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Frameworks and their forums

R_JR_J Ex-FanboyMunich Admin

Preface

I often browse software directories for inspiration and also for distraction. Most of the time I look at forum software, PHP frameworks and content management systems/frameworks. I like to look at forum software to get inspirations for plugins, exceptional layouts, clever navigation structures and all that kind of stuff.
And when I look at frameworks, I always look on how they implemented a forum software. Some are using dedicated forum software, some are using a forum script based on their own framework. Some of them do not provide any framework at all.

As a human being that I am, I have prejudices. Here they are...

When I see a framework with no community, I think to myself that the development team behind that is too small to maintain support or the project is too young and the focus lies on getting a stable version or more features.

Frameworks with their own solution have my full respect, even if what they have implemented is a bare bone comment system. they obviously were so convinced of their framework that implementing their own solution either seemed easier to them than understanding and integrating a full blown forum script. Maybe they only think it was a question of honor to show what their framework is capable of.

And there are those that simply rely on existing forum software. That is pragmatic. The software exists and can be set up reasonably fast, someone else takes care for that piece of software and they can focus on their own project.

What I've done

I have been looking through some frameworks the last couple of days and this time, I thought I have found some similarities between "the character" of a framework and their forum solutions. So let me share this (but not without telling you that I have been sick for the last few days, a little bit febrile and my head full of snot, so the results of my interrogations might not always be reproducible - even for me if you will ask me tomorrow). I will separate the frameworks in 4 categories:

  1. "Fat" frameworks
    Being on the market for quite some time and striving for more features and more features and more features.
  2. "Slim" frameworks
    Striving for speed and simplicity, sacrificing features.
  3. "Polished" frameworks
    Some of them still being quite "slim", others growing "fat", but they all have the reputation to be fresh and innovative.
  4. "Exotic" frameworks
    Well, they have their reason. Not everybody understands that but there are fans nevertheless (and maybe you have never even heard of them before).

I'm no expert when it comes to frameworks but I wanted to share my perception of relations between that category and their forum solutions, if you remember that please before telling me that my list is nonsense.

Before I show you the table, I have to say that to me, Vanilla is like Linux while other big and established forum software scripts are like Mac OS. Both are operating systems and you can run your computer with them easily. You'll find more beautiful and easier to install solutions to your problems for Mac OS, but if you have specific needs or simply like to control what is happening, you'll end up diving into the configuration hell. And if you put some effort into your work, you can achieve things that Mac OS users will never see on their computer. That is why I like Vanilla.

My prejudices are:
Fat framework - rely on established and bloated forum script
Slim framework - striving for optimized solution
Polished framework - create own solution
Exotic framework - no clue...

Now, let's take a look at what the reality is!

Framework Forum Category
CakePHP Google Groups Fat
SilverStripe SilverStripe Fat
Symfony phpBB default Fat
Yii IP.Board default Fat
Zend None Fat
Fat-Free Framework Google Groups Slim
FuelPHP Vanilla customized Slim
Slim Tender Slim
CodeIgniter MyBB default Polished
Kohana Vanilla default Polished
Laravel Laravel Polished
Phalcon Phalcon Polished
elefantcms Vanilla customized Exotic
nette PunBB customized Exotic
PHPixie Vanilla default Exotic

So most of the fat frameworks seem to concentrate on their framework. Two use the standard installation of standard forum scripts. CakePHP relies on externally provided service and Zend has a nice slogan on their "/participate" page: "Zend Framework is a lot more than code. It's a community.", but they do not have a forum. I must say, I was surprised.
Only SilverStripe has its own forum solution up and running but they seem be more application focused: they praise their own CMS as much as their framework.
So the feature boasting tend to use forum solutions that they don't like to think about much.

One slim framework simply uses Google Groups, so they don't put any love in their forum solution at all. At least they offer one to get user feedback - unlike Zend ;)
The other two slim frameworks, are using a well integrated issue tracker and a customized Vanilla installation.
I'd character a slim framework as a framework that tries to solve one special need best. Using an issue tracker is a great example of carrying that spirit forward to the software such a developer team uses. And that the only dedicated forum software in this category is Vanilla, is a natural fit.

