Forum Project underway !

greenspun.com : LUSENET : Catholic : One Thread

Hi Ed. I've just started my project to construct a new forum system for you. So far I've managed to implement a very very basic login screen that only accepts guest logins , and displays a simple message when u login.

I'm going to add a menubar and dynamic thread link creation next.

I'll keep you posted on the progress.

-- Oliver Fischer (spicenut@excite.com), June 21, 2004

Answers

bump!

-- bump (bump@bump.com), June 21, 2004.

Oliver,

One thing I have been wondering about. Once your software is completed, where will it reside? In other words, what server will give us access? Are you thinking of using your own computer as the server? Or is it possible to have your software installed on another server?

-- Paul M. (PaulCyp@cox.net), June 21, 2004.


I already have it on a remote server. Once the forum system is finished I'll hand it over to Ed for complete authority and over its usage. Password and username, which he can change after the handover.

-- Oliver Fischer (spicenut@excite.com), June 21, 2004.

- Update ! -

- Added functionality to read message headers, display thread topics and link to html capable messages. This is not quite as impressive as it sounds yet. I've only made one message with it - a default welcome message, so it's not exactly exciting, but it does load the appropriate header file and generate a link to the message which displays. The html is not generated by the forum prog yet, it's made with a simple text editor.

-- Oliver Fischer. (spicenut@excite.com), June 21, 2004.


If anyone wishes to have a look at it in progress, you can visit at http://flatface.net/~truthbookroom/cgi-bin/login.pl

You must login with username: guest password: guest, until I implement multiple user accounts.

Again, it's not much, but you can at least get an idea as it progresses. Also it helps me to have an idea of bugs or funny quirks.

-- Oliver Fischer (spicenut@excite.com), June 21, 2004.



Looks great so far, Oliver! Thanks for all your work. I'm wondering, what about the problems that we had in the past with spammers who attacked our board? Is there a way to guard against this? Will we be able to transfer over our archives?

Thanks and God bless you!

-- Emily ("jesusfollower7@yahoo.com), June 21, 2004.


Oliver, I don't mean to sound ungrateful, for I appreciate all you are doing to help perpetuate this forum, but is this the way everyone wants to go? Has a definitive decision been made on this? I thought we were in a fact-finding mode at present to determine what should be done about the existing format we have. I didnít realize everyone has decided to give up the forum we have. Iíd like to know if our existing forum is salvageable? Before you spend too much time spending hours programming, setting this all up, and moving the forum to a new location, have we determined that is what everyone prefers?

If it is determined we should all go to a new forum, what format should be adopted for it? Do we want the forum completely open as it is here, or should be go to a password-protected format? Will it be user-friendly? Will it appear on screen in the same way our present forum does?

Doesnít it make sense to establish this committee to study the problem and then present a report to the members at large who could then weigh alternatives and decide in which direction the majority of us would like to go? We donít have to do it this way, this is only a suggestion on my part. However, it seems to me that it would be prudent to proceed in this manner. Oliver, you could spend hours on your own, programming this new forum only to find everyone wants to stay with the one we have presently. I am just throwing this out for everyoneís consideration.

-- Ed (catholic4444@yahoo.ca), June 21, 2004.


Ed,

I don't want to stay with the one we have presently for the simple fact that it could disappear at anytime. I've noticed that the server is busy more often and it takes longer to load pages than it used to. This does not seem like a good sign to me about the future of our forum.

-- Emily ("jesusfollower7@yahoo.com), June 21, 2004.


My comment was raised in order to ascertain if we have a consensus about which direction we should proceed. If this is what everyone wants, hey, then so be it.

-- Ed (catholic4444@yahoo.ca), June 21, 2004.

Hi Ed and Emily. Sorry, I did sort of rush into things without properly consulting the members of the forum here.

Ed, if you want to preserve all the messages, i basically need an upload from u of these msgs so that I can figure out how to structure it with the perl scripts. Preserving the messages and even layout and functionality shouldn't be hard as long as I know how it is set up currently.

If you'd prefer to just stick with Greenspun, that's ok. I can still work on the forum program if u like so that if greenspun packs a sad, we can just switch over. It's up to u guys. I don't mind.

