Which forum software would solve my needs?

Rasbelin

Aspirant
Joined
Apr 4, 2004
Messages
19
I haven't been to TAZ for years, despite having registered here on such an epic date as 04/04/04. :) I'm currently not running any forum myself, as I just recently handed over my 10 year engagement which was based on SMF for all those years and had some 2700 users. I've in the past run on several sites vB 2.x and 3.x, phpBB and IPB, so I have a pretty good hunch about what I need. The problem for me is that I've been out of touch with the forum development side of business for at least 5 years. I know what happen with vB 4.x and 5.x, plus Kier doing a comeback with XenForo, but that's about it. This means I have no clue about the precise functionality of the latest platforms, not to mention mods and commerical add-ons. I did look at the XenForo admin demo and it's okay, but I'm not looking at creating an actual traditional web forum, but rather a business project.

So my question is which software (XenForo, vB and IPB are fine by me as the starting point) should I choose to accomplish the following things? Licensing software and buying coding won't be an issue, as I anyway need to contract someone for a custom site template for the platform.There's sufficient financial backup for this, so this doesn't have to be cheapskate stuff, as long as it's worth it.

Kayako or something similar might be the perfect solution, but then again there's no community side of it. I recalled the old support ticket mod for vB, which brought me thinking that somebody must have done something like that during these past years for some forum platform and hopefully more advanced. Kayako and alikes are licensing darn expensive even for business use. Three support agents and a handful of contractors to handle some 0-10 issues/week for $$$$... Yeah, keep on dreaming, Kayako.

There's two local niche solutions available for this, but neither has the discussion side of it, plus they're just way too expensive in comparison to what you get. Plus I'm stupid enough to start from scratch and prove that I can get the best site in the industry up and running. ;)

Service description

The website of a housing co-op needs to be developed to provide news, permanent information, facility management (read: support tickets) and community discussion. There's some 250-300 likely active users. I have already secured proper hosting from a reputable hosting provider, so techwise everything's ready. The site uses forced SSL connections and looking at getting an EV certificate.

Features required

- Usernames used for authentication, but not displayed to anyone, except for admins on the profile page and admin CP.
- First and family name required, showed as public name of user.
- Apparment number required in profile, except for the admin and contractor usergroups.
- Phone number required in profile, not visible to anyone else than admins and contractors.
- Password complexity enforcement.
- Password required to be changed several times per year.
- The site is only visible to registered users, which means support and discussions are off limits for guests. Some static content maybe available to guests, but other than that, nope.

- Main page with a vertical static box that contains a welcome message and describes the service. Search engines should pick up this for keywords and description in search results.
- Below that is one single forum for community discussion. The 5 latest threads would be shown as a forum listing on the main page.
- Vertical postbits like in vB 3.x. :p

- The third section would consist of subforums for the helpdesk. It would be individual to each user account, meaning threads are only visible to the initial poster. Admins see everything and contractors would see those threads they are assigned to by admins, unless it's technically too compliacted.
- Admins would get e-mail notifications about new support tickets, i.e. tickets.
- Implementing an SMS gateway as an alternative would be great. The syntax is simple and e.g. SMSglobal works well. I myself just don't have time for everything as there's a big IRL project going on.
- Threads, i.e. tickets, are assigned different statuses. Visible to adminds, thread creator and assigned contractors. Contractors only see what they get assigned to.
- Contractors get a notification when they are assigned to a ticket thread or there's new follow-ups.
- Contractors all have their own user account.

Sounds like mission impossible? :D

The whole ordeal has to comply with the EU regulations, which means that stupid cookie warning and a privacy policy page that outlines the details of the personal data registry of the housing co-op.

Any assistance is appreciated and any really good detailed points will be awarded somehow. No, not a free flat for one year. :p IRL would buy a pint or something like that.
 

Rasbelin

Aspirant
Joined
Apr 4, 2004
Messages
19
Oh, I forgot what I want for the news.

- News items are posted by admins and a news usergroup. Listed on the main page, below the welcome note. Maybe the 3 newest ones would be with the full body included and the rest of the posts would be on subpages.
- Welcome note not visible to registered users that are logged in.
 

adrianmtl

Aspirant
Joined
Sep 6, 2013
Messages
25
Wow, sounds like a big project! Not sure any solution will work out of the box exactly. I work for Vanilla (cloud solution), but I figure you are not looking for a hosted solution :p. Looking over your needs I think our open source version from Github meets most, if not all your needs. I have copied your list of wants with particulars about our solution in bold.

