Tag Archives: software

Forumotion Review

Alas, I have decided to start my own forum. I started looking into the host of new free forum services that are up for the grab – Forumotion, ZetaBoards, ProBoards are just to name a few of them. I am still confused which service I will utilize, so I decided to review all the available forum platforms. I chose Forumotion first because it looked popular and promising in the first glance. Here are my findings:

Forumotion is a free forum software service that lets you build your community in four different software – which include phpBB2, phpBB3, punBB and Invision. Forumotion lets you switch the available forum platforms any time the webmaster wishes. The transition from one platform to the other is smooth and takes less than 5 minutes with no loss of posts, topics, members or their information.

Styles and designs: While using Forumotion, you have two ways to add styles to your forum. You can either style it yourselves from any of the base themes or the default ones or you can use a preset design that is available for free from hitskin.com. Many of the themes on hitskin are very poor but with certain modifications, it is good to go. The good thing about Forumotion ACP is that you can format the CSS sheets through the control panel and create an entirely new theme for your forum alone. Submitting them to hitskin is optional, but once you do, the theme becomes the property of Forumotion after one month.

Hosting and domains: Forumotion is hosted by a range of powerful servers that there is hardly any downtime. In the rare event that there is one, its will be notified earlier- with complete details including the time interval, the reason for downtime and any expected loss of data. In my 2.5 years with Forumotion, I didn’t experience any downtime. They also let you have personalized domain names (which has to be either purchased through Forumotion itself or has to be obtained through the giveaway) and personalized email addresses. Domains purchased through Forumotion cannot be transferred to a third party domain registrar. In case you want to do it, you will have to wait until the domain expires and you complete a 60 days waiting period for that domain to appear in the ‘available domain index’. Though prices are comparable to popular domain providers, not having complete control over it makes it very less worthwhile. In that case, my advice will be to purchase your domain from a third party registrar and redirect to your Forumotion domain.

Advertisements: The free forum service comes with advertisements. The advertisements are placed just under the main banner of the forum (one per page) with administrators being given the option of either forcing it on guests and members or paying Forumotion for the removal of advertisements. In addition to this, another optional section on ‘sponsored content’ (a sponsored advertisement appears in the topic body either just after the first post or before the last post that is displayed in that page) are also in the works. But thankfully, this can be disabled or enabled at the discretion of the webmaster. Similarly, the Forumotion ACP allows you to connect your community to Google Analytics that gives you detailed analytical reports regarding the traffic that comes into your community.

Database: You don’t have to worry about the database getting too big. Forumotion provides a maximum capacity of 4 billion posts and 4 billion topics per forum with virtually no restriction on the number of members. You don’t have to worry about backing up your data and other security issues because Forumotion handles all that. However, you are not permitted to keep the database of your community and under no circumstances will this be given to you – no matter how much you are willing to pay. So if you think that your community has grown big enough and Forumotion is ill-equipped to cater to the needs of your community and that you require to move to a different host – bad luck – You have to start from the scratch.

Forum and social media integration: Forumotion is another free host that understands the evolving needs of the people. In their quest to appear social media friendly, they have various social media integration tools that are linked with Facebook, Google+ and Twitter. You also have the option of enabling a ‘Like’ button or ‘Tweet’ button or ‘mobile sharing’ feature which lets your members share their favorite content to their social media handles without moving away from the forum. Along with this, Forumotion has an integrated chat and gallery function. The chat, more like a shout box, is neat and user friendly but cannot be customized.

Support: The support forums are the perfect stop for all the FAQs, queries and new tricks and tips to make your forum more suited to the expanding needs of your community. Their tips and tricks section is a galore of customization methods, most of which, webmasters will have to use on their forum. However, the support forum is severely understaffed resulting in delay in answering your queries. Added to this, like the staff on most of the free support forums, they are not very friendly and pleasing to actually involve in a conversation. The support forum also has a section for forum reviews and graphic requests. Most often, hardly 10% of the requests are completed effectively and the others are turned away with the age old excuse of the support team being a volunteer staff group.

Security: As far as the security of the database is concerned, if you, as a webmaster, can prevent suspicious entry through your administrator account, all your data is safe and fully backed up. In case something goes wrong, you will have to access the utilities section, log into your founder account and restore your community with a previous backup. As long as you are able to strengthen your administration password, security is pretty decent.

