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Forum OpenACS Development: Anybody intrested in porting phpBB to OpenACS

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Hi,

I have used phpBB for a while and I am convinced that it has the best features as far as a bulletin board goes, I was wondering if anybody was intrested in porting it over to openACS, as i dont know much about developing stuff for open ACS, I would need somebody's guidance and help, and I'll do all that I can and more as I get to know more of openACS Development.

~somik
somik@naesc.org

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Posted by Matthew Geddert on
what features to phpBB have that forums or bboard on openacs does not have? i.e. why are you "convinced that it has the best features as far as a bulletin board goes"? It may be easier for you to modify one of those packages for your needs then write a new package.
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Posted by Vadim Makarov on
Somic, can you please list the features of phpBB that are absent on this forum (which is an instance of OpenACS forums package)?
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Posted by Dave Hwang on
The interface seems pretty slick to me. You can take a look at the phpBB home page, and their community forum. If you look at the feature list, there are only a couple of things there that OpenACS forums doesn't do, such as avatars, smileys, themes, and the ability to send messages to user IM accounts.

However, those little features are pretty trivial to add. I think the really interesting part is their admin interface, which looks pretty slick compared to the OpenACS admin interface. It's not just a forums admin, but really the community admin tool. It's nice to have all the options in the left frame and opening up the working window on the right. It seems to have a lot of the same community-oriented features as OpenACS, just a little more asthetically-polished.

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Posted by Somik Behera on
Hi guys,
        I am glad to see the intrest build up, well personally me and lot others are there who feel that phpBB is the best as far as forums/BB 's go and thats the reason it was ported by the postnuke and phpnuke and phpwebsite projects.
+ Points for phpBB

  -> more than 50 excellent themes that can be implemented with the click of a button
      http://www.phpbb.com/styles/styles_demo/
  -> Private messaging - Private message INBOX

  -> Better group management and administration and lot of easy admin features

  ->compliant with XHTML 1.0, consistent style using CSS.

  -> Its pretty much the most aestheticlly designed and best open source BB outthere.

Any Q's , please direct to me..

~Somik

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Posted by Vadim Makarov on
  • Private messaging - Private message INBOX

    Why? This is what email is for. I understand that offering built-in messaging helps the site gain popularity by forcing all users check it more often, but is there any other point to it?

    To me, this feature is a drawback in the big picture. Somebody writes you using this feature, and now you have to check not only your primary email, but also all phpBB boards you frequent. Soon you get tired of it, and some private messages to you get lost or unread for a long time.

  • Better group management and administration and lot of easy admin features

    Yes it looks nice, but here is the difference. PhpBB is a community platform in itself; there is all to it, it's basically the board only. OpenACS forums is just one possible package (module) in a much bigger system that has tens of other packages, as well as allows new custom-written packages, all interoperable and based on the common core. Most functions you see in phpBB admin interface, in OpenACS belong to other packages or to the core. E.g. user management, groups, permissions, notifications and mass email will be all handled by the core or by packages used by all and any package (including the forums package) and not tied to any particular package.

    Convenience, look and feel is important, especially for adapting by a wider audience. I agree. Just give us a hint how can we improve on that, given the wider and more universal structure of OpenACS.

    Hopefully I understand the dilemma properly :)

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Posted by Jon Griffin on
css, that is irrelevant as anyone can modify a stylesheet and most sites do use it.

OACS is a toolkit, not a standalone app. I personally don't care about themes, but we have skins.

Tell me Technically why phpBB is better. Most all you have given is eyecandy which anyone can program with a little html. Private messages - I don't see the point, send me email.

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Posted by Vadim Makarov on
Just to emphasize, popularity IS important. PhpBB can be set up by any inexperienced webmaster and includes ready-to-use eyecandy for those who want it. To do the same with OpenACS, you have to be more of a geek.

Let's not criticize, but learn those things that are good over there. The question is, how and if we can easily adapt some of the qualities/conveniences of phpBB into OpenACS, without losing anything in OpenACS.

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Posted by Don Baccus on
Technically I imagine it would be that the community admin UI is far superior than ours.  Vadim's right in that the OpenACS paradigm is that the core (subsite, actually) manages this for all packages.  In this sense it makes NO SENSE to port phpBB's  admin features to our forums package, because that's the wrong place to do user and group admin stuff in our multi-package environnment.

Somik may not be aware of our community admin pages if he's just looked at the forums package, but if he were he'd see quickly that they suck :)

Fortunately Lars Pind has already committed to spending time working up an admin UI for OpenACS, and we already have one volunteer willing to help implement better admin UI for the toolkit.  And we're going to be looking at migrating relevant admin UI bits and pieces from dotLRN to the main toolkit.

So things are going to be getting vastly better in this area the next few months.

