a boatload of addons that should provide whatever special functionality you need. I'm having a hard time even thinking of another forum package that's been actively developed since 2005 or so, excepting WordPress--which isn't really a forum--and large companies' in-house solutions integrated with all their other products and services.

edit: Oh, and to address your issues from some simple forums I've set up in the past:

1. I'm not familiar with this, not sure how it would work. Are you trying to paywall the forum itself? SA.com is the only forum I can think of that's successfully done this, personally I wouldn't be looking at them for protips but whatever.
2. It has a robust group-management system built in, I've done it. Not sure quite what you mean by badges, like small icons in addition to the avatar? Should be possible, I've not done it though.
3. This is really easy, I've done it.
4. This is really easy, I've done it. Can be based on permissions if some groups shouldn't be able to do it.
5. Never heard of something not working with google advertising, but you'll likely need to alter some of the PHP files yourself.
6. Voting, like topic polls or upvote/downvote stuff? I've done the former, and can't imagine the latter not having at least a dozen modules.
7. This will require some coding but it doesn't sound difficult and you'd have to do it for any forum technology.
8. It's easy to limit the size of signatures and disable markup. It won't filter objectionable content out of the box but there's probably modules, most likely they will apply to the whole forum though not just sigs.
9. Disable bot access, it's in admin settings somewhere. Can do the same for unregistered members. I've done both, and also nuked the member list though that required some coding. Do be aware that if someone really wants to find a way in, they will...web forums are inherently rather low-security systems.
10. Will probably require coding. But you're using that money to pay the coders, right? :)
11. Not sure what this is.

General advice: be prepared to deal with whiners, spammers, and jerks. Especially if there's money involved. Setting up effective moderation and user access regulation ahead of time will pay dividends.


NB all I can say is THANK YOU for your response. This is tremendously helpful.

When I talk about badges (I guess I need to update my terminology) I am speaking of the symbol below my name showing I support the TR website. Mind you I'm not very active here anymore, but I'm not as poor either, so I thought I'd pay it backwards and support the site for all the great experiences I had with UGN, building PCs, etc...

Any other info that folks can provide is appreciated. We've also had vbulletin recommended to us. I'd like to know anyones thoughts on vb as well.
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Re: Forum Technology - What's the best?

Postposted on Sun Apr 27, 2014 10:43 pm

NovusBogus wrote:10. Will probably require coding. But you're using that money to pay the coders, right? :)


Of course!
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Re: Forum Technology - What's the best?

Postposted on Mon Apr 28, 2014 3:06 am

Oh, one rather important thing I forgot: be sure that whoever is hosting the site will support the technology (PHP, ASP, etc.) and the database (MySQL, Postgres, etc.) of whatever forum package you want to use. Not an issue if you're setting up your own server and web hosting companies are a lot better about this than they used to be, but always double-check to avoid an unpleasant surprise.
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Re: Forum Technology - What's the best?

Postposted on Mon Apr 28, 2014 10:11 am

PHP and MySQL are essentially the de facto standard (and lowest common denominator). Unfortunately, PHP and MySQL also both kind of suck. The main thing they've got going for them is that pretty much all web hosts support them...
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Re: Forum Technology - What's the best?

Postposted on Mon Apr 28, 2014 10:15 am

just brew it! wrote:PHP and MySQL are essentially the de facto standard (and lowest common denominator). Unfortunately, PHP and MySQL also both kind of suck. The main thing they've got going for them is that pretty much all web hosts support them...


Actually my favorite Forum System uses .NET + MSSQL. However it does not appear to be a good fit here. http://www.yetanotherforum.net
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Re: Forum Technology - What's the best?

Postposted on Mon Apr 28, 2014 10:19 am

prb123 wrote:
just brew it! wrote:PHP and MySQL are essentially the de facto standard (and lowest common denominator). Unfortunately, PHP and MySQL also both kind of suck. The main thing they've got going for them is that pretty much all web hosts support them...

Actually my favorite Forum System uses .NET + MSSQL. However it does not appear to be a good fit here. http://www.yetanotherforum.net

I was actually responding to NovusBogus' post (the one right above mine). Sorry, should've quoted it to make it clearer.
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Re: Forum Technology - What's the best?

Postposted on Mon Apr 28, 2014 10:48 am

Thank you and keep the ideas coming. Service Provider information is also appreciated. We're expecting 10,000 members the first month, just to give you an idea of how much support and infrastructure services we'll need.

As far as PHP/MySQL being bad, do you guys see any showstoppers in my requirements above if we go this route?
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Re: Forum Technology - What's the best?

Postposted on Tue Apr 29, 2014 8:25 am

The biggest issues with both PHP and MySQL, IMO, is that they encourage sloppy programming. There are a lot of horrible PHP/MySQL web applications out there. (That's not to say there aren't good PHP/MySQL apps, or that you can't write bad ones using other languages/RDBMSes though.)

MySQL also has potential concurrency and DB integrity issues when used with the MyISAM storage engine (which used to be the default). This can be mitigated by making sure it is configured to use the newer InnoDB engine.
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Re: Forum Technology - What's the best?

Postposted on Tue Apr 29, 2014 8:30 am

Tangent:

just brew it! wrote:PHP and MySQL are essentially the de facto standard (and lowest common denominator). Unfortunately, PHP and MySQL also both kind of suck. The main thing they've got going for them is that pretty much all web hosts support them...

I think we need to have a serious conversation.

What is this, 1999? PHP and MySQL nowadays have absolutely nothing to do with what they were back when they started :)
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Re: Forum Technology - What's the best?

Postposted on Tue Apr 29, 2014 8:33 am

As for the original post, check out Discourse. It's done by Jeff Atwood aka codinghorror. Last time I checked, it was under heavy development, but it sure looks promising.

phpBB is a solid choice, though watch out because the quality of mods... varias a lot. I did some dev work with VBulletin some years ago and I swore I would never touch it again in my life.
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Re: Forum Technology - What's the best?

Postposted on Tue Apr 29, 2014 9:13 am

morphine wrote:
phpBB is a solid choice, though watch out because the quality of mods... varias a lot. I did some dev work with VBulletin some years ago and I swore I would never touch it again in my life.


lol, I have heard that since v5 came out it's much better. vBulletin is actually getting more momentum right now as our choice.
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Re: Forum Technology - What's the best?

Postposted on Tue Apr 29, 2014 9:41 am

morphine wrote:I think we need to have a serious conversation.

What is this, 1999? PHP and MySQL nowadays have absolutely nothing to do with what they were back when they started :)

I'll admit that my opinion may be somewhat slanted by recent experience. These days, the de facto standard application for managing large homebrew competitions is an absolute train wreck of a PHP application. I just struggled through running two competitions with it. Database integrity problems, performance problems, user interface problems... it has them all. Probably the best thing I can say about it is, "Hey it was even worse 2 years ago!"

A former co-worker and I are planning to attempt a ground up rewrite of the whole thing (probably using Django) before next year's competition season hits (nearly all of the big competitions are in the February-June timeframe).
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Re: Forum Technology - What's the best?

Postposted on Tue Apr 29, 2014 9:45 am

Well, I have no quarrel with you there. Poorly written is poorly written, never mind the language.
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Re: Forum Technology - What's the best?

Postposted on Tue Apr 29, 2014 9:47 am

Gerbil Jedidiah wrote:lol, I have heard that since v5 came out it's much better

It will have to be a huge real lot. I remember flat out refusing work in a VBulletin forum around 2008-ish because of the bad taste I had in my mouth.

At any rate, more competition is always good, and I honestly hope they've significantly improved their code since then.
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