Entry 1: About phpBB3 and why I used it.

My developer blog, a monthly update on code progress. Updates inversely related to laziness.

Entry 1: About phpBB3 and why I used it.

Postby laneg » Sun May 27, 2012 2:18 pm

Okay, so this blog is getting a format change. Basically, I'm going to try to do a little less bragging, and a little more rambling and tutorial-ing. That's what a blog is, right? (I still don't know...)

This is going to be a semi-quick entry, and just plaintext. It's about this forum, phpBB3, and why I chose to use it as the real backend of this website.

Really, I wanted something quick and flexible, for updates and to post builds online in a visual format. In many ways, the Topic/Reply format mimics the Post/Comment format, and I actually think the forum representation looks nicer than something like a Wordpress blog. Why is text forced into a narrow column, and crushed even more into the middle half of the screen? Also, the theme skins are kind of a joke in comparison to most forum skins...

To create a forum is pretty simple, but there are some things the basic tutorial doesn't really tell you.
1) You need to create a database on your site first. This would be through your hosting company's control panel, something like HostMonster's cPanel.
2) Copy the contents of the zip to the root ftp folder, go to the "your.site/install/" page and link to the database you just created at the appropriate time.
3) You will have to make a lot of changes in the Administrator panel after install, to create the forums and add permissions/groups (when logged in as admin, it's at the very bottom of every page).

I did some things that phpBB probably wasn't intended for, but served my purpose. Effectively, this and the other Dev forums are locked to team members, but anyone can reply to our posts. Perfect Post/Comment format, without the limitations of the other pre-made systems out there.

That being said, there is one major downfall...
All the goddamn SPAM!!!

After the site had gained only four real users, we had about 3000 spam bots and over 10000 posts of complete garbage. I don't know how they found the site, but once they do it's all but impossible to get them to go away.

I found this video, which helped immensely in removing the existing spam. "Prune users" and "prune forums" are how to bulk remove spammers without messing up those permissions you spent a long time getting working, and manipulating the Prune users output page gives you a list that you can easily use to remove only spammers.

In addition, I was forced to enact a TIG-source like registration process, despite my initial goal of making posting simple and registration-free. Basically, your first post must be approved before it appears on the site. After that, you are proven as a non-bot, and everything works normally. Currently, guest replying is still enabled, but this will probably be removed if the spambots catch on...

So, that was my first foray into... umm, forums. In many ways, I'm glad I did it, because it makes posting these blog entries and builds unified and familiar. But I expect I'll have to spend an afternoon each month dealing with massive amounts of spam rejections.

The Negative Spin:

I wanted something that would work quickly and easily. While the forum did allow multi-user editing and quick updates, all that spam was really ruining the "atmosphere". At least the locked dev forums kept spam out for a lot longer.

phpBB keeps crashing when I try to bulk delete posts or users. This could be because I'm deleting thousands of posts and users, but it's still annoying. Once a user is deleted, you cannot remove their posts in any way I've found, which means they're effectively lost spam unless you clear the forum (or delete them individually... hell no). This would be okay, except some of those crashes remove the user and leave their posts intact. I even saw one time where the post was deleted, but the topic remained (when you clicked it to view the post, there was another error... heh).

So yeah, it's far from perfect. But the goal wasn't perfection, after all.
Site Admin
Posts: 18
Joined: Sat Dec 24, 2011 5:50 pm

Re: Entry 1: About phpBB3 and why I used it.

Postby laneg » Mon Dec 02, 2013 10:21 pm

As an addendum, here's how to bulk remove spam guest posts:

1) Open the topic first, and open the moderator control panel for that topic.
2) Change posts per page to 500-800, instead of 10, and press enter.
3) Select "Mark all" underneath, then uncheck the "Select" box on the righthand side of all posts you want to keep.
4) Select the action "Delete posts", then confirm and wait. It's slow, but it shouldn't crash at 500-800 at a time.

Run it a few times, and you should be all set! =)
Site Admin
Posts: 18
Joined: Sat Dec 24, 2011 5:50 pm

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