Additional features: At Forumotion, they provide you with a lot of additional features including the possibility of adding fully customizable HTML pages and JavaScript on to your forum. Though in the past, users have questioned the security vulnerabilities that come along with adding HTML pages on to your forum, it seems to be the most used feature in Forumotion forums. Other additional features include – a photo gallery, integrated classified ads section, mention and keywords notification center and newsletters. And for those roleplayers out there – a beautiful dice rolling module with a character sheet management center.

Conclusion

Pros

1. Feature packed administration control panel
2. Extremely user friendly

Cons

1. Database cannot be transferred to the webmaster under any circumstances
2. Poor support

phpBB review – Slowly Becoming One of the Best

phpBB review – Slowly Becoming One of the Best

Disclaimer: I haven’t used phpBB in a long while so I decided to use the phpBB demo offered on phpBB.com. This gave me access to my own forum and its ACP for a while.

There was always something about phpBB that I liked, I’m still not sure whether it was the way that it’s structured or simply the way it looks. It might just be something to do with it being the first forum software that I came across. I feel like phpBB has come a long way since I first used it. The admin control panel feels a lot easier to navigate and so far I’ve had no trouble installing a new theme. All seems to be going well for me so far. Now it’s time for me to give phpBB another go after spending so much time with MyBB.

My biggest pet peeve with phpBB was the difficulty of adding plugins (or extensions as they are called on phpBB). Back then I knew about another extension called autoMOD which was meant to make installing other extensions a lot easier and automated. No matter how many tutorials I read I could never get the autoMOD extension to work at all. And that of course meant that other extensions were also a difficulty for me to install onto my forum. Another issue I had with the old phpBB was that for some reason importing a style (theme) onto my forum always caused errors. I would love to be able to see these errors now as I’m a lot more knowledgeable about these types of things and could work out if it was something I was doing that was causing an error. These two problems were the main reason I ended up going to MyBB. In my opinion I think MyBB has always been more popular especially with users that have never hosted their own forums or users that have never administrated a forum before. MyBB is just so simple while phpBB was always considered as being a bit problematic and a lot more advanced.

The first thing I tried to do with my installation of phpBB was import a new theme. Easy. I’d even go as far as saying it’s easier than MyBB. All that is required is uploading a file containing everything for the theme to a “Styles” folder and then you import it from the phpBB admin control panel. That’s literally it. Of course I haven’t tried/have no clue about how I can edit templates as I couldn’t seem to find it anywhere in my admin control panel. MyBB has always had an extremely easy template editor so it would have been nice to compare the two and see which comes out on top.

Next I went ahead and read an installation guide on how to install an extension for a phpBB powered forum. Easy. From what I can remember in the older phpBB versions it was quite complicated and required some template edits as well but that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. A simple upload of the files to the web directory and then activation of the extension is the only steps required. A quick browse through both the phpBB extensions directory and Google shows a wide choice of extensions available for almost everything that a basic forum would need such as a points system etc. Another great thing that stands out for me is the notifications feature that comes straight out of the box. I know it’s a basic and simple feature. But most forums tend to have a notifications feature but with MyBB that requires a separate plugin.

However there was one thing that disappointed me. There is a real lack of free themes for phpBB 3.1. Considering it came out around October 2014, the fact that there are only 31 free themes for this version of the software is extremely disappointing. And personally, out of those 31 themes only 1 comes even close to even being used. The rest were bland, old and just plain boring. Compare this to MyBB which has hundreds of themes both on the MyBB site and around the web and you realise that phpBB is quite far behind from ever catching up to MyBB. If you want a proper theme then you will have to dish out around $17 for a premium phpBB theme. I have seen some great modern looking themes available on ThemeForest although the fact that there are only around 10 premium themes mean that most likely most forums powered by phpBB will have similar themes that you’ve seen before. Another issue that I noticed with phpBB is a lack of support around the web. Apart from the phpBB community I haven’t really come across any places that have experienced users that are able to help other users with any phpBB problems that they may be having. I’m sure there are some forums out there that concentrate on phpBB support but personally I haven’t come across any that stand out. No matter where you look, you will always seem to find someone on any forum that has some sort of experience with MyBB and can help you out. The same cannot really be said for phpBB.

phpBB is a great forum software. It always has been behind MyBB in terms of ease of use, functions and extensibility. But it is growing and recent updates have brought some great functions and improved the software overall. This should hopefully make phpBB a more attractive software to beginners and experienced webmasters. Of course a few things still need to be improved, the lack of proper free themes for phpBB 3.1x is a real turnoff. However, I will definitely be trying out phpBB more thoroughly after this experience as I feel like it is much improved since I last used it as a forum administrator.

