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Ask Slashdot: What Is the Best Way To Add Forums To a Website? 259

First time accepted submitter DustyMurray writes "I am considering adding forums to my website, and am just getting confused by all the options. My first reaction is always DIY. You get better website integration, and it looks and feels 100% how you want it to look and feel. However looking at things like phpBB and Vanilla forums, I will be hard pressed to build a better user experience in a reasonable amount of time. Also these out-of-the-box solutions seem to be shouting 'Easy to integrate with your website.' So, considering this, how easy are these ready build forums really to integrate? I want to be able to insert stuff on certain pages, so it's not either the forums, or my site... It must be a mix. I do not want a second login system on my site. And last but not least, I definitely don't want to have this typical generic look that most forums sport. Can all that be delivered with the out-of-the-box forums that exist today? Which one is the most flexible regarding these wishes?"
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Ask Slashdot: What Is the Best Way To Add Forums To a Website?

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  • vBulletin (Score:5, Informative)

    by DevTecha ( 2772183 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @10:14AM (#41949459)
    I would say that vBulletin [vbulletin.com] is your best choice. It has a huge amount of features you're going to love.

    Seriously, building something like vBulletin would take you years with all the front-end and admin panel features. It is also customizable to every site so that it can look the same as your site (but maintains the usability users have adjusted to on other sites). This is also performance thing apart from features - you most likely lack the knowledge to make high performance forum as good as vBulletin guys have.

    I've seen large sites that have connected their website with vBulletin, so it is possible. Not only that, but vBulletin actually has vBulletin Connect that lets you build your website around vBulletin. Some CMS (Content Management Systems) also support vBulletin directly.

    One specific large site I use daily did convert from their proprietary system they had used for more than 10 years. vBulletin was their choice, and while it did take a few months to convert that old system, the forum now works much better and supports way more features that users like. If you are making a new site you can obviously do it correctly the first time and skip the conversion.
    If you are doing this as work for a professional site, I would stay away from phpBB and other free solutions. While it's possible to use them, you don't get any support and they're hard to integrate exactly the way you want to. They also tend to lack on the features that something like vBulletin has.

    vBulletin really is your best choice. It's a little pricy, but for what you get the price is more than justified.
    • Re:vBulletin (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ravenswood1000 ( 543817 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @10:19AM (#41949481)
      I would recommend vBulletin also. The skins are a bit difficult to work around but that is rather common. I run two different forums with about 10k users a peice. No troubles at all and vBulletin does have some pretty good technical support.
    • by stevenh2 ( 1853442 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @10:41AM (#41949619)
      If you want to have the vBulletin look but free and open source, take a look at MyBB. It basically copies the front end of vbulletin. It's also open source.
    • Re:vBulletin (Score:5, Informative)

      by JMJimmy ( 2036122 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @10:51AM (#41949687)

      As a user I would say don't use vBulletin. Sure it has some great features, but I hate using it.

      phpBB has everything you need, a very active "addons" community, and is much nicer for users. Added benefit, it's free - takes about 10 minutes to get installed, and has enough features and options to keep you busy customizing/configuring for a while.

      • Re:vBulletin (Score:4, Informative)

        by wmac1 ( 2478314 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @11:25AM (#41949935)

        Much more slower than vBulletin, less scalable, uglier, less user friendly and almost non-existing support.

        Almost every phpBB I installed was ridden by spam and got hacked several times. I have given up on phpBB after 10 years of trying.

        • by JMJimmy ( 2036122 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @01:21PM (#41950719)

          I find vBulletin ugly compared to phpBB - as to scaleability/support/speed - I would ask what facts you have to back this up?

          From what I know, vBulletin doesn't support Nginx or any database except MySQL which gives phpBB more options in terms of scaleability. Page render speed depends on the template so it can be as heavy or light as you want for both. Support you get what you pay for I suppose, but between the forums, irc, and the extensive documentation I've never had an issue finding what I needed.

          Then there's the free vs $195... I prefer the former.

      • by Dragonslicer ( 991472 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @11:38AM (#41950007)

        phpBB has everything you need, a very active "addons" community...

        If by "addons" you mean security holes, sure. phpBB is legendary for the number of SQL injection holes that it has.

