Do you have the funds to upgrade the forum software this summer? If not, perhaps you should pass the hat and encourage forum participants to donate a few dollars, so you can make this upgrade. I think someone commented about this in the survey. It wasn't me, but I do think it is a valid issue.
I think I can come up with the funds, but the main issue I'm debating with now is the best way to upgrade the forums.
DCSki's Message Forums are currently based on a product named UBB.classic by Infopop. It has worked well over the years, and hasn't had any security problems. (Believe me, security problems are a thing that keeps webmasters from sleeping at night!) But obviously there are new features I would like to make available to DCSki readers.
I have experience with many other forum packages through other projects I've worked on (such as phpbb2), but for DCSki I'm leaning towards sticking with a solution from Infopop as I've been happy with the company and that provides the best chance of preserving all of the current messages in the forums as we move to something new, something I consider important.
There are two options with Infopop: a program called UBB.threads (basically what we have now on steroids), or something they call Eve. Eve is hosted on their own servers and costs a lot more over the long-run (it's a monthly fee), but provides some added options, such as member photo albums, real-time chat rooms, and the ability to have "premium" memberships (something that has been recommended by DCSki users in the past).
I worry about a forum hosting plan (vs. running the software on my own server) for a few reasons. DCSki has its own dedicated server, and performance hasn't been an issue. I can certainly host forum software on my own server, and that way I know I won't lose messages -- if the company goes out of business, raises their rates higher than I can afford, etc. I worry about being able to preserve DCSki's message threads long into the future as there's a lot of valuable information in them.
On the other hand, there are some advantages to using a separate company's server for the forums. Because they would be on a separate server, there would be some redundancy for DCSki -- if the main server crashed or were being upgraded, folks could still reach the forums, and vice-versa. And presumably the company would worry about backing up the forums on their own server, applying security patches and feature upgrades, etc.
So, the answer isn't obvious to me. Any feedback from DCSki readers would be welcome. (If you want to check out the options in more detail yourself, visit www.infopop.com.)
In terms of funding the upgrade, I stashed away some advertising revenue last fall and earmarked it for a forum upgrade. (Whitetail is the current sponsor of the DCSki Message Forum, and all of DCSki's sponsors and advertisers truly do make the site possible. I couldn't afford to run the site without their generosity.) The advertising well generally runs dry for many months at the end of the ski season, but one way readers can help out is to look at the Google ads that show up on the lefthand side of many pages (such as news articles) and, if you see a link that interests you, click on it. DCSki gets a few cents for each click-through. (But only click them if you're genuinely interested in them -- I like Google's system and don't want it to be abused.)
[This message has been edited by Scott (edited 03-04-2004).]
The ability for members to post photos would be very useful. However, I don't know if you need to use Eve to achieve that desired end. Cost and content control issues suggest that UBB.threads might be the better solution for now. As an interim solution on the photo issue, you might consider setting up a photo album somewhere else on the site where users can post photos. However, an integrated forum/photo program is the best bet long-term. Photos are one of things I like best about the Epicski forum. It's one thing to talk about how steep a trail is but another thing altogether to show readers a photo. For an example, check out this Fernie thread:
Dynamic links are another must for this forum. Members need to have the ability to post a link that fellow members can easily click through to get to another web site.
Finally, I'd like to see a private messaging capability for people on the forum to communicate privately.
PS These are meant to be suggestions and not criticisms. We greatly appreciate what you are doing with this site. It's success has much to do with how you run it: keeping things honest and interesting without being nasty or uncivil. That's a tough balance to strike.
[This message has been edited by johnfmh (edited 03-04-2004).]
Are you familiar with InvisionBoard? Feature wise they include everything that everyone has asked for with private messaging and a ton of features. I have dealt heavily in installing this board before for my own clients. I also just found that they do have a UBB.thread convertor available for download to convert the UBB database. You can check tha tout here:
Cost wise it is free for the unlimited trial but unsupported by the Invisionboard staff.
Trial - http://www.invisionboard.com/download.cgi?subc=trial
There are paid subscriptions for $199 for a lifetime for a $69 for a yearly subscription. These also include chat features, and much more advanced features. Information for the paid version can be found here - http://www.invisionboard.com/download.cgi
Mind you that is for your own server hosting without having to use InvisionBoards forum hosting.
Then again this assumes that dcski.com is hosted on a platform where you can compile and run the various open source board packages that are out there - but if this is the case (something I will force my younger haX0r self to refrain from checking) than it is worth the time to check it out.
While it can be a pain to do (download make, autoconf, gcc, and then hope you don't have to build each of THEM - which just might require a bootstrap compiler of you don't have gcc already so you can compile gcc itself) the Price definatley is Right. And even so it is fun...
...but not as fun as tearing up Gravity leaving your snowboarding friends behind in your wake.
BRING ON ALMOST HEAVEN!