ProBoards – Best Free Forum Host

ProBoards – Best Free Forum Host

What is ProBoards? ProBoards is one of the leading free forum hosts on the Web; they have over 2 million customers. Of all of the free forum hosts on the Web, ProBoards is, by far, the best free forum host! ProBoards is the best free forum host because of their customer service, easily customizable forum software and easy administration.

Customer Service

When you try a new software for the first time, majority of the time you have absolutely no idea what you are doing. You have a lot of questions and you want answers quickly. ProBoards Support, ProBoards’ Support Forum, is an amazing resource to get help with your forums. The customer service provided by both the members and staff team of ProBoards Support is both fast and accurate.

ProBoards administrators/creators tend to the support forums seven days a week excluding major holidays. Aside from the administration team, a select few members that were hand-picked for global moderation and support also tend to the support forum. Between the various staff team members and regular members who are knowledgeable about ProBoards form software, all of your questions can and will be answered.

Aside from general Proboards software related issues, the staff and members of the support forum help users with customizing their own ProBoards forums. A lot of the staff and members have created a variety of quality plugins, template modifications and themes that are all free to use. They will even help you with graphic designs if you need it.

Easy Customization

ProBoards forum software is fairly easy to customize, as opposed to many other types of forum software. If you do not have experience with HTML and CSS, ProBoards offers a theme generator directly through the admin control panel. Another option, for those who are inexperienced, is to browse the theme library and install themes directly to your ProBoards forum with a simple click of a button. There are hundreds of quality themes available. For those that are knowledgeable of HTML and CSS, the UI for editing your codes is very user-friendly and easy to use. When modifying templates, there are tons of short codes to help you on your way.

Template modifications, which change the way certain parts of your forum look, can be found on the ProBoards Support Forum. There is a relatively large database of template mods that users can choose from. You can change the way your info center looks as well as the information that is displayed there. You can change the layout of how your different boards are displayed, user profiles and mini profiles, and so much more. All of the template modifications come with written instructions to make it easier for the inexperienced to be able to add them to their forums. Both members and staff members of ProBoards support create template modifications that are free for forum owners to use.

Aside from themes and template modifications, you can also customize your forum with plugins. There are over a hundred different plugins available to forum owners and the amount increases daily. There are plugins for forum currency and a shop to purchase items with that forum currency, google analytics, posting templates, and a whole lot more. As with themes, plugins can be installed directly from the plugin library to your forum with a simple click of a button.

With the built in theme generator and/or vast quantity of quality themes, plugins, and template modifications available, ProBoards is very easy to customize. Other forum software, such as myBB, does not offer the same type of support or theme customization options as ProBoards does. In my experience, ProBoards is the easiest forum software to customize as I’ve used other software such as myBB, phpBB, vBulletin, and others.

Easy Administration

The admin control panel for ProBoards software is user-friendly and exceptionally easy to use. See the image below:

Each menu item at the top of the ACP will grant a drop down menu for easy navigation to administrative settings. With ProBoards, there are many settings that you can change and customize. You can have unlimited user groups and user ranks, you can create custom pages to give your forum a website feel, and you can upgrade your forum to ad free for reasonable prices based on page views. All forum customization and administration can be done through the admin control panel.

Aside from the easy, user-friendly UI, a lot of the admin options that you edit automatically save for you. This is a great feature if you forget to save your work as you will not lose all the work you have done. The only exception to this is when you are editing code directly.

All in all, in my opinion, ProBoards is the best free forum host on the web. If you have never created a free forum with ProBoards, I highly recommend that you do so; this way you can try out the many different features on your own. If you are not a fan of ProBoards, I recommend that you give it another try. With the release of V5 Hydra, options are limitless and I’m certain you will find that you like it a lot more than you did before.

