free community software

Phorum Bulletin Board Search Issues

A couple weeks ago I posted about Phorum which is an open source bulletin board script located here. In that post I explained my frustrations with searching, although my experience with Phorum may be skewed  by unfamiliarity since I only search the Sphider search engine forums on occasion.

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Brian Moon from Phorum was nice enough to stop by and comment and inquired about the search terms and results when I experience these problems. I had to admit I could not recollect the specifics, but it just so happens that I experienced the same issues in the last few days and decided to document it. Perhaps it’s a mistake I’m making, or a configuration by the site admins, or a problem with Phorum itself.

I figure this would be a great opportunity to gather some facts, discuss a possible issue, and hopefully figure out what’s wrong, if anything.

My problems with searching a Phorum board have all happened over at the two Sphider forums. For this experiement I will search the Sphider Mods forum.

Next I fill in the keyword phrase sponsored ads and click Search. I selected this keyword phrase for a specific reason and that’s because I already know it exists in this forum in both a post title and body. I figured this would be a good way to test the search functionality.

Here is where I get the “No Results Were Found” page, so I retry the search again twice; once with All Words selected and once with Any Words selected with Search All Forums highlighted for both. I also tried switching the date option for All Dates and got no results for that either.

I get zero results for both inquiries. Now if you follow this link, you will see that the first post in this thread contains the exact phrase I was searching in the title and in the body of the post.

Knowing that there was indeed a post titled sponsored ads, I was able to tweak my search to find it, but this shouldn’t be the norm. I searched the Sphider Mods forum for the term sponsored and it returned three results. The only result from that thread was one post near the very end of the thread that does not even include the word sponsored in the body of the post.

Something definitely seems a bit off here, doesn’t it?

phpBB Powered Forum Software

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I think nearly everyone is familiar with phpBB in some way. Either you know about it, have had a phpBB site of your own, or are a member of a site that runs it. phpbb is the most popular open source bulletin board software out there. This also means it’s the most attacked by hackers too, but I suppose that comes with the territory.

I have never tried starting a stand alone forum, but I have added forums on to existing sites. In my opinion, starting a forum is the toughest way to start a community. You get all excited about installing the software and creating forums for specific topics, but when it’s time to launch, there’s nothing but tumbleweeds rolling by your site. If you don’t already have a fairly large community of people to announce your new bulletin board to, I would strongly urge you to skip the forums and spend your time building a different kind of site. You can always add forums later on when you actually have visitors coming to your site.

The only timely experience I have with phpBB right now is at my current job. We set up an internal forum as a way to keep track of what we have accomplished on a daily basis, change control, on call issues, and updates on the status of ongoing projects. It works pretty well for most of its intended features. I’m not too good at documenting my daily work efforts because it’s too much like nurturing a site, and as you might have figured out, I tend to bounce around from idea to idea. I started off strong and then one day I just stopped posting in my personal forum and I haven’t posted since. Typical.

Anyway, I don’t want to tell you not to use this software because it’s really fun to be a forum administrator and have all that power at your disposal. All I’m saying is it’s just not much fun when you’ve created a brandy new forum and don’t have anyone to come post on it. If you are going to give it a try, it might help if you have multiple personalities so you can set up a bunch of different users and talk to yourself. At least when other visitors happen upon your site, they won’t think it’s abandoned and they will never know how truly crazy you are either.