      • by timothyf ( 615594 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @06:10PM (#41952495) Homepage

        *shudder* They may have patched holes and stuff, but god help you if you want to add modules to it. The "module" system is basically a fancy name for applying patches to a default install. There were no supported extensibility points, and my memory of the code was one of looking in horror at a poorly modularized mess.

        Granted, my experience is with PHPBB2. Things may have improved with PHPBB3, but I doubt they've done more than polish the turd.

      • by JMJimmy ( 2036122 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @11:03PM (#41953929)

        Re:vBulletin, posted to Ask Slashdot: What Is the Best Way To Add Forums To a Website?, has been moderated Funny (+1).

        It is currently scored Normal (2).

        Re:vBulletin, posted to Ask Slashdot: What Is the Best Way To Add Forums To a Website?, has been moderated Informative (+1).

        It is currently scored Funny (3).

        Re:vBulletin, posted to Ask Slashdot: What Is the Best Way To Add Forums To a Website?, has been moderated Overrated (-1).

        It is currently scored Funny (2).

        Re:vBulletin, posted to Ask Slashdot: What Is the Best Way To Add Forums To a Website?, has been moderated Interesting (+1).

        It is currently scored Funny (3).

        Re:vBulletin, posted to Ask Slashdot: What Is the Best Way To Add Forums To a Website?, has been moderated Insightful (+1).

        It is currently scored Funny (4).

        Re:vBulletin, posted to Ask Slashdot: What Is the Best Way To Add Forums To a Website?, has been moderated Flamebait (-1).

        It is currently scored Funny (3).

        Can I get an underrated? lol

    • Re:vBulletin (Score:5, Informative)

      by Cheech Wizard ( 698728 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @11:07AM (#41949815) Homepage
      I would suggest that you really think about vBulletin and read about the history. It was great when Jelsoft owned it, but it was bought out by Internet Brands and is now a mess. The last "good" version was 3.8.7. Version 4 was a disaster. Version 5 is being sold and is in beta but it really sucks. vBulletin is no longer a "best choice". It was some years ago but these days it isn't. I've been running vBulletin forums since 2001 but stopped "upgrading" at 3.8.7. To make it worse, the Internet Brands people have terrible technical support and - Well, vBulletin used to be the "gold standard". Today, not by a long shot.
      • Re:vBulletin (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Thesis ( 1983882 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @03:15PM (#41951473)

        As a long time owner of a vB license, I second the motion to read about the history of vBulletin before making a decision to use their software. When IB bought Jelsoft, it went downhill rather quickly. Many would say, and I have to agree, that vB jumped the shark after the acquisition. Many of us who own and operate boards also agree that version 3.8.7 was the last good version. The management at Jelsoft/IB attempted to morph the software into a catchall social networking solution akin to Facebook, in my eyes anyway. Many of us who have or had "owned" licenses feel that we got screwed, for the terms in licensing changed dramatically beginning with version 4. It turned into a huge money grab in the eyes of many, including myself. Many customers went with other options, and some of us never updated beyond 3.8.7, and are looking for other solutions. Yes, I have tried versions 4 and 5, and they are horrid IMHO.

        It should also be mentioned that some key vB developers left the company as well, for they agreed with many of the customers at that time, that Jelsoft had lost its way. Those developers who left, started to build their own forum software solution from scratch, which is called XenForo ( http://xenforo.com/ [xenforo.com] ), and is offered to the public as a paid option to forum software. IB got quite pissy over this, and filed multiple court cases against them, which has thus far proved to be fruitless, and appears to be simply a way to make XenFro bleed financially through litigation. http://xenforo.com/community/threads/a-statement-regarding-the-current-litigation.7567/ [xenforo.com]

        I will say that I personally do not think that XenFro is quite yet up to snuff, when compared to older versions of vB, or other paid solutions. I do hold hope that one day soon it will be.

        • by Cheech Wizard ( 698728 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @04:15PM (#41951787) Homepage

          In my case, when Jelsoft allowed "Owned" licenses and a "Brand Free" license some years back, I paid for them and I can't say I'm even looking to upgrade in the near future. My forums are so highly modified that it will be a while before I *have* to move on.

          I haven't tried 4 or 5 but I have read enough about them to know not to waste money on them. I can't say I felt screwed when they changed their licensing changes - Nothing is forever and as with all software, when a major revision comes out I pay for an upgrade or, if they don't give update discounts, I just buy it and get on with life.

