This forum script makes an excellent starting point for anyone wanting to actually integrate a simple forum into their web site so that it appears to be a proper part of the site itself. Not very secure though unless you integrate it into an existing membership site. It also requires a lot of work to update it for browsers more modern than Netscape 4 but at least it gives you a way to implement a forum and upgrade the code slowly rather than having to write the whole thing up front. Not for anyone without a lot better knowledge of PHP than the people who wrote this script.

My Rating: yesyesnonono




I have looked at this forum software twice now. The first occasion was when I first created my JavaScript site and decided to add a forum there. My experience then was that the software was extremely easy to modify to make it look like a part of the site. The compile option also made it easy to get a version that incorporated all of the plugins that I wanted to use already integrated into the script ready to use. Over the next few months I changes the settings on the forum to block guest posts and to introduce a CAPTCHA for new member registrations in an attempt to block the huge number of spam posts that the forum was collecting. I also noticed how antiquated the JavaScript code the forum uses is and had made a note that it would all need replacing in order for the forum to meet the JavaScript standards that the rest of the site was promoting. In the end I replaced the forum with bbPress as miniBB does not provide any way of feeding posts to Twitter.

My second look at this forum software started with an additional requirement. Not only does the forum need to integrate into an existing site providing the same appearance but the forum needed to be integrated into an existing membership area where only members have access to start with. This meant that once I had followed the instructions on how to integrate miniBB with an existing membership table (relatively straightforward) that one of the main issues I had with the original setup would be unable to recur. The only issue I had with this first step toward integration was that the instructions assume that you don't have a properly normalised database and have both an autoincrement id and a unique username field (where normalisation means that the unique username does away with the need for the id). Since the site uses membership number as the unique identifier for each member, the bad for security assumption that miniBB makes that the administrator will be user 1 was incorrect (that member joined almost ten years before I was born) and so I had to rewrite code in several other modules in miniBB to fix this particular issue in order for the integration to work. Integrating the forum properly required changes to several files that are a part of the core system rather than being intended to be able to be modified and so updating miniBB will be more complicated unless the owners actually implement the suggestions that I have made to fix the issues that I found.

Actually integrating the forum into a copy of the existing membership site on my own computer took me about five hours. This included installing the forum, following the instructions to integrate it with the existing member table, rewriting all the modules that needed to test for the administrator, changing the basic appearance of the forum pages so that it looks like a part of the members area, rewriting modules in the existing members area code to handle being called from a sub-folder as well as from the main folder, and building an option into the existing members area to allow forum moderators to be set through an existing online screen instead of requiring updates to the miniBB configuration each time there is a change. The install instructions for miniBB suggest that it might take about that long to configure the appearance of the forum and I believe that is probably about the amount of time you should spend on that task - my initial integration only made the minimal changes to get the forum to look like it belonged which allows me to gradually tweak the forum appearance rather than having to spend all of that time in one go.

Based on the response I got to the first suggestions I made for improving the script I will treat the current version of miniBB as the starting point for the forum and will make whatever changes I think are appropriate to the script to bring the code up to date. In the latter instance I will delete those parts of the script that my particular requirements do not need so as to reduce the amount of code that I need to maintain. I can recommend miniBB as a useful starting point for adding a forum to a membership site but it needs a lot of rewriting to get it to interact properly with modern browsers.


This article written by Stephen Chapman, Felgall Pty Ltd.

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