Arantor

  • As powerful as possible, as complex as necessary.
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System Visitation: IPB 3.4.5
« on May 31st, 2013, 12:34 AM »
Before I begin, I want to note something: I'm not just looking at IP.Board on its own. I hold a licence for the entire IP Suite, so I will look at each of those things.

Now, I've had my local installation kicking around pretty much since November without any changes, around the time 3.4.0 came out, so before I go any further, need to perform the upgrade. I wouldn't normally comment on this but damn it's slick. You just upload all the new files of everything, overwriting the old ones, then visiting example.com/admin/upgrade/ and the upgrader walks you through the steps. Picture attached. Everything thereafter is just it going through the motions and telling you what it's doing. I can't deny this is slick but to be fair, $125 for the basic system, it wants to be slick.[1]

IP.Board / IP.Core
This is smooth, I really mean smooth. They've put a lot of time and thought into this. Even from the sign in page being a popup on the current page (rather than anything else)

Presentation-wise, it's crisp and clean and just gets on with the job. Rounded corners are very minimal, the colour scheme professional and pretty neutral. You can see there's also a sort of mini portal in the core, too.

I will note that it isn't as lightweight as other systems in terms of performance; my localhost does occasionally take a couple of seconds to build a page but usually that's just the first time.

Message index is also quite interesting; you can selectively pull up a preview of a topic, but otherwise it just carries the same businesslike approach to the message index. Note the prominence of sorting options.

The topic view carries the same aesthetic approach. Interestingly, there is prominence given to the topic starter above the topic itself, I don't recall seeing that before, but works well. The usual realms of quoting and multiquoting are present, as well as likes. In fact probably the most notable thing here is the Blog This button, which essentially grabs the post and pushes it to the Blog area. I'll get to that in due course.

Editing is much as you'd expect, including inline editing, though the inline editor brings up the bbcode etc. which is powered by CKEditor. There's the 'reason for edit' and 'hide the edit-by line' stuff, but more importantly is the 'My Media' option in the editor.

Now, from my perspective, this is absolutely slick and demonstrates how it should be done, IMHO. Aeva went part of the way, allowing users to upload images directly from the editor, but this is even more spiffy. See attached. In essence, you can find anything you've previously submitted, that isn't itself a post and embed it into your post, be it an attachment you've previously posted - and it's tied to what plugins you have. As mentioned, I have the suite, so IP.Blog, IP.Calendar, IP.Download and IP.Gallery items are also available.[2]

I don't have any gallery items at just this moment, but you get the picture of how slick this beast really is.


So, let's take a look quickly at the other members of IP.Suite.

IP.Blog
Then we get to the members list - again, follows much the same vein as other areas aesthetically. Presents much as the board index but this time with boards as having individual authors, and blogs can also be 'external blogs' which amounts to redirections.

Adding a blog entry is much like adding a regular post, just with slightly different options. Both forum posts and blog posts offer titles and tags, plus content and attachments, plus polls. IPB also allows for automatically unlocking and relocking a topic at given times, for example if you want to post a new topic to announce a contest and only open it from midnight for 24 hours, for submissions.

Blog items can also have an image attached to them to represent them and have categories to sort them. It's all much as you'd expect (and given that it's a paid add-on, it's hardly surprising that it's covered) - and you can also elect to publish an item in the future too. Note that that isn't an option for regular posts, only blog posts.

There's also the option to create Group Blogs, which are not owned by a single user but owned by a collective, and then you can assign one or more membergroups to it to contribute. There is also a mini portal of sorts for showing in the sidebar (mini calendar, last entries, gallery albums from the blog's owner, last comments, showing the blog owner's avatar, random images from blog owner's albums, active users, tags, blog search and categories within the blog)

I can't really imagine what else would be needed; this all seems at least comparable (and often superior) to what WordPress offers as a blog solution.

IP.Calendar
Well, the calendar is not really very surprising. There are three views to the calendar, Month, Week and Day - something SMF never did (it only had month and week)... but as you dive in you realise it's far more intriguing.

Firstly, they have the notion of multiple calendars. There is the "Community Calendar", but also you can create individual calendars and assign permissions. Calendars can also be followed in terms of RSS feeds and 'following' which means you will get notifications and so on, plus the number of followers is also tracked.