As far as 50 themes ... I'd love to see people start making available different skins for the toolkit. Mostly to demonstrate to folks that it's easy to do.  The place to do that, though, is the subsite level not the forums level.  We aren't quite 100% there regarding consistent use of CSS but we're talking about it for 4.7.

In fact it probably wouldn't be that hard to swipe phpBB's themes and recast them for OpenACS subsites if anyone thinks they're attractive enough to bother with.

Somik ... visit http://openacs.org/projects/dotlrn/

This is just a subsite mounted under openacs.org that has a different skin than the main openacs.org site.  It's a very simple skin - really just the header is being skinned in this case - but that should give you the general idea, i.e. that you can mount a new subsite and give it a different skin.  You also control user membership and all that at the subsite level.  If you mount a forums package under a subsite like the dotLRN subsite it automatically inherits the skin for that subsite.

So this is where the effort goes ... making subsites better, not writing an individual package that has its own theming etc etc.

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Posted by Don Baccus on
Collaboraid has demonstrated how to build an autoinstaller for dotLRN with tclwebtest.  There's an "instant gratification" manual available for PG that we need to expand to include Oracle and make widely available.

And dotLRN has a much more slick look out of the box than OpenACS proper.  We need to migrate capability to OpenACS.

Which doesn't mean that phpBB's admin UI isn't worth looking at.  Lars may want to do that.  From what I've seen of Lars's UI design work in the past, though, I think he'll do a very good job in his design for OpenACS.

It is one of the weakest areas of the toolkit at the moment, no doubt about that.

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Posted by Tilmann Singer on
And as for the most easy to add feature of these - smileys (aka emoticons) are already in the cvs version of forums.
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Posted by Radamanthus Batnag on
Private messaging may be useful for some very specialized cases. One example I can think of is elance.com - an online IT service marketplace that makes money by mediating between service providers and service buyers. They want to provide a private venue where buyers and providers can communicate, but they don't want them to contact each other directly (they earn from commissions). Hence, the private mailbox.
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Posted by Chris Johnson on
I'd like to throw in my support for this idea.
I looked at OpenACS in the pre- and early 4.5 days last year and found its polish lacking. It's getting better, and bboards have gotten immensely better functionally, but it's time to take the last step and become slickified :)

First my outlook:
-phpBB is clearly the most visible, 'winning' open bulletin board system. Ergo, OpenACS immediately and automatically stands to learn from it--simply by virtue of 'what is phpBB doing to be so widely used?'
-Besides the continued dependence on aolserver (which I'm not against--let me finish the point), I believe that OpenACS needs strongly to fix social 'bugs' preventing uptake. The toolkit needs to have a strong out of the box experience, and bboards is arguably the most important experience that stands between now and wider use.

Private Messaging: increases stickyness of the site, as Vadim alluded to. Include it as an option--let's not let this be something easy to implement that will be counted as a drawback by users and socially-aware implementers

Streamlined Admin: this cannot be overemphasized, e.g. in response to Jon and Vadim. Although we may know that OpenACS is a toolkit with all these cool sub-site and general admin features, out of box is paramount. It must be dirt-simple to set up a bboard and--dare I say it--delegate bboard admining to a pool of admins and give them an experience similar to the most successful phpBB sites. Whether this OOB experience is implemented as a careful rewrite of overall admin or as a special package-specific extension, the end experience has to be streamlined.

What I think is so striking about phpBB is how impressively well stitched its UI is... not to denigrate anyone here, but phpBB leaves an indelible impression with its default and many of its other skins (another great example close to home: http://forums.gentoo.org ). I don't have a quick answer to this either except that we need to continue to refine the look. I can predict that the ruling text-oriented camp may need to be supplemented with a camp of people dedicated to making the UI (or one skin/version of it) as polished and graphics-inclusive as phpBB is (an objection I fully expect to gather from many oacs regulars).

Oh yeah, lastly: fun there is a 'serious' quality about oacs; there is a 'fun' quality about many bboards, esp. phpBB ones, and esp. ones with some level of Avatar customization capability. This is a must-have (if optional) feature IMO.
I am of course volunteering to help Lars and whomever in this endeavor... still getting my dev env setup... dang interruptions...
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Posted by Chris Johnson on
Ok, in endeavoring to edit my previous post, I have two other minor gripes (on my way to bug tracker to see if they are already registered):
1. my link to forums.gentoo.org didn't get in my above post linkified (someone tell me if this is user-configurable... !). That's what prompted my desire to ...
2. edit post does not exist/is not on openacs.org's bboards??.

Edit Post: another needed feature (optionally enabled) out of sheer need to not leave gaps in the experience of users of other bboards (I mean, the formula has matured over the years...).
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Posted by Jun Yamog on
I think there OpenACS is coming into an age wherein some people expect it to be good out of the box.  I hope it does become more polished, but it should be always remembered that OpenACS exists because its a toolkit.  Its a toolkit that individuals and compinies use to service their clients.  A well polished OpenACS I believe will likely come not from here but from a company.  Similar to Linux and the different distrobutions.

