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Thread: Forums and CMS's -- Coexistence and More

  1. #1
    Will.Spencer's Avatar
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    Forums and CMS's -- Coexistence and More

    CMS's provide (or should provide) excellent revenue from quality content and search engine traffic.

    Forums provide user generated content and a traffic source that is more stable than the search engines.

    If and when the search engines start using visitor behavior in the SERPS algorithms, sites with forums could receive a major boost in the SERPS.

    Software Options

    Most CMS's have lousy forums and most forums have lousy CMS's. That's painting with a broad brush, but it's is unfortunately close to the truth.

    vBulletin 4.x will have a CMS component, but vB 4.x doesn't even have a target release date yet.

    Drupal has vBDrupal -- which is a full version behind Drupal in development. It's stuck back at Drupal 5.x.

    Joomla has it's own forums, such as Agora. It also has integrations with vBulletin, phpBB, SMF, and MyBB.

    Integrations

    Integrations are not all created equal.

    Here are a few questions to consider when evaluating integrations:

    • Does the integration provide seamless single-sign-on capability?
    • Do the integrated softwares share templates?
    • Will the integration restrict your ability to apply future software upgrades?
    • How tightly are CMS articles and forum threads connected to each other?

    Choices

    For TopBits, I chose Joomla and Agora.

    I chose this solution because it was very important for me to have the comments on each CMS article become a forum thread. In a previous attempt to add a forum to a CMS site, the two parts of the system developed independently and failed to capitalize on their synergies.

    This solution also had the benefit of (mostly) sharing templates between the CMS and the forum. Agora does have it's own templates, but they exist within the Joomla templates.

    Now I have the same decision to make all over again, with Sleep Troubles.

    Where TopBits leans heavily towards the CMS side, Sleep Troubles will lean more towards the forum side.

    Sleep Troubles will be about topics such as insomnia, sleep apnea, and restless leg syndrome. But it will also be about how we live with those issues -- about late night TV and all-night diners and trying to fit in to "normal" society. Sleep Troubles will be a cross between a visit to your doctor and a night out with Dave Attell.

    Now I must choose to copy the Joomla/Agora solution I'm using at TopBits or the vBulletin solution I'm using at NetBuilders -- or to select a new toolset for the new project.

    What do you think?




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  2. #2
    Kim
    Kim is offline Drunk in Public...
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    Plug and play integration between Vbulletin and Wordpress would make my world a lot easier...

    I know there is a bridge out there that would do the trick, but it is a 'by hand' mod where you need to edit code...

    God help you if you want to upgrade either one of your 2 systems... Oh and that is if you found the right versions in the first place...

    So I opted not to integrate and from Will's advice spent the money on VBblog - which is not exactly what I wanted - I wanted a WP look and feel...

    But I guess it is good enough for now.

    Kim

  3. #3
    Hellas's Avatar
    Hellas is offline Very Unusual Member
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    I used joomla and smf integration. That was painful. I spent lot of times to work them out especialy after upgrades.

    Now I switched few of my joomla sites to the wordpress.


    p.s.
    You should check this simple kind of board
    Nice Talk

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    Bratzilla is offline Unknown Net Builder
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    A Bridge Too Far

    As a general rule, I tend to find bridges a bit "kludgy". In addition to the potential upgrading nightmare, a bridge may potentially expose one or both scripts to exploits (of course depending upon the skill of the coders involved).

    Also, typically, the systems you're trying to bridge were developed effectively in a vacuum, with little to no regard for communicating with other external applications. I learned that the hard way when I first developed the CB SMF plugins - what a headache!

    And then, there is the issue of licensing, which can get especially dicey when you are trying to link up, say, an Open Source GPL V3 licensed product with a clearly commercial script like VB. One thread on the Joomla forums dealing with just this issue grew to novella-length.

    Just a few errant thoughts from the peanut gallery

  5. #5
    Will.Spencer's Avatar
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    Bratzilla, didn't you try some of the JFusion products? How did those work for you?

    I love the graphic they use for their "never bridge again" pitch:
    Attached Images Attached Images
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    Bratzilla is offline Unknown Net Builder
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    Red face JFusion... yeah... about that...

    Um... yeah. Er... um... ahhh...

    Does that tell you how much fun I had with it?

    The biggest problem I had with JFusion, and pretty much all Joomla products, is the truly poor documentation. If you search the JFusion forums for those asking for help, you're pretty much told that you have to put in "sweat equity". Translation - trial and error, and then, maybe, perhaps, after you've reached the point where you are about to take a hot poker to your eyes, we might help you.

    If there was simply good documentation explaining the HOW of it, fine, great. But, frankly, I have a "day job" and don't have the time to play "go fish" for information on how to use their product.

