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Comments July 31, 2008

Londonvasion Video Coming…

Filed under: Londonvasion 2008 — Dave Rathbun @ 6:34 am CommentsComments (2) 

I’ve been able to get an advance copy of the video from my presentation at Londonvasion to review and I think it looks great. :) AdamR from the support team is our video tech, and while I have only looked at my talk so far I have to say he did a fantastic job.

As soon as the videos are posted at phpbb.com I will be sure to post a link. Until then, you’ll have to be happy with the teaser information of knowing that it’s coming soon… 8-)

Comments July 30, 2008

Building a Daily Digest Part I: Generation and Delivery

Filed under: MOD Writing, phpBB — Dave Rathbun @ 2:25 am CommentsComments (5) 

I think I have frequently mentioned that my biggest board was at one time a mailing list. The mailing list had two modes: individual message or daily digest. Because of this, one of the first feature requests I got from my user community was a way to subscribe to a daily summary of activity from selected forums. The code to generate and deliver the digest was fairly easy. The user interface was a bit more challenging. Code is always easier if you don’t have to interact with users, because things are so much more predictable without them. :lol:

One of the main factors that I tried to keep in mind was performance. If 15,000 people subscribed to a nightly digest, I wanted the generation and delivery process to be as quick and painless as possible. So before I wrote any code I sat down with my thoughts and figured out a few shortcuts. More…

Comments July 29, 2008

Working With Recursive Data Part I: Table Designs

Filed under: Database Tips, MOD Writing, phpBB — Dave Rathbun @ 11:55 pm CommentsComments (2) 

There are all sorts of scenarios that require recursive data. If you don’t know what “recursive” means, it’s a relationship from an entity back to the same entity. In English, it’s data that points back to itself. :) Some typical examples of recursive data are company org charts, inventory build instructions, or even forums for phpBB3. Yes, I’m talking about phpBB3, are you surprised? :shock: :lol: I hope not, because I’m going to reference phpBB3 only in passing. The article is actually more about storing recursive data in any form. It’s also how I store information in my phpBBDoctor Project Management system, among other things.

SQL is not a recursive language. When I write a query it’s all about relationships between rows, not about looping back through the same table. Oracle has a special construct used to traverse recursive data and it works very well, but it’s the only database that I am currently aware of to support this. Since most phpBB MOD authors will not be writing for Oracle, I will skip that concept for now.

As mentioned in the first paragraph I have recursive data in my project tracking system that I use here on the phpBB Doctor site. The design for this system is simple, but complex. :) The first table is the project table and it includes summary attributes for the project. These attributes include values such as when the project started, who is the project manager, a description of the project, and the status. The next table is the tasks table. A task is assigned to a project, but a task can be broken up into sub-tasks as well. There is no expected limit to the depth of the tasks. Here is a screen shot of my test project so you get an idea of what I’m talking about.


Comments July 28, 2008

What To Do About Version Two Part II

Filed under: phpBB — Dave Rathbun @ 12:03 am CommentsComments (5) 

How many ways can I write “two” in one sentence? :lol:

In a prior post on this subject I suggested that it might be time to dust off one of the other domains I currently have (phpbb2mods.com) and try to make it into a more active site dedicated to the legacy phpbb2 product since the version 2 forums are slowly being phased out. After some discussions with various folks, I can now tell you that won’t be happening. That site may still get the dust knocked off at some point, but it won’t be to try to take on the task of becoming phpbb2.com for those that wish to have a place to continue to work with that version of the product. (By the way, I checked, and phpbb2.com is already taken. It used to be owned by a phpBB “consulting” company, and now it’s a freaking placeholder page with ads all over it. I absolutely hate when people take up valuable web real-estate with garbage like that. :evil: But I digress…)

Where does that leave me?


Comments July 23, 2008

Londonvasion Part VII: phpBB Versus Spam Presentation

Filed under: Anti-spam, Londonvasion 2008, phpBB — Dave Rathbun @ 7:43 am CommentsComments (5) 

I’ve provided a link to a pdf version of the presentation that I did at Londonvasion. If you don’t want to download the entire presentation, here’s a brief recap:

There are three different elements in the fight against spam, as outlined here:

  • Prevention means being able to keep spammers from getting on your board in the first place
  • Detection means being able to quickly identify and react to spam if it is posted
  • Elimination means being able to easily and thoroughly clean up the mess that a spammer has left behind

View the PDF


Comments July 22, 2008

Londonvasion Part VI: Panel Discussion and Wrap-up

Filed under: Londonvasion 2008, phpBB — Dave Rathbun @ 8:46 pm Comments Off 

I didn’t get a chance to post this before leaving London as I spent the remaining hours of my precious time in London with the rest of the phpBB team talking to as many people as I could. For me, this was the best part of the entire event: talking to and interacting with the rest of the team. I really hope that more folks can come next year because it’s a great opportunity to do this. As the conference grows it will be harder and harder to get one-on-one time with some of the amazingly talented people behind the phpBB product, so if there is one of these next year (I assume that there will at least be discussions about that) and you (anyone reading this blog) have any way to make it to the event, do please consider it.

