Monthly Archives: November 2014

Weekly Staff Interview Series #8 — Collin

Hello, and welcome to the latest edition of our Weekly Staff Member Interview Series!

This week, we have decided to interview Collin. This member is a staff member of Forum Promotion, and is an Ambassador in the Community Team.

Now on to the interview!


Hi Collin, the question I like to start off with, just like everyone else, is: what can you tell us about yourself?

Hello! My name is Collin, and I am on the Community Team here at Forum Promotion. I live in the beautiful town of Anderson, Indiana, and I absolutely love being a webmaster. I own a web hosting company, work in a warehouse full time, manage websites, and happily dedicate my time to FP. I used to be a lifeguard, and I may choose to do that again next summer.

I recently graduated high school, and I’m working around various positions to see what interests me best. I want to make sure that I make the right choice with what I want to major in, without taking too much time to think about it. My position at a warehouse is temporary, and was only supposed to last a week, but, it has been about a month now, and now they want to train me to drive a forklift. One of the forklift drivers was recently moved from that position, so it looks to me as if they want to directly hire me on.

Anyways, I’m a busy guy, and I’m friendly as well. I love to help people out, especially webmasters. I’m not a heavy coder or anything, but I know how to help out people who have issues that I used to have in the past. If you ever need any help with anything, feel free to let me know!

How has your time here at FP been? What do you like about the community?

My time here at FP has been great! I love the community, and I love to see the vast variety of sites that are promoted here at FP. This forum is a great forum to take advantage of, and it’s a friendly community as well!

I was recently on the Package Team for a little while, but then I found out that wasn’t the right position for me. But, I must say, if you ever see a topic come up for teams who are hiring, apply, even if you don’t think you’ll be chosen. I was suprised when I was hired on to the Package Team. I woke up the next morning, and my username was orange! If you think that you won’t be added, just because of warnings, or a lower post count, apply anyways! Getting your applications in doesn’t hurt, and sometimes, they’ll be brought up later!

Anyways, I love how much FP has grown, and I am excited to be a part of such a thriving community. I’ve worked on a few other forums, but, Forum Promotion is the most fun when you interact with such a great community, and a great team of staff members.

What can you tell us about Volact?

Volact is a web hosting company that I started about 7 months ago, and it’s rapidly growing. I have experienced trial and error, just like everyone else has, but we’re both improving and growing as a web host. At first, Volact only offered Shared Hosting, and that was all. Now, we’re offering Reseller plans as well. We even made a deal with Blesta as well, so our licenses are cheap, without the high license reseller costs, making it both beneficial to us and our clients. We’re focused on providing a 99.99% uptime guarantee, and a 100% customer satisfaction guarantee! Customer satisfaction is our number 1 priority!

You can find Volact web hosting at the following URL: https://volact.com/

Do you have any advice for those of us interested in starting web hosts?

I have two main pieces of advice: take your time, and don’t pay for advertising.

I know some people would disagree, but that’s alright. I’ve never paid for any clients, and I’d say I’m successful as of now. There are two main quotes that inspire me the most. One is “Money = Hard Work + Time”. You’ll need to be patient when starting a web hosting company, and don’t expect to get a lot of clients right away. Go around locally, design websites for small businesses, and then link your site in the footer, where you can also showcase your latest works. One website that I’ve received a lot of conversions is WebHostingTalk. You can post your topic once a week, and I’ll usually get more than a few signups right away. Remain patient, and remain calm. Don’t make sudden changes, and focus on what your clients want, versus what would be beneficial to both of you. Don’t take the first month transferring from server to server, but instead, list the pros and cons of both, ask for a free trial, and document what each company has to offer. Never rush your decisions, and always listen to your clients.

This brings me to the other quote that inspires me: “Grow your world around your customers, and more customers will grow around you.” Always ask for input, advertise sites that clients can provide feedback, and start a community forum! You’ll be able to interact with your clients, while knowing more about them. Also, another recommendation is to have a billing software. My personal favorites are WHMCS and Blesta. They’ll automatically send out invoices, and they are more powerful than ever. My last recommendation is to have a live chat software installed on your site. I personally have LiveZilla, and it’s free for one operator. You can even track where your visitors are, send chat invitations, and even friendly redirect them to another page if they’re lost. It’s a great tool, and one of the many great tools available for free.

