View Full Version : Forum Software Change

Tom Westbrook
24-Feb-2006, 05:20
Hello fellow Forum members,

Sometime in the next month or two, we will be retiring the current forum software and switching over to a vBulletin-based forum. Any of you who have visited other photography forums, most notably www.APUG.org (http://www.APUG.org), are probably familiar with this software. We felt it was pretty intuitively set up and would fulfill most feature requests that have been expressed in the past. While some members may be disappointed with this change, we believe you'll eventually agree that the gains will outweigh the losses.

While I enjoyed helping to write the current software and am pleased that most members seem to like it, I really don't have the time these days to modify or maintain it. Also, for long-term needs we felt it best to move to a package that was likely to be supported for the foreseeable future. Some members will recall that over-reliance on custom software very nearly sunk the forum a few years ago.

As for the conversion, we have been evaluating, testing, and configuring the new home with an eye toward simplicity and keeping it as speedy as possible. The performance isn't as snappy as it is now, but is still quite good. Importing the archives will take the most work and some details still need working out, but I think we'll get it done without too much difficulty.

We'll have more news later once we get more of the details ironed out. We just wanted you to know what is coming so you wouldn't feel blindsided by this major change to our little corner of the Internet.

Kind regards

Rafal Lukawiecki
24-Feb-2006, 05:31
Will you still support RSS, please?


Tom Westbrook
24-Feb-2006, 06:15
< Will you still support RSS, please?


John Brownlow
24-Feb-2006, 06:46
Good decision, Tom. Good luck with the transition.

24-Feb-2006, 06:47
Don't make it look to similar to APUG! Regular visitors of both will get confused on which forum they are.

Tom Westbrook
24-Feb-2006, 07:04
> Don't make it look to similar to APUG!

Not to worry. I think we're going with the default style (http://www.vbulletin.com/forum) to begin with--it's mostly blue-ish. I think Sean would pitch a fit if we tried to copy his look. I only referred to that site becuase the basic functions will be similar and will be more-or-less familiar to users of that site. Sean has done a lot of customization over there that we probably won't do.

Oren Grad
24-Feb-2006, 08:18
I rather like the current lean and simple style - still very much in the spirit of Phil Greenspun's approach to web programming. But I do understand the burden of maintenance and appreciate all your efforts over the years. Good luck with the transition...

Sal Santamaura
24-Feb-2006, 10:08
Tom, you can't be faulted for wanting some relief. I will, however, miss the cleanest, most efficient and effective bulletin board user interface that exists on the Web. My suspicion is that a need for more moderator control over miscreant posters was the single biggest factor driving this decision...

Greg Miller
24-Feb-2006, 10:46
"but I think we'll get it done without too much difficulty.".

Doh! You just totally pissed off the IT gods and are doomed to failure. I sincerely hope all goes well but as an IT pro of many years I cringe when I see a comrade tempt fate like that. Best of luck!

24-Feb-2006, 10:55
Through our Internet business we added a forum a few years back. We began with Invision software, but became disenchanted with it and looked for something better. We found vBulletin and have used it for a few years now and are glad we made the change when we did. IMO the vBulletin software is one of the best forum platforms out there. Even though it may run slower for the end user when compared to the current format, (APUG runs slower for me than this forum in comparison), it will give the owners a reliable up-to-date solution for security updates which is an important factor to consider when making such a leap in changes (a lot of work if archiving all the threads!!). There are a few reliable solutions for vBulletin skins and other add-ons (i.e. gallery addition) like vBstyles (http://www.vbstyles.com/) and vBadvanced (http://www.vbadvanced.com/) that we have used with much success. I will miss the current simple design on this end, but I totally understand the need for the change. Good luck with the transition.

David Karp
24-Feb-2006, 11:03
Thanks for all the work you folks have done in making this such a great running forum. Sorry it will change, but I completely understand. Hope the changeover goes well.

Kirk Gittings
24-Feb-2006, 11:08
Frankly I am really disappointed. I appreciate your efforts but I LOVE the current look!

24-Feb-2006, 11:21
I fully share Kirk's sentiment. And I feel there's going to be a lot of it around, for two reasons, the bigger of them being the fact that this IS the cleanest and leanest looking forum around.

The other reason being that we are mostly a bunch of old(er) guys and change never sits well with this kind of demographic. :)

On the other hand, one's gotta do what one's gotta do.

