Time for a big change

Discussion in 'Technical' started by Blipman, May 15, 2006.

  1. Blipman

    Blipman Beer hooves totally work

    I'm posting here rather than in Forum Discussion as some of the more entry level users don't check there, and this affects EVERYONE.

    A brief state of the association address: as most are aware there have recently been some technical problems with the site and at the moment it is running with some features disabled or stripped down to a more basic state. The new server move which took place a few weeks/months ago has not turned out to be the magic solution we had planned for and in fact has probably been a step backwards even. Live and learn. Without going into technical details (cause I don't know 'em!) the load on the server in peak times was too great. The traffic on the site meant the server (which has 10 other websites also on it) was using too much of its resources on us alone, and the hosting company who runs the server disabled our site until we could stop hogging it. There are certain request made of the database which are too much for the server and while some load has been reduced by making a few changes, the functionality has been reduced (e.g. the next page button) and as the site continues to grow it will no doubt be a problem again. Combined with Simon and Craig (creators of the existing software) no longer able to support it, a few minor bugs still exist plus a long list of new feature requests (though none of them essential) it's probably time to looking at new forum software. A request went out a recently for new people to help technically support the site and there has been some people contact us about this, but the lesser known Cold Fusion software environment has been a problem for most people who offered, and we were expecting some problems anyway with a new person looking at and working out code they didn't write.

    I'm happy to hear what feedback people have, this is at a very preliminary stage right now however we would like to move on this reasonably swiftly to avoid the problems which currently exist. Ultimately the differences in forum software (including between this software and what we eventually choose) will in reality be minimal. While people sing hallelujah about funky drop down menus and slick graphics after a week it's all pretty meaningless and the actual viewing and posting you do in reality 99% of the time will be largely unchanged and a month after it goes live people will hardly notice the difference. The improvement in stability and losing some of the bugs will be where the real benefit is.

    Beyond all considerations in this change is the ability to keep the majority of current data, there is after all 7(ish) years of quality info that we have and people don't tell newbies to use search for nothing. Beyond all else this is of greatest importance. Other issues include but are not limited to:
    - the possibility of keeping features of the current forum or at least something similar (e.g. Ride profile details, VTD function, threaded view option and so on)
    - affordability
    - long term maintainability and stability
    - similar look and feel to existing site so people don't have to completely reaquaint themselves

    5 or so years ago when this software was written there really weren't the alternatives there are today, in particular at the time we wanted threaded views, customizeable profile options (nothing at the time had them!) and a few things tailored to our desires.... it has served us well until recently but these days there are plenty of good options out there (5 years is a long time on the net!).

    I've spent quite a bit of time researching forum software which is out there which I'll list below. Thanks to raZorTT, hyper101, K-Zed and others for their suggestions on possible forum software, I actually looked into several others and the final list was exactly those which they recommended.... always trust the experts I guess :)

    Antoher bonus of going to proprietary software is that the need for technical support will be minimal/non existant. It will be hosted with a company experienced with the software so there should be minimal downtime, bugs should (in theory) not exist or will be fixed with software updates, and ultimately we will have no need for people with specific technical knowledge of the site, so if someone gets hit by a truck things will still be ok (person being hit by a truck not withstanding).

    Options currently being considered:
    Invision Power
    There is an online demo there people can try out and you can also login as an admin to see what options/customization is possible.
    Price including hosting is reasonable
    They will convert our existing database to theirs (for a price), possibly Simon/Craig can assist with this to keep costs down)
    Has a Warnings system, which is the closest VTD analog I've seen
    Bad points: NO threaded view, only flat view. The profile fields are pretty average, even your real name is not a default. Extra fields can be made but they sort of look like an afterthought when you do and they don't appear to be as important as perhaps they are.

    There is also a Chat and Gallery add on. The Gallery is a BIG Pandora's box and may not be possible due to hard drive space and bandwidth limitations so don't expect this feature will be a given, we'll have to see. This is a 'nice to have' rather than essential and just may not be feasible without shelling out a lot of money on hosting for something that isn't truley needed.

    At preset this in my opinion is looking like the most promising contender, feedback is welcome.

