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Phorum 5.3 Proposition - $300 donation

Posted by Voltius 
Phorum 5.3 Proposition - $300 donation
December 02, 2011 09:54AM
First, I want to thank the developers for Phorum, which I've used in 5-6 projects (most un-launched, others sunsetted) in the last 3 years. My projects might have failed but Phorum itself (aside from 3 very needed features) has held up amazingly and has been fantastic to work with. This is by far the EASIEST forum software to work with because it's:

- Secure, simple, and easy to expand
- Easy to customize
- Not releasing updates every other month.
- held together by tight knit developers who care about the long term success of Phorum.

Working with PHPBB and vBulletin in the past, I wanted to cry (literally) every time there was an update because it meant all your hard work went down the drain customization wise. Even without the update nightmares, vBulletin itself has the worst case of feature-itis I've ever seen. Useless features are everywhere, the templating system is a nightmare, every div on the page, it seems, has it's own 2 page long template. Rather than focus on a few important features that add value to vBulletin the developers have crammed it full of EVERY feature imaginable.

I LOVE the fact that Phorum is tiny, simple, and any extra features you want can be added on as mods. I love that Phorum doesn't have an emergency security patch or upgrade every few months like vbulletin. What a pain in the ass. I literally have a $160 vBulletin license sitting unused for 7 years now because I refuse to work with that monstrosity.

However, Phorum is missing a few key things I've always wished it had since the beginning. And in the coming months I am going to need phorum heavily for the web startups I'm getting into (Take Remake, VGReviews, Opinians, TimeforZen, TheBestCalendarEver, MinistryOfEarth, ChurchInTheStars), and am going to invest heavily in Phorum mods.

As a UI / UX designer, there's 4 adjustments that I've always wanted to be made to Phorum that I think would benefit it and the community greatly without stepping on Phorum's vision (lightweight, minimal, simple, fast).

  1. Allow guests to report posts. I HAVE seen this on another Phorum board. I lost the link but I have seen it work in person, I was demo'ing other Phorum boards and saw that someone had a custom board that allowed guests and visitors to report posts.
  2. Allow the disabling of confirmation screens. "Post deleted", "Message Posted Successfully", and other confirmation messages are just another un-needed screen. Now-a-days every second counts, 2 seconds is too long, and for moderators, admin, and regular users that spend hours on a board these messages get really annoying. There should be a way to disable them completely.
  3. Fix redirects after altering posts. After deleting post "#29" inside of a thread "A" I should be taken back inside thread "A", NOT redirected back to the forum that holds thread A. I feel this is extremely incorrect user flow. It incorrectly assumes that the moderator is DONE inside thread A when really, the moderator might have much more work to do.
  4. Have a built in way to sort posts: Alphabetically, by Post Count, by View Count. THIS would really help a lot. I believe it's a feature vital to running a useful message board.
    - Take Phorum's collection of Mods for example. They're sorted by "last post" so they're all over the place and their order is constantly changing. It shouldn't be that way, they could be sorted alphabetically so it's easy to find mods by name.
    - By allowing posts to be sorted alphabetically, administrators can easily add a simple file-repo system into Phorums where creative or business communities can download files and templates more easily. All by simply creating a forum called "Templates" or "Files" and setting the default sort order to Alphabetical
    - By allowing posts to be sorted by view count, an FAQ system can easily be added to a Phorum installation by creating a forum called "FAQ" and setting the default sort order to view count. That way the most viewed questions show up at the top.

    One feature can make such a HUGE difference.

    - Currently there is NO open source + mysql alternative to / If you want your users to up-vote and down-vote ideas and feedback you are forced to pay $20 bucks a month for proprietary services. The closest thing to these voting communities is but it has been abandoned for a while now and only works with Postgres and requires a Drupal (yuck) installation. Phorum can easily take care of this by having the rate this thread mod installed and sorting the threads in a forum by rating.

    You see: Feedback + Support + FAQs + Forums naturally belong together in a bulletin board system. Not a separate system with separate logins for each. The ability to sort threads is I think the most important. It would add new capabilities to Phorum that I think would be extremely useful and easy to set up.

I've asked for mods of these features in the past but found out that these features would require hacks and those can get messy and break during updates. So I have a proposal. Can I pay to sponsor these features? I would gladly donate $300 towards Phorum development (despite being on unemployment currently) if the next Phorum update included these features. It would help tremendously with every single future project I have involving Phorum.

Chris Norstrom
User Experience / User Interface Designer / Wantrepreneur

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/02/2011 10:16AM by Voltius.
Re: Phorum 5.3 Proposition - $300 donation
December 02, 2011 10:59AM
Thanks for your ideas.

Just my own opinion on this:
1-3 are possible to do without too much effort.
4 is a fully different beast though. This will be a big overhaul in the list processing and e.g. sorting alphabetically will make it slow as hell.
Sorting mods by name won't help much either. They'd need to be categorized and sorted inside those categories with most wanted stuff etc.

Thomas Seifert
Phorum Development Team /
Custom Phorum and general software development
worry-free Phorum Hosting
Re: Phorum 5.3 Proposition - $300 donation
December 02, 2011 06:38PM
In 5.3, I already did all kind of work on the moderation features, one of them being the redirection after mod operations. I had to be compatible with the 5.2 templates, but managed to add some other useful moderation features in a backward compatible way (e.g. updating all subjects after thread merge and setting a time limit for showing a move notification).

