Forums

PunBB Bulletin Board System

I guess my title is a little redundant. Isn’t saying PunBB bulletin board a lot like saying ATM machine? ūüôā Anyway, I found the PunBB software while visiting the forums of another script website I visit on occasion. I find a lot of great software this way.

[ad name=”Small Square”]

PunBB seems to have done it right for forum software. It’s not bogged down with excessive features to try and make everyone happy. Instead its focus is on the basics which has kept it a more responsive bulletin board system.

While I couldn’t find an official demo on the site, you don’t have to look any further than the PunBB site forums to get a good idea at what the default style looks like. It’s got a very clean and attractive layout that makes every newb like me start to imagine running their very own forum using PunBB right out of the box.

Just because PunBB wasn’t built with every bell and whistle imaginable does not mean you can’t add on to it or change its appearance. There’s an entire website dedicated to PunBB resources called PunRes.org. There’s a number of mod projects and styles to browse through, although at the time of this writing the style previewer appears to be having some technical difficulties.

The PunBB site itself lists a number of extensions so I’m not sure what the difference is between those ones and the mods on the resource site. Perhaps the on site extensions are the ones officially created by PunBB and the resource site is done by PunBB enthusiasts within the community.

There’s also a link to a pretty cool PunBB skin generator that I found impressive. Having never personally used the software, I don’t know how easy it is to change the skin, but it certainly seems like this neat little tool would be a giant help in simplifying and somewhat automating the customization process.

I always like to add my own disclaimer to posts about forums because overall I’m not a big fan, but that doesn’t mean I don’t occasionally get caught up in it all while playing with a new forum demo. I like what I’ve seen so far and if I were to take the plunge into launching a new forum, I’d be much more apt to try PunBB over the more popular (and more exploited) pbpBB software.

bbPress

If the name or the logo of bbPress seem a little too familiar, it’s probably because it’s the open source forum software from the folks over at WordPress. If you’ve ever visited the WordPress forums, you’ve already experienced what bbPress has to offer.

Personally, I’ve never been a big fan of the WordPress forums because I always thought it was difficult to find answers. In defense of bbPress, it certainly could be a combination of the massive number of posts over there. With hundreds of thousands of posts, you have to really be selective with your search terms to get the results you want.

Speaking of a whole bunch of posts, the WordPress forums have well over a million of them, so I’d have to say it works pretty well under heavy use. It also integrates well with your WordPress installation with a simple bbPress integration plugin.

As far as the visual aspects of bbPress, I really like the style they have over at the bbPress forums. It’s a very basic design with not a lot of flash, but I really like that kind of simplicity. If the default doesn’t do it for you, there’s also a number of different themes available with designs that appeal to just about everyone.

Phorum

I first came across¬† the Phorum software one day when I visited the Sphider site to scour the forums for an answer. I don’t remember if Sphider always had this forum software, but it seemed new to me that day, so I think it was a change for them. It looks like they are running the default green install based on the Phorum demo.

[ad name=”Small Square”]

I also had a look around the admin area demo over at OpenSourceCMS. I think this is pretty decent looking software for someone going for the minimalist approach. It’s a nice change to all the phpBB and vBulletin community bulletin boards out there. Although the default doesn’t do much for me, I do like what the folks over at MySQL have done. The DealNews forums were equally impressive when they were up, but apparently things have changed over there since the forum is no longer reachable. Both of these sites are a testament to Phorum’s ability to handle hundreds of thousands (even millions in the DealNews forums archive) of posts which is quite impressive.

I’m not sure if it’s the Phorum software or the configuring the folks at the Sphider site performed, but I do have one major problem¬† based on my limited personal experience. Searching is just horrible. Whenever I try to find information over at the Sphider forums, I find the results extremely weak (if I get any at all). It’s been so bad that I once tested it by scrolling through pages and pages of posts until I found one that had the same keyword in both the title and the body of the post. I then went back to the forum index and searched for the keyword in the same forum and got zero results. Unfortunately, the only way to find what I need is to manually scan each page of posts, but who really wants to do that?

vBulletin

[ad name=”200x200all”]

For awhile it seemed like vBulletin was the forum of choice for site owners looking to implement a community bulletin board system. For the longest time I saw forums running this software everywhere. Even my brother chose vBulletin for his website despite my best efforts to persuade him in giving open source a try first. He had his mind made up on vBulletin, so this is where I got to get my hands wet with the software. I’ve never owned it myself, but whenever he had a question, I got to log in and poke around, so I became somewhat familiar with the ins and outs of the back end.

I had used phpBB at this point, so I did have something to compare¬† it to, and I don’t think it was that much better to warrant paying nearly two hundred dollars for a forum, but my disinterest in forums might be making me a bit cheap about it. I do remember finding features that made me think this was like a premium version of phpBB, so it’s definitely not inferior by any means. It’s probably as good as a forum can get at the moment, but there are just so many other options for building communities that it’s hard to justify spending the money when you can get a similar alternative for free.

The folks at vBulletin must realize this because they now have a Publishing Suite for sale for a few bucks more, but it has the forum included with the addition of blog and article publishing as well. This covers more options and I believe it was a very smart move of them. Having a forum as a stand alone site might work at times, but you’re allowing your visitors to leave when they seek more in depth information on the same subject being discussed in your forums. By having articles and blogs with a community of users, you can keep those visitors right there on your site clicking pages and earning you additional revenue.

Whether you’re thinking of starting a forum or an entire community, vBulletin may be an option to consider depending on your budget. I do have to admit that the list of features is quite immense, so it’s certainly worth checking out. The forum is definitely tops as far as being built out. I will say that despite my indifference to forum software, if I desperately wanted to start a forum and spending money on a license was not an issue, vBulletin is definitely the one I would choose.

WowBB Php Forum Software

[ad name=”200x200all”]

WowBB is a commercial forum script that I wasted my money on because I abandoned the script on a site of mine. I’m not saying I wasted my money because of the script itself, but it’s more of how I feel about starting forums. They’re tough, and I’ve decided long ago that my interest in starting one has waned.

On the other hand, if you have your heart set on starting a commercial forum, WowBB is a pretty nice piece of software. With so many forum sites powered by VBulletin out there, it’s refreshing to see a different look and feel in a fully functional bulletin board system.

The WowBB forum files have long been deleted from my hosting account, but what I do remember liking about this software is that you could try it for free for thirty days to see if it’s the right choice. Of course, you’ll have to try it on a subdomain of wowbb.com, but it still gives you the opportunity to test drive the forum administration before forking over some cash for it.

I also seem to remember something about maps being integrated so you could see the graphical locations of users and sort them by specific locations. Users can also create polls which is great encouragement for user participation. A user can also upload a custom avatar or select from galleries you provide which you can add to at any time.

The admin section offers the ability to view user IP’s, a layered and extremely flexible permission system, graphical visitor statistics, and the ability to create custom profile fields in a users control panel for fields not provided in the default view.

There’s plenty more that I haven’t mentioned, so if you’re tired of phpBB and looking for something a little different, go check out all of the WowBB features over at the website.