My phpBB Wish List

I have been using the phpBB software for several years on the Fellowship Hall, and I have greatly enjoyed the software. It’s versatile, reliable, and mostly user-friendly. What it does, it does well. But there are several areas in which I feel the software is lacking. Some of them I have seen mentioned on their support forum; there may even be modifications available to do what I want.

However, this is my wish list as it stands for phpBB 2.0.21, the latest version. I realize it (as well as the next major version, 3.0) is feature frozen. I’m not expecting anyone to take these wishes seriously, but I am merely offering up the ideas. If someone with more influence than I wants to try to get these implemented into a future version of phpBB, you rock and/or roll! So without further ado, here’s the list, for what it’s worth.

  • Folksonomy friendliness: phpBB is used to make message boards in which all of the primary content is user-generated. It would be fantastic to be able to see at a glance what these users are talking about by allowing them to tag their posts (with as few or as many tags as they feel are descriptive of their content) so that tag clouds could be used. The index page could show a tag cloud of messages posted in the last 24 hours; a dedicated tag cloud page could allow users to view various clouds (by author, by date range, what are posts tagged a certain word also tagged as, etc.).
  • Search engine friendliness with basic optimizations: With as much content as a message board could result in, it is increasingly important that it is as accessible to search engine robots as possible. A strong, complete Sitemaps protocol compliant sitemap generator would certainly be in order. A default robots.txt file blocking robots from accessing non-content pages or (for Google) addresses which contain certain variables would be beneficial, as it would cut down on useless pages showing up in the search engines as well as using less of your server resources to feed Google and other bots useless or (worse) duplicate data.
  • Modern, compliant markup & styling: phpBB should be made to make use of valid, accessible markup, with close attention paid to semantics. Style sheets should be used for italics, bolds, and other such stylistic things, which strong or emphasized text should be marked up accordingly. (STRONG doesn’t mean “bold text”; if I wanted, I could make it look identical to italic text via style sheets, but the semantic meaning would still be “this text is strongly emphasized,” and that is what counts.) The markup should be as streamlined as possible, and tables should in no way be used in a presentational manner. Implementation of MicroFormats such as vCard, where applicable, would be great.
  • Syndication support: Users should be able to keep up with what is going on with their favorite message boards (or individual fora thereupon) in as convenient a manner as possible. Providing versatile feeds in all the popular formats will help people stay in touch with the board and will foster more user loyalty (a user who visits and leaves may never come back; a user who visits and subscribes with one or two clicks will be reminded to come back automatically).
  • Spam protection and moderation tools: Smart integration (or otherwise official support for) of both Akismet and Bad Behavior would go a long way to reducing the load which comes along with dealing with spam. Both of these methods are invisible to legitimate users and are therefore preferable to adding questions to registration or requiring visual confirmation on registration or posting.
  • Sharing ability: Users should be able to share a topic via popular social bookmarking or news sites with as few clicks as possible, as well as send topics via email.
  • Non-monitor interface support: This is largely an extension of the above request concerning valid, modern, and semantic markup, but I wanted to list it here because it is important. Care should be taken that when the board is viewed in a non-monitor environment, the content still makes sense. While styles and scripts can be used, nothing should rely upon them and when scripts are used, things should degrade gracefully so that even without the scripts, usability does not suffer. Whether via a screen reader, printer output, mobile browser, or text-only browsers, the content of the message board should still be as accessible as possible.
  • More open development: While not dealing directly with the software itself, I wanted to add it anyway. phpBB development should be more open, perhaps by making use of Trac. Bugs, features, and development should all be tracked in a central environment. Nightly builds should be compiled and made available for those interested in trying out the bleeding edge code, and so on. Modification authors should perhaps be given a Subversion Repository as well.

I’m not going to get my hopes up about any of these; it took several years (longer than I’ve been using the software, actually) for phpBB 3 to enter its beta cycle, and as such I can only assume phpBB 4 is quite a ways out there. These wishes may become obsolete by then, and others may supersede them. Still, I would be giddy as a young child if someone were to (in the spirit of open source) fork phpBB and take what it is and make it a more powerful community tool packed with Web 2.0 interactivity goodness.

Hey, it could happen!

3 thoughts on “My phpBB Wish List”

  1. Hi.

    Nice forum design. Okay, I need your help.
    So, I wanna make my secondary school site, and I am looking for site template.
    Can you suggest some online place or other resource where I can find many site templates?

    It would be better if it will be free:)
    I think many of us have personal sites, do you design it yourself?

    Regards, Bill.

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