Over in the forums we’ve been discussing what to do with them after recently finding out that the script I use to run them will no longer be freely available. The forums have always been a secondary feature of SEB and a good number of folks who visit daily aren’t even aware that we have forums, but that hasn’t stopped a handful of regulars from putting them to good use. I’ve never managed to integrate them into SEB in the manner I had hoped and that’s probably part of why they’re not frequented as much as they might have been. Either way, the Invision Power Board script has gone commercial and the simple fact is that the forums aren’t popular enough to justify purchasing a license for the script yet I don’t want to stick with a package I can’t upgrade any further if major security bugs are discovered.
Which brings us to the question of: Should we even bother having forums at all?
Personally, I like the idea of having forums available—even though I was lousy about actually visiting them—if for no other reason than it provides someplace to redirect folks to when I close one of the bigger threads such as the Kent Hovind discussion that topped nearly 400 comments. It’s also nice to have a spot for folks to start their own threads if there’s something they’d like to talk about. While I still consider Stupid Evil Bastard to be my personal blog, I’m also very proud of the fact that it has evolved somewhat toward more of a community oriented site that encourages discussions on a wide range of issues and I think a forum being available would help contribute to that feeling a bit if I manage to work it into the site a little better.
The ideal solution would be the forthcoming forum module for ExpressionEngine, but that’s still in the early stages of development and won’t be available for some time to come so I’d rather not wait for it before making a decision. If we keep the forums then I’ll need to decide what to use as a replacement for IPB. Of course the first suggestion most folks think of is phpBB as it’s easily one of the most popular open source forum packages out there. It’s also probably overkill for our needs, though, so I’d like to hear about other possibilities from folks who might have come across something that would better fit the bill.
One such possibility I mentioned in the forum posting I made was making use of miniBB which can be called from within another template allowing it to be easily integrated into the rest of the site. It’s also small, fast, and expandable. I wish I were a better PHP programmer because looking at the code for miniBB it appears that it wouldn’t be too difficult to modify it to use the existing ExpressionEngine user database rather than it’s own which would eliminate one of the things that always annoyed me about running a separate forum in terms of having to ask folks to register twice.
Anyway, I wanted to hear from the rest of the folks who frequent SEB on this issue as well so speak up. Do we need forums? Do we want forums? Do you know of a package that you think would make a good fit with SEB? Let me know.