Planning and Creating Forums

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Working with Forums in XMB

First, and VERY IMPORTANT thing (for making things easy) - don't click on the check box to the left of any forums or categories unless you actually want to delete them. That is what that check box does. (Unfortunately, it doesn't SAY that anywhere...)

Forum and Category Order

Notice the box to the right of the title of Forums, Categories, and Sub-Forums that is labeled “Order:” - that is where you determine the order that things will appear on your board.

Order Issue

It has taken me a little while to get REALLY fairly comfortable with the “Order” issue. In very basic terms, the order for each Forum, for each Category, and each sub-Forum is controlled by this. It is a one-up numbering system, starting with the number zero (0).

In theory, the Forum numbering system is separate from the Category numbering and both of those are separate from the Sub-Forum numbering. In fact, an interesting thing can happen depending on how you arrange things.

Sometimes, there is a desire to have a couple forums which show at the top of the screen, but are not part of any Category - frequently some of these may be limited to viewing by Moderators, Administrators or the like (more on that later). Anyhow, MY thought was to number those in order 0 and 1 - that works fine. BUT, if I then create a Category that is numbered 0, it will keep the Forum numbered 1 from showing up properly. However, in the Forums management screen it LOOKS like all should be just as planned!

THEREFORE, I have two suggestions. First, if you are going to have a couple forums before the categorized ones, begin the Categories with the NEXT number in order and go from there.

Plan your layout

The second suggestion I have is to lay out your plan for the Forums on a piece of paper, and put in the ordering numbers ahead of time so that you know you won’t have categories stepping on forums.

Within a given Category, you CAN begin the numbering system for Forums at 0 again. Same thing for Sub-Forums within a given Forum.

OK, we have the issue of Order taken care of.

Forum Settings

Next, edit that “Default” forum. This will give us a look at more features “instantly”. Rather than just clicking on the forum title and changing it right there, click on the link to the right of it that says More Options... A new screen appears. Let’s go from top to bottom with this one:

Forum Name

Rather self-explanatory - to change this from Default Forum to something you would like, just click in the box to the right and replace what’s there with what you want.

Description

Fortunately, they have already provided an example. You can edit this as you wish. Notice the HTML code <BR> which puts in a line break if you want a description that is more than one line long.

Allow Section

Here is a series of checkboxes regarding what you will and will not allow within that forum. I suggest you do NOT change the first one–allowing HTML in posts is setting yourself up for people to do all sorts of things you probably don’t want. Right now there is an option to allow the Image BB Code which allows people to embed images in their posts. This can be a bit of a problem if you have folks who want to post very LARGE images. In the future, there may be an option to specify and control the maximum size, but for now there isn’t, so you will have to make your choice based on your forums and users. Also, notice that there is an option for Attachments. By default only certain file types (I don’t know for certain just which) are allowed. Also, there is a built-in maximum file size of around 200 KB. Finally in that group is the option for clicking to allow Anonymous posting. If you allow such, then anyone coming to your Forums, but not having registered, can post. It might be a good option to use for one Forum on a site where you want to let folks ask questions and all before registering. Most Forum managers that I know don’t do that, but I have heard some folks talking about it recently.

Theme

Here is where you can specify a theme for this forum. The user would then have this theme come up when they went into this forum, even if they have something else selected.. Personally, being someone who seldom likes the garish themes a lot of people put on their forums, I don’t like to see this set. Instead, leaving it at - -Use Default - - will allow the user to see the forum in the setting that they prefer. But sometimes there is an issue due to how you want your site to integrate. If that is the case, I would suggest only having your custom Theme on the system, and then the users would already be limited to seeing it the way you want them to see it.

Who Can Post New Topics?

The options here are: Normal: this is the default. With this setting, anyone who could normally access the forum can create new Topics. Therefore, if Anonymous Posting is set above, even Anonymous people (guests) could create a new Topic thread. I would like to see an option included that would NOT allow anonymous posters to create new Topic threads. But that doesn’t exist right now... Admins: - only those people designated as Administrators can create an entirely new Topic thread.. If I recall correctly, the other people won’t even see the button to TRY to create any.