          This is a case of where there were a few very talented people who turned out very good software, charged for and licensed in a way I thought was fair, but was bought out by a big company which killed it which is the norm - Big company buys small, but innovative company and destroys it through greed and incompetence. vBulletin today stands only on its reputation from years ago.

    • Re:vBulletin (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Gaygirlie ( 1657131 ) <gaygirlie.hotmail@com> on Sunday November 11, 2012 @11:45AM (#41950053) Homepage

      I've always built my own forum software by hand because that way I can build it as a completely integral part of the website, including features that I need and omitting features I don't need. That said, in general I still agree that it's better to go with a pre-built forum software like e.g. vBulletin -- they most likely know a lot better what they're doing than you do. There is, however, one thing I really feel like pointing out here: always disable all the features you do not need. The more features there are the more likely one or another attack point is available. If you don't need e.g. remote administration then disable it, don't just leave it hanging around.

    • by Osgeld ( 1900440 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @01:17PM (#41950691)

      I have administrated a VB fourm and I honestly have never seen one single thing that made it stand out OTHER than the fact that it cost money, and its equals were free.

      CMS? yup
      Support? man those SMF guys have that nailed
      Hard to integrate? not any worse than VB, your going to have to edit a file sometime
      Features? out of the box yea VB, addons no, not even close

  • Be Careful (Score:2, Insightful)

    by stewsters ( 1406737 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @10:19AM (#41949489)
    They arn't particularly easy to modify without making them hard to update. And updated common web software like that makes you an easy mark for hackers once they put out the next revision. I record all the 404s to our website and you would be surprised how many go to addresses of admin pages on things like WordPress. So if you do go that route to save time, but it on a different box and make it a priority to keep up to date.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 11, 2012 @10:24AM (#41949519)

    Should you add a forum to a web site? Are you ready to moderate it, defend it against spammers and irate users, manage lost passwords and deal with intellectual property disputes? A forum doesn't sleep, a forum doesn't go on holiday.

    • by Jeremiah Cornelius ( 137 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @10:30AM (#41949557) Homepage Journal

      A forum doesn't sleep, a forum doesn't go on holiday.
      I think you might be new here, on Slashdot. :-)

      • by Tumbleweed ( 3706 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @04:58PM (#41952057)

        A forum doesn't sleep, a forum doesn't go on holiday.
        I think you might be new here, on Slashdot. :-)

        It always amuses me when people complain about how Slashdot has gotten worse in some way, or changed focus. No, it hasn't. I waited a long time before getting an account here because at the time, there was no real benefit to having an account. And then the 'first post' idiots started up. Other than that, this is the way Slashdot has always been.

    • by Joce640k ( 829181 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @11:28AM (#41949963) Homepage

      Should you add a forum to a web site? Are you ready to moderate it, defend it against spammers and irate users, manage lost passwords and deal with intellectual property disputes? A forum doesn't sleep, a forum doesn't go on holiday.


      I once ran one for about two weeks then turned it off in disgust. It wasn't worth the effort for the return it gave me. Bulletin boards bring out the worst of the Internet.

      (Especially the popular ones - the spammers are constantly scanning for them and have attack scripts lined up and ready to go. Captchas won't help...they have minimum-wage people sat all day long solving captchas)

  • Drupal (Score:5, Informative)

    by cultiv8 ( 1660093 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @10:29AM (#41949549) Homepage
    Drupal core forum [drupal.org] combined with the advanced forum [drupal.org] will meet your requirements. We used this approach for IFC, see it here [smefinanceforum.org].
    • Re:Drupal (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Nemyst ( 1383049 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @01:38PM (#41950817) Homepage

      I'd warn against Drupal. Since it leverages the rather hefty node structure in Drupal, it's very hard to scale up properly. For a forum like what you've linked, with less than a thousand posts, that's fine, but a forum with tens of thousands of posts slows down to a crawl where phpBB or other dedicated forum solutions have no issue running.

      I'm sure you can optimize Drupal further, but it requires a lot more work than using a straight, if not integrated, forum package.