    Like Invision seems to be fairly widely used, seems to be on par with Invision but lacks some of the bonus features mentioned above.
    It does have a threaded view of sorts, but only once you are within an actual thread itself, and even in 'Hybrid' mode it doesn't actually make it much easier to navigate and ultimately it might as well not be there.

    Ok but again lacking some of Invision's features. No threaded view. Common feedback seems to be that this is a little slow once traffic gets up there unless you have a quick server, may not be an issue unless we push whatever server it is on to it's boundaries.

    UBB Central/UBB Threaded
    DOES have threaded view, however in reality it's not very intuitive and doesn't do the job very well in that respect. No mouse over popup or similar to speed up browsing.
    Price is pretty poor either for a license to run on an external machine, and to host with them (where you don't have to buy a license) is also pretty average in terms of pricing, for our database size alone we'd have to go with a far more expensive plan than the competition offers. I think there are even limits for the number of posts for each plan which again with the number we have pushes us into a high and expensive bracket.

    All of the above have online demos you can try so by all means have a fiddle.

    I'll have to consult with Simon regarding what sort of database size we have (I know it's around 300meg worth of posts) and bandwidth (we had a quarter of a million page views a week I think and that was several years ago), I think ultimately we will be aiming for a hosting plan that is around $30 per month, that's what we're currently paying anyway and sticker sales supports this no problem. As has been discussed many times in the past we have no desire for sponsorhip or for members having to pay, that's not what the founding ideals of the forum were

    We're happy to hear any feedback people have, I'm sure people have used the above software on other sites in the past (I go to sites with 3 out of those 4 every now and then) and can offer some feedback as to hwo they are with frequent use and where there might be shortcomings. Likewise let me know of any worthy contenders I've missed. I know that EVEYRONE will have their favourites and will therefore tell us we rule with an iron fist when we choose something else, bottom line is it will be impossible to please everyone, please try and look at it from a less 'me-centric' view, we are trying to please as many people as possible with this decision but it can't be all. There will NOT be a vote on which software we choose, we are keen to hear what people have to say but there are many more issues than purely want people want to be taken into consideration for this decision, in particular in terms of the administrative options which software will present us with, as well as straight up finances and hosting options.

    Anyway I'm done for now, speak to us, people :D

  2. chewy

    chewy Active Member

  3. minivan

    minivan Guinea Pig Test Monkey

    will you be willing to let go of the forum all together?
  4. mafi-zed

    mafi-zed the resident hoon

    nissan silvia uses invision power pro and they have a gallery setup..

    quite like the color too, they can also use banners etc.. for sponsor's or advertizement (possibly advertize the stickers n shirts etc..)

    my 2.761 cents

    ZDUCTIV Active Member

    Extra profile information could be stored in
    Invision Community Blog v1.1.2
    if your looking for profile information customisability like aus300zx, n twinturbo.net.

    Speaking of twinturbo.net, what forum software do they use?
  6. K-zed

    K-zed Secret Squirrel

    I looked thru the listings for something similar to what we have now

    UBB s/ware has a threaded view, which is one feature I'd like to see retained. As Ben stated, it's not all that flash (or intuitive) & their s/ware is exxy.

    Price isn't so much the problem, IMHO, as plenty of us would happily kick-the-tin to get what we (as a majority), most want.

    I lean toward THREADED view s/ware options to retain the topic discussion continuity which is often lost in FLAT view.
  7. Hyper101

    Hyper101 Well-Known Member

    Re: I looked thru the listings for something similar to what we have now

    IPB and vBulletin both have threaded view per topic/thread as a user definable option. Im not sure what peoples expectations are regarding this as I find it more than satisfactory.
  8. Oni

    Oni Active Member

    Would it help at all if we were to limit the size of...

    ...images just like Photobucket and others do? Sometimes the image size is just awesome! If people then want the super size me images do what Franz does and host them elsewhere?!

    Don't know if that affects the issues you identified with bandwith and storage.

    Best of luck with whatever we do, its certainly gotta be better than what we have now.

