My Forums

By Jim Lynch  |  Posted 2005-02-15 Print this article Print

This release of Beehive marks the introduction of a major new feature: the ability to run multiple forums off the same server and database. Lets say you want to have five forums about whatever. You can create the forums (more on that later), but users still need a quick and easy way to navigate between forums. The My Forums link in the top frame takes the user to lists of available forums. He or she can visit any of the forums by clicking on their title in the list. And the user can also mark a particular forum as a favorite forum. There is also a search box on the My Forums screen so users can search the available forums.
Problems with Beehive
Beehive isnt without its problems, and this upgrade introduced some that were probably unnecessary. Change for changes sake is never a good idea and the beehive developers made a few goofs in this release that should be fixed before .6 is released.
We disliked the way the new thread options are accessed. Theres a large "Thread Options" button at the bottom of the left message frame for each thread. We had to click this to access the user options for the thread. We would have preferred that at least some of those options appear directly at the bottom of each thread (as in the .4 release) rather than forcing the user or admin to go to a separate page. Were nitpicking a bit here though since the thread options link is also available by clicking the dot on the left of the threat title in the left frame. New in this release also is a "Reply All" button that appears directly under a message. This button makes it easy to post a "reply to all" but it sticks out like a sore thumb. We feel that it would have made more sense to put it at the bottom (not under) of each message next to the regular "Reply" link and the text should read "Reply to All" to make it easier for new folks to understand what the link does. One other tweak wed like to see to the word filter is the option to set a default word filter that only applies to guests. This would make sure that guests dropping by a forum wouldnt see bad language inadvertently but would still allow registered members to use their own word filters rather than having a global one forced on them by the admin of the forum. The Beehive developers just need to separate the guest global word filter from the registered user global word filter. When we updated our forum The Collective we ran into a number of problems with the upgrade that had to be worked out. However, we arent going to penalize Beehive in this review because we had—after being warned by the Beehive developers not to—installed a number of beta releases before doing the .5 upgrade. The burps we experienced during the upgrade were due to us messing with beta releases when we really should have known better. One thing we would like to see in the next release of Beehive is an RSS tool that allows news articles from any site that has an RSS feed to automatically create messages in a Beehive forum. For example, when we publish an article on ExtremeTech, our content management system automatically creates a message in the appropriate section of the forum for that article. This means that each article has its own thread generated automatically. We think that some kind of an RSS tool built right into Beehive would let forum admins use RSS feeds as a way of automatically creating threads in their forum. For example, in our forum about NASCAR, wed love to have an RSS feed flow automatically into a NASCAR News section. Each article would create its own thread in the NASCAR News section. The message created by the feed would simply be the title of the article and a brief blurb with a link back to the NASCAR site for the rest of the story. This kind of marriage between content and community can be very, very powerful in generating traffic in the forum and can be quite valuable in providing news and other information to forum members. We hope that the Beehive developers will consider adding this in the next release of Beehive. One other area where Beehive is currently lacking is in the ability to move multiple threads at the same time. Note that we do appreciate Beehives current ability to move all threads in a folder to another folder but we just think that that functionality needs to be more granular since, in some cases, an admin will just want to move some threads (but not all of them) from one folder to another. More recent versions of Prospero allow admins to move multiple threads in a section via checkboxes in the left frame. A checkbox appears to the left of each thread title. The admin is able to simply check the checkboxes and then click the appropriate selection at the top of the left frame to move all selected threads to a different section. This is a fast and easy tool that Beehive should definitely incorporate into future releases. Continued...

Jim manages the PC Magazine and ExtremeTech forums, and is responsible for building community in the forums on both sites. He started managing PC Mag's forum on ZiffNet on CompuServe many years ago. He then transferred the staff and expertise to the Web. He left ZDNet when it moved to San Francisco and came back to Ziff after the split from ZDNet, right before ExtremeTech launched. You can get more background at his personal site:

His favorite movies include Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Three Musketeers (1973 version), Dune (Sci Fi Channel version), and gobs of others. He can't live without his iPAQ Pocket PC—,he uses it at the gym and everywhere else—,and his DVD collection features more than 200 films. His favorite game is Tribes (PC), which is more than three years old but he still plays it all the time.

Jim likes interacting with the folks in the forum and the content. 'I Love both of 'em,' says Lynch. 'It's what makes the job fun and interesting.'

You're welcome to visit Jim's site for more information about him.


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