I’m going to work on a web hosting series here on the Forum Promotion Blog, so be sure to watch out for that as well!

Are you a staff member at any other forums or websites?

I’m only a staff member at the forums that I own, which are PromotionBB, WebHostingBB, Volact Community Forums, and the Off Topic Club. PromotionBB used to be ForumConnect, but we changed our name to something more understandable. These four sites are some of the many that I own, and just about all of them have been launched at once, which may not be such a good idea, but I’ve been working on each site individually, and they all seemed to have finished at once! I used to work on The Admin Zone, but I was kicked off for reasons that weren’t understandable to any of the staff, and I’ve also worked on my various collection of websites, which seems to be growing.

What advice can you tell newer admins here at Forum Promotion, on what they could do to better their new forums?

Try to think of something new, and a name that will stick! One reason that I changed ForumConnect to PromotionBB was the name. If you were to walk up to someone, and have them guess the niche of each forum, they are likely to guess that PromotionBB is an advertising forum almost instantly. Take your time, do your research, and choose a reliable host. I’ve published an article here on the blog named “Tips for a Successful Forum”. There, you can read about advice that I’ve come up with throughout the years. Feel free to read that article as well, and your feedback is always appreciated in the comments.

What would you suggest to improve Forum Promotion? It could be anything.

Honestly, I don’t have any suggestions at the moment! I like the direction that we are heading, and we seem to be growing and growing each month! I’d like to encourage the members to become more active in various forums, and definitely take part of the weekly FP lottery! We have a great team of staff members on board, a great variety of services to offer, and an awesome community to interact with! I couldn’t be happier with FP!

What are your thoughts on the Forum Promotion Blog? What kind of articles are you interested in reading? Any suggestions?

I absolutely love the blog! I read just about every article on there when I have time, and I’ve learned a lot from users! I’d like to personally thank the Editorial Team for keeping this great resource thriving, as well as our members of FP for their submissions! I highly encourage each and every member to submit their own article! Give it a try, and see if it’s something you’d like to do regularly! I personally love the member and staff interview series, as it helps me learn more about the staff here at FP, as well as our members of such a great community!


And that wraps up this weeks staff member interview! Thank you for reading this, we hope you will continue reading these every week that they are posted!

Feel free to comment below on the interview. Also, feel free to ask the person that got reviewed any questions you feel like!

Using Custom Forum Icons

Custom icons for each individual section of your forum can truly make a difference by adding uniqueness, brand identity, and character. A basic theme can be made to appeal strongly to a particular niche by using flavorful icons related to it. For example, if a forum dedicated to Naruto has an icon of a different character for different sections of the board, then that forum can look more colorful. These icons can prove that the administrator has put a lot of effort into putting their forum together.

Here is an example.

FEForumIcons

As you can see the different icons allow the user to more easily find what they are looking for, and overall, make the design much more colorful.

This blog post is a guide which describes how to add these icons.

Step #1: Get Ready

Before you can choose good icons for your forum, you have to figure out a number of things.

1. What niche is your forum in? — This is important because the icons which make sense for a business forum are different than the icons which make sense for an anime forum. A business forum needs to be neat, tidy, and professional. An anime forum needs to be exaggerated, over the top, and flashy. A gaming forum needs to be hard core and dedicated. These attributes all describe how the design should appear, and custom icons are part of the design.

2. What design are you using? — Forum icons must be chosen in conjunction with a forum theme. If your theme uses two colors, blue and green for example, then the icons you choose will need to be one of those colors, or a color which goes good with those two. An entire blog post could be written on how to choose colors that go good together, but for the purpose of this post, you will need to simply pay attention to which colors you believe go best together.

Step #2: Find Your Icons

When selecting your icons, it is crucial that each icon look visually similar to every other icon. They need to be the same style, the same shape, and the same colors. If one icon is flat, then the other icons need to be flat. If one is glossy, then the others should be glossy. A good way to accomplish this is to choose a single icon which you really like, and then use other icons from the same icon set, or by the same author. If you find an icon which was the only icon made by that author, then choose another icon.

There are a number of good websites where you can find icons for your forum. This article will discuss two. The first is called IconArchive. It is a free website which allows you to filter by a number of factors, including color, license, and name.

IconArchive

To start, type something in to the search bar. Since all forums have announcements section, that is a good place to start.

IconArchive1

As you can see above, there are only a few results. The first one look good, though, so click on it to see a full description.