  9. ZG00DZ

    ZG00DZ New Member

    There are already some good suggestions re: Forum Software

    But though I might chime in Re: Hosting.
    There is a great hosting company in the US called CrystalTech. They are cheap ultra reliable and really quick to respond Re: any support issues.


    Suppose depending on what software you chose as to what inclusions you would need but if you look here you can see for shared server around the same you say your paying now $36.95 - you can get 1,500MB Website space with 150GB Bandwith and supporting all extensions.

    Just another one to throw into the ring of possabilities :thumbsup:

    ...SAU uses Invision Power Board and they have quite a nice looking setup. Seems very scalable and i personaly have never seen it down (Could just be the times i chose to login though :wacko:)
  10. black baz

    black baz black 'n blue Bazemy

    clearly a major step in the development and future of the forum .. as

    a confirmed computer "igno", i will gladly accept the recommendations of the forum computer gurus as to the best way to proceed .. i do not envy those having to make the final choice .. but, indeed, a positive forum development ...:thumbsup::thumbsup::thumbsup:
  11. SIM300


    I think we all agree with you Ben, time for a BIG change...

    The forum is so unstable. Personally I don't mind the look of vBulletin Version 3.5.2

    It's flat layout, but I think it saves topics disappearing off the first page so quickly.
  12. lysergic

    lysergic PWRTRIP

    vbulletin is a good forum base
  13. bion1c

    bion1c Z Slave

    hmm seems to be about due

    I quite surprised (and impressed actually) to learn that this forum was running on custom software. I've written some fairly large applications myself and I know what kind of time and committment goes into it that most end users don't realize.

    While there are a few features on the forum that i like and haven't seen anywhere else (in particular, the pop-up thread contents), i would definitely be looking at running this from something off-the-shelf. Otherwise its going to be a never ending bug hunt while trying to constantly add features to keep up with forum X.

    So anyway.. i guess what i'm saying is that i think its a good move. You can sleep easy now you have my approval :LOL:

    Of the forums i've seen on the net, I particularly like the overclockers australia one. They're located at:


    I believe their site is based on vBulletin 3, but it has been customised quite a bit i think.

    The OCAU site is by far the largest computer site in australia, and their forum traffic is HUGE. As you can imagine they have similar problems with hosting pictures etc.

    The way they solved it was to do some kind of deal with "UGBox" (http://imagestore.ugbox.net/), whereby users can upload pictures to their site for display ONLY on OCAU. There are some restrictions on picture size etc to ensure that hosting limits don't get out of control.

    If users want to link up large images in their posts, that's cool, but they have to host it themselves.

    My suggestion is to go with vbulletin, but i'm not really too worried. Its the content thats the main attraction of the site.

    Incidentally, the hardest part of the migration is going to be moving the data across (duh), so ultimately the choice might get dictated by which product allows easier data migration...
  14. bion1c

    bion1c Z Slave

    and we need email notifications !!!! :thumbsup:

    ZDUCTIV Active Member

    Re: vbulletin is a good forum base

    Invision Power Board gets my vote. All the forums I frequent that use it seem to be super stable, and I use the flat view here anyway. Althought IPB threaded view does leave a little to be desired, I think a more major down point for it is its profile information :/.
  16. ZG00DZ

    ZG00DZ New Member

    Pics are already hosted externally....

    Just the post database is getting to big to manage. :wacko:
    To many postwhores in our midst :embarrassed::LOL:

  17. K-zed

    K-zed Secret Squirrel


    http://forums.overclockers.com.au/ looks pretty good.

    vBulletin's threaded view isn't bad as it opens up the selected message in panel below, fast too!

    Good example of a working forum! Well done bion1c :thumbsup:
  18. tom@pzp

    tom@pzp www.pzp.com.au

    ive admined an invision board before....

    pretty good software me thinks.... admin cp is good :)
  19. minivan

    minivan Guinea Pig Test Monkey

    Re: ive admined an invision board before....

    migration is a once off, nothing is impossible.. i dont think that should be a deciding factor at all.
  20. WYKKED

    WYKKED <b><font color=red>2 Much Trouble</font></b>

    Why would we have to?

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