I removed our Summitlake “Forum” today, to devote our time to more rewarding projects at Summitlake.com. It took dozens of hours, perhaps a hundred, to install, configure, tweak, update, monitor and baby-sit the phpBB product. It took 20 minutes to back it up, delete the database, uninstall the site application, and remove links to the forum today.
We’ve had a forum of some sort or other for a long time, about five years according to the file dates on my local machine. It started with “Megadb”, a flat-file database I wrote myself as a training exercise. I upgraded to “YaBB” (“Yet Another Bulletin Board”), an early, plain-jane, perl-driven flat file bulletin board. I moved to the popular php-driven phpBB product shortly before my own web host rolled it out as?part of their stable of free house applications.
phpBB’s popularity was probably its major undoing, as far as we’re concerned. No, NONE of those forums were ever popular at Summitlake.com.
If you’ve ever seen an abandoned tract home project from the air, you’ll grasp the metaphor. You see the roads laid out like an aerial map, everything bulldozed and graded meticulously out of the dust, and, here and there, a structure 30,000 below. But nobody’s home.
We like the idea of having a “safe space” where our readers could exchange notes and interact, if they wanted to. Realistically, Summitlake.com has never been the kind of site where surfers “hang out”, nor have we tried to be. Honestly, we are oriented more toward to the solo reader who stops by to read the occasional article before moving on.
And we’ll probably try yet another bulletin board at some point down the line. Why? Just because we like the challenge.
What went wrong here? As a sophisticated free SQL database product with a thriving community of “plug-in” add-on coders, phpBB has placed enough sites out there to attract spammer attention. We spent most of our phpBB time maintaining bogus membership registrations; by use of email and website fields, they promoted the “V” drugs, gaming sites, occasional porn sites, and even their own advertising services. We’d write the registrants asking for verification that they wished to become forum members, and the emails would bounce, or there would never, ever, come back an answer of “Yes, because we like your site.”
Did these folks ever post to the forum? No. Were they perhaps just interested in phpBB’s Instant Messaging (which I disabled)? Maybe, but I have no interest in hosting secret chat rooms for the general public on my own nickel. Whatever happened to that horrible Microsoft IM that nobody can get rid of?
For a while, it was a challenge. After a while, it became a question of how to best invest our time. And, baby-sitting folks who get their kicks breaking the rules is not our idea of a good time. So we just pulled the plug. Happily, there are still some solutions for which no spammer can come up with a workaround.