Archive for the 'review' Category

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.

Featured Forum – Nature vs. God Forum

Nature or God Forum

Today, we’re talking to Wrenna and Tete who recently moved over to Lefora from MSN Groups.  If you have an MSN Group yourself, and would like to learn more about our MSN Groups migration options, send us an email at ‘upgrades -at- lefora.com

Wrenna and Tete are running Nature Or God, a group on religion, philosophy and politics.  As their description states, “Because listening to each other can change the world.”

So to start, what topics are covered in your forum, are they philosophical, religious, political, or some combination of all three?

All three topics are discussed. We are mostly a religious debate forum but news topics are regularly covered also. Religious debate is usually between theists and atheists, and covers topics like evolution vs. intelligent design,separation of church and state, the meaning of free will, and whether children are born believing in God. These are some of the topics on our general board right now.  some science topics arise and we now have a sister site at Lefora, Science and Religion.

We do have a political board because we found during the recent election that some members couldn’t stop talking about it and some didn’t want to talk about it, so with its own board they have a choice.

We have found that all three of these major topics, philosophy, religion, and politics will intersect at various times. They are really inseparable.

With such controversial topics, what steps do you take to make sure your group stays focused?  Do you ever have to intervene to stop personal attacks?

That’s a very good question. Both of us are completely un-invested in who’s right and who’s wrong. We care about civil dialogue. Tete is a natural diplomat, and a very talented one. We try to be very patient and give lots of chances to people who lose their focus. Only rarely do we have to cancel a membership and more often than not that person gets another chance later on.

Most of the time though, a simple request or reminder is sufficient.

Your group on MSN was incredibly popular, I saw over 1/2 million posts listed through the topics.  What helped drive that activity?

The members. They are what make or break a group. We have been fortunate to have lots of really great members who have a passion for this type of discourse. It’s always great to see unlikely friendships form, or even see people change they’re thinking and opinions. People are endlessly fascinating and so is the way their minds work. And that gives rise to our other motto: “Let’s dare to think together”.

You’ve been using Lefora for about a month now, as ‘fresh’ admins to Lefora, what do you think about Lefora compared to MSN Groups?

We like Lefora,We like the simplicity and the layout of the boards. Many MSN groups were devoted to PSP and Graphics, but we are a place of words (to quote one member, Peltigera). Lefora is a great place for words. It’s also great to have a help group to go to and get answers or a fix almost immediately. It shows that the “Man in charge” cares. I find that pretty impressive. We don’t want to bash MSN but there you are lucky to get a form letter.

For managing your group, are there any features you found on Lefora that were new to you?

Spam control, being able to move an entire thread with just one click, and thumbs up or down come to mind. I’m a big fan of all three. It was also nice to be able to send invitations from our management email through Lefora. We are used to doing one at a time.

Finally, do you have 3 simple tips you could share with other forum admins to run an engaging and active forum?

Three tips?  Don’t abuse your power, be humble (learn how to say ‘I don’t know’; ‘I am sorry’; ‘Thank you’, among other phrases that will show people that you care) and let people be as free as is possible.  The key?  Management appears as little as possible.

Wrenna & Tete: Thank you for having us, it is an honor.

Vincent: Thank you for your commentary, I’m sure many other forum admins will find this interesting and helpful.

Featured Forum – CU Freebies Only Forum

Today, we’re talking with Laura of CU Freebies Only Forum. Their forum is a place for designers to share Commercial Use freebies items. In less than 2 months, Laura has build a forum with over 800 members and 3,400 posts. Quite an accomplishment to happen so quickly.


So Laura, the first question everybody would like to hear, how did you grow your forum so fast? How did you get so many members participating?

CROSS PROMOTE and Always Invite folks to join daily!  My Admin and my members also do the same thing, they can’t help it!

Lots of Designers join the Forum to generate traffic to their stores and blogs….they offer free items to get them there and when the members buy they will buy from the other members in the end. And the members are looking for those free items to practice with and create with.

Are there any promotional or marketing tips you would like to share with other forum admins?
I belong to other forums with the same interest.  I cross promote on my 2 blogs and the forum.  I sponsor a Blinkie (ad exchange) on my Forum for my members for free. They sport the forum blinkie and I in turn sport their blinkie on the forum.  I advertise on freebie scrap booking exchanges , both blogs and the forum.  I use Entire Card…it works I only taking ads that are relevant to my topics.  And I place ads only on other relevant blogs all for free.  Giving away something free helps.  I am listed in a lot of Topsites that are relevant to my topic.

My Admin team does the same thing cross promoting and hosting challenges.  I really must say without them I would not be able to keep up. And the forum would not have grown so fast…..having a Fantastic Admin Team is a Must have!

Where do most of your visitors come from? How do they first hear about your site?
They first came from my blogs where I always post an invite in every post….now they come from Google, Yahoo, and MSN searches, and even from Lefora itself, personal blogs, Kaboodle, forums, sharing groups, designers, when I check to see where my visitors are coming from I visit that site, blog or forum…..thank them and leave a comment with my URLS.

I started my CU Freebies only Blog after my other Blog…..it became so popular that folks were leaving notes about cu freebies and asking me to feature them….wow it took off.  I featured them and then cross promoted them to get traffic to their sites.  Win Win!!

What goal did you have in mind when you first started your forum? What goals would you like to achieve at this point?
I actually was getting overwhelmed with keeping up with folks who wanted to be featured and not being able to keep up….I thought how about a forum where the designers can post their freebies and I can feature them from the forum on my blog.  I won’t have to search everyday for good stuff to feature.