    Neverthesless I perservered (for about a week give or take) to install JFusion and then try to write a plugin. I have a custom bridge to the eFiction script that I wrote for Joomla 1.0 that someone has begged me to port to 1.5. Again, due to BAD DOCUMENTATION (as an Information Developer, poor docs is on my top 10 peeves list), I haven't ramped up my 1.5 development yet. So, I'd hoped that JFusion would make my life easy. No fussing with writing MVC-focused extensions, just create a plugin and let JFusion work its magic. In theory, sounds great!

    I installed JFusion, and noticed how even more slowly Joomla was running in my lab, and that was without all the plugins being enabled. I created a shell for my eFiction plugin - that did go easily enough. I also created the shells of the core JFusion plugin files (auth, user, etc.). Okay, check, made it through that. So, now what EXACTLY do I use to populate the plugin files? What code should I be porting from the soon-to-be bridged application? Let me check the documentation for exactly how to do this...

    That's right... there isn't any! Silly me!

    Hopefully, my snark is proving fairly harmless, but in all honesty this is where I got hung up. I'm not scared of coding, and I actually love learning new stuff - but I need the TOOLS to learn. All my lurking on the JFusion forums, looking for other web sites to detail how to write a plugin, none of that proved fruitful. That could explain why there are so FEW JFusion plugins available. Most of them were written by programmers, not by community members who created something and donated it back (which is why the original Joomla JED was so large during the reign of 1.0 - say what you will about it, J!1.0 was fairly lightweight, easy to pick up, and didn't take too long to learn how to write extensions).

    My overall impression of JFusion is the same I have of Joomla's current incarnation overall - a product is only as good as there is documentation on exactly how to use or extend it. And unless someone cracks the whip on all fronts and gets it together, I don't see JFusion (or "new Jooma" in general) maintaining strong community 3PD growth.

    :: gets off soapbox::

    Bottom line - if you are a good programmer and proficient in Joomla's MVC implementation (which seems odd compared to, say, Codeigniter or any other PHP MVC/OO framework, where I had no problem wrapping my brain around it), JFusion has the potential to be EXTREMELY powerful. If a plugin already exists for JFusion that serves your needs, great! Otherwise, open up a Joomlancer or Getafreelancer account and start pricing this out if you need something rather quickly.

    Bridge falling down - boy, is that appropriate for more reasons than I think they meant.

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    Will.Spencer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bratzilla View Post
    If a plugin already exists for JFusion that serves your needs, great!
    That's the space I try to operate in.

    I avoid being an early adopter. The bleeding edge of technology holds little appeal for me.

    Unfortunately, sometimes project requirements push me off the beaten path of technology.
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    Bratzilla is offline Unknown Net Builder
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    Quote Originally Posted by Will.Spencer View Post
    That's the space I try to operate in.

    I avoid being an early adopter. The bleeding edge of technology holds little appeal for me.

    Unfortunately, sometimes project requirements push me off the beaten path of technology.
    Well, I just finished my first Joomla 1.5 extension - a bridge of all things. Oooo... fun.

    It seems that, for whatever reason, Joomla doesn't have a decent extension for authors (I'm talking novels, novellas, and other multi-chapter works) so I had to bridge Joomla 1.5 with eFiction (taking my old J!1.0 bridge and converting/improving it). Even though, at times, I considered shaving my head and joining a commune, I have to admit that writing this thing gave me a very good view into how Joomla actually works - and really, bridging with J!1.5 isn't all that bad - much easier than before.

    The main reason I avoid multi-bridge options is that, if that core fails, everything is taken out. I am also of the opinion that, if you really need to bridge more than one or two applications to your CMS, you need another CMS or to rethink what you're trying to do.

    Joomla now has so many native forums it isn't funny. And really, all you need is a good core forum. You can, say, profile, PM, etc. via Joomla core using various extensions, so you don't need some bloated forum software. I'm of the mindset that too many standalone forums are bloat-monsters and really don't make sense when using a CMS that has so many native extensions that do the job.

    Then again... that's just me.

    Oh well... back to final trials and then opening the floodgates for beta testers. Woo hooo!!!

  10. #9
    Tearabite's Avatar
    Tearabite is offline Newbie Net Builder
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    Drupal's core forum combined with the Advanced Forum module is a great mix.. it gives you a very stable platform (Drupal 5 or 6) that has the look of vB.. It also gives all the SEO benefits of Drupal (when properly configured).. it's working great for me.

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    Will.Spencer (24 August, 2009)

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    Will.Spencer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tearabite View Post
    Drupal's core forum combined with the Advanced Forum module is a great mix.. it gives you a very stable platform (Drupal 5 or 6) that has the look of vB.. It also gives all the SEO benefits of Drupal (when properly configured).. it's working great for me.
    Your GrownUpGeek Forums look good!

    I'm going to keep Advanced Forum in mind, every time Joomla pisses me off.
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