Forums or Mailing List?

okTurtles Forums Public Polls Forums or Mailing List?

This topic contains 11 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by  badon 4 years, 1 month ago.

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  • #692

    greg
    Keymaster

    These forums were neglected initially because running them requires HTTPS, but paying for SSL certificates would be hypocritical for this project (we're working on getting rid of that pay-for-security system, after all!).

    However, I stumbled upon StartSSL's free SSL certs (which most browsers accept), and installed one for these forums, so now running these forums with a third-party CA certificate is only like, 10% hypocritical(?), instead of 95% hypocritical. 😛

    So, let us know which community system you'd prefer! You don't need to register to vote!  ;D

    #839

    I prefer the web forum for easier navigation and accessibility of topic threads, although I do find email lists valuable for features such as distributed archiving and ability to participate with via smartphone email for example.

    Is there any web forum software that does a decent job of integrating both?

    #840

    greg
    Keymaster

    I prefer the web forum for easier navigation and accessibility of topic threads, although I do find email lists valuable for features such as distributed archiving and ability to participate with via smartphone email for example.

    Is there any web forum software that does a decent job of integrating both?

    Ironically, Google Groups is the best I've seen for doing that.

    It might be possible to do something with these forums though to get near that. For example, you can set your settings to have topic reply notification emails to contain the full text of the reply in them. And if you want distributed archiving, you could have those emails sent to one of the mailing list archivers out there.

    Ah, there actually is an interesting SMF mod for doing that here:

    http://custom.simplemachines.org/mods/index.php?mod=2843

    #841

    Ironically, Google Groups is the best I've seen for doing that.

    Google…ugh.

    The SMF mod looks promising, wonder how functional it is in practice.

    #842

    Unsystem is moving community discussion from an email list to a web forum which has an email integration feature

    #843

    Excellent choice to use BSD-licensed SMF as the okTurtles forum software. I use it on all the forums I admin. The leadership in the SMF community has a fair amount of drama, but nonetheless, SMF has always come out of it as the best choice for open source forum software. I've tried several of the best commercial forum softwares out there, and although they were good, they were not so easy to use and admin as SMF, which was a surprise for me.

    The focus on simplicity is why SMF has the edge over all other options. It's so simple that it can be used as the backend for a blog or other CMS-style web thingy. I also use it as a bug tracker and collaboration software too. It's really polished and bug-free, which makes it a good choice if you want to “go simple” and get back to the basics of what more specialized software doesn't do nearly as well. WordPress out, SMF in!

    For cases where I'm forced to use an obsolete mailing list, Nabble forum-izes it pretty well because the Nabble people think about the fundamentals behind a wide variety of online communications.

    Do you have the requisite anti-spam tools installed?

    #844

    greg
    Keymaster

    Excellent choice to use BSD-licensed SMF as the okTurtles forum software. I use it on all the forums I admin. The leadership in the SMF community has a fair amount of drama, but nonetheless, SMF has always come out of it as the best choice for open source forum software. I've tried several of the best commercial forum softwares out there, and although they were good, they were not so easy to use and admin as SMF, which was a surprise for me.

    The focus on simplicity is why SMF has the edge over all other options. It's so simple that it can be used as the backend for a blog or other CMS-style web thingy. I also use it as a bug tracker and collaboration software too. It's really polished and bug-free, which makes it a good choice if you want to “go simple” and get back to the basics of what more specialized software doesn't do nearly as well. WordPress out, SMF in!

    I agree wholeheartedly (except I do use WordPress for the blog :P). I switched to it after dealing with phpBB for several years and haven't looked back.

    Do you have the requisite anti-spam tools installed?

    Umm, I'm not sure, but the following combination has been working extremely well for me: Email activation + Written questions + Default captcha. Ironically, I'm guessing that the captcha does nothing, so it's mostly the first two.

    #845

    greg
    Keymaster

    Looks like the forums are a clear winner!  🙂

    6 votes for the forums, 1 for the mailing list, and 1 for both. Closing the poll for now.