Good luck with the transition

Frank Petronio
24-Feb-2006, 11:45
We'll all be used to it in a couple of days. I hope you can retain the ability to do searches of all the old threads... will they be closed off with the change?

24-Feb-2006, 11:48
"The other reason being that we are mostly a bunch of old(er) guys and
change never sits well with this kind of demographic. :)"

I think some of the problem may come from the visual distractions a too fancy graphic design may impose. This includes too many buttons, options, categories, etc. I know the Invision software was way too complicated at the time for use to impose on our users. Another factor that I never like when viewing a forum for the first time is the need to register just to read the threads. We do not require this on our forum and only require registration if you want to post a message. A simpler, cleaner design can cure a lot of this IMO. "Keep it simple stupid" is a good design idea from the get go.

24-Feb-2006, 12:02
I will miss the simple and easy to use format of the present site. I've always found forum site's like APUG's to be a pain in the @ss to navigate. Too much crap to wade through to get to what's important.

Many thanks Tom and those that have kept this site running. I hope the new site will be as easy to use.


24-Feb-2006, 12:25
just promise us that the new software will be all analog. people will throw a fit if you start asking them to use digital sofware.

Ted Harris
24-Feb-2006, 12:27
No moans nor groans here just heart felt thanks to Tom, QT and the moderators. What the forum team deserves is our continuing thanks for their time spent and continuing devotion. I don't want to tun this into a rant but if any web design professionals can aid and assist, wht not send Tom an email?

24-Feb-2006, 12:43
I am a retired graphic designer/pro photographer that would be more than happy to extend any help in anyway to the owners/moderators of this forum.

Richard Boulware
24-Feb-2006, 12:43
The possibility of a format change to this very popular board really troubles me. APUG really screwed the pooch, when they went to that overly complicated, visually BUSY format.

If the old addage..."Form Follows Function" really holds true, than this format should stay.

If, on the other hand, this present format envolves to much time and trouble for moderators, then I can understand their motivation. There is a price for everything in life. This board might see a dramatic drop-off in interest and posting of the APUG model is adapted.

Perhaps the real question might be...."Is the reason for change here, for the moderators,...or for the convenience of the audience..those of us who post here"?

The beautiful simplicity of this Forum, is one of it's greatest strengths. I hope you will not throw the bath water out, with the baby.

Respecfully submitted.

Richard Boulware in Denver.

Ken Lee
24-Feb-2006, 13:00
The software to which we are going to migrate, is fairly customizeable.

You can a look at vBulletin's list of sites here (http://www.vbulletin.com/links.php" target="_blank). There are literally thousands of implementations out there, some of them fairly attractive. It's encouraging to know that there is a large installed user base.

Perhaps some favorite "looks and feels" could be identified and recommended by members.

24-Feb-2006, 13:11

A pig in a dress... is still a pig.

Ralph Barker
24-Feb-2006, 13:11
Thanks for all of the responses.

We (the "staff") really like the interface provided by the current software, too. Tom did an excellent job when he wrote the software. But, as Tom mentioned, neither adding various features that participants have requested, nor adding needed administrative functions are possible with the current software. On-going maintenance (e.g. software security issues) is also a problem. Thus, the decision was made to migrate to a commercially-supported forum package.

Part of the transition effort will be importing the archives, so that information base will still be available via the search function. (The ability to do this was also a major factor in the selection of the software.)

We're also trying to keep the structure of the new forum as simple as possible, in keeping with the current forum's style.

24-Feb-2006, 13:13
Ken: that is a good idea! Our forum is listed under "Miscellaneous" CrateArt.com --collectible art (http://www.crateart.com/forums/)

Kevin M Bourque
24-Feb-2006, 14:07
Greg Miller hit it on the head! At some point, you'll realize that the new implementation is completely hosed. Then you'll be unable to return to the old system in spite of having a complete set of untouched backups on another server :-)

Back in the mainframe days, I just loved it when the IBM guys came in and told us about "seamless migration". Hey, just start a batch job and go home....what could be simpler? They could say that because they were in marketing and didn't actually have to DO it.

"Seamless migration" actually means, "You'll be up and running Monday morning only because it was a three day weekend and you didn't go home".