Since this thread has gathered enough eyeballs I think if a group of people interested in porting phpBB then they should do it.  Once the new package or modified forums are there, and the community sees that its better then it will likely be integrated into OpenACS.  This situation is no different from forums and bboard.  OF decided that bboards was not good enough, so they made forums.  The community agrees and now forums is part of OpenACS and is used in openacs.org.

P.S.

Has anybody noticed that pressing "Cancel" when you post still posts and not cancel the post. :)

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Posted by Lars Pind on
Chris,

1) Your URL didn't get turned into a link because you're using HTML mode, which just outputs your HTML in raw form. The new "enhanced text" input format which I just implemented for 4.7 this week would've done that.

2) The edit post feature is in the software, but it's configurable wether to allow people to do that or not.

/Lars

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Posted by Lars Pind on
Jun,

Re the cancel button: Yes. This is due to the way the cancel button was implemented originall, where each form page had to explicitly check for and handle the cancel button. This is now fixed in CVS, but this site hasn't been upgraded.

Consequently, I've removed the Cancel button for now.

/Lars

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Posted by Don Baccus on
Chris ... I guess the short answer is this:

OpenACS is not a bboard system.  Decent forums are important to us but I doubt many of us think that forums should be the primary focus of the project.

If we seem "serious" rather than "fun", it may be because a fairly large number of people make their living doing custom client work using the toolkit.  I've worked on two major client projects this year.  One of them doesn't include any bboards.

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Posted by Somik Behera on
Don,

what I think chris means by "fun" is easy to use UI, that makes the "look & feel" inviting, and no matter how robust the system may be, the ease of use and look and feel makes the difference in having people adapt to a new system, and thats the reason, two of the post popular community building systems on the web http://www.postnuke.org/ and http://www.php-nuke.org/ ( I have seen more projects on these platforms and am more familiar with them than OACS, so excuse my ignorance about some of the OACS topics). These two communities have their own BB, but they ended up porting phpBB and some ppl making similar solutions, cause it had superior capabilities than their own BB-MODULE, and with this I am trying to imply there is a lot of stuff we can learn from their friendly UI and implement in OACS, if there are couple of good graphics designers out there and with all of guys' technical talents it shouldnt be that big a project to make better UI's for most of the OACS modules which ppl see, with some good designers and minor changes you can make OACS Bboard much more appealing and the same stands true for more many other modules. The debate on this topic has been great and I think something comes out of it, that would make OACS a far more appealing solution.

~Somik

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Posted by Don Baccus on
I think you'll find 100% agreement that our toolkit needs a lot of work in the UI department, especially in the admin area.
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Posted by Gilbert Price on
Just a short note, the popular cms's based on php-nuke didn't "port" phpbb2 to anything, both, *nukes and phpBB2 applications are php/mysql driven, the *nukes encapsulated phpBB2, basically stripping out the guts and stuck it unto a frame, changed some of the queries to share userDB's and preferences.

Moving phpBB2 would require a complete rewrite to have it fully integrated into the OpenACS framework as everything else currently is...Or at least alot more work than turning it into an add-on for current php/mysql applications.

But in the end, I am with most everyone else, Bulletin Boards/Forums are an add-on for me, content is King! If I wanted a thriving Bulletin Board community, then I would find the best Bulletin Board application I could and build a site around it.

With OpenACS, I have a great platform for building content! Static page support, Lars-Blogger, general comments, edit-this-page, a great Bug-Tracker, Ticket Tracker Lite, on-line calendar, Lar's Bookshelf, and on and on, none of which appear in phpBB2, and many of the packages can't be found in any of the *nukes. Much of what is in a *nuke is more of a "oh that's a nice add-on" and of true limited value...

No; for me, the current work and goals are in line with my needs, I am hoping to leverage some of the packages currently available into a new application I am planning now for building this summer, but probably later :-).

I think everyone is on track and I really like the direction OpenACS is taking, later this month I will be completing a migration of our office intranet from OpenACS 3.2.5/php-nuke 5.2 to OpenACS 4.6 pure...

Just wanted to add my perspective as a user and integrater who is glad to be getting away from the php/mysql ties that bind...

Well, not so short...

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Posted by Vadim Makarov on
Somic, graphics design does not equal good UI. In fact, on the Web they are usually not related to one another at all.

The current forums package already has a bit too bloated screen layout, which makes it a bit slow (well, to me at least).

Avatars. In OpenACS, all content submitted by a user is consistently signed by his name. Forum posts is just one of the very many types of content, not the only one like in phpBB. You click on the name and go to the user's page, where - yes - he can upload a portrait or any other graphics. If you want an option to use avatars, it must be there. Take it from there to display in the board, if we ever want this option, err, clutter :)