      • Re:Drupal (Score:4, Informative)

        by cultiv8 ( 1660093 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @02:23PM (#41951135) Homepage
        forum_access [drupal.org] offers a decent performance improvement for mid-large sized forums, it uses the ACL [drupal.org] module which helps to reduce number of joins with the node_access table, which is where a lot of performance issues come from. Nanawrimo [nanowrimo.org] is a good example of a decently optimized Drupal forum site, they get about 100k nodes/year, not to mention groups.drupal.org or drupal.org, which average about the same.

        The truth is that any site with > 10k authenticated users a month and 100k+ user generated posts is going to need performance tuning.
  • by 3seas ( 184403 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @10:31AM (#41949561) Homepage Journal

    ...what you may have to deal with.... This forum board has been closed for quite some time and still I get tons of registrations....
    http://abstractionphysics.net/phpBB2/ [abstractionphysics.net]

    Maybe consider contributing to a honeypot should you chose to pursue a forum. https://www.projecthoneypot.org/ [projecthoneypot.org]

  • by tlambert ( 566799 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @10:31AM (#41949565)

    Take all the recommendations you get here ...and then:

    (1) Get the number of CERT advisories for each of them
    (2) Get the percentage market share of each one of them
    (3) Calculate (#2 * 100) / #1
    (4) Whoever is left with the largest number, pick that one

    For example, the calculation above for bbPress, which is a WordPress plugin, would also need to take into account the number of WordPress only CERT advisories, plus those for any plugins besides bbPress you felt it necessary to use, and the resulting number would let you write off using bbPress. Likewise, anything that used Java as an implementation detail would probably get written off due to the number of security holes which have been found in Java. Anything with an SQL back end would have to take into account SQL injections for the other components you intended to use, and so forth.

    Ideally, you would probably put your forums on an isolated machine, rather than hosting everything on one machine, which would drastically reduce the attack surface -- and this would become pretty crystal clear to you after you performed the calculation exercise.

    • by Giant Electronic Bra ( 1229876 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @12:46PM (#41950477)

      1) You seem to know nothing about Java and JVM security. It is immaterial what language you are using on the server-side, Java is no more or less secure than any other.

      2) What difference does it make what the market share of a piece of software is. It is either SECURE or NOT SECURE. If it is not secure then it doesn't matter if one person uses it or 3 million, it is still not secure.

      When evaluating the security of a web application there are many considerations (I've actually taught web app security courses and done all this stuff). You should certainly look at how many advisories there are on a given product. You should also see when these happened, how they were resolved, etc. It may be better to use an application that has had numerous issues that have been promptly fixed for instance. How easy are updates to roll out? How soon do fixes come out? Can you review the source code to look for good coding practices and engineering? As for SQL does the product EVER use anything but bind params? If it does construct dynamic SQL that's a red flag, but it MAY be OK if ALL input parameters are carefully cleaned (bonus points of something like perl's taint mode is in use). Ideally you'd also want to run a full security scan against your test install with a good fuzzer and see what happens. If you can easily shake out bugs yourself then that's a red flag too.

      In other words you really can't sort out the security of an application by any simple formula, and certainly you need to use the right considerations. Anyone interested in getting more detailed advice would do well to start with something like OWASP https://www.owasp.org/index.php/Main_Page [owasp.org]

      • by tlambert ( 566799 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @03:51PM (#41951679)

        1) You seem to know nothing about Java and JVM security. It is immaterial what language you are using on the server-side, Java is no more or less secure than any other.

        I only gave it as an example of a potential attack surface; it depends on how the scripting engine based on the back end works, and if it's injectable. I've seen code snippets for Java code handed back to the back end, with the code handed back being in the front end web page. An attack on that, even for a serialized object, is as simple as writing a transcoding proxy to substitute your serialized objects for the intended serialized objects, thereby compromising the back end JVM. I'd also point out that a shop running Java back ends is much more likely to also run Java front ends, and depend on the security model. This is certainly true for e.g. the Cisco VPN client that is so impossible to pry out of corporate hands because of the additional licensing costs for the Cisco servers in order to move to newer technologies.

        2) What difference does it make what the market share of a piece of software is. It is either SECURE or NOT SECURE. If it is not secure then it doesn't matter if one person uses it or 3 million, it is still not secure.