Creating events is fairly straightforward - you add events to a given calendar, indicate that they are personal or public, or who they can be viewed by. Events can have end dates, they can repeat weekly/monthly/yearly and can have start/end times (including time offsets)

Note that calendar events are inherently separate from the forum and individually get contributed to in terms of comments.

This is also a perfect time to mention the search feature, incidentally. In the search area is a dropdown for what you want to search, be it the Forum, Members, Help Files, Blogs, Calendar, Pages (IP.Content), Downloads (IP.Download), or Gallery (IP.Gallery)... interestingly there is not a search-all option, even if you go to the full search page.

Configuration is fairly minimal, but you don't need vast numbers of options - and it does allow importing from iCalendar format too, which is interesting.

IP.Content
IP.Content is where you would add additional items for the site, and allows for things like an Articles system (which is not just for conventional articles but promoting regular posts to articles). It's nothing particularly special, has the usual gamut of article management type stuff; if you've seen any of the SMF portals, you have a fair idea of what to expect from that part.

Where it gets more complex is in the provision of blocks - again, a portal type construction, and lets you pull things like lists of articles, recent articles, recent comments, yada yada yada. Again nothing particularly original, but well put together.

IP.Content also provides the ability to create template blocks, which can be added to content areas as a way of managing how your content is displayed. If anything it's actually rather imposing on new users. To give you an idea, just check out http://www.invisionpower.com/support/guides/_/advanced-and-developers/ipcontent/

The other thing IP.Content gives you is the ability to manage straight up pages. You get to play with creating pages and folders for those pages, for example one of the demos is Site Root > media.html, which is a page showing the latest YT video, and a Recent Videos block underneath, which is just an example of them using their markup and templating system to show the linktree, some divs, followed by using their markup to pull in predefined blocks and a predefined database query/template combination (as defined in IP.Content)

It's very effective, but I can see how it could get overwhelming.

IP.Download
The Download item is fairly dry, actually, there's not really a lot to it but that's not an unfair assessment. There really is only so much you can do with it. Files have names, versions, tags, a change log box and description (of which only file name and description), plus the file itself, of course. You create one or more categories, putting files into categories... it's all fairly straightforward.

You can also add custom fields.

In the admin panel, though, it's a different story, all kinds of things can be done there - you can store files locally, store them remotely via FTP or even into the database directly if you so wish.

There's a variety of ranking options, plus things like file approvals, ability to turn the system 'online' or 'offline' (i.e. maintenance mode) as well as things like old versions of files, configuration of MIME types... it's surprisingly thorough behind the scenes even if it doesn't look it on the front end. There are also options for importing from a zip file or from a pre-existing directory.

IP.Gallery
IP.Gallery is much as you'd expect, you create categories and albums, though there are far fewer options than Aeva has :lol: - albums have names, descriptions without bbc, privacy (public vs private vs friends only, allowing comments, allowing ratings, watermarking) There is no option for nesting albums, interestingly.

The workflow is designed to be simpler, as you go to the front page, select your album (or use what the 'current album' is), hit upload and then it'll perform the upload - then, and only then, taking you to the edit-item page, where you give it a title, tags, description and copyright. Doesn't seem like there's a custom fields option.

The presentation of the gallery is much as elsewhere - you see an album and previews of all the items in it, and then to the item itself... it's essentially comparable to Aeva and Aeva is probably more thorough in terms of options - but I can't help but feel that IP.Gallery is more slick in presentation, though not by much.

IP.Chat
I can't comment on IP.Chat much, as I haven't used it...

Firstly, it requires your licence key from IPS to be put into your forum. This is, in itself, not a huge problem. However - and this is a big turn-off, IPS contacts your forum periodically to ensure the licence key is put in and valid etc. Now you get the licence key for test installs (same as regular licence key but with -TESTINSTALL on the end) which is bound to a given location (in my case, localhost/ipb/) and periodically I find that the licence key gets 'forgotten'.

Secondly, -TESTINSTALL installations automatically have IP.Chat disabled.