On the new Phorum site that I am working on behind the scenes, I have solved "issue" nr. 2 through providing a different message.tpl template. In this template, I directly redirect the user to the final page, passing on the confirmation message via a URL request parameter. In the footer.tpl, I check for such parameter on each request and show a non-obstrusive popup message to the user. This is done in javascript. WHen a user does not have javascript, he will still see the original confirmation page.
If you want to disable the confirmations completely, then you could probably use the same kind of method and apply a header("Location: ...") redirect in a bit of PHP in the message template, to redirect to the target page. The perception for the user will be an immediate redirect in this case. He won't see an intermediate screen whatsoever.

Maurice Makaay
Phorum Development Team
my blog linkedin profile secret sauce
Re: Phorum 5.3 Proposition - $300 donation
December 03, 2011 06:29PM
Hmmm. The alphabetical sort is absolutely vital to me. My only other options are phpbb3 (who's default template has 14 CSS stylesheets and 102 html template files, and each mod has to be installed manually by hand after each update). See... this is why I love Phorum. Because I don't need a 4 year degree to go in and modify it. Another option is Wordpress with a "sort posts alphabetically" mod but then I have to find special mods that treat "commenters" as "members" with their own profile, comment count, avatar. And that's going to require mixing and merging mods that may or may not slow a server down to a crawl.

1) How about this... Is it possible to create a mod that crawls through all the threads in a specified forum(s) every X days, grabs the titles of all the threads, sorts them, then builds a static listing with only a few dynamic elements (last post by, view count, post count) that is displayed when a user clicks on that forum?

2) OR if that interferes with pagination. Have a mod that, every __ days, goes into selected forum(s) (which must have "sort by last post" disabled, meaning latest threads created are at the top) and sorts threads alphabetically in the background, then changes each of their "created on" timestamps so that they line up alphabetically naturally in the forum's list view.

Are either of these 2 options doable? I am hell bent on getting this to work out. As a designer who can't program or code much, Phorum is the only message board that I've found to be easily customizable and who's code is understandable enough for even me to modify. Looking at my options, hacks, mods, anything is justifiable. Anything BUT PHPBB or vBulletin. Those 2 simply aren't even options for me. I spent the week installing them and running through their AdminCPanels and templates to see how much of a learning curve they've got. *sigh* I have a better chance at finishing a Master's degree. Basically the only realistic option is a wordpress install on steriods or Drupal with thousands of dollars of mods and hundreds of hours of tutorials. Again, not worth the effort.

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 12/03/2011 06:35PM by Voltius.
Re: Phorum 5.3 Proposition - $300 donation
December 03, 2011 06:37PM
Whats your timeframe on this?
I'm thinking of adding a hook in 5.3 at the right place which just returns the data for the given list page and a module there could do everything you'd need - be it slow or not.
Also I assume that you want that to be per forum, not sortable list headers, right?

Thomas Seifert
Phorum Development Team /
Custom Phorum and general software development
worry-free Phorum Hosting
Re: Phorum 5.3 Proposition - $300 donation
December 03, 2011 07:09PM
No rush. I still need to work on a minimal phorum theme (without images) (which I'll actually release here in a few weeks) which will make theme'ing easier for my other projects. So January of next year

I'm not sure I know what sortable list headers means? But yes just for sorting the threads inside forums alphabetically from [A to Z] or by [post count], or [view count]. Would the threads still be split up in pages with your method?

I mean phpbb3 and vBulletin do this on massive forums so I assumed "the concept" wouldn't be problematic in theory. What do you mean by, "it would be slow"? Could I use a cache script to prevent phorum from having to sort every thread in a forum each and every time a user visits it?
Re: Phorum 5.3 Proposition - $300 donation
December 03, 2011 07:18PM
Well, I mean - is sorting specified per forum in your case or would the user click on a column label to sort by its values?
I would only think of the first option and yes, paging would be possible there.

Sorting by strings, which alphabetical order would imply, is always slower than sorting by numbers as its done now. So you will get a lower performance or higher load for sure.

Thomas Seifert
Phorum Development Team /
Custom Phorum and general software development
worry-free Phorum Hosting
Re: Phorum 5.3 Proposition - $300 donation
December 03, 2011 09:29PM
Yes, the admin would specify it in the forum options. NOT a user clicking on a column label.

That would be perfect.

(Would a cache mod help with the performance issues if it got out of hand?)
Re: Phorum 5.3 Proposition - $300 donation
December 03, 2011 11:38PM
Phorum can already do some caching.

Thomas Seifert
Phorum Development Team /
Custom Phorum and general software development
worry-free Phorum Hosting
Re: Phorum 5.3 Proposition - $300 donation
April 03, 2012 04:59PM
Sorting alphabetically or any other way would not be slow assuming the work went into the queries to add the correct keys and the queries were adjusted to ensure proper key usage. It would increase index size for everything you want to sort by. And that will in turn slow down insert (post) time by some marginal amount. That may or may not be an issue. Posting is already the slowest process we have by default with the exception of paging very deeply into very, very large forums.

Brian - Cowboy Ninja Coder - Personal Blog - Twitter
Re: Phorum 5.3 Proposition - $300 donation
March 03, 2013 09:54PM
Has anyone solved the alphabetical sort idea? I'd love to be able to sort posts on the list page of a certain forum alphabetically. I don't need the column header to be clickable with sort options; I just need to have one forum sorted by subject rather than date.

If anyone has worked on this or solved this with either a mod or a hack I'd love to know the details.

Jake Morgan
Independent Pulling News
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