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The Best Forum Software
#1
I'm looking into building a small public forum. Thanks to the wonderful FOSS developers of the world, there's plenty of ready made solutions available: which is great but it can make the process of choosing somewhat difficult.

As for what I'm looking for:
  • I want it to be as small and light as possible for running on a small VPS (0.5GB RAM)
  • Internal messaging system for maintaining user accounts
So far I've tried a few options, some of which would work, but none that scream out to me "this is the one!"

The wordpress method:
Wordpress has a few nice forum plugins. I've tried bbpress, asgoros, and WPForo.

I didn't really like the formatting/appearance of bbpress. Asgoros and WPForo I like much better, and they're easy to set up, but additional plugins would be necessary for internal messaging. I tried to implement this on both asgoros and wpforo but when I installed the user messaging plugin things start breaking. Those plugins may not be designed to play nice together.

full featured forums: php bulletin board and simple machine forum are two well known FOSS forums with years of development and strong communities/documentation backing them. Both of these could work, but there's a lot more options/complexity with set up. I recently installed phpbb3 and it looks great and would do everything I want, but the admin area looks like a mess to me. So many options all over the place, I feel like it would take weeks or months of studies to figure out what everything does. SMF has always been known as a powerful full featured forum, but not necessarily designed with minimalism in mind.

flat file forums: small and light with no database, there's a few flat file forum softwares.  I really liked the look, ease of setup, and speed of flatboard, but I have yet to find any flat file forum with internal messaging built in.

Other options: finding a forum I like and adding messaging to it. If the software I'm looking for with the features I want doesn't exist, there's always the option to modify an existing software and add internal messaging to it, without reinventing the wheel. I did manage to write a very simple chat server in php for another project, which would be similar to an internal messaging system, but before I decide on this more labor intensive solution I think I owe it to myself to explore every other option.

so here's the opportunity for discussion:

Do you have any experience operating a forum? If so, what software did you use? How would you rate it in terms of ease of use and performance?. What features does it have that you  like? What's the development schedule like? Are there any licensing restrictions? How is the documentation/support?
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#2
@fitkoh  My main experience has been with phpBB and for the last few years primarily myBB.  I wouldn't recommend it for the specs you gave, i.e. you want it to be light, and easy to the touch.  myBB is not easy to upgrade, and it has plenty of conflicts when one tries to add extensions, particularly if the theme is not myBB main theme friendly.  And I agree with you, phpBB has a messy Board, and it's even messier to upgrade from one version to another.  With both you have to be willing to spend plenty of time admin wise.

I agree with you about BBPress.  The one for the new forum from Binil looks a bit messy, and one has to know where to click as it's easy to miss a link.  

Have you thought of going for something like Discord instead?  I never thought I would recommend them as I hate it that I have to verify my e-mail address every time I log in and they are killing forums.  But that's where people seem to be moving to these days.  KuJoe's a veteran free hoster who has a free hosting service attached to his paid hosting has recently changed from Forum to Discord.  So did the guys of freevps.us when they closed in 2018.
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#3
If you want something lightweight the only thing that comes in my mind is either flarum or carbon(outdated) you can test out these solutions before slecting something or you can simply use something like SMF or any other old and updated platform.
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#4
Once you are done with the installation SMF is one of the toughest forum scripts out there. I have 2 forums which has run for over 12 years. Updates are easier than with MyBB and addons are easy to install. So if you want something headache less for long term SMF is a good choice.

Wordpress is not built for forums but it has everything. There are several really good forum plugins. One of my favorites is Asgaros Forum. This is how is looks,

https://www.asgaros.de/support/


Also new generation forum script I like is codoforum. Has really nice look and feel.

https://codoforum.com/
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#5
If you want something lightweight the only thing that comes in my mind is either flarum or carbon(outdated) you can test out these solutions before slecting something or you can simply use something like SMF or any other old and updated platform.
[edit] not sure how I missed this one...

I've looked at flarum but not heard of carbon. Flarum hasn't been updated in a while... I prefer to use something that's actively developed, if possible. I'll give a little time to see how codoforum responds to my support request before moving on. With several recommendations for SMF it's sounding like a better option. I installed it once several years ago, but from what I remember it is a bit extensive.
(12-13-2020, 02:57 PM)xdude Wrote:  
https://codoforum.com/

I spent a few minutes reviewing the codoforum website and it looks very interesting. A few things worth mentioning to others, like myself, who haven't seen or heard of codoforum.

They recently released version 5.1, so this is not a new software. What puzzles me is why it hasn't showed up in any of my searches.

The docs are very well organized and normal human readable - not cluttered with a bunch of complicated terms or explanations, but everything in very simple to understand language.

It looks the forum has been engineered with a high degree of integration possible with a wide assortment of social networks and web apps with single sign on. That's a definite plus, if it works as intended.

The support team looks consistent and responsive. Their response time isn't the greatest (sometimes a day or two), but for a free software any support is a gift. I imagine the devs take a great deal of pride in their work and want to see it being used.

From the docs, each new release is stress tested on a 64mb vps - perfect for a minimalist set up.

It's advertised as easier to install than wordpress. That's a big claim, but excellent if they can live up to it.

I'll definitely take this for a spin and post a review if I can get it up and running.

