I had a friend call me up today to ask about adding a community discussion / bulletin board for his website. He wasn't sure how intensive it was, what was required, etc, so I've giving him a link to this discussion page.
There is tons of free PHP software out there for doing a bulletin board. One of the most popular ones is:
phpBB • Creating Communities Worldwide
phpBB has been around for a while, and there is a large community for support. A lot of web hosts will actually create automative scripts for installing it into your webspace. Check with your webhost.
Once the software is installed (basic FTP upload or webhost auto-install), then you need to configure it. If you are doing it manually, you need to setup a MySQL database, and configure you phpBB software to with with that database. All pretty straight forward if you follow the step-by-step installation guide. Most webhosts will give you basic instructions on how to do this.
All the backend stuff, like who can post, activating accounts, name of your board, etc, is configured through the backend administration panel. Again, this is pretty straight forward, but sometimes it can be tedious. You can literally spend hours configuring y our board to be just the way you want it, with forums, subforums, permissions, etc.
Once that is all setup, and things are running smoothly, then you have to get people talking. That means you have to create a bunch of "dummy" accounts, and start conversations with yourself. Nobody likes to start talking in an empty room, but if they walk in on 10 people (all you in disguise) talking about the latest and greatest whatever, they are more willing to jump into the conversation.
All in all, you should be able to stumble through it all over a weekend to get things up and running. No need to really have any "expert" do it.
Any other advice I'm missing?
P.S. My friend needs to clean out his mailbox. I can't leave him a message! D'oh!