IconArchive2

As you can see, the license is freeware, which means that you can use this icon with free restrictions. To cover your legal bases, it is a very good idea to leave a backlink to the author’s website, however.

You can download the icon by clicking on one of the green buttons, as seen in the screenshot, but if you scroll down, you will notice that there are more icons in this icon set.

IconArchive3

To be more precise, there are a hundred icons. The ones you see above could be used as custom forum icons for several different sections in a forum. They can all be downloaded to your computer, and then uploaded to your website. Step #2 describes how to do this using the MyBB forum software.

In addition to IconArchive, another good site to use is called IconFinder. It contains a good selection of premium icons as well as free ones. Below are links to both IconArchive and IconFinder.

http://www.iconarchive.com/

https://www.iconfinder.com/

Step #3: How to Upload Custom Forum Icons

Installing custom forum icons can be done in all major forum systems. Below are links to tutorials on how to do this.

MyBB — http://community.mybb.com/thread-92128.html

phpBB — https://www.phpbb.com/community/viewtopic.php?f=72&t=1945255

SMF — http://custom.simplemachines.org/mods/index.php?mod=3604

vBulletin — http://www.vbulletin.com/forum/forum/vbulletin-legacy-versions-products/legacy-vbulletin-versions/vbulletin-3-7-questions-problems-and-troubleshooting/258856-custom-icons-per-forum-where

IPB — http://community.invisionpower.com/files/file/2457-hq-forum-icons/

Conclusion

Using custom forum icons, you can make your forum more colorful and unique. Using websites such as IconArchive, this process is completely free. While the method varies between different brands of forum software, each major software vendor supports custom forum icons either natively, or through a third party modification.

Addon Domains – The Walkthrough

Addon Domains and How to Use Them


Many seasoned webmasters may already know what an addon domain is, but others do not. This article walks through how to set up add on domains, and how to make the most of this incredibly useful feature. Let’s get started!

 

What is an Addon Domain?

An addon domain is a fully independent domain that is created from within your hosting control panel, mainly cPanel. They are used if you are looking to host multiple websites sharing the same server, but they are treated as separate websites of their own. You can have your primary domain tied to your hosting account, just like normal. Using addon domains, you can host additional domains from your account, if allowed by your hosting provider. Now, I know it’s easier to follow images, so let’s show you how to actually make them!

 

Step 1: Requirements

Before we start, you will need the following already in place:

  • A current hosting plan with a hosting company
  • The ability to have addon domains. Some hosting companies don’t allow this for some plans, so check first!.
  • The domain that you will want to add to the hosting account; make sure it’s registered!
  • Name server information for your hosting. This is normally found two ways:
    • Located in the bottom left portion of cPanel
    • In the welcoming email that your hosting may have sent to you when you first started with them

 

Step 2: Configuring Addon Domains in cPanel

First, log in to cPanel, which is provided by most quality web hosts.

Next, navigate to “Addon Domains” under “Domains,” as shown below.

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Once there, type in your domain name, a folder to place it in, and FTP access information.

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Now, we need to upload content to our newly created domain so it can actually work! To do this, we are going to use the File Manager that comes with cPanel. You can use FTP, but to make things easier for this guide, we’re sticking to the manager that is given to us. From the cPanel index:

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When asked what directory to open, choose the “Web Root”. This will allow you to see your new directory you just made, in this case, Example.com. After your directory loads, look for the site you just made. It will be a folder that has the name of that the addon domain you made. In my case, this is what mine looks like:

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This is where you can upload all of your content to your new website. Go ahead and upload the files now. Give it some time, it could take a bit. If you use FTP, it may go quicker, but that is beyond the scope of this tutorial.

Step 3: Setting up the DNS

Before you can actually start using your new site, you will first need to point it to your hosting. Remember above when I pointed out that you will need to know your name servers? Well, this is where that information plays a part in the setup. Don’t worry, this information is normally easy to obtain. You could find this information in the following way:

  • Can be found in your cPanel (unless your web host has modified cPanel and removed it)
  • In the welcoming email your hosting provider sent you
  • Try using http://dnscheck.pingdom.com/ and enter your domain
  • If all else fails, open a support ticket with your web hosting provider.

Once you know this your name servers, head over to your domain registrar and update the DNS name servers. After updating the DNS, you should allow some time for the new information to update around the Internet. tHis may take up to about 12 hours. After this is done, try heading over to your new website and it should work!

