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Old May 25th, 2008, 12:59 PM   #1
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Creating an online discussion / bulletin board

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!
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Old May 25th, 2008, 02:19 PM   #2
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phpBB is the best standalone discussion platform I have worked with and I have set up a couple dozen of them over the years. It's a great solution out of the box but there are a number of different modules that will push its functionality that much further. Most require you to get your hands a bit dirty but it's often as simple as cutting and pasting a few lines of code.

I am starting to see many discussion forums abandoned in place of social networking systems. They do everything a discussion forum does but give the user so much more, the ability to create groups, user blogs, etc. I am currently working pretty extensively with an open source system called Elgg but Ning is a great place to get started with out-of-the-box social networking.
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Old May 25th, 2008, 03:42 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by guytoronto View Post
I had a friend call me up today to ask about adding a community discussion / bulletin board for his website.

P.S. My friend needs to clean out his mailbox. I can't leave him a message! D'oh!
Given your "PS", I'm not sure if your friend is ready to maintain a bulletin board.

I ran my own (Invision Power Board) as an experiment and I was an admin at another. I found that you have to be there every day --tweaking, watching for spammers, misbehaving members, etc. otherwise, things can get out of hand quickly.
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Old May 25th, 2008, 08:02 PM   #4
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I run PHPBB3 on www.islandjeepwave.ca

Very simple and easy to maintain. Running off my iMac.
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Old May 25th, 2008, 09:00 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by johnnyspade View Post
I am starting to see many discussion forums abandoned in place of social networking systems. They do everything a discussion forum does but give the user so much more, the ability to create groups, user blogs, etc. I am currently working pretty extensively with an open source system called Elgg but Ning is a great place to get started with out-of-the-box social networking.
I know someone running a Ning site right now. It's not doing too well, perhaps because the membership is used to old school forums and they're not really of the FaceBook generation. The proprietor is busy with establishing more of an old school / linear model right now, because that's what his membership is familiar with and that's where there comfort level will take them.

I suspect Ning and its ilk will indeed take over, but the older internet community will take longer to embrace it. Ning offers a great deal, though. It's just that it's based on a different social model than places like this one are... it's still about community but it's much more decentralized, non-linear, multipolar and simultaneous.
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Old May 26th, 2008, 12:03 AM   #6
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One thing to watch out for with phpbb is it's a very visible target for attacks from hackers/spammers. It's had a LOT of issues over the years and sometimes it takes a good bit of time for them to get them resolved.

You might also want to check out SMF (my current fav for setting up), Home of SMF: Free PHP and MySQL forum software
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