Thirdly, IP.Chat seems to be set up to be primarily hosted on IPS servers rather than your own (since if it were self hosted I don't see why it would need the key)

I have tried it, and honestly it's nothing that incredible; it is conventional AJAX polled chat, though it does of course tie into your actual accounts - and it doesn't have the requirement attached of adding load to your server because it's not hosted on your server. This may or may not be an acceptable trade off for you.

IP.Nexus
I haven't tried this. Unlike the rest of the IP Suite, IP.Nexus is shipped encrypted - you either need ionCube Loader or Zend Guard Loader to make it work. Interestingly there are three separate downloads of IP.Nexus because you have the ionCube version, the ZGL for PHP 5.2 and the ZGL for PHP 5.3+ versions.

Their argument is that it increases security, but I'm not convinced it really does. But that's another matter. IP.Nexus is a combined billing system and helpdesk - and it's what's used on IPS' own site for handling billing and sales of IPB itself. It is competent but nothing truly outstanding.


Quick Roundup
This has been a long enough post - so I'm going to leave it there for the client side and write up the admin panel in the next post. The one thing I would say about all this, though, and it's perfectly true: IPB has long been considered the most professional of the forum world - but it's nothing special. It does what it does very well, it's solid and capable but otherwise unremarkable.

I would note that I'm not entirely convinced about their security record, by the way. My licence was purchased on 5th November, which was IPB 3.3.4, and since then there have been two 'critical' patches plus we're now up to 3.4.5 (3.3.4 -> 3.4.0 -> .1 ----> 3.4.5), plus various patches for each of the modules. Now, some of those are bugfix patches, sure, but even so that does raise questions for those of us used to something like SMF's timeline (4 patches since June 2011)
 1. The reason it operates the way it does is because a lot of stuff, templates and language strings and stuff, is all in the database so it all needs to be synced.
 2. And they install as cleanly as the upgrader, you just dump the files and tell it to find them, but since it's all built by IPB, it's hardly surprising.

 ipb_upgrader.png - 55.7 kB, 994x806, viewed 572 times.

 ipb_main.png - 69.36 kB, 1000x628, viewed 492 times.

 ipb_messageindex.png - 64.44 kB, 973x604, viewed 515 times.

 ipb_display.png - 109.31 kB, 978x1004, viewed 473 times.

 ipb_members_list.png - 35.82 kB, 977x556, viewed 497 times.

 ipb_my-media.png - 72.18 kB, 951x931, viewed 565 times.

Re: System Visitation: IPB 3.4.5
« Reply #1, on May 31st, 2013, 02:44 AM »
OK, so let's now take a look at the Admin Panel. This is quite a big and scary thing. And I'm going to cover it in detail because I think it's particularly interesting.

First up we have the slightly intimidating front page. Yes, the licence key is missing from this test install. I will fix that momentarily but I wanted you to see it!

Notice also the '2 Items Requiring Attention' panel in the middle, that's certainly interesting to see. Other than that we have a nice shiny graph, a list of failed logins, latest from IPB and the admin notes, which is always useful.

There is one thing I want to add at this point before I get any deeper in: unlike SMF/Wedge, the admin panel is essentially a separate area to the core. It's in the /admin/ directory and you can rename it - you are even encouraged to do - and more importantly it is a separate login session from the main. This doesn't sound important, but it is as we shall see later on.

So ignoring that honking great warning, the first thing to notice is that we have a blue/purple colour scheme going on. This is... interesting. Even now, over 6 months on, I'm not sure I like it. But I don't actively hate it, so that's something.

There are some interesting quirks attached to the admin panel.

Firstly: admins cannot change their email address or password from inside the forum like normal - they *have* to do it inside the ACP. I actually didn't touch on the profile stuff in my last post, nuts.[1]

Secondly, like in MyBB you can add new items to the admin panel, literally adding new settings. Unlike MyBB, you can also drag and drop them around to rearrange them. Moving them also AJAXively saves the new position as you do it, which is cool.

Thirdly, you can actually bookmark pages of the admin page that you actually want to use.

Like MyBB and vBulletin, the vast bulk of settings is found in a list, literally a page full of 'groups of settings', like Email Set-Up, General Configuration, etc. as opposed to what we have which is grouping functionality and options together.