Interview with Kier @ XenForo

This article was first posted on our blog on 19/09/2010. For this reason, the information may be outdated and no longer reliable/correct.


On behalf of forumpromotion.net, I have had the pleasure to interview Kier – one of the most talented forum software developers in the world – about his brand new software which has smashed the current commercial forum software market, with just a preview of the first Alpha of XenForo.

Thank you so much Kier, also considering the huge workload you have on you at the moment.

What inspired you to create a new forum software?
There has been a trend in recent years for forum software to diversify and add more and more features while allowing the core functionality to stagnate. The fundamental basics of forum software needed to be brought up-to-date, to bring it inline with peoples’ expectations of today’s web applications. [more] We believe that our new software, XenForo, has the capacity to reinvigourate communities by allowing them to rediscover the simple pleasure of posting messages though a polished, modern interface.

We’ve focused on a modern UI and engaging features to keep visitors on your site for longer, and to inspire them to return. By building on top of our new application framework, we are to develop very quickly and reliably, and in turn modification authors will enjoy the same benefits when plugging-in their own functionality.

How do you think XenForo compares to rival softwares such as vBulletin or IPB?
That’s a somewhat difficult comparison. Both IPB and vBulletin have a big head-start on us in terms of the range of features they have built-in over their years of development. On the other hand, by virtue of being completely new, XenForo has the advantage of being designed for the way people want to use the internet today, rather than being encumbered with legacy functionality that was designed for a market that existed ten years ago.

XenForo seems like a healthy mix between vBulletin and IPB – was this intentional?
We haven’t gone out of our way to copy either, though by virtue of being a forum system we obviously share our core functionality.

Starting out on our own has required that we work very quickly and concentrate on what we consider to be the most important and valuable functionality. In a number of cases, we have looked at features that have been built in previous years and decided to drop those features as irrelevant to the market in 2010, or to merge several features together to make an overall more useful system.

What are your thoughts on vBulletin 4 and Internet Brand’s development on the product?
It’s no secret that my team and I were committed to a complete rewrite of the vBulletin code for version four and were waiting to get started on it since the release of vBulletin 3.6. Internet Brands management believed that the rewrite would take too long, favouring instead an approach that kept the 3.x code in place, which they believed would result in a product being brought to market sooner. Who can say what the situation would have been like today had the chosen approach been different.

Would you say you have learnt from vBulletin 4’s mistakes?
Absolutely. It’s been an education.

How easy will it be to convert our current forums to XenForo?
We don’t have a convertor for phpBB yet – given our background, a vBulletin converter was our highest priority, but I can say that the importer does a good job of matching up data from vBulletin with the corresponding XenForo fields. It also has two additional features which should make the import go as smoothly as possible.

Firstly, although XenForo has its own method for storing passwords that differs from that used in vBulletin, and IPB etc., XenForoo has the ability to specify a different authentication scheme on a per-user basis. Therefore, if we import a bunch of users from another system, we can store their passwords as they were stored in the imported application, and then use the authentication method of that system to verify them when the user attempts to log in to XenForo. As a result, users need not lose their passwords when being migrated to XenForo.

Secondly, we have a script that can pretend to be the old application, and 301-redirect requests for content on the old forum to its new location in XenForo. This means that visitors arriving at your forum via search engines or bookmarks will not find themselves at a dead page, and should help to preserve page rank for the content in question.

How easy will XenForo be to style and mod for?
The styling system has been one of our highest priorities, as making styling as easy as possible for novices while not getting in the way of experts is a guiding principle. There is a lot to talk about, and we will soon be doing a Have you seen… post describing some of the things customers can expect in version one.

XenForo is built on very solid MVC principles. I have already built three applications on top of the framework for my own personal purposes, and creating them was a joy. Although working with fully object oriented code is definitely a step up from the procedural scripts that some plugin authors may be used to, I think that with a little user education on our part and a willingness to try out new things on the part of the community, we will see some truly great add-ons of a quality not seen before emerge from the community. We already have the support of a number of highly influential developers from the modification communities of other forum software – they say they can’t wait to get stuck into XenForo.

Where do you see XenForo in a years time?
Within a year, XenForo will have certainly seen its first major version release and may even have seen its second or third, depending on how quickly we iterate and the nature of the new features and API changes we develop.

