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neotoxic

Integrating Forums and social features

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I have been playing the MMO Rift recently, and started a little Guild in the game. To help support the site I thought about building a site,to  help the members get interact when not in the game.

As it meant starting a new project I immaterially thought about using ProcessWire, but then started to wonder how I would build such a site.

I would want the basic things any community site would want. A basic forum, user profiles along with roles and permissions.

Has anyone approached this kind of project with PW?

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P21 has excellent support for user profiles: meaning site builder can add fields to profiles like any other pages, and users can update those fields by themselves.

Basic forum: I have been planning on building forum module a long time now and I think I will build it sooner or later. But my plan was just to use pw-pages as topics and replies. So I would have two templates, forum-topic & forum-post. This can be done already using just templates and adding custom form to those templates (which creates new pages).

But as I said, I hope I found time for simple forum module soon.

There aren't lot's of social features out of the box or as 3rd party modules yet, but this is probably one area where we all want to take pw (and the module route, not "out of the box" -bloat route). So lot's of improvements coming, I hope!

EDIT: Typos

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As Apeisa mentioned, PW doesn't currently have anything built-in as far as forums go. That may change in the future, but hasn't been a priority previously just because forums are something that is so well covered by other products. If you want forums, I would suggest using one of those products (I'm pretty happy with SMF, for the most part, but I know others that really like PHPBB, MyBB, vBulletin). Even if you are using a CMS that has the option of built-in forum functions (like EE, Joomla, Drupal) you are still better off with a dedicated forum software if you want the best tool for the job. (Though they can be overkill for simpler needs, so native forums still have a valuable place.) If you want integration between PW and a forum software, there are lots of possibilities here if you don't mind coding a little glue. And I'm always here to assist with any questions you have along the way.

PW does have a built-in comments module. While very functional at present, I plan to take it a lot further in the near future. Beyond that, built-in social features have not been a major focus of PW's core primarily because it's designed as a tool for implementing your site and it's features rather than a turn-key solution for specific types of sites. Providing a great foundation (for social features or other features) IS a major drive behind PW. And as time progresses, I imagine people will come up with modules for integration with all kinds of social features. But so many social features these days are also built around 3rd party services (and that seems to be increasing), and this is a very natural fit for PW.

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I agree with you regarding the forum software, and it got me thinking about how often we see the wheel re-invented when it comes to internet software.CMS developers seem to get driven by there users to make their software be all things to all people.It needs to have a forum, gallery, social media features, contact management features, project workflow features, it needs to wash my cloths and make me a coffee in the morning. I say let PW be good at what it dose, keep it simple and powerful, and rather than make it all things to all people, allow it to play well with others.

Creating Integration modules to bridge the gap between PW and other software seems to be way forward. Allowing PW users to become forum members, gallery moderators or social media users as an extension of there role within PW. Allowing PW's API to be extended to include tools that mine the data of these other applications.

Let PW stays good at what its good at what it dose, and play well with others.

Also FWIW I ended up using FluxBB which seems to offer a clean and simple platform, predictably however it was a fork of another forum, PunBB.

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Well said neotoxic and I agree with you. But also using "yet another software" has it's downsides also. You have to keep your forum software updated. You may have to learn new templating language. Your bridge may not be seamless.

If forum needs are simple or you need very tight integration, I would probably go with native solution.

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Firstly I just wanted to add a point for clarity. When I said in my previous post " Allowing PW's API to be extended to include tools that mine the data of these other applications." I meant of course 'Allowing PW's API to be extended through the use of modules to include tools that mine the data of these other applications.'

You are absolutely right Apeisa. The downside of the playing well with others approach is that others don't often play well with others. Our theoretical bridging modules, could become ineffective when the bridged software rewrites its database, API, or process. Maintaining a vast array of bridging modules would then become an exercise in 'Painting the Forth Bridge' (which insistently is an erroneous expression, but not a bad pun :) ). However rather than attempting to bridge any and all software, what I would suggest is that we approach projects that would equally benefit from the alliance.

I have seen many forums start to try and build CMS features on top of their forum platform. The exact same flawed evolution that I am suggesting PW avoids, only coming form the other direction. Clearly they recognise that CMS features would make their forum software a more viable proposition, just as having a well integrated forum may help some PW projects.

What I would like to suggest is a program of brining together key Open Source partners, a kind of 'Plays well with ProcessWire' campaign. Be picking only a select number of key partners we prevent the need to build an ever increasing, and less well maintained collection for bridging modules.

The PW approved Forum, Gallery, Social platforms etc would allow each project to benefit not only from a tight well maintained and well integrated CMS, but also from all the other platforms that also can be integrated to the PW. A forum that needs a Gallery for example can use PW to implement both features.

The choice of project that is approached to 'Play well with ProcessWire' would be critical. Clearly well written and maintained open source projects. Projects that deliver a single feature well, and don't themselves succumb to the 'all things to all people' approach. As a point of interest the reason I liked FluxBB is there list of UnFeatures (http://fluxbb.org/docs/unfeatures).

Clearly anyone should be able to write any kind of integration model, and I hope people do. But recognising strategic partners and working with them to the benefit of both projects seems to be to be an interesting idea.

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I love the "unfeatures". :) I think you make a lot of great points, thank you for taking the time to write. It seems possible that some specific projects in the future may want to collaborate to make our products play nicely together. Though PW isn't well known at present so strategic partnerships may be difficult to get in the short term. But I also think it can be accomplished by providing standards, documentation and hooks to make such integrations easy to do. I'm also really not worried about trying to be all things to all people, because the core is primarily built as a means of handling web requests and of supporting modules, and that's not going to change. PW is going to stay true to its roots. The core will continue to get optimized, but most project growth will be accomplished through optional modules.  For something like a forum, I don't anticipate we'd ever have something produced as a module that would replace the likes of a forum like this (SMF), but there may be usefulness in an optional module that provides basic forum-like capabilities for those with simpler needs (that perhaps don't want to install a full blown forum ... though a forum is not currently on the roadmap). I think there is also growth potential with modules that provide integration with existing web services rather than just existing software.

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