As for the username/password issue, that's up to u as well how you want it. I can either keep everthing pretty much the same as what we have here, or I can add other features. I'm open to whatever you guys decide.

-- Oliver Fischer (spicenut@excite.com), June 21, 2004.



Well, I am not a "register-to-post" type, and that goes for any forum, not just this one. I have seen other completely open forums go totally stagnant after mandatory registering was implemented, and it is a shame.

I hope any new forum stays open to all.

-- GT (nospam@nospam.com), June 21, 2004.


im not sure that this is the right move at this point. i'm also not sure that the lusenet server is going to be our ideal option for the future either. what i would like to see is an independant catholic forum, without all the others on one server, but utilizing the same software that we currently have. i'm not sure we would even have to lose our archives if we could convince Mr. Greenspun to give us the software, and to let us download our archives to a new server. the problem is finding a server to use... i have a distant friend with an old 911 compaq server that would probably more than suit just the catholic section of this forum, but i dont think i could convince him to give it to me and i cant afford to buy it from him.

ultimately i dont want to leave this forum style or the people here, i have been to others and found them to be lacking in comparison. i think the best solution would be for us to migrate the data and the software to a new server which would be reserved for just the catholic board. no offense oliver, but i enjoy the non registering and simple format of this board

-- paul h (dontsendmemail@notanaddress.com), June 21, 2004.


Hi Paul. I appreciate that. I've actually tried to stress that if I am to make a forum system for you all, I will make it exactly as you want it.

If you take a look at the current layout, it looks almost exactly the same. I can take away the registration too, it was just a passing thought.

However, if you'd prefer to use Mr. Greenspun's software, then that will probably make things easier for u. Although, I don't know how easy it may be for u to implement filters etc if u want that sort of thing with His software.

Anyways, if you want my services they're available. I can make it look and feel just like this current system. I've already posted the link for you to have a look. Either way though it's no stress to me.

-- Oliver Fischer (spicenut@excite.com), June 21, 2004.


By the way, in case ppl didn't catch it, the server is not my computer, it is a remote server - flatface.net , a free hosting site that gives perl access.

-- Oliver Fischer (spicenut@excite.com), June 21, 2004.

Ok, new update!

I now have a dummy msg editor working. It allows you to create a msg and preview it. Although there is a save button, it does not yet store the message on the system.

Btw, I'm quite enjoying this, so even if it doesn't get used here, I may use it for my own message boards in the future.

-- Oliver Fischer (spicenut@excite.com), June 21, 2004.



Hi!

Whatever you people decide, I think it's great that Oliver is developing the software. Couple of thoughts for Oliver:

Good job! Open forum is great. Spam could be a problem. If the forum is open, it needs a full-time admin/developer. The password is probably the best way to go. Do you know of any additional protection to keep admin from being hacked into?

Thanks,

-- Vincent (love@noemail.net), June 22, 2004.


Rather than having everything password protected, we could have this: All new messages are placed in a queue. These messages are then shown to the moderator, who can then give his stamp of approval. In other words, messages never make it onto the forum until they've been through the moderator first. However this method would have 2 disadvantages : Very slow turn-around of messages and Requires an unbelieveable amount of work by the moderator to keep up to date with everything. It would ensure however a cleaner greener forum.

-- Oliver Fischer (spicenut@excite.com), June 22, 2004.

I know that some forums set up some sort of filter for certain words, that automatically blocks them out, leaving the rest of the message, but I have no idea how difficult that would be to set up.

-- GT (nospam@nospam.com), June 22, 2004.

well, GT, it wouldnt be hard to catch the words in a search program, but it would be hard to cut JUST that word out of the post. it would be better it was made to tell the person that they couldnt post with that word, and to push back and retry.

-- paul h (dontsendmemail@notanaddress.com), June 22, 2004.

I don't care so much about offensive language, which is something the moderator can eventually get around to deleting, if necessary. However, my biggest concern with an open forum like this one is the threat of attacks that cause loading annoying webpages, offensive images, or destruction of our system through mass posting (ooga style) or viruses. I think these problems are what Oliver was referring to in his previous post.

Anyway, my vote for the new forum puts this issue as a top priority - - whatever it takes to get rid of this threat.

-- Emily ("jesusfollower7@yahoo.com), June 22, 2004.


