Good community forum software?
November 29, 2006 3:36 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for easy-to-manage community forum software. I run a site hosted at Dreamhost, and would like to add a message board for community discussion. I'm not averse to using phpbb (which Dreamhost can auto-install) if it can be made administrator-friendly. (I find the current admin panel a frustrating pile of crap.) In particular, I don't want to have to mess with spam user registrations. Ideally users could register and use the site with ease, while spammers would be blocked with minimal intervention on my part. (Kind of how WordPress/Akismet deals with spam comments.) I rather like the Joel on Software discussion group layout — clean, simple, yet effective. Willing to pay, if needed.
posted by jdroth to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I've run a forum for several years that has hundreds of messages a day. I will warn you that phpbb will get a colossal amount of spam registrations. The ONLY thing I've seen that worked effectively is a mod where users have to enter a "VIP code" for their registration to get through... you just put the VIP code in the board rules or somewhere else. Search for VIP code over on

I got rid of phpbb as it really needs a sizable number of mods to work really well (esp. with giving moderators permissions, which it is extremely limited), but once you start adding more than about 4 or 5 mods you start running the risk of security issues and upgrade patching problems.

I tried Invision and didn't like it; it was kind of messy and I could not for the life of me figure out how to upgrade the damn thing (Invision's webmaster area is kind of a mess). I'm now running vbulletin and it is awesome. It gets occasional spam signups but it's not a big deal... I just monitor new signups and do deletions.

FWIW I had a forum on dreamhost several months ago and saw all kinds of trouble with dreamhost -- latency, outages, and so forth... I finally had to dump them and go with another host.

And just for the record, spammers are the reeking sewage of the Internet -- scum. Just had to get that off my chest.
posted by hodyoaten at 4:01 PM on November 29, 2006

If you don't need groups (i.e. multiple forums available from a main page), then it may be worth checking out b2evolution. With a bit of tweaking, you can get a metafilter style community forum/blog up and running.

We get 100's of comments and about 30-40 new posts a day. After about 1500 registered users, we had some trouble with the user-admin pages so you may need to tweak.

There was/is a degree of PHP programming to get it to do what you need, so it's not an ideal out-of-the-box package. However it can be used to run a simple forum.
posted by seanyboy at 4:17 PM on November 29, 2006

Lussumo's Vanilla is pretty decent forum software, from what I've seen.
posted by mikeh at 4:51 PM on November 29, 2006

I actually like Invision. Although the admin section isn't all that easy to use (and yes, kinda messy), it's pretty flexible once you figure it out. Most online communities I participate in run on Invision right now, after going through several different packages over the last few years.
posted by gemmy at 5:13 PM on November 29, 2006

Here is just one of the many previous threads on this.
posted by jjg at 6:24 PM on November 29, 2006

We just launched a community forum last month. We started with phpBB but were flooded with spammers within two days of opening.

We had to shut it down.

We switched to Vanilla and haven't looked back.
posted by unixrat at 7:12 PM on November 29, 2006

I've got a Drupal site running on DH (which I believe offers a one-click install for that too). I get a metric assload of spam registrations, but the beauty is that they don't go anywhere, since A) part of the registration process is a confirmation e-mail, and B) they always give bogus e-mail addresses. So far, zero spam content has been posted (and there are modules to deal with that).

To clean out the junk, I have Drupal set up to auto-delete accounts that haven't been active in three months.

Drupal is a general-purpose CMS, and has more of a learning curve, but I consider its forum module to be quite good. And you might decide you like some of the other bells and whistles.
posted by adamrice at 7:23 PM on November 29, 2006

I run a high-volume community and I love love love Simple Machines. From an administrative standpoint it's just miles above PHPBB, which is what I used before I found SMF. Few security issues; an active and responsive developer/user community (questions to the support forum are usually responded to by a developer); all the niggly little features PHPBB should've always had but just doesn't. And no mods necessary. (GOD I hate PHPBB.)

We do have some small number of spam registrations, but the next version in the new year will have captcha verification which should help.
posted by loiseau at 8:14 PM on November 29, 2006

I've run community forum software for years; used phpBB, Invision & others: my favourite is UNB.

I've just found that it has awesome attention to detail. The whole set-up is very very usable, for both users and adminstrators. It is really powerful and flexible, yet scalable.

But I'm a designer. A big beef I had with other packages was that they are hideous. UNB is beautiful.

The only issue I ever had was the language. UNB does have an English version, yet a lot of the phrasing was kind of wierd: I think the creator is German? I just went into the lang file and cleaned up some of it.
posted by Count Ziggurat at 8:48 PM on November 29, 2006

Lussumo Vanilla is pretty good and the interface is easy to customize.
posted by lsemel at 8:51 PM on November 29, 2006

Try looking at Vanilla and PunBB.
posted by madman at 1:14 AM on November 30, 2006

I haven't used it yet, but I'm curious about bbpress, the new forum software from the WordPress folks. I've pretty much eliminated spam comments on my WP-driven blog, and supposedly the same plug-ins work with bbpress too.
posted by j-dawg at 7:47 AM on November 30, 2006

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