[WF-General] The Forums: a failed experiment

Alistair Riddoch alriddoch at googlemail.com
Sun Apr 29 05:06:45 PDT 2007

About 18 months ago I set up phpbb forum software on
http://forums.worldforge.org/ as an experiment to see if we could
build a community of people interested in WorldForge but not
accustomed to using the communications tools used by developers. I
also hoped that it would ease the burden on developers by allowing
people who download and use the software help each other, rather than
relying on direct support form the developers.

Spam postings started to appear on the forums relatively quickly, and
I made a few changes to the configuration of the forum software to try
and mitigate the problem. I have consistently upgraded to the latest
versions, and made all possible changes to the settings.

While a thriving community seems to have built up around hacking and
modding phpbb to prevent spammers having free reign, I can see no
evidence that the authors of the software have any interest in
adopting these features and changes into the software, so it remains
by default so vulnerable to spammers that it is essentially useless.

As a last ditch attempt at stopping this abuse, I have now made all
account creation moderated. I don't really expect this to work, as I
am unlikely to have time to be responsive enough.

Going forward I see three options:

1) Start installing third party hack and mods for phpbb to make it
less vulnerable.

I am very reluctant to try this as the phpbb software is provided
pre-installed by my ISP, and mods will break or be broken by their
automated upgrade procedures. Unless someone else is prepared to take
on the leg work of finding, preparing, auditing and testing mods, and
passing them to me to install, then this option is not for me.

2) Install a different forums software package.

This would require lots of manual work, as phpbb is the only option
provided by my ISPs automated software install system. I don't know
anything about other forum software packages, so would be entirely
reliant on other people to track down the right package to use.

3) Abandon the forums to the spammers, and allow them to roam free.

Not really an option, as the storage and bandwidth cost me money.

4) Shut the forums down.

By far the easiest option. Unless there is a strong case to be made
that the forums are currently providing a useful service to a
reasonable number of people, this seems like the one we have to go

Alistair Riddoch
alriddoch at zepler.org

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