Again, the list of settings is absolutely thorough. There are at least a hundred options configurable from that area - interestingly, there are some ad-orientated features, simple but effective - you can add header HTML, footer HTML, override the standard header/footer in the board index, message index and topic view as well as adding code to show up after the first topic/post in the list.

Other fun things: there's an option to add Google Analytics code directly, as well as ping services on creation of new topics (like WP does)

There's also options for setting page title/meta description and meta keywords directly on the board index (but not anywhere else!!!)

Interestingly, the 'system' tab actually seems a bit disorganised to me. There are some other options available, like security tools (checking for certain functions being enabled, checking for unauthorised/suspicious files, checking for executable files, and the suggestion to enable open_basedir and rename the admin folder)

One thing I thought I'd just pick up on, though, because it's quite important is the anti-spam functionality, as it's quite important. Q&A is built in, there is a choice of using either reCAPTCHA or KeyCaptcha, IPS' own or none of the above. Of course you'll need the proper API keys.

If you're using a public install and put your licence key in, you'll also get included on IPS' API with Stop Forum Spam without having to get an API key of your own. This is interesting because it allows for a series of actions to be carried out based on the result from the API, be it allow registration/flag for admin review/allow but ban account/disallow registration.

There is also interestingly an option for flagging a member as spam which will auto post/PM ban, unapprove 3 days worth of posts and so on, and there's an option to enforce guests who post have to enter a separate code (like a CAPTCHA of sorts)... again, the impression is thorough but nothing new. The choice to include reCAPTCHA and KeyCaptcha in the core is also very interesting, but remember that IPS is lead primarily by its customers dictating what they want to see.

Other things in the core by default: FB Connect, Twitter Connect, Windows Live account connection and stuff like that... there's even VigLink integration (just supply your API key and go)

There is also the broader Log In Authentication Manager, which is interesting in itself. Remember I said that the admin was technically separate to the front end? This is why. You can declare different methods to use for authenticating users and drag 'n' drop them to indicate priority. And you can turn them on and off - but here's the clever part: you can actually disable internal authentication. You can actually disable conventional logins to the forum entirely, and defer it to LDAP, some kind of external database[2], converters from other systems or even IPS Connect. And the main admin login will be untouched.

IPS Connect is the big deal here - the idea is that you can use it to form a master/slave setup. Have two forums and want a bridge? No problem: set up one as master, set up the other as slave, turn off internal auth, turn on IPS Connect in slave mode and point it at the master... and BOOM. Instant forum network (since it will go get details of accounts from the master to the slave when you log into the slave). It's actually really slick. I want to get that functionality - perhaps even using the IP.Connect API (since that's open)

...and this is just the System tab.

It is worth noting that the ACP search is more powerful than others we've seen, because it's 'live'. Hang on, let me get you a screenshot. You can type, it'll give you answers and break them down into sections for you. And if you do hit the button, you'll end up on the results page with just the options selected (e.g. just options with 'mail' in the name) and not the full gamut of options. It's an interesting twist, but I'm personally not sure I like it. Some options only really make sense in context.

So anyway... System covers general stuff, the other options are: Forums (board management), Members, Look & Feel, Support, Stats & Logs, Other Apps

Surprisingly, Forums is actually quite a modest category; you set up the categories and boards, drag and drop rearranging (inside a category only and only at the same depth, children have to be handled manually), that sort of deal. There's a few other things... a category is just a different type of board. There's no posts allowed, it's not a destination for moving and it's presented differently but otherwise it's a board.

Board options... some quirky ones, you can indicate boards as being Q&A type boards where the topic starter and/or moderators can indicate the best answer in the topic[3], as well as having share links and stuff. You can also hide the last post from the board index, as a direct option, plus giving the option to show users the board and the list of topics but not actually to see the topics themselves.[4]

Boards can also be password locked or password-locked-except-to-certain-groups.

More interestingly, board creation is actually a 3 step process; step 1 sets up the above options plus the board's name, step 2 sets up whether HTML posting or bbcode is allowed, whether polls are allowed, bumping polls, topic ratings, post counts, minimum post count (to see/post), posters to see other members' topics[5]

After that we get to permissions. This is interesting and it serves as an interesting way to handle permissions. Here's a screenshot.