    #846

    These are the 4 essential mods that every SMF forum I set up will have, in order of importance:

    1. Stop Spammer
    2. Google Translate for SMF 2.0
    3. Users Online Today Mod
    4. Customize 'Child board'

    Stop Spammer will keep almost all spammers out of the forum by checking if their IP address or email address has been reported previously. It is important to NOT filter by username, or legitimate users with very common usernames like “Mike” or “Spiderman” will be blocked. If you need help with configuring this, let me know.

    The Google Translate mod makes the forum very easy for people to use if English is not their first language, or they don't know any English at all. In some of the forums I admin, many users post and reply exclusively in a language besides English, and everyone can read and respond to their posts using the Google Translate mod.

    The Users Online Today Mod will show all the users that have been active in the past 24 hours. That has much bigger positive effect than I expected because it helps to build a sense of community, by showing that people you care about (want to bug for help…) are still active on the forum, even if the only thing they're doing is checking their PM's.

    The Customize 'Child board' mod lets you change the bizarre obsolete terminology “Child boards” to “Subforums”. The notion of a “board” comes from cork bulletin boards in public areas, and it's usage in computing dates back to the BBS (Bulletin Bourd System) era of the 1970's and 1980's. BBS's became obsolete in the 1990's when the internet replaced them and other “online services” like Prodigy and AOL (America Online). The notion of a “Child” as something other than a human child is reserved for linguists and computer scientists. Although it wouldn't be confusing for the tech-savvy earliest members of this forum (like us), when ordinary people join, they are always confused about what children have to do with the forum's subject matter.

    Another thing I always do to the forums is edit code to remove PM content from email notifications about new PM's. The most obvious reason why is because it confuses people into replying via email, which doesn't work with a forum. The devs of SMF still seem to be burdened by throwbacks to the old mailing list days when replying to a message typically worked, before forums replaced mailing lists for almost all online communication. In fact, the decline of IRC usage (and other group chat technologies) coincided with the release of high quality free forum software, mostly the predecessors of PHPBB.

    The biggest reason to not put PM content in email notifications is because it creates a privacy and security hole if the forum site is HTTPS. The most private kind of forum usage suddenly becomes public when the messages are blasted out onto the internet in cleartext. All sites I operate are forced to be 100% HTTPS, and I see this one supports it too.

    Now, back to IRC… Another thing you might want to would do is create a forum link to Freenode's #dnschain and #okturtles. I personally would not do that because forums are much better than chat, and even though some of the sites I admin were founded as chat groups, with “chat” somewhere in their names, but we eventually removed all references to chat because we got tired of answering the same questions over and over when a quick search on the forum would have been far more helpful.

    Some of the die-hards are still using chat, but I find that those people are the most tech-savvy, and the most important ones to be able to communicate with in near-real time. So, the forum kind of acts like a gigantic filter that serves the needs of tens of thousands of people, so you will have time to be able to focus real time chat attention on the discussions that benefit most from it.

    You might want to dump WordPress. I have, and I use SMF exclusively as the backend for blogging activities. I just create a forum for the blog, and allow people permissions to only reply posts from the blogger, and not be able to make their own new posts. You can easily present those forums in a manner that looks more like the list of blog posts that you typically see, but it's not necessary to bother with that. If you want help setting that up, I can point you in the right direction.

    #847

    A few other recommendations:

    Changing the time for showing users online from 15 minutes to 90 minutes. It can take more than 15 minutes just to catch up on reading the latest posts, especially if they have links to peruse. From my experience, a 90 minute window of time more accurately reflects who is active. Only gargantuan forums with thousands of active users have a problem with that being too long, and I find the 90 minute time is a happy medium for small and modestly large forums.

    Please put a forum link to the main okTurtles site. A good example of what I mean is the forum link here:

    https://forum.coincompendium.com/index.php

    It's just a forum that forwards to a URL, so you create it just like you would any other forum, except you can leave most fields unchanged and just give it a name, URL, and check the box to make it forward.

