Organizing Your Forums Logically in VB.NET

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Organizing Your Forums Logically
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Time is money, and you will need to put a lot of time into your message board to make it worth your while and be something special. Generally, you need to pay very close attention to how you decide to organize your forums. Keep your forums in line with the main content of the rest of your web site. People are on your site because they are interested in what your site has to say on a particular topic, and having a forum for their discourse will be a boon to your traffic (and repeat traffic). It s a good idea to make a map of your site s content (if you don t have one already) and model your forums and categories against that map.
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Respecting Your Bread and Butter: Your User Base
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It s very important that you visit your forum frequently to keep up with what is going on. Abandoning your board is the worst thing for it. People feel comfortable seeing their fearless leader stick around their board, so they don t feel left out in the cold. If your members report problems,
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CHAPTER 7 INTRODUCING PHPBB
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make an honest attempt to resolve the issues. Make them feel at home in your community. It s a good idea to welcome them aboard, as this creates a personal rapport. Always act in a professional manner, and remember that you only get one chance to make a first impression. Your users ultimately define the difference between a successful message board and a miserable failure if you keep that in mind, and act accordingly, you ll have done well for yourself.
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You would do very well to make sure your forums visually resemble the rest of your site. Ideally, you will be able to create a template that closely matches the design of the rest of your site, create forums whose topics closely reflect whatever services or products your site may deliver, and apply it to your community. Keeping continuity between the two areas of your site not only will help your users feel right at home, but could also have the added effect of further visits to your site s main content, which can only help. Continuity is a must for professionalism on your site. Leaving the default theme will not necessarily make your site stand out and be appealing.
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At the very least, it s critical that you keep your forum software current. If you don t, you open yourself up to security problems and a nightmare that no forum administrator wants to experience: a board hijacking. Additionally, introducing new features via modifications (also known as mods or hacks) every once in a while is a smart idea. You could also add new smilies from time to time to appease your users. People love new stuff, and it keeps them coming back every time.
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Using a Quality Script
Finally, it s important that the forum script you choose is of high quality. Forum scripts that are buggy detract from the users experience. Make sure your script is easily maintained and upgraded to help facilitate running a well-patched and secure board, and make sure your script has a large support network in case something goes wrong. Lucky for you, I ve made this search easy, as I m covering such a script in this part.
Enter phpBB
The first version of phpBB grew out of the need for a PHP-based message board script that visually resembled the gold standard of message boards in 2000, Infopop s Ultimate Bulletin Board. The board caught on with users as a simple, easily run script, and the rest is history. Since those humble beginnings, phpBB s popularity has grown tremendously, with a vast online community of developers, gurus, and code hackers. It s been translated into over 25 languages, and had over a thousand modifications and templates coded for it. People have coded entire content management systems around it, showing how popular phpBB is with the online community. Figure 7-1 illustrates a default installation of phpBB 2.0.
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