The way IPB handles permissions, essentially, is to separate groups from permissions, at least directly. You have several core groups: Administrators, Banned, Guests, Members, Moderators (global moderators), Validating (those pending account activation via email)... this makes things interesting, because you can allow people who have signed up to do some things and then let them do more by promoting their account once they've accepted the email.

Anyway, you create 'permission sets' which cover the types of things you want to do then attach them to one or more groups. So the Guests group has the Guest Forum Set which is the standard list of permissions a guest will get. You can set a given permission for all sets by default (e.g. show forum) or give a given set all the relevant permissions - note that as far as board permissions go, the main permissions are only for access to the forum, seeing topics, posting topics, posting replies and attachments. True per-board permissions can be done in the Members tab and we'll get there soon enough.

Still in Forums, there is the option for "Topic Multi-Moderation", which is a simple rules-based setup to make shortcuts to things for topics. The example in the manual is that you can create a multi-mod which: Prefixes [SOLD] on the title, puts a reply from the moderator with the content "This item has been sold, please contact the seller or buyer privately", locks the topic and moves it to an archive board. It's slick, can't argue with that. I'm not sure how much use it'd get though. Probably depends on the forum.

There's also the ability to manage the types of attachments allowed in the forum, the MIME type to send with it when downloading and so on (plus there are cute icons to be configured for each attachment type). Again, the impression is thoroughness but nothing particularly outstanding (SimpleDesk did much of this without the configurationy aspect)

Then we have RSS import. Firstly, the notion that you can import RSS feeds from a given URL and make them just work as forum posts - as a core feature. Fairly sure vB did this too but it still intrigues me to see it because of the logistical issues in terms of things like copied content.

More intriguingly, we have RSS export. It's not anything earth shattering, but you can't seem to generate feeds of just any old board. Some stuff like pages and the calendar generate feeds, but boards do not. Instead, you create feeds, and they get added to the RSS icon menu at the bottom of the page, and in those feeds you can dictate which board/boards are included, so you could create a feed of just announcements from one or two boards, then a general feed which excluded off topic stuff, then a feed which included everything and let uses see what they want out of that.

There's also an automatic archival system. This allows you to move topics from the main post table into an archive table (which can even be in a different database) - so only the newest stuff remains in the main post table. Archiving a topic means it becomes read-only, but with a performance benefit that it's intentionally not in the main tables. You can set it up based on lock/pinned status, whether it has a poll, min/max posts/views, based on which board(s) it's in and all kinds of other fun stuff. I'm just not sure it's as big a deal as they're intimating.

So Member Management... well, post counts are not explicit groups, they are titles from post count and assign 'pips', e.g. 0 posts = 1 pip, 10 posts = 2 pips, etc. and it's one image for all the pips, btw.

Then we have reputation - pretty much as other systems - then stuff like finding IP addresses a member has posted with and so on, plus registration-from-admin-panel and banning (which is similar to what Wedge does). Nothing particularly new here and variations of what SMF and Wedge already have.

You can also set defaults for notifications - for notifying users of reports, new comments, quotes (and not already following), likes, replies to followed topics, and so on and so on, you can indicate how it should arrive (email, inline notification, mobile notification), whether one or more options are disabled (e.g. you wouldn't use inline notification for weekly digests of followed topics) and whether members have the choice. Mobile notification if you're wondering is primarily for the IPS app - yes, IPS has an app for all IPB forums, and when you add your licence key you can generate push notifications to mobile.

Group management is much what you'd expect and it is in the groups -> permissions area that we set up per board permissions. You configure the given set and can pull up Forum/Calendar/Content/Downloads/Gallery permissions with columns of permissions like we saw earlier, with the boards/albums/whatever down the side.

Interestingly, the options provided seem at first glance inferior to SMF/Wedge but it's not entirely clear that it is (or not)... it's sort of a vibe of 'only what we need', you know?

Then there's custom profile fields - and they have much as we have, AIM/MSN/etc are all custom fields, preinstalled (unlike us) and their options are a bit different but similar (offering up dropdown select is a textbox where you add one line per option, in a key=value fashion)... it's certainly workable but actually less polished than other things.