I would have expected more individual solutions in the polished category, but the result is disappointing: two simple default installations of standard software and the solution from Laravel is a community effort - they have been using FluxBB before. Only Phalcons Phosphorum is really impressive.
Maybe those geeks able to create some great framework are to focused on their work to be interested in their forums... :/

Two Vanilla forums in the exotic category and the other is a customized PunBB, a very barebone forum script. So there seems to be no interest in bloated forum scripts in this category at all.


So yes, I'd say I was right. At least to some extend ;)

peregrineBleistivt

Comments

  • peregrineperegrine MVP
    edited November 2014

    speaking of frameworks - a faq that is easy to navigate would be handy.

    if vanilla had a faq similar to this with specific answers to very commonly asked questions.

    http://www.try-phpbb.com/31x/faq.php?sid=de6b6d2bd24b7effd972dbdfc68b0826

    then vanilla would be closer to perfection.

    there are probably about 50 to 100 frequently asked questions.

    e.g. common timezone question.


    • How do I change the timezone from utc to a different timezone for users who are not logged in (Guests)?

    Vanilla sets the internal time to UTC and then adjusts the time shown to logged in users to match their computer clock.

    to enable guest to see a different timezone e.g. if you want guests to set your time zone to Easter Island Time.

    $Configuration['Garden']['GuestTimeZone'] = " Pacific/Easter";
    

    see the timezone nearest you.


    • How do I modify css in my custom theme?

    you can add a custom.css file to your design folder, if it doesn't exist.
    add your css to the custom.css

    you can also see such and such tutorials.


    • How do I make the yellow icon for new discussions appear?

    you can add this to the custom.css

             .HasNew, .JustNew {
            display: inline;
            margin-right: 5px;
            }
    

    and so on.

    if there were a faq comment - that we could edit continually then it would be particulary useful, since adding comment upon comment to a faq discussion, would have numerous additions, deletions and corrections.

    I know we have a wiki. but a FaQ with the 50 to 100 most commonly asked questions would be a great part of a framework whether it is slim, fat, rubenesque, tall, short, or exotic.

    I may not provide the completed solution you might desire, but I do try to provide honest suggestions to help you solve your issue.

    R_J
  • hgtonighthgtonight ∞ · New Moderator

    @peregrine said:

    I know we have a wiki. but a FaQ with the 50 to 100 most commonly asked questions would be a great part of a framework whether it is slim, fat, rubenesque, tall, short, or exotic.

    IIRC, you have troubles with GitHub, so if you submit a FAQ to the wiki, I can issue a PR against the vanilla docs repo.

    Search first

    Check out the Documentation! We are always looking for new content and pull requests.

    Click on insightful, awesome, and funny reactions to thank community volunteers for their valuable posts.

    peregrine
  • peregrineperegrine MVP
    edited November 2014

    @hgtonight said:
    IIRC, you have troubles with GitHub, so if you submit a FAQ to the wiki, I can issue a PR against the vanilla docs repo.

    thx. I don't login to the wiki either. but I'll start a new discussion. if people contribute "Frequently asked questions" It could be a start. if someone wanted to add it to github.

    http://vanillaforums.org/discussion/28420/faq-what-frequently-asked-questions-would-you-like-to-see-in-a-faq-help?p1

    it will be a test of apathy vs. a chance to contribute for new users, and people who don't code, because all they have to do is supply a question that would be a question alot of users might ask.

    back to r_j's op - sorry for the temporary derailment.

    I may not provide the completed solution you might desire, but I do try to provide honest suggestions to help you solve your issue.

  • peregrineperegrine MVP
    edited November 2014

    I found the solution to the FAQ problem. ask echo.

    the more interesting version:

    the real version:

    I may not provide the completed solution you might desire, but I do try to provide honest suggestions to help you solve your issue.