We hope to have a significant number of licensees running successful sites, both those who have migrated from other forum software, and brand new communities. We expect to see some very interesting things coming out of the modification community as those developers who are using the system to its fullest introduce the fruits of their labours.

In terms of the core product, We expect it to retain its ease of use and focus on user experience and quality features as we extend the scope of its functionality. We certainly don’t want to clutter the intuitive and graceful user interface with controls and icons and gadgets for infrequently-used functionality. A prerequisite of a feature making it into XenForo is that it must have a great UI and be pleasurable to use.

Could you give us a clue as to how the pricing details will be?
XenForo will be priced competitively with the leading commercial bulletin board solutions. The exact prices will be announced when they are finalized, but right now our priority is the software not the finances.

What methods should new webmasters use to promote their forum?
The same guidelines apply to running a site and promoting it as apply to writing good software. Keep your focus narrow and concentrate on doing a few things really well rather than spreading yourself too thinly and doing a lot of things in a mediocre fashion. Engage with and foster your enthusiasts, and they will do your promotion for you.

Will you be implementing a CMS, or blog system later on?
Given the demand that has been shown on our forums, I would have to say yes, I expect that there will be. The difficulty with a CMS in particular is pinning down exactly what people really want. The definitions of ‘CMS’ as far as customer expectations seem to range from a simple article publisher to a tool that would allow you to build your own Amazon.com with a point-and-click interface. For the time being, our focus is on the forum functionality and ensuring that it provides best-in-class performance and user experience. Once we have nailed that, we will start looking at branching out.

Congratulations on creating such a marvelous piece of software. I can see already the huge potential in this. Thanks for the interview. :)

Thank you very much, and thanks to all the people posting on XenForo and making it such an engaging place to be right now. We are looking forward to once again our software running on sites all over web once XenForo goes on sale.

Want to see it for yourself? See XenForo for yourself here – http://xenforo.com/community/

Staying On Dry Land – Why You Shouldn’t Null Your Scripts

So, you want to start a website and have picked out the software/script you’re going to use. You’ve purchased your hosting and you’ve got your perfect domain name that you wanted to use. The only issue is that you don’t have the money to pay for the script that you really want but the question is, should you download a nulled/pirated version of it?

For me, the simple answer is no. There’s a few reasons for this, and I’ll go over them with you. Firstly if you null software you don’t get the mass amount of support, possible feature loss, plugin support and the use of the community forums in some parts. This to me is a big deal. Without the support of the developers, plugin developers and official community, if something goes wrong then I’d find it fairly hard to fix and if you’re a beginner you’ll also find it very hard to try to solve on your own.

As well as this, the lack of features and out-dated script version is also another big concern for me and is possibly one of the biggest reasons why I don’t use null scripts (apart from it being illegal). With out of date scripts and plugins it means that there’s a chance that your site is more vulnerable to hacks, that can possibly damage and destroy everything you’ve done up until this point.

With most nulled scripts today the source code has been modified and altered to allow the script/software to run perfectly, which this in itself could be an issue. Unless you know how to code and are willing to spend the time looking through the entire code for anything malicious or linking to another site. Not checking could easily make your members more vulnerable without you knowing and can possibly infect them from simply nulling a piece of software or a script.

Also, with the use of null detection and licencing, current software/script owners are fairly good at being able to tell if a script has been nulled or illegally used, this means that you could be facing a DMCA notice, a fine and some jail time, depending on the offense. As well as that your sites credibility will go down the drain, and members might leave to find somewhere else.

The only issue here is people claiming that it’s too expensive to pay for scripts costing well in the $2xx mark and beyond. The best advice that I could offer here is simple, try to find a free alternative or code your own. You’ll feel a lot better from using free scripts and software, not to mention that you get full support from the community, effective updates and most of the features on paid software can be found on free alternatives. Your members will easily respect you for using free software/scripts over nulled and will probably think better of you for doing so. Keeping nulled scripts and software off your site is hard when you know you can get it for free, but in the long run I don’t think it’s worth the risks to use them.

So, do you believe in nulling software, have you ever used any nulled software or a script and do you plan on paying for it in the near future? Do you dislike people who use nulled scripts and do you know anyone that uses nuled scripts? We’d love to know what your thoughts are.