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Newsletter #400 Preview: Who Is It So Hard to Be Easy?

The other day, I got involved in a lengthy debate over finding an easier way to install message board software. Now this may not seem to be a big deal to you, except when you realize that any site you visit that includes a discussion forum is using some kind of software to generate those features. It may be something home built or a third-party application, but that’s how it is.

Now for The Paracast discussion forums, we use vBulletin, published by Jelsoft, a British company recently acquired by Internet Brands, Inc. It’s commercial, meaning you pay for a user license and ongoing support. There are lots of other forum applications out there that are actually open source, which means they are free, such as MyBB, which we use on some of our other less-trafficked sites.

Alas, vBulletin suffers from some of the same deficiencies as its open source-based brethren, because the installation process is a throwback to the 1980s. Instead of just double-clicking an installer, you first have to manually place all of vBulletin’s files in a folder on your Web server. Then you must run an installer or upgrade script to set everything up.

The manual file placement process is, in the scheme of things, not so difficult, except there are serious issues to confront if you’ve done any serious modifications to the software. You see, vBulletin is programmed in PHP, a scripting language, and all the files are open for power users to configure to their own needs. Sometimes it’s just to change the look and feel, but it also allows you to enhance the program’s capabilities, such as adding ad banners and other features.

Now that’s where the fun begins.

Story continued in this week’s Tech Night Owl Newsletter.