Fertility Friends [Big Board] - Featured Forum


Tazmanian Veteran
Jan 1, 2004
The Admin Zone has a large sub-community of Big Board forum Administrators that openly share details of their success in our interviews.

Below is our interview with AbsoluteBreeze (Tony).


What is the name of your website and a brief description of the theme/topic of the forums. What is the url? List some of the most popular forums and describe its discussions. What prompted you to start your forum? What was your launch date?

is a website that supports couples who are going through fertility issues - including assisted conception, parenting after infertility, adoption and surrogacy. The website also has areas to help couples where there are no longer any available options for them to successfully achieve a child of their own, or for those whom the chance of this happening is very slim

It is hard to define which areas are more popular, because we have added boards as the forum has evolved. Going strictly by post count – our most popular board is the IVF general chit chat area.

The website was started on January 11th 2002. I built the website because at the time, my wife and I were going through IVF treatment and being semi geeky, we looked online for support. We found a that there was a clear lack of internet based support for couples in the UK, and the best we could find was north American websites. However getting answers to medical questions with time zones getting in the way was more frustrating than supportive. Sometimes we were waiting 6 hours for an answer to a post.

Our forum is reasonably modified and includes additional features like integrated coppermine gallery and chat room. I am working on building several projects that work within the forums api. These include an international clinic review system with a social networking bent and also a weight loss management system which has some fantastic flash graphing too.

There are lots more projects too – however I am the only developer, and there isn’t enough time in the day.

Which software do you use for your forums?

We started out on YaBBSE 1.0 and migrated onto SMF 1.1.5 (current stable). I was also on the SMF team for a while and this helped expose me to problems and solutions that other admins were going through.

From a management perspective we also use TaskFreak - http://www.taskfreak.com although I intend on replacing this with an SMF mod once I get some spare time. It’s a great app though!

What is your current server set-up? Do you have multiple servers for your big board forum? Who manages your servers?

One of my roles is to manage the servers and these are both collocated. One is a Dual Xeon 2.8ghz, 6Gb Ram, 2x73gb Mirrored SCSI running Centos 4.3 64bit and the other is a HP Proliant G4p with Dual 3.6 GHz Xeon, 2MB L2 cache and hyperthreading.

The first server powers our forum and the second is for our new chat server with built in video conferencing. Its not live yet.

Membership stats? How many members?

Our membership is reasonably small at 24,370 – however they manage to push 5 million page views a month. During our the day our online activity is usually around 1000 to 1500 users on each day at any one time.

98% of our membership are female. It was never intended to be like this – but I put this down to the fact that women are more likely to research for fertility issues than men.

We have a broad range of ages – but I would guess at between 25-40 is a typical age range on our site. The majority (above 90%) of our members are from the UK.

Tell us a about your staff including how many admins (and their functions), moderators, mentors, web-developers, etc. Explain how your staff is organized.

We have a touch over 300 boards, and the majority of these are medical related. Each needs to be fully moderated. Our staff structure has evolved to reflect this and also to cover the roles required as a non profit company.

We have two mod team leaders, 33 moderators and a number of professional staff(Nurses, Lawyers, HR, health visitors etc). All are volunteers.

The admin team can be broken down in several areas, including press, academic assistance, research, tv media enquires, treasury, secretary, chat services manager, professional volunteer management and mod management.

How do you generate revenue to cover your expenses?

We have a no advertising policy, aside from members own companies that is. For which we have an area called pink pages.

FertilityFriends.co.uk Limited is an independent voluntary support organisation, we do not receive any funding from the government or from lottery funds.

We rely on the generosity and kindness of others to enable us to operate and provide support.

We do offer a voluntary membership called Charter VIP which is currently set at £20 per year or £3.99 per month. This membership is not required to use any of our support services and only increases the bells and whistles for the users.

Our current charter package includes

A Free high quality silicon wristband to help you identify other FF's at your clinic!
A Free FertilityFriends.co.uk pen!
Your very own picture albums (public or private) in the FF Gallery
Access to nearly 100 games in the staff games arcade
Extra functions when posting messages - a rainbow of fab colours to choose from! add photo's to your posts (via Attachments)
10 times More space than regular members in your Instant Messaging inbox
Access to our private charter area where you can discuss and suggest improvements for the site
Secret Smiley Codes!
Mood Bears - let your friends know your mood just be reading your posts
Fun in our play shop! Earn credits on the forum and spend them buying your friends virtual flowers or something for yourself! All without spending a penny!
Virtual Pets!

What is your name?
Please share a few things about yourself. (Bio, family, education, background, hobbies, your favorite pizza topping, your favorite vacation spot, your choice of transportation, etc)

Name: Tony Reid
Age: 34
Location: Wickford, Essex - UK
Quote: In what way doesn't it work?

Well, during the day I work in the information systems department of London insurance broker.

I love the buzz that coding in PHP gives and I'm lucky enough to be allowed to play with it all day at work. I get to write web based applications for insurance risk management which all run on our intranet and blackberries. My current major project is a work flow and insurance tracking system and it has been under continuous development for the last 3 years.

I did three years at college and never went to Uni.

It seems like I spend way too much time on my site – but most of the time I am dealing with potential legal issues being caused by members (liable etc). If I am not doing that then I am working on development. I try to leave the rest to the admin team.

Being a ‘moderated’ website, we are bound by some very tight laws here in the UK.

I do have a separate office, however I spend most of my development time on the train or on the sofa with my laptop.

The biggest obstacle I have found is when we moved from shared hosting onto our own server. I wasn’t prepared financially. Luckily the community came through and donations came flooding in and it set us on track.

What 3 things have helped your forums to be a success?

If I were to name 3 things that have made our forum a success, they would be :

1) We have selected a fantastic team – without them, we would not be the success we are.

2) Friendliness – we greet all members and help them feel less isolated. Our introductions moderators handle this – although other team members also pop into our introductions board on a daily basis. This helps massively.

3) We evolved with need. And didn’t litter our forum with empty boards.

In addition to the above, its better to be good at one thing than only being 'ok' at lots of things.

Thank you, Tony, for taking the time to answer the questions for us! And congrats on the success of your forum!
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