Henry Ambrose
24-Feb-2006, 15:08
Well the old simiple look is hard to beat but we'll get used to the new version. Thanks to you all for all the hard work over the years making this site great. If there's anyting I can do to help let me know. I'd even send y'all a little money if its needed.

Rich Voninski
24-Feb-2006, 15:37
I honestly like the old look - Kinda like the ever successful Craiglslist. Just the facts! Easy to navigate.

just IMHO


Ed K.
24-Feb-2006, 15:59
I sure understand how one needs to deal with maintenance, and all that. You've all done a great job on this forum - it seems only natural that you'd pick something good for the next step.

Question - what about all the old content? I would like to still have access to it somehow, including some posts by our late friend John Cook. It would be nice to know that some of those good comments would live on. Any way to keep the past posts?

24-Feb-2006, 16:02
I'll miss the current look, and agree with Rich's Craiglist analogy. Simplicity rules.

Ralph Barker
24-Feb-2006, 16:03
Ed - yes, the archives will be imported into the new system.

24-Feb-2006, 17:41
Nobody's counting, but my vote also goes for this lovely old forum. In fact I have pointed this forum out to the owners of other, needlessly complex and "busy" (ie confusing) forums as a model of simplicity to strive for. heck I've been at APUG for almost a year and I still dont know how to use most of the features. But then I dont have paul to guide me through that digital wasteland, either.

Who are these people demanding these newfangled ...what do you call them.. "features"? Give em the boot! (oh that's right, you cant...)

David G. Gagnon
24-Feb-2006, 20:06
Well, I've got to go on record as not being happy with this news. This is the easiest forum to see the threads on. I hope I can adjust easily. I have tried to browse the APUG forum but got completely frustrated with it. :-(


Graeme Hird
24-Feb-2006, 20:34
I'm not happy with the move either, but I do understand it and it won't stop me from coming here for information or from contributing when I have something to add.

A friend and I recently started our own forum and seriously considered approaching Tom to see if we could use this software - simple is best, and this is the simplest forum I've ever found. It's a shame it needs to go away from the format.


24-Feb-2006, 21:39
Like many others, I love this simple interface which is not only easy to use but also makes it very efficient to hang out. One feature I really like is "New Responses." Photo.net also has it now (maybe I just didn't look enough before). Clicking through each category/topic and see what's new is...well, I do understand the need.

Many thanks to the "staff."

Ralph Barker
24-Feb-2006, 22:18
FWIW, the new software provides a "Today's Posts" view, among others. That view shows the current day's posts, and earlier threads with current responses.

Jerry Fusselman
25-Feb-2006, 02:16
But what defines "today"? Is there a listing by time and date of last posting? Is there any way to tell what has been posted since I last looked? Is there an option for emailing of posts so I can use gmail to tell what is new?

I too find the current way extremely well designed. It is so much better than photo.net and apug.org! Hats off to the designer of our current interface. It is so clean and functional and glitz-free.

Tom Westbrook
25-Feb-2006, 06:10
"Today" means the past 24 hours.

If you are a registered user, the "Today's Posts" link at the top of the page becomes "New Posts" that will display threads with unread (by you) posts across all forums and works regardless of your physical location or browser used.

Also, the search function is flexible enough to allow you to show all threads updated over the past n days or hours, which will give you a look similar to what you get here. You can create your own links using those fixed times and use that as your forum entry page if you like. The software is pretty flexible, so I'd guess we can get most problems sorted out.

Thanks for the input.

Scott Schroeder
25-Feb-2006, 06:35
Any chance individual emails will still be sent out (not just a notification that new posts are available)?
I get them sent to my Gmail address so the web interface doesn't really matter.


Kirk Gittings
25-Feb-2006, 10:33
There must be some expenses involved in running this site. Do you guys want or need any donations?

Ralph Barker
25-Feb-2006, 11:40
Thanks for the thought, Kirk. At this point, however, I think the forum is running OK on donated resources. Brian Reid kindly donates server space and bandwidth at present, and everything else is just time investment. We may need to revisit the issue in the future, though, as the new software will allow for image uploads, which will affect bandwidth usage.

BTW, have you sat for your portrait yet? I'm anxious to see what she did/does with you, as she does such interesting work.

Eduardo Aigner
27-Feb-2006, 09:53
Welcome move.

Nigel Smith
27-Feb-2006, 17:11
good move!