- Usernames used for authentication, but not displayed to anyone, except for admins on the profile page and admin CP.
Do you mean like anonymous names? I am sure that could be done with some small customization

- First and family name required, showed as public name of user.
- Apparment number required in profile, except for the admin and contractor usergroups.
- Phone number required in profile, not visible to anyone else than admins and contractors.
Profile Extender Plugin should make this possible: https://github.com/vanilla/vanilla/tree/master/plugins/ProfileExtender

- Password complexity enforcement.
When user does register their password is a checked against complexity check

- Password required to be changed several times per year.
We don't have that feature, but I am sure it would not be hard for you to customize

- The site is only visible to registered users, which means support and discussions are off limits for guests. Some static content maybe available to guests, but other than that, nope.
We offer granular permissions so you can control which roles can see content

- Main page with a vertical static box that contains a welcome message and describes the service. Search engines should pick up this for keywords and description in search results.
There is our message feature or you can use Pockets: https://github.com/vanilla/addons/tree/master/plugins/Pockets.

- Below that is one single forum for community discussion. The 5 latest threads would be shown as a forum listing on the main page.
There is a recent discussion module you can call in template like this {module name="DiscussionsModule" Limit="5"}

- Vertical postbits like in vB 3.x. :p
The theme is very customizable, and you can user meta with {module name="UserInfoModule"}.

- The third section would consist of subforums for the helpdesk. It would be individual to each user account, meaning threads are only visible to the initial poster. Admins see everything and contractors would see those threads they are assigned to by admins, unless it's technically too compliacted.
- Threads, i.e. tickets, are assigned different statuses. Visible to adminds, thread creator and assigned contractors. Contractors only see what they get assigned to.
- Contractors get a notification when they are assigned to a ticket thread or there's new follow-ups
- Contractors all have their own user account.

We offer a Q&A feature, and we use the Resolved plugin that may work: https://github.com/vanilla/addons/tree/master/plugins/Resolved, or maybe you can fork it to do something more. It may or may not be as robust as you need. Not sure your full case.

- Admins would get e-mail notifications about new support tickets, i.e. tickets.
Notifications in Admin Profile should work

- Implementing an SMS gateway as an alternative would be great. The syntax is simple and e.g. SMSglobal works well. I myself just don't have time for everything as there's a big IRL project going on.
Not available from what I know, but maybe someone in the community has built it.


- News items are posted by admins and a news usergroup. Listed on the main page, below the welcome note. Maybe the 3 newest ones would be with the full body included and the rest of the posts would be on subpages.
There is a PromotedContent module you can call in template like this {module name="PromotedContentModule" Selector="Role" Selection= "Administrator" Limit="3"}

- Welcome note not visible to registered users that are logged in.
Yes, you use Pockets something like below:
{if !$User.SignedIn}
{pocket name="foo"}
{/if}

I know sometimes Vanilla is not the choice that comes to everyone's mind, but it is very flexible,robust and battle-tested. If you have more questions, I'll try my best. The open source community at vanillaforums.org is also very friendly too. Good luck with your project. I wish you all the best :)
 
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XinYenFon

Developer
Joined
Jun 7, 2012
Messages
152
If you are an old timer you know how flexible SMF is :p I encourage you to keep with SMF. Most of the things you need requires a mod or custom coding.

- http://custom.simplemachines.org/mods/index.php?mod=1665 (email login)
- http://custom.simplemachines.org/mods/index.php?mod=2910 (Pass strength)
- First name/last name/apartment number can be done via Custom Fields (you can edit privacy part to show fields to admins only)
- https://github.com/emanuele45/Force-New-Password (Force pass)
- You can edit permissions to show some boards to guests or disallow at all.
- http://custom.simplemachines.org/mods/index.php?mod=2491 (Help Desk)
- https://github.com/emanuele45/EU-cookie-law (EU Cookie Law)
- You need to find theme to fits your needs which has vb3 style postbit

in general what you want is not impossible but unnecessary for core software :) - Things you have on the list requires custom coding. Probably cost you some...
 

adrianmtl

Aspirant
Joined
Sep 6, 2013
Messages
25
Antes you are right, I don't think any solution will have this in core. I also read too fast. If you have 10 years experience with SMF, it might be easier to stick with what you know. Nevertheless, if you are up for a change... :D
 
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Rasbelin

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Joined
Apr 4, 2004
Messages
19
Well, honestly speaking I dislike SMF - at least 1.x. I didn't run it for 10 years because of the software, but to see if the move from Yahoo! Groups succeeds and the site is worth a vB or IPB license. I eventually got an IPB license and later bought the branding free option for vB (moved one of my old licenses over to that site), but I never migrated to either platform. Translating some 5000-7000 phrases in vB or IPB is a daunting task. Plus there's no proper Finnish translation available out-of-box. SMF is the only viable platform available, but it's just too illogical for me. My background is strongly with vB and I really liked Jelsoft and their customer support. Plus vB.org was awesome. Over time my intrest in running that SMF based community faded and I never used the potential to monetize on it. I just got rid of it recently simply to cut costs. I used some 3000$ during the past 10 years on the site.

I appreciate your responses. :) XenForo, vBulletin and IPB interest me because of the support and reliability (minus vB 5.x apparently). I haven't used the SMF 2.x series, so not sure if it's good. However the permission and usergroup system of SMF 1.x was darn illogical to me as a vBull'er.