I hope this guide has helped you in some kind of way. I use addon domains regularly, because they allow me to make the most out of my hosting, which is always a good thing. Good luck with your websites and if you need any help with this guide, feel free to send me a PM on ForumPromotion.

Political Forums and Everything Else

A common misconception I often find from webmasters starting a new forum is that all forum topics are alike. You start the forum, add content, add staff members, post content yourself, and soon you’ll be riding the gravy train with discussion everywhere. With some categories it can literally be that easy. There is no exact science behind forum communities or their future relevance to the internet as a whole. Politics however offers and entirely different model of forum and requires nurturing and attention that other forums simply do not need. Debate offers an endless and often argumentative experience for users seeking a different experience than the regular forum user. My experiences administrating Political Debate Forum and other debate forums in the past have allowed me to develop a certain dogma or way of thinking when it comes to starting and managing a community revolving around politics. With this article I hope to pass on some of the things I have learned to help future communities grow and populate in the ever growing topic of debate and politics.

1. It’s all about moderation and perception.

Debate Forums offer a unique opportunity for members to offer their own opinions and stand by their facts. The problem with debate is that the discussion often degrades into bickering and even insults. To the average webmaster this is flaming and simply unacceptable, but to the average debater this is expected and often desired. Forums have fallen due to accusations that their moderation teams practice heavy or strict moderation. Users come to a political forum for argument and interaction. They want to fight, and they want to flame, and they often do not give out apologies. Therefore the wise political forum admin will moderate with a light hand and only intervene when drama seeks to spill out from a thread and onto the forum as a whole. What you expect to moderate is actually what your users have come to expect you to not moderate.

2. Free Speech is a big thing.

Free speech is what drives a debate forum. It goes back to moderation as well. A forum where a word censor is on, a moderator is too active, or a spam filter is too aggressive can easily be labeled as a forum that does not promote free speech. Users expect free speech, in fact it’s their inherent right, and without close adherence to this, a forum cannot succeed. Moderators must have the experience to not put bias into their actions and likewise must know when to let things go without incident. A moderator who interacts with the community will often side with a particular point of view and then be called biased. Bias leads to violations of free speech and that leads to members leaving. Respecting your members and remembering that they came to argue and bicker will give you a perception of what is acceptable to moderate and what is truly not. Political Forums walk the line.

3. Balance is the key

Forums often become one sided and always risk becoming echo chambers. An echo chamber or social club forum can be described as a forum where everyone agrees with everyone else. There is no real opposition and when an opposing member does come along, they are swiftly outed and pushed out. Political forums walk a delicate line between Democrat and Republican but also walk a tight rope between the many hundreds of political views that associate with each party (or not). A balanced forum will be an active forum. A community that disagrees, fights, argues, and bickers will be a community that stands up and continues discussion by itself. A forum that remains a social club will continue on with little debate, little interest, and will grow slowly if at all. A political admin needs to balance themselves, remain neutral when moderating, and present a fair but strong presence when it comes to maintaining the balance. A successful forum will consist of all walks of political view and all manner of debate.

4. Design is still a key element.

Content is one thing but looking good is yet another. There are hundreds of political forums, successful and dead, and if you look and judge every single one, you will find one thing lacking the most: design. Political forums tend to look the same and use default forum styles. The largest forums are those who took the time to make their own look and style. Such a minor details presents an interesting dilemma. If a webmaster is too lazy to make a forum look unique then why should the guest expect anything more than laziness when deciding whether or not to join the forum? A forum that looks good is a forum that will attract members and will continue to grow with new members.

Conclusion

If these four steps are taken into account and worked into a forum model then the webmaster using them should except success. Of course, all of the usual burdens of the forum starting process need not to be said. One will still have to be active, maintain good SEO, and work towards gaining members. This article’s point is to highlight the extra mile one needs to take if one intends to be successful. You cannot just start a political forum and expect users to join. Many of us have made these forums our home and we stay in our home for years if not decades. To sway the political crowd you must arm yourself with knowledge, experience, and a clear desire to succeed. Otherwise you’ll fail like so many before.