    #848

    greg
    Keymaster

    Wow! O_O

    badon you are amazing!

    Thank you so much for those mod suggestions and sharing your overall wisdom on the topic. Clearly you know your stuff. 🙂

    I generally try to install as few mods as I feel are necessary because problems tend to crop up with the more mods you install (had to deal with a conflict today actually).

    Especially annoying is if you install a new language in the board after installing the mods. I did that today when I installed en-UTF8 here (don't know why that's not the default). If you do, you should click “uninstall” on all the mods you have and see if they show that they can be successfully installed. For those that fail because they weren't able to modify the language when they were installed, force uninstall and re-install them.

    I'll give the “Stop Spammer” one a shot if I notice any spam on the boards. I haven't needed it yet for a much larger board.

    I tried the Google translate mod but it was quite finicky and didn't show any languages:

    gtmod.jpg

    Here are the mods that I'm using (and recommend):

    I also wish there was a mod that let you write posts in Markdown…

    Another thing I always do to the forums is edit code to remove PM content from email notifications about new PM's. The most obvious reason why is because it confuses people into replying via email, which doesn't work with a forum. The devs of SMF still seem to be burdened by throwbacks to the old mailing list days when replying to a message typically worked, before forums replaced mailing lists for almost all online communication. In fact, the decline of IRC usage (and other group chat technologies) coincided with the release of high quality free forum software, mostly the predecessors of PHPBB.

    The biggest reason to not put PM content in email notifications is because it creates a privacy and security hole if the forum site is HTTPS. The most private kind of forum usage suddenly becomes public when the messages are blasted out onto the internet in cleartext. All sites I operate are forced to be 100% HTTPS, and I see this one supports it too.

    Ah, I would very much like that actually. Do you think you could turn that into a mod? So many others would benefit from it too. 🙂

    You might want to dump WordPress. I have, and I use SMF exclusively as the backend for blogging activities. I just create a forum for the blog, and allow people permissions to only reply posts from the blogger, and not be able to make their own new posts. You can easily present those forums in a manner that looks more like the list of blog posts that you typically see, but it's not necessary to bother with that. If you want help setting that up, I can point you in the right direction.

    Thanks! If I ever grow tired of it I might explore that path. So far it's working nicely though.

    Changing the time for showing users online from 15 minutes to 90 minutes.

    Done!

    Please put a forum link to the main okTurtles site.

    Done!

    Thanks very much for your help! You've made these boards much better.  😀

    #849

    If I remember correctly, we decided against the Bad Behavior mod because the database it uses was less reliable than the the Stop Forum Spam database that the Stop Spammer mod uses. Specifically, I think the Bad Behavior mod was blocking legitimate automated tools, as well as legitimate users with unusual systems (like using Tor or other proxy). Automated spam has never been posted on any of our forums in many years. The only ones that get through sometimes are manual spammers.

    We also use Incapsula's firewall that blocks known bad systems, but that's mostly to prevent hackers from probing our sites for vulnerabilities, so I'm not sure Incapsula contributes much to stopping spammers, because Stop Forum Spam is very effective.

    The YouTube embedder is handy, but since I'm an admin, I don't actually need it to embed HTML, so we never installed it.

    Global Headers Footers, and ENotify might end up getting installed our forums, thanks for telling me about those.

    For removing PM text from notification emails, that really ought to be done by default in SMF. Plus, it's so easy to manually fix it with a code edit that no one has bothered to make a mod for it yet. Instructions are at the SMF forum in many places. I've never made an SMF mod, and I think we would do more more good by harassing the SMF devs to be more security conscious and stop sending PM's out over email. Making a mod would tend to dull the roar of people complaining about it. We need more complaining about that problem, not less.

    I'm not sure why the Google Translate mod didn't work for you. I'd have to investigate in more detail to find out why, but I suspect it might have something to do with mixed HTTP and HTTPS content. Also, we chose a different format of the translation widget, so maybe the format you tried to use was one that doesn't work, or something like that.

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