Admins/Mods: - only those designated as Administrators or Moderators (includes SuperModerators) can create new threads. I haven’t tested it, but I would LIKE TO THINK that Moderators are limited to creating new threads only in the forums for which they are designated as moderators. However, that may not be true, and would probably need to be verified at some point if it is an issue...

No Posting: - sounds a little strange, but as an administrator, you may want to create a Topic that you want to have people READ, but not offer the opportunity to create additional threads at all. If you are going to want to do this. FIRST make it an Admins only Topic creation Forum, then get in there, create your topic and come back here to set this to No Posting.

Who Can Post Replies?

The options are identical here as with the previous. This just refers to Replies instead of Topics. This is where you might set things up so that Administrators can post announcements that no one can “reply to” right in the same thread.

Who Can View This Forum?

The same options are available here, except for the final option saying “No Viewing” instead of “No Posting.” If you want an Administrator’s Only Forum, or an Administrator’s/Moderators Only Forum, here is where you set it so that no one else even knows that it exists... Probably a good idea to create a forum where your “management” can go to discuss issues about the board, about users, etc..

User Access List (separate with comma)

This is an additional way to limit who can access a forum. It works “on top of” the previous options. Thus, you could put in a few user names here, and only THOSE users could access that forum. (This does NOT alter who can View that the forum exists). I have seen this used for a separate place for “Senior Administrators and Moderators”. The forum is set with it being Viewable to Admins/Mods, then only the user names of SOME of the moderators are put in this list. I don’t think it will limit Admins. I think ALL Admins always have permission for ALL activities. So, you could have two Admin/Mods forums. One could not have such a limiting list, and thus be called something like “Administrator/Moderator’s Forum.” The other could have the list, and be called “Senior Administrator/Moderator’s Forum.”

Password: (leave blank for none)

If you enter a password in this area, then, based on the viewing rights and user name specific access rights, the individual would ALSO have to know the password to enter the forum. Might be useful for a Forum that is “theoretically” open to all, but you actually want to limit it to some group not able to easily be specified as the above options allowed.

Delete

This is just like the check box on the opening screen - if you click here, when you click on “Submit Changes” this forum will be deleted!

OK, that’s all on that screen. Now for some overall information regarding that. If you DO click into this “More Options...” area, you can ONLY make the changes to that one forum at that time. If you had made other changes to Forums before going here, they will NOT be captured.

So, back to the main forums creation/modification screen:

Creating the Categories/Forums/Subforums

You create the NEW Categories, Forums, and Sub Forums by clicking in the appropriate boxes, changing the names, setting the desired order, and using one of the choices to the right that I haven’t talked about yet. You CAN do more than one of these at a time. For instance, you could change the order of some forums or whatever above, create a new category, a new forum and a new sub-forum all in the same submission sequence. The presence of a list for how you want your Forums, etc. arranged becomes really handy if you want to do more than one thing at a time.

When it comes to creating new Forums or sub-forums (or to editing existing ones) they both have one additional box to the right that Categories don’t have. For Forums, this will be a list of Categories available to assign that forum. For sub-Forums, it is a list of Forums. One limitation that exists is that you can not BOTH Create a new Category AND assign a Forum to that Category until that Category has been “Submitted.” (The database doesn’t yet contain that information.) Same thing for Forums and Sub Forums. Therefore, you may well find yourself creating some forums that you want to move into categories that don’t yet exist. That’s OK. Just create them as you are creating the new category, submit them both, then come back in and set the Forum to be part of that category. NOTE: remember what I said above about the “more Options..” area - you can’t BOTH assign a forum to a category AND make changes to the “more Options” area at the same time. One at a time is the only way it works for that.

And, as a Final piece of info - if you inadvertantly delete the name of a forum and click submit, it will create a forum with no name that will NOT be able to be edited directly, and will not even be able to be deleted in the Forums section.

Deleting Blank Forums

To delete those Blank Forums, you go to the Upgrade option in the ADMIN CP, and enter the following into the textarea:

DELETE FROM xmb_forums WHERE name=;

You should change the table prefix "xmb_" to whatever you might have changed it to in your config.php file (if you changed it), then hit the Submit Changes button - that will get rid of those pesky blank forums.

Hopefully, this has provided you a pretty good explanation. Please let me know of any suggestions you may have for improving it.

RevMac