Ultra-friendly free forum software?
March 3, 2014 1:14 PM   Subscribe

We're building a website for seniors and want to make it easy for them to get into bulletin board-style discussions that you can register for with Facebook or other really easy login, similar to the forums at Gawker. Is such a thing freely available somewhere? We've been experimenting with BBPress but so far it seems a little bit hard for our audience to get into, unless maybe there is some module out there that makes it easier?
posted by steinsaltz to Computers & Internet (4 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
My grandma's website, orthostatictremor.org, has done fine with phpBB - the main trick is just guiding the process to signup and being there to help people register.
posted by tmcw at 2:19 PM on March 3, 2014

Have you considered Discourse?
posted by brainwane at 2:46 PM on March 3, 2014

If you don't have a host that meets the (fairly strict) system requirements that Discourse has, Vanilla Forums supports login with Twitter, Facebook, Google, OpenID and I believe add-ons exist for more, and it runs on the same PHP/MySQL stack that phpBB does. I use it on a site I maintain and I like it. It uses Markdown for formatting by default, which may either be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your audience, but I believe you can slap a WYSIWYG editor on top of it via add-ons.

One caveat, some of the latest add-ons require Vanilla 2.2, which is only released via their Git repository. I run 2.0 because I don't need everything 2.2 offers (and I'm too lazy to migrate, and it's the version my host provides via softaculous, yadda-yadda), but I'd probably recommend at least trying out 2.2. There's even an ArsTechnica guide to setting up Vanilla using Git.
posted by Aleyn at 11:24 PM on March 3, 2014

I came here looking for exactly the same advice!

I'd already been looking at Vanilla Forums and it seemed to be a good solution - I was looking for something that didn't have the awful, overly complicated appearance of things like phpBB, was easy to install and manage and made participating as easy as possible. I ended up installing Vanilla (v 2.1.1), which was available as a 'one-click' install from my hosting provider and it has been very easy to set up the way I want it.

It does allow for sign-in via Facebook, Google etc - there is a bit of mucking around to enable the Facebook sign-in, but the instructions were quite clear and it wasn't complicated. There is a plugin already installed but not activated by default (very easy to do) that provides a full WYSIWYG editor for posts and comments.

I manage a site with WordPress and, because I was looking initially for something integrated with WordPress, I tried BBpress and found it incredibly difficult to configure or get to work properly at all. There is a WordPress plugin that allows the Vanilla forum to be embedded in a WordPress site, which I found useful as it keeps people on the site and reduces confusion about where people are and how to find the forum or find their way back to the site.
posted by dg at 7:03 PM on August 8, 2014

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