        It matters because the number of successful attacks should be more or less linearly proportional to market share. You would expect software with a larger market share to be more heavily targeted than software with a smaller market share, and therefore, everything else being equal, you would expect the number of exploits to fit the same curve. But all things aren't equal, and generally that inequality boils down to relative code quality/attack surface. Yes, you could question the value of N in a 1:N linear relationship (my suggested calculation used N=1), but it should be clear that the relationship between available targets and attacks on particular targets would have a naturally linear economic saddle, unless you were targeting a particular entity, rather than a particular technology. Since selling exploits is the typical business model for the exploit developer, unless we are talking about a government agency or vendetta sponsored hack, economics run the show.

        • Well, I don't know of any study or generally accepted theory in webapp security that jibs with your model. I don't think it is a bad THEORY as a sort of very general idea, but I don't think you can apply a formula. Different applications tend to end up in different verticals, some are bigger targets than others for instance. Just because an application is targeted more than another and has a smaller overall global user base doesn't NECESSARILY make it less secure. It would be something to look at, but I'd want to see and review the code.

          As for Java serialization. Hmmmmmm. I'm not aware of where you would serialize java objects to the front end. You might of course use something like a REST service with JSON objects. You could expose serialization funniness vulnerabilities that way, but that's not specifically Java-related. If you ARE exposing JRMP over HTTP or something like that (interoperating with J2EE clients) then you have a whole other set of security issues that is pretty far outside of webapp stuff. Nor do any of the recent Java plugin issues have anything to do with that.

          I don't think Java is any better intrinsically as a secure server-side than other platforms, but the security of your STACK and the security practices built into your actual application are far more important than any currently known issues with Java itself.

  • Invision (Score:3, Interesting)

    by xQuarkDS9x ( 646166 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @10:32AM (#41949569)

    In the last decade I was using Invision forum software not only because it was a very nice alternative to vbulletin and phpBB but it also seemed quite popular as well. They do have a demo for the Community Suite here - http://www.invisionpower.com/demo/ [invisionpower.com] if you want to try it out.

  • by patchouly ( 1755506 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @10:32AM (#41949571) Homepage
    I've set up several forums on my home server and I co-admin on a professional forum. The pro forums are running UBB Threads. Great software, but a little limiting. For my forums, I run phpBB. The software is easy to install, easy to upgrade and easy to mess around with. There are "mods" for practically any feature you'd want to add and with the easy integration, it's as simple as pointing the control panel to the installation file for the mod you want. Their forums are top notch and pretty much any questions you may have are there, already answered. If not, they are quick to help out. Best of all, phpBB is completely free. One thing I'd recommend is a basic, working understanding of HTML, CSS and some PHP. If you can't program in these languages, at the very least, you'll need to be able to edit existing code if you want to change your look. However, it should be noted that there are thousands of "skins" out there, all of which can easily get you really close to the look you are going for and then minor changes (like switching out the logo) are easy. Read through the forums, have a look at some of the forums people have built and, if you want to give it a try, download it and mess around for a bit. Because it's free, if you don't like it, there is no loss!
  • by Joe_Dragon ( 2206452 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @10:45AM (#41949641)

    are you on a sheared box for you web hosting?

    If so they and it's forum with a lot of users can slow things down a lot / get you kicked off.

  • by dark12222000 ( 1076451 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @10:48AM (#41949665)
    Most of it depends on what you're after.

    PhpBB has a ton of features, but is a bit slow and bulky. I feel it's easy to work with, but it's probably not the easiest out there.

    VanillaForums are extremely simply but lack some features (though many of these can be "bought").

    vBulletin has a lot of niceties, but can be a bit of a hog and doesn't come cheap.

    There is also SMF (Simple Machine Forums) which I've been told is a cross between phpBB and Vanilla Forums, but I haven't personally used it.

    If you're new to this sort of thing, go for Vanilla. It's free, extremely easy, and has a lot of nifty features out of the box.
  • by magarity ( 164372 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @10:55AM (#41949721)

    Do they no longer give away slashcode?

  • Depends (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Arancaytar ( 966377 ) <arancaytar.ilyaran@gmail.com> on Sunday November 11, 2012 @10:55AM (#41949729) Homepage

    There are multiple very good forum software projects, and I have no clear preference. phpBB and SMF are good standalone solutions; Drupal is powerful if you're looking to have much more than a forum. LAMP (as in PHP/MySQL) is by far the most popular technology. Ruby and Python might be more stylish, but most of the PHP software has had years of continual improvement. Best get several of them (Wikipedia has a complete list) and try them out locally for comparison.