I am now in the process of testing to see if the designers want to post some of their creations that they sell on the forum and give forum members a discount.  I provide a free way to advertise and reach new folks everyday.

The forum has grown fast and takes time to keep it cleaned up and running smooth…I was surprised when my blog took off and mostly very surprised when the forum surpassed the blog.

What was some of your reasoning for choosing Lefora over another forum service? What other forum software have you worked with in the past?
I have never ran a forum before, so I searched for something that would be easy to navigate for myself and my members….we all like the format, and it is very simple to work with….doesn’t have all the bells and whistles but sometimes that is what complicates things for the members.

I’ve been a member of forums but not even an admin or moderator and I simply was confused with the forums I belong to…. I get lost easy.

So Lefora offers simplicity and consistency….Win Win!!!

Lastly, do you have 3 simple tips you could share with other forum admins to run a fun and active forum?
Check out others blogs, forums and sites that are relevant to your topic….be active and cross promote…offer something they don’t and be consistent…..work at promoting and being active in your niche and the growth will come as long as you are having fun!  Put your URL in your signature, comment on the other blogs, forums etc…. always leaving your URL when ever you comment or contribute anywhere.  And never stop Inviting folks to join.

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Follow-up thoughts: Laura is doing a fantasitic job at promoting her forum and one of the fatest growing Lefora forums.  It’s interesting to see that she’s been doing some cross advertising between her forum and other forums – as a free trade.  That’s a great idea for anybody running a forum on a topic that shares similiar interests with other sites.  Reach out to similiar sites, and let them know you can advertise their site on yours by putting an image and link on your sidebar in exchange for the same. Additionally, you could always purchase google ads on google’s search result page, it may run you only 20c-40c per thousand impressions.

Featured Forum – Club Poker Forum

club poker forum on lefora

Today, we’ll be interviewing peerless67, who runs one of the larger forums on lefora, ClubPokerForum. The topic of their community is online poker, with hundreds of members participating across tens of thousands of posts.


First off, do you you have 3 simple tips you could offer for running an active forum?

1. ADVERTISE
2. ADVERTISE
3. ADVERTISE

How did you go about first promoting your forum?
Adding the link to my profile on the sites I play poker (as it is a poker forum)

Do you still need to promote your forum, or does it grow on it’s own?
We still promote it but word gets out and many have joined through other members. In 4 months we have managed to sign up over 460 members.

What are some of the reasons you originally choose lefora over another forum package?
Honestly the forum was free and easy to set up and use.

Lefora strives to block spam on our forums. How have your experiences been with spammers on your forum?
We have had no problems that I am aware of.

Have you had problems with trolls or inappropriate members on your forum? If so, how did you manage their behavior?
We have had a couple of incidents, nothing major and simply deleted the offending material.

Anything else you would like to comment on?
Lefora has been great, the staff have always responded to questions promptly and have always been willing to help in anyway they can. Many new features have been added in the 4 months my forum has been running and if the improvements continue Lefora will be a world beater.

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Vincent s (lefora) Comments:
peerless points out that advertising is the best way to keep a forum active. As he later stated, advertising can just include linking to your forum from your profile on other websites. It doesn’t have to be paid advertising. You can ask your members to link to your forum as well from other websites they participate in. Anything from other forums, to blogs, to social networks.

Later in the year, we’ll be introducing widgets that will allow your members to promote your forum for you.

Book Review: Managing Online Forums

managing online forums book

The author of “Managing Online Forums“, Patrick O’Keefe sent us a copy to review. It’s a fantastic book for any forum admin (or anybody running an online community for that matter), and I highly recommend it. Patrick dives deep into all aspects of running a forum, from creating it, to promoting it, to fostering the community.

Patrick sat down to answer some questions we wanted to share with our community.

Patrick, you start off with common ways forums get started, such as launching a new stand-alone community, to adding a forum on an existing site. On Lefora, we’ve seen our fastest growing communities are forums that launch alongside an existing community. Do you have 3 short tips for an admin launching a stand-alone new community to foster that initial growth?

  1. Launch with activity. Before your site goes live, get some friends and/or interested people together and have them start discussing the topic so that you actually have something going on when it comes time to launch.
  2. Make it as easy as possible for people to find you. Choose a domain name that is easy to remember and spell. Spell words correctly, try to avoid numbers, don’t use dashes and register a .com if at all possible. Make it so that search engines can access your content. Don’t put obstacles in your way unneccessarily. You don’t need that.
  3. Finally, don’t get caught up in what other, bigger forums in your subject arena are doing. I’ve known administrators who were far too worried about who they perceived as competition. Focus on yourself and be the best that you can be.

You talk about ‘Developing Guidelines’ in your book, dedicating a chapter to it. Do you think setting (and following) these guidelines are more important in an early stage forums or a larger established forum

I think it’s very important for both. You want to set guidelines and policies as early as you can to set the tone for everything that happens later and to ensure that your community gets started on the right track. Guidelines are sort of a vision statement. They speak to who you are, who you want to be and what your community is all about.

Guidelines are an essential to moderation. You can’t remove posts without having policies in place or it’ll seem like you are pulling imaginary standards out of your head. Discretion is a part of moderating a community, but documented policy is what makes discretion possible. It’s always harder to add guidelines later, than it is to start with them

Another chapter is dedicated on how to Promote Your Community and the work involved, which is a popular question we hear. With regards to cross promoting communities, how has your success been?

I’d say it has been successful, but that’s subjective. I’ve had people who were members at multiple forums that I managed. I’ve had people that were on staff at more than one of my forums at a time, as well. We do a good amount of cross promotion between the sites that are in my network.

Continue reading ‘Book Review: Managing Online Forums’


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