I don't think 250-300 possibly active users is that. Remember it's not the same as concurrent or the total number of accounts. ;) I assume there's some 10-30 users visiting per day. The whole project isn't about getting exposure, but to provide a necessary service for facility maintenance and management. Reliability is #1 and that nothing gets hacked. That's why I underscore account security, because that's why many compromisations occur - way too weak account passwords. And of course lack of encryption makes it easy to eavesdrop. It's not a mission critical system, but it has to be reliable.

Certainly nothing covers this 100% as vanilla, but that's why I'm asking here which platform would easily accomodate the customisations and if there's currently possible exisiting good add-ons/hacks/mods/you name it. I know the vB community from ages ago, but that's not this day anymore. XenForo is something I see as vibrant, but I just don't know if it can do this stuff easily. I'm fine using up to 500-1000$ on customisation, but it would of course be cheaper, more reliable and easily portable along with new platfrom updates, if it's customised codewise as little possible.

I'll take a look at those SMF 2.x add-ons. And no, I don't want it outsourced, but to host it in-house. It's not that resource intensive anyway.
 

Rasbelin

Aspirant
Joined
Apr 4, 2004
Messages
19
It doesn't exist yet. That's why I'm asking for advice. ;) Currently there's just a static website, which won't be carried over.
 

Kyrie

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Joined
Sep 2, 2009
Messages
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The website of a housing co-op needs to be developed to provide news, permanent information, facility management (read: support tickets) and community discussion. There's some 250-300 likely active users. I have already secured proper hosting from a reputable hosting provider, so techwise everything's ready. The site uses forced SSL connections and looking at getting an EV certificate.


Oh read here.. How big is your house? :)
 

Rasbelin

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Joined
Apr 4, 2004
Messages
19
Oh, and I get that figure of 250-300 users based on the fact that there's owners and occupants about that many. Of course not all of them even have a PC, but mainly it's singles or couples without children that live here, so there's not that many computer illiterates. Just to be more precise. I'm pretty certain however that if this succeeds, I have a potential to make money on this and sell this to other housing co-op LLCs.
 

Kyrie

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Sep 2, 2009
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Oh, and I get that figure of 250-300 users based on the fact that there's owners and occupants about that many. Of course not all of them even have a PC, but mainly it's singles or couples without children that live here, so there's not that many computer illiterates. Just to be more precise. I'm pretty certain however that if this succeeds, I have a potential to make money on this and sell this to other housing co-op LLCs.


Do you mind PM'n me the link, I'd like to see your static webpage. Also, I want to help. I can help you achieve everything.
 

Rasbelin

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Joined
Apr 4, 2004
Messages
19
Help as in "I'm a free cheapskate, gimme ur password so that I can steal your software licenses!!1" or "I'm desperate for work, PLEASE HIRE ME"? ;) I'll keep your nickname on my mind. I just however need to settle the software question first. There's anyway plenty of coders looking for projects, but I sure do value reliability and when someone takes the initiative to offer services.
 

VICE

tool
Joined
Jun 8, 2013
Messages
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Help as in "I'm a free cheapskate, gimme ur password so that I can steal your software licenses!!1" or "I'm desperate for work, PLEASE HIRE ME"? ;)
Lol, and all he did was only asking for the link privately.

As for the software, your forum definitely requires a hell lot of custom works.
The correct software to choose would be the one that has a stable core.
So it's either WBB or XF as IPB3 is obsolete and ver.4 still need lots of time to mature.
 

Sebastian

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Joined
Jan 15, 2015
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16
Lol, and all he did was only asking for the link privately.

As for the software, your forum definitely requires a hell lot of custom works.
The correct software to choose would be the one that has a stable core.
So it's either WBB or XF as IPB3 is obsolete and ver.4 still need lots of time to mature.
Have you heard something I've missed? When has IPB 3 been announced obsolete or EOL'd?
 

Rasbelin

Aspirant
Joined
Apr 4, 2004
Messages
19
12 hours later and I've just installed XenForo. Hopefully it does the trick. Would be a waste of money otherwise. Oh, well, I could always start a new forum then. :p
 

Kyrie

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Sep 2, 2009
Messages
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I wanted to offer volunteer work to help you achieve your goal.
 

DanielGarneau

Enthusiast
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Dec 21, 2014
Messages
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[...] Looking over your needs I think our open source version from Github meets most, if not all your needs. I have copied your list of wants with particulars about our solution in bold. [...] I know sometimes Vanilla is not the choice that comes to everyone's mind, but it is very flexible,robust and battle-tested. If you have more questions, I'll try my best. The open source community at vanillaforums.org is also very friendly too. Good luck with your project. I wish you all the best :)

Is the documentation of Vanilla geared towards people who already have all of the necessary background to understand what needs to be done without explicitly mentioning some very important points, as is sometimes the case when specialists talk to specialists, in their own field? Or does it take into account that some people requiring to take charge of a Vanilla Forum project may not already know a lot of background stuff?
 
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