    Only two things I'd recommend against:
    - First, on absolutely no account try to write your own from scratch. The best projects now available have been in development for almost ten years (more in some cases). This is an extremely complex application with many pitfalls in design, database architecture, extendability, and security. If you were the best programmer in the world, it would take you months of constant testing and bugfixing before you had anything approaching stability; and you'd spend the coming years finding security holes and fixing design mistakes.
    - Second, avoid commercial solutions if possible. They're not usually better. Also, you should factor in not just the purchase price but the continual costs of upgrades and user-contributed addons. One good commercial board I've worked with is IPB, but that's only in recent versions after years of development - and I still prefer phpBB.

    • by sandytaru ( 1158959 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @11:12AM (#41949843) Journal
      SMF has been the most error free of the various systems I've admin'd over the last decade. The only time the entire forum went down was when I forgot to renew the domain by accident.
    • by Johann Lau ( 1040920 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @01:02PM (#41950601) Homepage Journal

      First, on absolutely no account try to write your own from scratch. The best projects now available have been in development for almost ten years (more in some cases).

      Which means they have a gazillion features (and risks stemming from those) you don't need. I mean seriously, what pitfalls are there? Don't be a derp when it comes to storing passwords or SQL injections, disallow HTML/Javascript, (simply bulldoze over the < and > implement a subset of the stuff from bbcode et al you need, more or less done..). Limit the max post size, throw some unicode at it during all stages, etc. -- the rest, the actual complexity and risks, seem to come from advanced feature, like templates or uploading files and whatnot (or "user-contributed addons", which you, like many things, simply assume to be a factor -- they're likely not IMHO). But a forum, like the one we're using now, for a much smaller site? Come on... it just pulls text from a database -- if you can't do that what can you do, really?

  • The Forum Matrix (Score:5, Interesting)

    by thenendo ( 523849 ) <bane.uchicago@edu> on Sunday November 11, 2012 @11:45AM (#41950065) Homepage
    I recently had to select a forums solution for my company, and this site proved extremely useful: http://www.forummatrix.org/ [forummatrix.org]

    It catalogues tons of closed and open-source forum products coded by dozens of variables, and lets you compare them in a big matrix. Very useful if you have constraints/preferences like "works with SQL server" or "isn't PHP", etc.

    My main complaint about it is that some of the data are out-of-date, but it is still a great starting point.
  • by toygeek ( 473120 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @11:56AM (#41950123) Homepage Journal

    then vBulletin is your only way to go. SMF, phpBB, Yabb.... I've seen forum owners start with all of them, and when their forum is actually successful, they end up migrating to vBulletin because it just works. The pricing is reasonable, the features are there, and so is the support, which you'll eventually need.

    On the other hand, if you are just opening a small support forum for a product you sell or if you intend specifically to keep it from growing too big, then sure, look at phpBB, its pretty good.

  • by snowball21 ( 2186378 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @12:37PM (#41950413)
  • by fm6 ( 162816 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @12:48PM (#41950487) Homepage Journal

    My first reaction is always DIY

    So, when you got your first car, you first thought was to build it yourself?

    The first rule of building stuff is, Don't Reinvent the Wheel. That is especially true in software development, a field that has more than its share of really great wheelwrights.

  • Simple Machines (Score:4, Informative)

    by Cito ( 1725214 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @01:00PM (#41950573)

    SMF - http://www.simplemachines.org/ [simplemachines.org]

    what I use and with the GIGANTIC plugin support it's amazing. I never get spam problems, I have SMF set to use my wordpress logins for authentication, which means my wordpress uses Akismet to block spam therefore SMF uses it also since SMF users are set to be same as my wordpress users. Uses same database for logins.

    Which sounds like what you are looking for, users log in to your website means they are logged in to both wordpress and smf with 1 account automatically.

    SMF forums also have "bulletproof security" plugins similar to Wordpress that monitor sql threats, use 301 redirects and htaccess to shore up any problems it may think can happen.

    course nothing is 100% but I love SMF and it's huge versatility, offers more plugins and themes than other stuff like phpbb/vbulletin. And my opinion is more secure when merged with sites like wordpress using Akismet for accounts.