Oops. I forget to mention that I think the messages queue will not be too good for several reasons:

1. Excessive burden on moderator(s)

2. I won't be able to check over my messages after posting to see if there are any problems I should post about after it, to clarify or request the moderator to fix. It also is a way of ensuring that the posting functioned correctly and the message did indeed appear on the forum. I check this over after every post.

3. It will greatly hinder discussion based on the schedule of the moderator, and I suspect that it would stifle or kill our board since people would be unable to have a forum conversation about something without the moderator hanging around the whole time.

The benefit of censorship would be gained, but at huge costs. Oliver, is there another way to include in the code a method of censoring out the garbage? (By this I mean forum attacks). For example: blocking IP addresses, blocking images or active scripting.

Thanks for all your work! God bless,

-- Emily ("jesusfollower7@yahoo.com), June 22, 2004.


well, i can solve the spam problem right here and now. simply dont let any IP address post more than once every minute. i dont know the exact lines of code required, but it would effectively stop any program from posting the same thing 200 times. moderators, of course, would be immune to this restriction.

-- paul h (dontsendmemail@notanaddress.com), June 22, 2004.

Yeah, I don't really like the queue idea myself, since it grinds everything to a halt. What I have in mind now however is this: Make a simple search perl script that is activated when the user clicks on the "Preview and Save" button. This search script will go through a text file "dictionary" of unsuitable words. This won't be pleasant to type up, considering I'll have to try and think of as many rude words as I can and put them in the dictionary file. If any of the words in the user's post match words in the dictionary file, the post will not go through, rather a warning screen will come up and say something to the effect of "Your post has been blocked due to bad content" or something like that.

The search script will be running in the background without anyone even knowing. It will in fact run when the user clicks "Preview and save", but just before it actually shows the preview of the post. Thus, if the post contains any foul language, the user will not even get a preview of it, but will have to press "back" and change it due to the warning message.

As far as malicious scripts go, I can also have the search script take care of these. This is the way I have in mind : Detect the tags "script" and "/script" and replace them with the comment tags. This renders the script useless as the inward content of the tags will be interpreted as mererly comments, which are not displayed or activated.

I have in fact developed search algorithms in the past with a shopping cart program I did in which you search for Christian books etc, so this kind of thing shouldn't be too hard at all.

For people who are not particularly aware of how Perl works, what it does is it takes in the input from fields typed in by the user, and generates a dynamic html page based upon that input. This gives the programmer the freedom to implement all sorts of nice little features that run based upon the input text.

Here's a little psuedo code to give you the idea:

start $username = getInput(@username_textfield) $email = getInput(@email_textfield) $message = getInput(@message_textfield) integer count = 0 perform_loop (start at count and repeat lengthof($message)times) { string current_word = $message.getword(count) checkWord(current_word) if not_ok(current_word) { displayMessage("Bad word detected, this email has been blocked !") endProgram() } else { count = count+1 } } I hope this can at least give you some insight to what can be done. Sorry if it's a bit too technical. Anyhow, as far as IP addresses go, I'll have a read up on that, as I've never delved into that side of things, but I am pretty sure it can also be easily implemented.

-- Oliver Fischer (spicenut@excite.com), June 22, 2004.


cool beans oliver, what language is that anyway? im only really used to java and C/C++. anyway, did you take a look at my suggestion for defeating spamming programs... since even something so innocuous as the first five pages of the dictionary could be used as spam to block up the forum...

-- paul h (dontsendmemail@notanaddress.com), June 22, 2004.

Yeah your suggestion about blocking IP addresses is good. I'm going to look into it. I've never dealt with it before but I'm pretty sure it can be done quite easily.

Perl is not a programming language in the traditional sense of the word, it is a scripting language to make CGI scripts, much like javascript, PHP, ASP etc.

As far as the dictionary goes, don't worry, I have a very quick search algorithm that I can implement. It basically looks at the first letter of a word, then looks in the appropriate "letter bin" comparing it with words beginning with the same letter. Also, as soon as just one word is detected, the algorithm will finish, so it won't keep going. I'll trial it many times first to check for performance but I'm quite confident I can have it searching thru pages of text without too much lag. Consider search engines, they all work with cgi scripts and have to check through much higher volumes of info.