    R_J
  • R_JR_J Ex-Fanboy Munich Admin

    @peregrine said:
    back to r_j's op - sorry for the temporary derailment.

    I've said what I wanted - so feel free to do whatever you like ;)

    And why not talk about a faq here? I think a faq linked at a prominent place might be helpful, but it would only be useful for those who search before they ask. Given by the number of questions in the forum that could be answered by posting a link, I think putting energy in a faq is wasted. It should better be invested in the documentation first.

  • LincLinc Detroit Admin
    edited November 2014

    Back in April some guy on Kohana's Twitter account told me: "We're done with Vanilla. Forever. Hope Vanilla addresses the security issues or stops making software" and that they were switching to Discourse in the next few days. I see that went well. I'd be terrified to participate on their community, given how they talk to their peers.

    R_JSudoCat
  • LincLinc Detroit Admin

    @R_J Nice research and writeup. It's gratifying to see Vanilla seeing that much usage among our peer groups.

  • peregrineperegrine MVP
    edited November 2014

    @R_J said:
    I've said what I wanted - so feel free to do whatever you like ;)

    And why not talk about a faq here? I think a faq linked at a prominent place might be helpful, but it would >only be useful for those who search before they ask. Given by the number of questions in the forum that >could be answered by posting a link, I think putting energy in a faq is wasted. It should better be invested >in the documentation first.

    First, you always have thought-provoking discussions and analysis keep it coming.

    I tend to agree with you about FAQ, if a link weren't posted in a prominent place, it would be as obscure as the wiki. The ideal place would a link in Top Menu next to Documentation link if it were ever produced or added.
    But then again people have a hard time seeing messages to upgrade at the top, I guess the only thing some people see is New Discussion Button :wink:

    once again back to Frameworks.

    I may not provide the completed solution you might desire, but I do try to provide honest suggestions to help you solve your issue.

  • R_JR_J Ex-Fanboy Munich Admin

    @Linc said:

    Back in April some guy on Kohana's Twitter account told me: "We're done with Vanilla. Forever. Hope Vanilla addresses the security issues or stops making software"

    The guy from elefantcms has a note on his forum that he stopped registration because of spam. I offered him help but either my mail never passed his spam filter or he wasn't interested.

    @peregrine said:

    I tend to agree with you about FAQ, if a link weren't posted in a prominent place, it would be as obscure as the wiki.

    That was not my point ;)

    I meant that it will not be because of any use: most people don't search the forum for any help, they don't read the documentation and if there would be a faq, they would ignore it as well.

  • peregrineperegrine MVP
    edited November 2014

    @R_J Cheerleader & Troubleshooter MVP said:

    That was not my point ;)

    what do you think I am a Crystal Ball mind Reader :wink: just kidding.

    I get your point now. still really like your discussions though, although sometimes I miss the point :)

    without you, hgtonight, x00, bleistivt, vrijvlinder, shadowdare, businessdad, whu606, kasper, mcu_hq, underdog and linc tim and todd adrian (to name a few) and others for providing insights and solutions ( i would have long ago lost interest. thx for participating all of you. It's nice getting to know all of you thru the net.

    still think something like the "echo in above youtube video" would be ideal, it could be called the "lincoln" and all the answers could be pre-programmed in with lincoln's soothing voice walking you thru any and every vanilla mod you need or telling you step-by-step soultions to any problem that you may have.

    I may not provide the completed solution you might desire, but I do try to provide honest suggestions to help you solve your issue.

    R_J
  • @Linc said:
    Back in April some guy on Kohana's Twitter account told me: "We're done with Vanilla. Forever. Hope Vanilla addresses the security issues or stops making software" and that they were switching to Discourse in the next few days. I see that went well. I'd be terrified to participate on their community, given how they talk to their peers.

    This is par for the course. Being seen to be doing is as important as doing something. I think this is a topic that warrants its own discussion how to get the right balance of reasonable disclosure and security track.

    grep is your friend.

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