    • Are you running SMF 2.0 or later? Which option did you use to tie SMF and WP together into the same login? I'm by no one's imagination good with code and the best I've able to manage is to use BlogBridger, which just makes the logins the same IF someone registers through SMF, but the sessions are not tied together.
      • by Cito ( 1725214 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @10:06PM (#41953691)

        SMF2WP - A Wordpress plugin that ties the 2 together.
        SMF2WP is a simple one way bridge from Simple Machine Forum (v2.0.1 tested) to WordPress (v3.2.1 tested). This means, this one uses databases of SMF Forum and sync to WP database every time a user performs log-in action in both WP and SMF. To get this working, it is highly recommended that you have a fresh install of WordPress with an install of SMF. Also, WP and SMF must be installed in same domain, and should not be being accessed through a subdomain, though it still work. For example, if your website contains of WordPress for news and SMF for forum, if your news is mydomain.com, then your forums should be somewhere like mydomain.com/forum.

        This plugin will do these following tasks:

                If a user log in WP, then that user will be logged in SMF using SMF2API.
                If a user logout WP, then that user will be logged out SMF using SMF2API.
                If a user log in SMF, will be logged in WP as well.
                If a user log out SMF, will be loged out WP as well.

        Plugin - http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/smf2wp/ [wordpress.org]

  • by pdcull ( 469825 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @01:01PM (#41950579) Homepage
    I've been using Simple Machines Forum [simplemachines.org] for a number of years, and although I would say that it's totally customizable, there are number of templates and adds for it, it's very stable, and has worked great for me. And it's free, although it's a always a good idea to become a through $50 a year at them and become a charter member [simplemachines.org] (having said that, I think I've let my charter membership lapse at the moment!). Development seems very slow, with releases few and far between; however I'm still very pleased that I chose SMF when I went looking for forum software.
  • by Faux_Pseudo ( 141152 ) <Faux.PseudoNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Sunday November 11, 2012 @02:05PM (#41951011) Homepage

    Every time I see a forum all I find is web interfaces that are trying to imitate newsgroups. But they do it so poorly. I would give anything to have half the functionality of newsgroups in a forum. I totally understand that a web interface for nntp would cause its own problems but I have to wonder if a web interface on a nntp backend might be easier to develop than these forums that are trying to replace it's functionality.

    I have wanted Slashdot to offer up a NNTP server for more than 12 years. If they did I would gladly pay them a monthly fee.

    • by fnj ( 64210 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @06:47PM (#41952725)

      Just curious what functionality you see nntp providing. I don't see anything at all myself. The only thing tying threads together is the subject lines. A forum OTOH is easily navigable, you have server side search, you know that everyone is presented with the same posts at the same time, you have more than one level of categorization, mods can move posts that idiots put in the wrong place, edit and remove highly objectionable content and flamebat, etc.

      Don't get me wrong. I love nntp for what I use it for (don't ask ...). But I'm the only person I know who even knows what nntp is.

  • by DERoss ( 1919496 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @02:34PM (#41951219)

    I truly dislike Web-based forums. They require the user to connect to a specific Web site, which is sometimes down. Although Facebook is rarely down, a forum based there requires users to have Facebook accounts; similar requirements exist for other forum hosting services. Threaded discussions are often difficult to follow on Web-based forums, and threads usually cannot be sorted (both are also problems with mailing lists). To find a specific topic or thread, the user must use the forum's own search capability, which is too often rudimentary and insufficient for real-world use. Then, there is the fact that some Web-based forums work well only with certain browsers.

    I much prefer the newsgroups hosted by NNTP (network news transfer protocol) servers. There are several NNTP service providers (NSPs), both free and paid; users only have to use one NSP to participate even when other users use other NSPs. That is, users are not required to connect and login to any one specific site.

    A number of different NNTP applications also exist, mostly freeware. Those applications generally handle threaded discussions quite well. Search capabilities are built into the applications and are not needed for the newsgroup itself. If spam, flame wars, trolls, and other problems are a concern, a moderated newsgroup is also possible.

