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PHPBB2: All It Can Be?

Please allow me to start off and say that I am very happy to run PHP software on my computer. Specifically, the bulletin boards developed by PHPBB2 [an open source program] works head and shoulders above the EZBoard system I gave up on several months earlier. Still, it has its own special challenges that only a regular user or administrator can appreciate. If you are considering starting your own message board community please read on for some homespun advice on how to make PHPBB2 work best for you. On Memorial Day 2005 I had a rude awakening. Although a national holiday here in the U.

I was taking advantage of that day to catch up on some much needed behind the scenes work. You see, when you work for yourself a holiday just isn’t the same thing. It ends up being a day where your phone isn’t likely to ring all that much, thereby making it a better opportunity to catch up on all the little niggling details of operating a business, like paying bills and bookkeeping. Okay, I digress.

What happened on that special day was the total overthrow of the EZBoard message board system. Hackers, so EZBoard claimed, infiltrated their entire system and brought down the house. Literally overnight thousands of boards were affected and compromised. Now for the rub: forum managers, myself included, had no power to back up their sites. Thus, what was lost was likely lost for good or would take many weeks to restore from pasted together backups. We depended on EZBoard for our back ups and when their system failed we all suffered. So then the decision was made for me. I downloaded PHPBB2 software a few days later and immediately went to work. As open source programs go the PHPBB2 software was free and the instructions were quite good. Fortunately for me the two sites that I planned to set up, the Aviation Employment Board and the Corporate Flight Attendant Community, already had separate web pages hosted with a company that could support a database.

This particular MySQL database would essentially power the site and house important stuff including all the member information. Fortunately those who have been working on building, maintaining, and promoting PHPBB have a copious amount of detailed information accessible right online and available for viewing and/or downloading. Personally, the biggest help to me were the excellently made Flash videos that helped walk me through the installation process. Without them in place, I doubt I would have figured it all out. Truly, in this case, a picture is worth a thousand words each! In addition to the software itself, PHPBB2 also offers a separate file to help speed the process conversion process from EZBoard to PHPBB2. This EZBoard converter takes messages from the old board and transfers them to the new board. Unfortunately, it was only partially successful which could have been due to the hacked nature of the EZBoard site. Still, what I was able to move over was helpful, but it did not include member files as that bit of necessary information was under EZBoard’s lock and key. By the time I downloaded everything, followed all the instructions, converted what I could from EZBoard, laid out the new site, and made some additional design changes, approximately eight hours had flown past. At the end of that time a useful and functioning board was in place.

The next day I contacted all my current EZBoard members and told them about the switch and put notices on the old site about the change. Most of my members were very understanding as they realized that the switch had to be made. Without exception PHPBB2 has been a big improvement. Still, it could use some refining and, happily, many of those refinements are routinely accomplished within regular updates of the software or via preselected “mods” that a forum manager can select. Without belaboring the point here are some things that I have observed about PHPBB2 that are helpful to know about before going with the software: Limited Support There is a lot of information right online to read and there are forums moderated by volunteers. At the same time the moderators are stretched very thin and sometimes their responses border on the irritated. Of course, that could have something to do with all the N00B questions, many of which are answered somewhere on the site. My recommendation is that you spend plenty of time reading before posting a question. Study the forum for similar questions asked and answers given. Difficult Updates Get on the forum managers mailing list to ensure that you receive notification of each update as they are made.

Some updates are simple while others are more difficult. If you make any modifications to your site then only a “patch” update is necessary while everyone else will select “changed files only.” If you select “changed files only” and you have some mods installed, you risk losing all of your mods. Let’s just say that already has happened to me once! AOL Quirks Some members have difficulty signing up, especially AOL account holders. It seems to be that the confirmation code doesn’t always show up when members register [you don’t need to have it enabled, but it does put a halt to rogue registrants] and sometimes AOL users get booted when logged on. A little thing called “sessions” monitors everyone’s visits by examining their I. address for a match. Of course, AOL scrambles I.


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