If you have ever wanted to add a forum to your community, but found the task daunting, or didn't even know where to start, this is the guide for you. I will show you what software to use, where to get it, and how to set it up. This is a guide for people comfortable with computers, so I will NOT show you how to use FTP, your webhosts control panel, or phpMyAdmin. This guide assumes you have a webhost with PHP 4.3 or better (I recommend PHP5), MySQL4 or better, storage space, and FTP. You will also need a better text editor than notepad or whatever came with your system, so I recommend Notedpad++.
Forums are a great way for a community to interact. They allow for open discussion in a medium almost everyone is familiar with, without having to learn new elements or tricks. Their basic interface is very similar to email, only instead of providing a recipient, you post a message to a website. Others can come along and leave comments and feedback to your message. You use Newsvine, so you use a forum of one type already!
Most forum views are linear, as is Newsvine. That means that on the forum, there are topics, and each topic has the replies stacked one on top of another, oldest being first (the oldest is generally the beginning of the topic). There are some alternate views, called threaded, that are like many email client, in which each reply has to be loaded separately, but these are generally frowned upon, because they are hard to use, and considered 90's technology.
There are many forum tools out there. The most common free ones are phpBB and SMF. I do not like either of these, mainly because they are slow, have mediocre features, and in some cases insecure. The most common forums you have to pay for are Invision Power Board and vBulletin. These are both very powerful, much more than phpBB or SMF, but will cost you upwards of $100. I have found a forum software that offers most of the features the pay forum software offers, while still being free. This is a relatively new competitor to the forums field, and is well developed, so it is fairly secure. This is MyBB. In addition to all the features the other 2 free forums software offers, MyBB offers an administration interface similar to that of vBulletin or IPB, and has advanced, ajax based moderation tools, so editing and deleting posts is really quite easy.
As I mentioned in the leading paragraph, you need a webhost to run forums. While many hosts offer various packages with PHP and MySQL, the best one I have found so far is Site5. They give you quite a bit for a very low amount of money ($5 a month). I was introduced to them by a fellow 'viner.
Installation of forums software is fairly easy, but it doesn't come with a do everything installer, you have to do somethings yourself. You will need an FTP client, and need to know how to use it.
Download and Upload
Download the latest version of MyBB from their downloads page. This will come in a .zip file, so you will need to extract the file. Extract the file to a folder on your computer, and then launch your FTP client. Navigate to the directory where you want your forum software to reside. If you are adding a forum to a site, a good directory is /forum. If you are making a forum only site, then you might want to use the root directory. Take the contents of the folder on your local machine you unzipped MyBB to, and upload it to your selected directory on the server. Uploading should take a while, depending on your internet connection. When the files are uploaded, you will need to chmod a few folders and files, for your forum to work. You will need to change the following folders (read your FTP software documentation if you don't know how to do this).
Now that you have CHMODed the various files required for setup, you can run the installer. Navigate to your website, and you should receive a message redirecting you to the installer. If you don't, append
/install to the end of the URL in which your forum is located. The installer should load up, and guide you through the process of installation. Fill out each field appropriately, and soon you will have a forum up and running.
The installer will likely tell you to delete and CHMOD some files at the end of its process. It knows what its talking about, so follow what it says to do.
When you have your forum fully installed, now you can begin customizing it. First, you need to log into the forum. Provide it with the username and password you provided during the installer, and when you are logged in, click on the Admin CP link. This will take you to the admin panel, where you can set up forums, moderators, user permissions, and all kinds of other features. Spend some time browsing through all the various options there, they all can come in useful. The better you customize your forum, the more people will like and use it.
Extensions and Themes
MyBB is fully functional out of the box, but if you want to add more to it, there is nothing stopping you. You can modify the code any way you please, or get pre made themes and extensions to add or change features. To get extensions, visit the extension website here
You can provide an amazing forum site, but it is the users who make a site work. Don't be too harsh in administrating and moderating your users. Allow your community to grow, and over time you will get big and successful.
© 2008 Paradox Designs.
Paradox460 is accomplished in many things, including web design. He sets up many communities for many people, and if you need help with one of yours, he may be able to help.
This was created for the How2 Group, but you can use it for whatever you want. Just dont claim its yours.