    If your topic is limited, I would suggest creating an alt.* newsgroup. See the text document at http://ftp.isc.org/pub/usenet/CONFIG/README [isc.org]. However, many NSPs no longer host alt.* newsgroups because so many of them contained child pornography.

    If your topic might have broad public appeal, you might consider creating a newsgroup under one of comp.*, news.*, sci.*, humanities.*, rec.*, soc.*, talk.*, or misc.*. See http://www.big-8.org/wiki/Main_Page [big-8.org].

    A moderated newsgroup can have more than a single moderator, which would be appropriate if your forum is not related to your own personal Web site. See http://www.eyrie.org/~eagle/faqs/mod-pitfalls.html [eyrie.org] for the negatives of moderated newsgroups. The "Moderator's Handbook" at http://www.eyrie.org/~eagle/usefor/other/moderators-handbook [eyrie.org] is quite old but still useful. See also http://www.big-8.org/wiki/Changing_Moderation_Status [big-8.org].

  • by anorlunda ( 311253 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @03:12PM (#41951449) Homepage

    Our club went with a turnkey site host (wild apricot). We didn't ask enough questions about their forums. Here's some of the things we forgot.

    Support for videos and pictures in posts. Should be at least as easy as blogger.com.

    The ability to host the pics and videos on storage we control. Sites like picasa, snapfish, or even YouTube may not be around forever.

    A versatile engine to search old posts.

    The ability to backfill or forum history from our previous site.

    The ability to export forum archives from the new site in a format useful to backfill some future provider's forum.

    I also miss having a way to migrate or reformat old forum threads into wiki articles.

    Maybe your users don't post things that have archival value. If so, then they are easier to support.

  • Disqus (Score:4, Informative)

    by bucktug ( 306690 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @03:19PM (#41951493)

    http://disqus.com/ [disqus.com]

    Customize it with CSS... call it a day. Forums are just pages with styled links. Your server doesn't suffer the load... the federated login is handled by others...

  • I wanted to simply host my forums using Google Groups, but unfortunately they force iFrame and all sorts of nasty stuff that just doesn't work as you can see from my example, a blank box where the forum should be [hex.xxx]. Haven't revisited it in a while but it really should be easier to leverage Groups. Any fixes? ;) - HEX
  • by EmperorOfCanada ( 1332175 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @03:55PM (#41951697)
    Two things, one these products have huge attack surface areas along with a huge number of machines making them attractive targets. The simple fact that most are open source any code updates are often then maps to the just plugged vulnerabilities. So make sure you are religious about keeping it up to date.

    Next I love a consistent look and feel as it seems so do you. So when you customize the forum make sure that you do it through their plug-in/addon/template system and don't just reach into the code to customize it. The simple reason is the first part of what I wrote. You will want to keep that puppy up to date and this will then wipe out your changes if you don't do it through the "approved" way. Once you start noodling their code you will then be tempted to delay an upgrade while you insert your changes in their new code. Don't! Some of the holes in various forums allow evil doers to pwn your machine. (insert offensive saying as to just how pwned it will be). Also keep in mind these evil doers run automated scripts making lists of machines that they can someday pwn.
  • by okmijnuhb ( 575581 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @07:51PM (#41953049)
    How hard is it to implement Slashcode?
  • by bennini ( 800479 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @07:55PM (#41953073) Homepage
    I use Invision Power for my website: http://www.styleguise.net and it works very well. My website is comprised of two components: a marketplace that I wrote from scratch using GWT + App Engine and a forum component which use the commercial off the shelf Invision Power suite. I have single sign on between my two applications as well.

    IPBoard (the forum application from Invision power) is highly customizable. You can write a login module for it to integrate with any identity management system. It is written in PHP so you will need to develop your extensions in PHP also.
    They also offers a traditional content management system called IPContent. It works pretty well once you figure out how things are laid out. The index/splash page for my site is simply a page served by the IPContent component.

    I am a member on several forums that use vbulletin. One of them recently migrated to Huddler which I do not recommend at all. The other is still using a very old version of vbulletin. The their migrated to Invision Power. Invision Power seems to release more often and have better features than vbulletin.

    Another option to choose if you have more money to spend is Jive. My company uses it for our customer facing forum system and also internally for content management.

    If you have additional questions feel free to ask.

The reward for working hard is more hard work.