Then we come to warnings - fairly standard stuff, creating templates of warnings that issue points, then doing things when a user accrues too many points. After that is 'Bulk Mail' or what we'd call newsletter. About as standard, too.

Lastly, Admin Restrictions. Whereas in SMF/Wedge, someone in the admin group has access to the admin as a whole, and then there are permissions that subdivide down and otherwise grant partial access without being an admin... IPB doesn't do that as such. You can make someone an administrator and put them in the administrators group - and then they only get the permissions you give them. Which seems a bit weird to me. An administrator that has absolutely no admin powers seems daft to me.

Note that there is a conspicuous lack of options for things like avatars; the choice is 'allow users to use Gravatars', they have the power to upload and use a Gravatar - there's no avatar gallery at all, and there's no apparent permission to select either.

Anyway. On to Look & Feel. IPB does the whole Skin thing. It has two skins in the base - the main and the mobile one. Skins have some basic options - who can access it (yes, some skins can be limited), and indicate what the images directory for it should be. From inside a skin you can manage any of its templates - they're all in the database - or its CSS. And you can also force a given skin to show to different user agents which is how it knows to select the mobile theme for mobile users - it's all customisable. Why you'd *want* to is another matter.

From the skin area you can also set the page URI and its meta tags, e.g. setting meta tags for /members/ to specify them for the memberlist, and you can indicate any meta tag you like, 'description', 'keywords', 'robots' and so on.

Also under Look & Feel you can customise the smileys and bbcode in use, it's about as functional as MyBB's - you indicate what the bbcode is by name, description, example (for the help page), alternative variants of the code, whether it's just a single tag or a regular pair of tags. It's also still limited in terms of options - you can only indicate one parameter through this interface, e.g. [tag=option]content[/tag], though there are some other interesting options - you can indicate a PHP file to run to get the content, and you can also limit use of bbc by board and by usergroup. This strikes me as potentially quite slow. :/

There's also a media handler, they do auto-embedding like Aeva does, but their setup is much simpler essentially being a regex find/replace on a post. There's only support out of the box for YouTube, Google Video, MySpace Video, GameTrailers, YouTu.be (yup, separate option entirely!), Flickr Images, and Vimeo with what appears to be semi-generic MP3 and Flash support, not sure about how that works. As in most places, there is an XML import/export function for easily sharing options with other people (or as a backup)

Censored word is much as expected, again with XML import, though you get the option of 'exact match' or 'loose match' on a per word option, unlike SMF/Wedge.

There's also the ability to define acronyms in the system, which are essentially a form of censored word, which can optionally reuse the <acronym> tag or just expand the term out.

Language Management also comes under Look & Feel, and is essentially much the same as what SMF/Wedge have. Lastly there's an area to configure images for the mobile app, for a bit of branding goodness.

Next up is Support. The first part of Support is a dashboard listing total members with counts based on 'online now', 'pending validation', 'locked accounts' and 'spammers' plus numbers of topics/posts including those awaiting moderation. This leads onto a quick version listing of IPB, MySQL, PHP versions plus disabled PHP functions, extensions, safe mode, memory use etc.... and somehow they have a list of the Windows processes. I have no idea how they do that - though I'll note they also have a 'system load' figure which roughly correlates with the current total % CPU in use. Again, I have no idea how they get that either but it will be interesting to find out.

There's also tools for testing for presence of things in files that shouldn't be there - leading/trailing whitespace, over-generous file permissions, ability to check outgoing connections (e.g. cURL), database checker (both tables and indexes), and facilities to test email sending.

After that, there's the SQL Toolbox, which lets you view the columns and indexes of each table, plus run direct SQL queries. There is also a per-table export option that actually looks like it might work, as well as a formal backup facility but...
Quote
SQL Backup Warning
If you have access to phpMyAdmin or a similar tool, we recommend that you use that instead of the ACP backup utility.
Funny that, it's not just SMF :lol: After that we have lists of MySQL runtime info, system vars and process list... oddly enough anyone who can really make use of that information can get it from phpMyAdmin instead... I have not needed to know any of that stuff in any support I've done for SMF yet.