Making your Theme Shine Part 2: Customizing your Forum

In the previous installment of this series, you learned how to customize your forum’s header. Using the MyBB default theme, we made a significant change which made the website look less like a default MyBB site, and more like a unique website which has had some serious effort put into it. This tutorial expands on the work from the previous tutorial, describing how to edit the main body of your forum, and how to really make it shine. Continue reading

Promoting your forum can be a difficult task, far more difficult than one might anticipate. Here are some tips that I believe will help you in creating a buzzing, lively and happy community.


The Right Forum

Choosing the right forum software is vital, in order to help make your user experience simple, easy, and clean. For example, for my forum, we chose to use MyBB (which, at the time, had just updated to the new MyBB 1.8), since it had very positive reviews, and many features that were ideal for our forum. These included a flexible permissions system, a clear, easy to use layout, powerful moderation tools and low server load. In addition, we also had previous experience using MyBB, so that was taken into account, since it’s important that you don’t have to spend too much time learning new forum software, which would make you appear inexperienced to your users.

The right forum software for you will vary based on several factors, including the ones mentioned above. However, it is critically important that you select forum software that works for you, rather than against you.

The Right Server

Your users will quickly get annoyed and leave if they find that your server is slow, unreliable, laggy, or has excessive downtime. Depending on how many users you expect to receive, the right choice for you may be good quality shared hosting, a VPS or even dedicated hosting. Free hosting is to be avoided where possible, since often they have bandwidth caps and the response time is often into the thousands of milliseconds rather than the hundreds.

The Right Purpose

Your forum is doomed to fail should you select a poor purpose from the outset. Try and hit the sweet spot between too wide, which will fail to attract users from larger forums, and too small, which would mean appealing to too few people to succeed. An example of a poor purpose is a ‘general discussion’ forum, since social media sites already fill that purpose more effectively. Another poor choice could be stamp collectors in a particular city collecting 1980s US stamps only, since it’s going to be unlikely that many people would be interested in such a small topic. Therefore, before publishing your site, consider whether your purpose is excessively small or large, and adjust to avoid catastrophe later on.

The Right Staff

It’s key that you select trustworthy staff that you know will enforce the rules correctly, and people who you are sure won’t destroy the forum while you’re gone. It’s key that you don’t just pick a random member who joined three days ago to become moderator or administrator, because they could be irresponsible, hostile or just not up to the job. This also extends to “moderator recruitment” forums, from my experience you’ll get someone who stops visiting after a couple of days, and you’ll be left to start the process all over again. Instead, pick active, trustworthy people from the forums, and if you like, have a vote on who the community likes, and go from there. Be wary though, since if you don’t like the candidate the community has chosen, you may be left in a sticky situation!

The Right Structure

Make sure that your forum structure is clear, understandable and not too large. No-one wants to look through 40 forums to find the one they want, so just have the ones that are vital, and expand as you go along and as the community needs it. A 10 person forum doesn’t need 50 subforums, so try and strip it down to the basics. If you see any empty subforums, merge them into a different subforum when you can, to prevent your forum from looking too barren.

The Right Rules

It is of utmost importance that you select fair, effective rules that promote discussion while avoiding arguments. A forum I visited a few weeks ago had very poorly written rules, and poor moderation to accompany it, and many legitimate discussions were stopped due to these rules. If users feel that they’re being censored or edited unfairly by moderators, they will leave. Therefore, if you have to perform any moderation actions, it’s a good idea to give the user a brief PM telling them what’s happened and why – this will hopefully help you to establish a more friendly relationship with users as a helper, rather than a dictator. Remember though, if a user is bullying another or being offensive, do not stand for it, or other users who are being offended by that member may leave instead.

Conclusion

Promoting a forum is an extremely difficult balancing act, though it is achievable, and sites like ForumPromotion.net are extremely helpful in getting traffic to your site, since even if all of the above are perfect, in the end, you to reach out to people who are interested in your type of forum.


Note about the author

The author of this article was Aurora from int 0x10, a developer community with IRC and a forum, as well as a projects hosting site. If you have any further comments, please leave a reply to this blog post.

Making your Theme Shine Part 1: Customizing the Header

Most people do not have the time or funds to have a custom theme designed for their forum. Working with a designer is a long and expensive process, filled with revisions, errors, and a lot of waiting. A theme has to be designed from scratch, coded, and finally debugged to make sure that everything works. This process is important for large websites which can afford it, but for small ones which are just starting out, there is an easier way which can be just as effective. Continue reading