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Christian J
post May 1 2018, 03:21 PM
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How much does it really cost to run a relatively small* web forum (say 50-100 active users, and hosted in a "first world" country)? A few different examples have made me wonder. One forum collects US$ 3000/year in donations and advertizing, but still asks for more. In contrast, another forum's owner says about US$ 200/year will suffice. Other forums ask for nothing.


* Not sure how to define the "size" of a forum --is it the disc space required for old posts (and maybe lots of large images)? Or is it the data transfer, which may vary hugely depending not only the member activity but also on the amount of content/bloat and bots that keep requesting it?
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Christian J
post May 2 2018, 07:01 AM
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I can imagine how renting a forum may hurt a community in the long run. One year the admin of an old forum asks for donations, and the regulars gladly donate more than is needed. The forum admin then runs off on a shopping spree and installs a new expensive forum package. The following year(s) the forum regulars are typically not as keen to donate yet again, but the software subscription must still be paid. Perhaps the admin must replace the new software with a less expensive one in the end, which disrupts the community spirit even more.
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pandy
post May 2 2018, 07:07 AM
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Since the licenses are so expensive, it could very well hurt a small forum. I think small forums often start with a bunch of guys with a common interest. One person offers to set up a forum and host it at a server he already has an account at. Fair enough, no real cost involved, just some work. With licenses and software it's a whole other game.

Thankfully there are still great free forums for small sites. Often with great and free support too. I've run phpBB and SMF and I don't think they lack anything obvious. Well, the templates are a mess, HTML and CSS wise, but I think that goes for the Big Ones too.

Once I tested a whole bunch of less popular free forums and really liked a couple of them. But I didn't dare to choose one of them. Maybe development and thus patches would suddenly stop, maybe they weren't secure to begin with. Better stick with something well known, I cowardly thought.

One of those forums I tried, don't remember what it was called, had great templates. They had basically classed everything, so it was super easy to rewamp. SMF for instance, the version I run anyway, reuses classes that uses pretty specific names. If there is a class called "topnav" one thinks that CSS rule affects only the topnav. But oh no, they have reused it for other things that they want to have that color and font and so on and that can be things you don't immediately spot, like an edit box or something related to PMs. It was pure hell to change the look of the thing. Would be easy enough with straight HTML but with a rat's nest of templates, not so much.

Classing everything is of course "bad CSS", but under the circumstances I think it was a pretty good idea. More to type (and download), but very clear.
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Christian J
post May 2 2018, 10:00 AM
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QUOTE(pandy @ May 2 2018, 02:07 PM) *

Once I tested a whole bunch of less popular free forums and really liked a couple of them. But I didn't dare to choose one of them. Maybe development and thus patches would suddenly stop, maybe they weren't secure to begin with. Better stick with something well known, I cowardly thought.

That's probably how a lot of people think, and what the well known forums monetize ("if it's expensive it must be good"). But in reality it's the well known forums that get targetted for exploits the most (though it's mostly bots looking for unpatched forum versions, so if you patch you might stay safe), and the forums probably spend as much of their profit on advertizing as on bug fixing.

Long time ago I ran a free forum script, FD Board I think it was called. This was in the good old days when you didn't need to create an account to post on most forums. One day it was completely flooded by a spam bot, with no tools for easy spam post removal. I just gave up and deleted the whole forum. cool.gif

QUOTE
SMF for instance, the version I run anyway, reuses classes that uses pretty specific names. If there is a class called "topnav" one thinks that CSS rule affects only the topnav. But oh no, they have reused it for other things that they want to have that color and font and so on and that can be things you don't immediately spot, like an edit box or something related to PMs.

Sounds like an improvised forum design. If so maybe that goes for the server-side scripting as well.
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pandy
post May 2 2018, 10:25 AM
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No, backend is solid. I think it's more a matter of programmers not being interested in, or good at, frontend.
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