Archive for April, 2009

Featured Forum – vBulletin Fans Network

Today we’re interviewing Floris Fiedeldij Dop. Floris has been active on the internet since 1993, creating web sites, communities and helping forums be content rich.  He runs a number of forum sites such as wetalk, and the vbfans network, assists the support team at Jelsoft Enterprises Limited (vBulletin) and Headstart Solutions (DeskPro) and runs the popular forum for vBulletin board owners, staff and users.

vbfans network stats: (http://vbfans.com)
* Threads: 27,474
* Posts: 147,405
* Members: 14,645
* Software: vBulletin v. 3.8.2

wetalk network stats: (http://wetalk.tv)
* Threads: 16,000
* Posts: 24,300
* Members: 2,750
* Software: vBulletin v. 3.7.6

How long have you been involved with the vBulletin community?
After closing my web creations studio company at the end of 2000, I have been creating the creations.nl forums, but was never satisfied with the software packages. I had my eye on vBulletin and we manually imported the data and went live with it on January 1st, 2002. A year later. It has instantly impacted my site, doubled in users and posts.

When version 3 of vBulletin was announced I got involved in the private testing, and used my live site creations.nl – renamed to vBulletin.nl which later was renamed to vBulletin-Fans.com.

I have joined the vBulletin Support Team March 2004.

What are your favorite vBulletin Hacks?
I have always found a single feature missing from vBulletin, the statistics modification from Bane (if I remember correctly). Providing you and your users with live statistics of visitors, referrals, search terms, etc. It was very feature rich for a modification for just version 2 of vBulletin. Unfortunately it never continued after version 3 was released, and I still miss it.

Other modifications that I liked have become default features in vBulletin. And I believe the ‘friendly url’ rewrites I personally prefer – will be default in version 4 too.

Have spammers been a large problem for you on any of your forums?  What tactics are you using to help prevent spam?
Yes, spammers are malicious users in my eyes, and have no regards for the service one offers with their site. It ruins the overall mood and impression one has of a site when visiting it and seeing it infested with spambots and what not.

It is a problem on not just my board, or a vBulletin powered board. It is a problem for bloggers, any forum owner, and other online application.

Thankfully reCAPTCHA is pretty good, and the features that sites offer, such as vBulletin’s human verification system, and the built in Akismet support. They help block most of the registrations and their posts (moderation queue). Keeping the front end of the site clean and usable – so visitors can find what they need and participate.

How do you think other forum software stacks up against vBulletin, such as phpBB, IPB, and Lefora?
Bluntly: They’re all pretty crap. Free alternatives live up to the stereotype : You get what you pay for. And there is a reason why I choose and stuck with vBulletin version 2 and 3. I have a feeling this is changing though, in the last few years; and years to come.

IPS is finally taking their software products serious and is making great progress moving from a consumer platform giving free licenses, to a paid solution – even worth enough for small companies.

Lefora is a fresh breeze of air and trying to be ahead of the technology and stepping into the market where todays services and social networking is a constant task for admins and users/visitors. Hopefully it grow big and quick and fix what others have been longing to get but can not find in solutions currently available.

When people ask me what free alternative to pick over vBulletin, I tell them to consider SMF, and inform them to get donations or funding, so they can import later into vBulletin.

When people ask why they need vBulletin or if it is worth the money. I ask them “If you are serious about your site, why go for second best?”

Do you think there are any downfalls to a hosted forum solution?
Yes, control. You leave a lot of trust into the hands of others. And their policies usually include ‘unexpected data loss and down time are out of our hands, and we are not liable for any direct or indirect damages as a result of this’. Leaving the service provider almost completely covered, while the user who ‘trusted’ the hosted solution with the problems if they arise. Additionally hosted solutions means that unlike vBulletin you probably do not decide when you upgrade, you can’t improve performance by changing a hosting provider, or when you need to grow. And costs can add up quite quickly while a $25/month VPS could sometimes fix all of this.

Are there any features you want to see added to vBulletin?
Let’s start with the top ten suggestions from the customers, and this hopefully includes the statistics mod I was talking about earlier.

The biggest request is user-friendly, innovating, modern, intuitive, user interface. Can all these software solutions come up with an interface that is quick to learn for the guest browsing the board?

What do you think forums will be like 5 years out?
They will hopefully have the customer requested features available in every forum product out there, hopefully free and paid alternatives caught up with vBulletin. And hopefully forums will have grown to a solution that is not just for consumers and a business, but also easy to expand, modular, scalable, and finally ready for the social as we will know it in the next few years. Supporting OpenID / Twitter, Google, Yahoo oAuth / Facebook Connect, or having matching features / API integration / and simply put .. be a SN in a box with the ability to connect to the cloud. So you don’t sign up on 50 forums and have 50 profiles. But have an online social profile and can use that on 50 forums. Let’s stop calling them forums and just make them ‘sites’. Be it a blog, forum, social group, gallery, etc .. hopefully software such as vBulletin and IPS and SMF/phpBB can serve as ‘engines’ to generate and power dynamic and flexible social sites.

Do you have 3 simple tips you could share with other forum admins to run a fun and active forum?

  1. content is everything – good content, is worth everything
  2. consistency, dedication and passion – without it, you can not make it work
  3. business plan. a short and long term road map, and build a team to help reach the goals. build an advertising ring to generate income, generate a fund to have a budget to invest in hiring developers, designers, marketing, advertising, etc. No guts to think big, no glory will happen, ever. Know what you want, know who you want, know when you want it.

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And do not be afraid to love your audience. Show your staff that you care, have your staff show they care about the members. Have the members show they care about the newcomers and visitors.

And finally: Stop spamming. SEO is fine. Fighting over a rank shows you have no passion for your site, voiding the above tips.

Finally, Is there anything else you would like to add?
Yeah, my cat is on twitter, she’d love it if you follow her : http://twitter.com/sashapurr ; But in all seriousness, if anybody wants to know more about me, I invite them to my blog on http://mrfloris.com – and thank you for taking the time to interview me. I wish you all the best of luck with the Lefora project.

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Author’s Comments:
Many thanks to Floris, he packed in a lot of great information here.  Floris mentioned a few times about the direction of forums and some important technologies required to get us there.  Like the frustration of dealing with 50 forums with 50 profiles and how that’s just not scalable.  It’s one of the problems we’re solving here at Lefora, by creating a global account system that allows a member of one forum to join any other forum on Lefora without creating a new account and a new profile.  Floris mentioned the open authentication systems vBulletin supports, and that’s something we’ve built out as well with Lefora’s Single Sign-On API (SSO) – this allows a Lefora forum to hook directly into the login system of another website, so members of that website are automatically logged in and ready to post on their first visit to our forum.  Lefora is vastly expanding our API over the next few months, including integration with services like Facebook.

“Control” and “Trust” are two other items Floris talked about in reguards to hosted forum solutions and it’s feedback that we’ve heard frequently from both existing forum admins and potential new admins.  To address these concerns, we’re building out a Lefora exporter into our API so that admins of a forum have free direct access to their forum’s data – which ultimatly helps build trust in our service.


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April 2009
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