After that we have the Stats & Logs section... you can pull up registrations between any two dates, grouping by days, weeks or months to see given trends. The same breakdown is also available for new topics, all posts, personal messages, topic views and spammers (from the spam service)... we already have much the same list in our stats centre, but it's interesting to be able to be more specific in terms of getting reports.

As far as logs go, of course, we have the error log, admin action log, moderator logs, email error logs, spider logs, warning logs - all fairly straightforward. On top of that we have XML-RPC API logs[6], scheduled task log, admin login logs, spam service logs, SQL error logs and the topic archiver log. Most of that is also already covered in SMF/Wedge, of course.

Lastly there is the Other Apps area. This is where all the IP stuff lives, all the configuration for IP.Blog, IP.Calendar etc., it's all in there. Each application has its own top level menu entry even with a little [IPS] prefix. I don't really want to drag this bit out much more, you probably get the idea of where this is going ;)

Phew. That's really it, I think. IPB is enormously powerful. It has a *huge* amount going on under the hood and it's designed to be able to cope with almost anything you want to throw at it... I'm having trouble imagining right now what you'd need to add, but the price is that it is complex to manage and sluggish to boot. Yup, it is not going to go quickly; but there's a *lot* of caching going on so the query count isn't particularly high. It's roughly comparable to ours when not all tricked out with plugin goodness, for what good that is as a metric.[7]

If you want a forum that's pretty battle hardened and capable, slick even but not going to rock anyone's world, IPB is it. It does its job and does it well. But it's not going to move you on an emotional level. You're not going to hate using it, either as a user or an admin, but you're probably not going to gaze lovingly at any of it either. It's competent on all counts but that's really it. And it's not the cheapest - especially since most plugins are paid too. You will want deep pockets to run an IPB forum. But you do get what you pay for, IMHO.

And that concludes this System Visitation for now. Shout if you have any questions or concerns and I'll see what I can do to answer them. Also if there's any screenshots you'd like or anything, do ask.
 1. I'll sum it up by saying that it is much the same as what you see elsewhere stylistically, where you get a summary, profile comments/status updates, seeing liked posts/blogs/calendar items/gallery items, friends, topics/posts/blog posts/files/media items by the person, and editing profile is separate thing from just viewing it, but again nothing unexpected.
 2. Yes, I don't like it either, because odds are it's less secure!
 3. Which is shown at the top of the thread, before all the posts are shown normally
 4. I have never quite understood the logic of that.
 5. This is a twist on topic privacy, other systems including vBulletin 3 and XF do it. The idea is that you can create a board where normal people can post and see their own topics, while moderators can see all posts, like a support board. As yet, I don't think we can do this in Wedge. @Nao, what do you reckon about adding 'staff' to the list of options for topic privacy, where staff is anyone who can see the board, and has moderate board (in that board) or moderate forum permission...?
 6. IPB has an XML-RPC API that means you can create API keys and allow certain actions, e.g. for third party tools. There is a defined list of APIs available, this log lets you see which API user did what and when. I never mentioned it before because I'm still not sure it has much of a use as such.
 7. 14 good queries versus 7 poor ones and the 14 will probably run faster.

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 ipb_admin_restrictions.png - 60.11 kB, 976x848, viewed 433 times.

When we unite against a common enemy that attacks our ethos, it nurtures group solidarity. Trolls are sensational, yes, but we keep everyone honest. | Game Memorial

Powerbob

  • Posts: 151
Re: System Visitation: IPB 3.4.5
« Reply #2, on May 31st, 2013, 05:22 AM »
very concise and illuminating, thanks for this :eheh:

I still have one of the early lifetime licenses.