(edit) I've got it installed but not yet fully functional. I'm getting some 403s in certain parts of the admin area... I've submitted a ticket and awaiting an answer. OpenLightSpeed WebServer is not listed as supported, so the errors are not entirely unanticipated.

(edit 2) I was in the middle of updating my support request with error logs when the codoforum forums/support area went down. Sort of frustrated now. I think I'll cross this one off the list. I went ahead and filled out a contact form with my error messages and time to move on unless I get an email reply very soon.
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#6
I am really interested by what folks have posted so far, nice job everyone. So I come from a background of vBulletin which is not lightweight and rather spendy when you get down the to the nuts and bolts of it all. It is however a really powerful Forum+CMS so if you ever wanted to make an investment look that way. Recently I came across a software created in Python called FlaskBB, which has the most similarities to vBulletin and MyBB.

Here are some of the standout features in my research:
- Easy installation and upgrades
- Easy theme and plugin development
- API Integration into 3rd Party Software (logins, posts etc.)
- Easy hooks to deeply integrate your code

It may not be exactly what you are looking for, but here is the website incase you are: https://flaskbb.org
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#7
(12-14-2020, 02:32 PM)tbelldesignco Wrote:  I am really interested by what folks have posted so far, nice job everyone. So I come from a background of vBulletin which is not lightweight and rather spendy when you get down the to the nuts and bolts of it all. It is however a really powerful Forum+CMS so if you ever wanted to make an investment look that way. Recently I came across a software created in Python called FlaskBB, which has the most similarities to vBulletin and MyBB.

Here are some of the standout features in my research:
- Easy installation and upgrades
- Easy theme and plugin development
- API Integration into 3rd Party Software (logins, posts etc.)
- Easy hooks to deeply integrate your code

It may not be exactly what you are looking for, but here is the website incase you are: https://flaskbb.org

This is another great suggestion. FlaskBB looks to be light, but powerful, with a lot of different deployment options, including built-in compatability with Redis, which is very cool for a large community to get it delivered fast. The look and feel of it on the front end is very clean and neat.

On the other hand, it's written in Python which I've worked in very little. The documentation looks very deep and complete but not what I would call "human readable" - it's obviously written by people with a high degree of technical expertise for people with  a high degree of technical expertise. I think if you consider this as an "Easy installation" you must also have a high degree of technical expertise. For myself, I believe several hours of research would be involved before I could attempt to install it. While I'm intrigued I'll put it on the back burner for now.
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#8
(12-14-2020, 04:58 PM)fitkoh Wrote:  This is another great suggestion. FlaskBB looks to be light, but powerful, with a lot of different deployment options, including built-in compatability with Redis, which is very cool for a large community to get it delivered fast. The look and feel of it on the front end is very clean and neat.

On the other hand, it's written in Python which I've worked in very little. The documentation looks very deep and complete but not what I would call "human readable" - it's obviously written by people with a high degree of technical expertise for people with  a high degree of technical expertise. I think if you consider this as an "Easy installation" you must also have a high degree of technical expertise. For myself, I believe several hours of research would be involved before I could attempt to install it. While I'm intrigued I'll put it on the back burner for now.

You should be able to just follow along with the tutorial to get you setup then yeah you'll need to learn a bit of Python to extend everything beyond the initial install. I plan on using this software for a work project as a jumping off point because we need a Medium/Reddit like solution for a project and I feel like this would be great for what we need. I have limited to no python experience BTW and I am ready to jump in heads first lol.
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#9
(12-14-2020, 08:31 PM)tbelldesignco Wrote:  You should be able to just follow along with the tutorial to get you setup then yeah you'll need to learn a bit of Python to extend everything beyond the initial install. I plan on using this software for a work project as a jumping off point because we need a Medium/Reddit like solution for a project and I feel like this would be great for what we need. I have limited to no python experience BTW and I am ready to jump in heads first lol.

It could be useful to record your experience installing and setting up to post a tutorial/review. Maybe I'll let you jump in first and if the waters good I'll dip my toe in Smile

Also, regarding the codoforum problem I was having... I may have figured out the solution; but I had to work around it in a strange way.

I was having a similar problem with my wordpress site: 404/403 on certain pages. I checked error logs, did some googling, and traced the problem to ModSecurity being too strict. I couldn't find an answer because codoforum is so little known, but everyone uses wordpress and plenty of people have had the same problem. Unfortunately I've already removed the codoforum install so I haven't tested it to see if it works.
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#10
(12-15-2020, 03:31 PM)fitkoh Wrote:  It could be useful to record your experience installing and setting up to post a tutorial/review. Maybe I'll let you jump in first and if the waters good I'll dip my toe in Smile

Also, regarding the codoforum problem I was having... I may have figured out the solution; but I had to work around it in a strange way.

I was having a similar problem with my wordpress site: 404/403 on certain pages. I checked error logs, did some googling, and traced the problem to ModSecurity being too strict. I couldn't find an answer because codoforum is so little known, but everyone uses wordpress and plenty of people have had the same problem. Unfortunately I've already removed the codoforum install so I haven't tested it to see if it works.

Yes! I will have to give it a shot and see how I can modify the installation instructions for Apache Users and add a spoke of the installation to the tutorial.
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