Someone recently asked me why we would spend weeks creating templates for a forum system we didn’t have any official connection to. Well, first of all, that’s the real spirit of open source software. It’s the community coming together to support and create. It’s amazing what a collective can do.
As for the specifics of how we got involved with Phorum, a few months ago I was once again actively looking to upgrade the forum system for my large family site, Lotsofkids.com . The forums there are very popular. We get several thousand posts and several million hits a month.. The old system we were using was Jim’s forum system called RWF (short for Ravenswood Forums). What was amazing about RWF was that it was 100% coded by Jim and the level of functionality it had was astounding, considering it was done by 1 man mostly at nights and on weekends. However, as time marched on, Jim had less and less time to spend on it. Technology just forged ahead. We desperately needed to update the software, but the prospect had us looking at 6-9 months of coding. Jim was willing to do it, and I was willing to let him, but I felt there had to be another package out there that might be able to help. I had tried most of the other big name forum packages, but none seemed able to be modified to work similarly to RWF. That is, until we found Phorum.
I won’t bore you with the details, but it took only a bit over 2 weeks to convert our whole system. We managed to keep 90% of the look and functionality of RWF, which was a major feat in itself–and a testament to both Phorum and Jim’s programming skills. The few things we lost in the process, we gained in useability. The forums became much easier to administer which made my life MUCH easier. You can peek at one of the LOK forums HERE to see how we modified them.
When considering Phorum, once of the things I noticed is that there were not a lot of available templates for the system. This wasn’t a problem for us since we were going to skin it to look like the old RWF. However, I realized that if there were more templates, other people might be more willing to use this software. That was something both Jim and I wanted to see happen, so we made the decision to “just do it.”
We spent about 3 weeks designing and coding the templates. I designed the look using a graphics program and Jim then coded the templates and CSS. Jim did an amazing job working under my (oftentime) stringent specifications. Another plus side to this endeavor is that we hoped it would be a good display of Jim’s CSS skills. In the “old” days (like 3-4 years ago), I was much better than Jim at CSS. That’s just not true now. He really can do wonders with it. What started as doing 3-4 templates eventually turned into designing/porting over a dozen designs.
We’re pretty excited with our work. Of course, there is no way to know if the world will be any better because of our contribution. Still, it does feel good to give something back. We’re also hopeful that Phorum will get a greater following because of it.
So, that’s the story of our little trek into the Phorum templating “business.” Not very exciting or glamourous, but not much is these days. For now, we’re finishing up a few additional designs for Phorum and then I think we’re gonna stretch our legs and start working on something else…like blog templates.