MultiformeIngegno

  • Posts: 1,337

Powerbob

  • Posts: 151
Re: System Visitation: IPB 3.4.5
« Reply #4, on May 31st, 2013, 01:12 PM »
If you mean updates, yes. IPB was trying to get established when it was new 8-)

Dragooon

  • I can code! Really!
  • polygon.com has to be one of the best sites I've seen recently.
  • Posts: 1,841
Re: System Visitation: IPB 3.4.5
« Reply #5, on May 31st, 2013, 04:41 PM »
That was a pretty good read over a coffee, got to know some interesting stuff. I've always wondered, how's their community? i.e. third party development, support etc.
The way it's meant to be

Arantor

  • As powerful as possible, as complex as necessary.
  • Posts: 14,278
Re: System Visitation: IPB 3.4.5
« Reply #6, on May 31st, 2013, 04:57 PM »
I haven't studied the IPB community much.

But glancing through the support boards at random, you'll find that the developers chime in on things, that there is a very visible staff presence and it seems to be pretty professional at all times. It's not amazing or outstanding (you won't see any like the Kier/Mike/Brogan fanwanking[1] that happens on XF's community) but it is competent. It really seems at a glance to have the same atmosphere that the software does.

Interestingly you'll find that senior folks around IPS all seem to have the Zend Certified Engineer (be it PHP 5 or better 5.3) which is also a good sign for them, IMO. It's a sign that their people are willing to invest the time to actually get to know the language... while it's not a perfect system by any means, it is a sign that they're willing to make some effort.

As far as the plugin situation goes, they have the IPS Marketplace. Yes, some of it is free, but there seems to be a lot that aren't (and that's true for XF's plugin community too, btw).

As far as the Marketplace goes, they are a walled-garden affair such that if you want to be listed there you have to follow their rules, which amount to:
* hooks only
* basic documentation is required
* free/paid are both available, paid plugins offered through the Marketplace will be sold via IP.Nexus on their site, they take 10% + $0.50 in commission, no facility to have a listing that just links elsewhere
* authors must keep submissions up to date and provide a reasonable amount of support, if either are failing, IPS reserves the right to remove the listing
* plugins which call home are not forbidden but strongly discouraged and call-home MUST be declared
* payouts can be done once the balance is over $25, payments usually made on Fridays
* if you publish something, you are permitted to add related promotional notices but not excessively so, e.g. publishing a skin and a short notice about doing custom work
* IPS can remove a file for any reason at their discretion
* people who publish get access to a special board where staff and other contributors can discuss matters and also provides things like testing tools and some beta access

3PD is pretty strong there but as I said a lot of it is paid. Costs can soon mount up - IPB is licensed on a 6 monthly basis rather than yearly.
 1. It goes beyond fanboyism, where those guys are considered half-way to deities. Don't get me wrong, they do an impressive job, something that Nao and I are able to sympathise with, but the community is a bit too fawning for my tastes. But Kier and Mike are a bit more friendly than I am, haha.
Re: System Visitation: IPB 3.4.5
« Reply #7, on May 31st, 2013, 05:24 PM »
OK, so I activated my actual public licence again, not going to share where it is because it's not staying up for long but I wanted to show you two things that I didn't show you here.

Firstly, Visual Skin Editor. This allows you to customise the look of a skin - it's not the same as full control, and if you do want full control you have to 'convert it' into a full skin (which then disables the visual skin editor)

But damn is it sexy - you have a nice menu to play with and just get to play with the layout and live CSS changes. You can either pick from the menu or use the picker to select a given element on the page and it'll point you to the right part of it.

There's also the colorizer, which lets you select the underlying colours for the theme and it'll generate the appropriate style for those - out of the box it gives you 'base colour' (the bluish off-white), 'secondary colour' (black), 'tertiary colour' (purple), 'text colour' (blue) and it builds it from that.

To build colour variations for your site - just colour variations - is ridiculously easy. Even for newbie admins, they can create a colour scheme which suits them - even without touching code. It may not be as effective as allowing template edits and stuff but even so...


The other thing I mentioned is IP.Chat. Since I have a public licence, I can actually use IP.Chat. It has a variety of nice options controllable from the admin side - groups that can access it generally, groups that can access it in 'offline mode' (Maintenance), hours that it is enabled for/hours it is disabled for, groups that are moderators, groups that can do private chat, plus stuff like whether it should be a nice window, how many messages, how long to leave a user around before kicking them due to inactivity, rules and stuff like that. Again, thorough but nothing amazing.

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 ipb_chat.png - 46.06 kB, 1164x745, viewed 537 times.