C3 website: the tech stuff part 2 – learning phpBB

In my [previous entry]() talking about the [Colorectal Cancer Coalition](http://www.c-three.org) website I blogged about the [Movable Type](http://www.movabletype.org) blogs, now on to something new…new for me at least.

My new “toy” on the [C3](http:/www.c-three.org) website has been the [advocacy forum](http://www.c-three.org/forum).

[Dreamhost](http://www.dreamhost.com/rewards.cgi?momathome) has a one-click install of [phpBB](http://www.phpbb.com) which makes that first hurdle in using it a non-issue. A while back I played with phpBB on another site with an older version that I didn’t pay enough attention to and it [got hacked by the Santy worm](http://www.f-secure.com/v-descs/santy_a.shtml). Talk about embarrassing…the client emailed me in a panic that the site had been hacked and she was afraid that her computer had been vulnerable. Yikes. Luckily, we hadn’t invested a lot of time or energy in developing the board so it wasn’t a big deal to take down. I was a little gun shy about trying again, but it appears that the phpBB folks have gotten past the security holes. I looked at a lot of forum software, including [ezboard](http://www.ezboard.com) and decided in the end, I just preferred the functionality of phpBB over the others. And you certainly can’t beat the price. But I’ll tell you, I get an email that the software has been updated and I jump and update immediately. Not taking chances this time.

The default forum was up and running in 10 minutes. Easy. The trick was getting the forum to look like it belonged on the C3 site. I bought a book to help me: *Building Online Communities with phpBB 2*. It’s templates, like Movable Type. But similarity ends there. In Movable Type, the entire view is a template. It’s static pages (can by dynamic now, but wasn’t always that way). In phpBB, each component of the page is a separate template file which when pieced together becomes the whole…top, bottom, middle, and separate areas of content depending on what part of the forum you’re in. I’m not used to working this way to say the least, but it does make sense. I like seeing the whole page. Using [Dreamweaver 8](http://www.macromedia.com/dreamweaver) helped me visualize what I was doing as I edited the code.

The biggest challenge is that the board is structured by tables. There’s probably a good standards-based forum out there, but that’s for another day I guess. My templates for C3 have nary a table on them. How do I bring in my existing template and style sheets without breaking the table-based page? It should be easy. It wasn’t. Every `

` begun in one template file had to `

` in another file without conflicting with code already there. Easier said than done.

Eventually, I took a cheap way out…I grabbed a screen shot of the top of the site to get the whole thing in one image file, put it on the board in the right place and defined links on the image so visitors can get back to other areas of the site easily. Like I said…cheap. But for now it works. Accessible and valid? Likely not. Fact is, majority of the folks coming to the forum are running IE 6 on Windows and can handle the forum software without issue or complaint. Wasn’t a battle worthy to fight. Then it was a matter of editing the style sheet so the colors worked the way I wanted and it’s about good to go. I’ll tweak more as I learn, and then I’ll [laugh at myself later](http://www.momathome.com/viewfromhome/2005/11/live_title_links.php) for the stupid mistakes.

*Next in tech talk: Nonprofit fundraising, advocacy, contact management and partnerships.*

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