-- Oliver Fischer (spicenut@excite.com), June 22, 2004.


oh, yeah,

the search won't be hard, you can just search out any string in a given file and stop the post from going by command. i was just saying that editing the word out of the post would be more complex.

when i was talking about blocking IP addresses, i wasnt talking about permanently... we've seen the trouble that can cause lately. what i was refering to was, after a person makes a post, that IP address is temporarily blocked for 1 minute. that eliminates a poster who just goes thread to thread pasting garbage because it would take them 3 hours and 20 minutes to post to 200 threads, and the moderator would only have to take 2 minutes to mass delete them all. it would shift the work load such that moderators would have the shorter job, it wouldnt be equal time for destruction and fixing any more.

just wanted to make sure that my idea was clear to you, im sure you already got it.

-- paul h (dontsendmemail@notanaddress.com), June 23, 2004.


Yeah, I'm with ya. The 1 min delay should hopefully be enough of a deterrant against spammers.

As for editing the post, that was never my intention. Basically the idea is that if someone types a message which the searcher picks up, it'll stop the msg from going through. It won't attempt to edit it, rather it'll give a warning message showing that the message is invalid.

And it only needs to find one match before the loop will exit and spit out the warning message. Hence a msg with 500 abusive words will take the same amount of time as a msg with only 1 abusive word, cos it only needs to find one.

-- Oliver Fischer (spicenut@excite.com), June 23, 2004.


--Update--

Created messages are now stored on the system, so if u feel like testing it out, click No username or passwords are necessary.

It looks a bit messy at the moment I know, but I'm getting there. Btw, you cannot reply to messages yet, only start new ones.

-- Oliver Fischer (
spicenut@excite.com), June 23, 2004.


Created messages are now stored on the system, so if u feel like testing it out, click here.

No username or passwords are necessary.

It looks a bit messy at the moment I know, but I'm getting there. Btw, you cannot reply to messages yet, only start new ones.

Also, I've fixed up previews, woohoo ! 8-) Although the text is a bit small, I'll change that...

-- Oliver Fischer (spicenut@excite.com), June 23, 2004.


Eeek ! - Well I made a massive revamp on the engine, to handle threads in separate dirs, which was more difficult than I thought. Anyhow, it's displaying the message headers wrong, but will still link to the proper messages. *scratching my head*.

Thanks Emily for testing it out 8-) I saw your message there.

-- Oliver Fischer (spicenut@excite.com), June 23, 2004.


Ok. I managed to fix up that little bug. Now the message headers are displaying properly according to their threads.

-- Oliver Fischer (spicenut@excite.com), June 23, 2004.

okay, oliver,

i posted something there, but it didnt go up yet... maybe you can see it, it was some suggestions. after posting i have a couple more suggestions... that is, font size larger (probably fourteen to sixteen) and also that when you press double space to make seperate paragraphs, it just lumps them all into one, which could get a little annoying.

otherwise it looks great

-- paul h (dontsendmemail@notanaddress.com), June 24, 2004.


Hi Paul. I had a little problem which has been since fixed. Sorry your message has gone to the netherworld ! 8-)

You should be able to make posts there now, and they'll come up. I've adjusted the size of the fonts. As for paragraphs and double spacing, I haven't yet done any parsing, it just posts the html, expecting tags. For now, please use the 'p' tag

-- Oliver Fischer (spicenut@excite.com), June 24, 2004.


Ok everyone, threads are now working ! You can start your own threads and reply to messages. Sorry for the state of all the test messages in there at the moment.

It's slow but I'm getting there 8-)

-- Oliver Fischer (spicenut@excite.com), June 29, 2004.


I've also just finished implementing email address checks. The messages will not be allowed to go through unless the email address is in a proper format.

-- Oliver Fischer (spicenut@excite.com), June 30, 2004.

Double spacing now works for double enter presses, however this currently only operates from within the screen where u read a message, it doesn't do it for message previews. I'll try to get that done soon.

-- Oliver Fischer (spicenut@excite.com), June 30, 2004.

Previews now include double spacing too without the need for tags.

-- Oliver Fischer (spicenut@excite.com), June 30, 2004.

Hi Ed,

I was wondering if you'd like to discuss the future of the forum and open it up to the people here to post their opinions as to which way they'd like to go forward. I just thought I'd mention this because I'm entering into secondary stages of the forum system.

-- Oliver Fischer (spicenut@excite.com), June 30, 2004.


Hi Oliver,

Please don't think I don't appreciate everything you're doing for the forum, for I do; but from the outset,I believe I mentioned I don't have the time to get involved in this project. This is why I suggested a 3-person committee be set up to make these sorts of decisions.

How about it guys, who can help Oliver out here with these questions? Emily? paul h.? Anyone else?

Moderator

-- Ed (catholic4444@yahoo.ca), June 30, 2004.


i will help... my first piece of advice would be to see if there is a way to download our forum archives and save them to oliver's new forum, which is looking great.

also, oliver, in this forum when you respond to a message, it shows a view of the original post. i havent had time to check yet, but does yours?

ANOTHER solution, however, would be to place the reply to thread box at the bottom of the thread, so that you wouldnt have to go back and forth to copy/cut/paste stuff. but that may also be more work than you want to implement.

-- paul h (dontsendmemail@notanaddress.com), June 30, 2004.


No it doesn't supply the original post yet, but that's easily implemented. Also, what i could do is have reply buttons under each message in the thread so that u can auto quote that in your reply.

-- Oliver Fischer (spicenut@excite.com), June 30, 2004.

Ok, original posts are now included when replying.

-- Oliver Fischer (spicenut@excite.com), June 30, 2004.

that would be awesome, oliver.

the way the ironworks forum does it, there are two options:

1) subit an answer (like ours, located at the bottom of each thread), you see the original post above your text field.

2) quote (a smaller button which appears at the bottom of each post) which shows the original message above the text field, but includes the message quoted IN the text field already.

-- paul h (dontsendmemail@notanaddress.com), June 30, 2004.


I'd be willing to help, BUT

1. I will be away next week.

2. I won't have the time to help anymore when I go back to college in the fall.

Oliver,

I went to your forum and tested it. It wouldn't let me post anonymously anymore. It won't let me post my email with a quotation mark in front of it (see my email below). I do this to avoid spam. Is there a way to allow this? Those times when it appears that I posted anonymously, it was really like this

"email@address.com

So I think there might be a problem here.

-- Emily ("jesusfollower7@yahoo.com), June 30, 2004.


i think, emily, that that is a simple matter to fix. oliver edited it so that the email check looks for letters, followed by an @, then more letters, then a period, then more letters. what it doesnt accept is the quotation mark that you use.

simple editing of the program will allow the system to recognize quotation marks as a valid character entry.

-- paul h (dontsendmemail@notanaddress.com), June 30, 2004.


But the whole point of the email address field is for the server to deliver messages to all the posters of the thread. If a fake address is put in every time, it'll keep bouncing back to the server every time a new message in the thread is made.

-- Oliver Fischer (spicenut@excite.com), July 01, 2004.

then maybe we just need to nix the email notification. i sure don't use it, and i dont think that many people do.

maybe what we need is for it to instead post to a private moderators only thread so that the moderator can come in at the end of each day and see how many posts have been made.

-- paul h (dontsendmemail@notanaddress.com), July 01, 2004.


If u wanna see statistics, i'll happily make a set of moderator scripts that'll do all that for u, like a maintenance centre type thing.

-- Oliver Fischer (spicenut@excite.com), July 01, 2004.

well, i just meant that, aside from the moderator, not that many people utilize the email notification scripts here. since it isnt being used anyway.... perhaps the best solution to the fact that false email addresses bog down the servers is to do away with the email alert system. if people are so interested in threads, they can check it themselves. i do and i get along just fine :)

-- paul h (dontsendmemail@notanaddress.com), July 01, 2004.

paul h,

I use the email alert system only when it's available, that is, when I begin a new thread. I'd like it to be available this way, for those who want it. But posting one's email should be optional. The reason I use the quotation mark is to hide my email from the robots. It has cut down on the spam I receive.

Now pretty much all I ever get are letters from Africa about people who supposedly need my help getting their money to a US bank. The issue is that some will not want their email address circulating all over the internet. I want others on the forum to know my email and be able to contact me if they like, but I don't want spam.

-- Emily ("jesusfollower7@yahoo.com), July 01, 2004.


Moderation questions? read the FAQ