Which leads me to the closing event, the panel discussion. We had just finished hearing from the Lewis Brothers (Highway of Life and Handyman) and were trying to get the furniture rearranged without completely destroying the hotel. (We managed, mainly because Bertie wasn’t allowed to help. :-P ) Highway of Life (David) was busy getting the audio set up to stream live on the Internet. We still hadn’t figured out who was going to be on the panel, and I was asked for my opinion I simply suggested, “Just pick anyone who hasn’t done anything yet and give folks a chance to meet them too.” So that left me out, as I had done the spam presentation earlier in the day. I really wanted to be on the panel, but I have to say that we got some great comments from everyone involved. I think DavidMJ was the star of the show, but everyone else did a great job as well. So thanks to everyone that put their opinions on the line (live, no less) and answered the many interesting questions that came from the audience and the chat room.

I had some idea about spending time in London after Londonvasion closed. To this point I had only seen the airport, the inside of the bus from the airport to the hotel, the hotel, and the McDonalds next to the hotel. Hardly the things that London is known for. :lol: But to be very honest, I was much happier spending the time with the rest of the team up until after midnight that night, as I can always go back to see London at some point but getting as many team members together as we had might not happen again.

Or at least until next year. :)

Here’s hoping to see anyone and everyone at Unknown-Place-Vasion 2009. 8-)

Comments July 20, 2008

Londonvasion Part V: Joomla Guest, Site Integration, and MODs

Filed under: Londonvasion 2008, phpBB — Dave Rathbun @ 11:12 am Comments Off 

The next three topics were fairly interesting. There was a guest speaker from Rocket who displayed a number of really nice looking phpBB3 styles that were built from Joomla templates. Since they’re also working on the Rocket Bridge to allow you to run a site based on Joomla + phpBB3 it’s important to share the same style along with the sessions, data, and so on. He showed a quite impressive option where a user can change the color gradients on a style and have it live. It was based on transparent png images with a color background.

Highway of Life followed with a presentation on site integration with phpBB3. Just like you can do with phpBB2 (and I have done more than once) you can utilize some minimal code from phpBB3 and use it to start a brand new page. By doing this, you can build an entire site around phpBB3 and avoid the need for a bridge. If you want a full-featured content management system or don’t have the time or inclination to write your own pages then Joomla or an equivalent system might be interesting. But if you want only a few extra pages that are integrate into your board, that’s certainly possible. Highway of Life showed the basics of that process.

Handyman wrapped up this part of the session by talking through some tips on how to plan, code, and test a MOD. There were only a few bullet points, but they were very appropriate.

We’re now going through the general panel, featuring DavidMJ, NeoThermic, cherokee red, and wGEric taking questions over IRC and from within the room. Cool stuff. 8-)

Londonvasion Part IV: phpBB Versus Spam

Filed under: Londonvasion 2008, phpBB — Dave Rathbun @ 9:19 am Comments Off 

When the team was discussing the original agenda for Londonvision one of the topics that was to be on the list was combatting spam. It is a topic that I’ve blogged about many times over the years, so I have some definition opinions on the subject. I suppose that’s a good thing, because when I arrived on Friday morning Marshalrusty mentioned that with all of his organizational tasks he had not had the time to prepare a presentation. He offered the slot to me.

As anyone who has ever been in the same room (or country) with me knows, I love to talk. :-) It’s part of what I do in my job (part-time trainer, full-time consultant) and it’s a very real part of why I am particpating on the board in the first place. So I was happy to create a topic.

In a nutshell, I talked about three different aspects of combatting spam:

  • Prevention
  • Detection
  • Elimination

I believe the presentations will be posted on phpbb.com, and I will certainly post my presentation here as well. But to summarize: Prevention techniques keep unwanted content from reaching your board in the first place, and I shared some statistics from my Checkbox Challenge MOD. We also got into a discussion about some of the other MODs for phpBB2 and I talked at some length about the new features of phpBB3 that make most (if not all) of the phpBB2 MODs obsolete. Detection relates to identifying spam content that appears on your board, and Elimination techniques relate to cleaning things up once a spammer has been detected.

I won’t recreate the entire presentation here, but it did seem to be well received and I hope it will be useful once I get a copy posted.

After I was done, we had a brief talk from one member of each team about how the user community can get more involved with the phpBB project. The developer team suggested that more help testing was always welcome. The more tests that can be done in different environments, the more solid the code becomes. All developers like to deliver solid code. :) Most of the rest of the teams talked about being active in the respective areas (MODs, Styles, or Support) and doing a good job. Those that do a good job get noticed, and those that get noticed can get invited to the teams.

Next, we finally had a presentation from a user rather than a team member. Noth started his presentation about the user experience of updating to version 3. In a nutshell, he was quite happy with the upgrade.

Paul is now delivering a presention on how to write a MOD, which looks like some good information for those folks that are always asking, “So, how do I write a MOD?” Now we’ll have something to point them to. :)

I think that the rest of the afternoon belongs to the MOD team, and whatever time is left will be used for an open discussion panel. Probably one or two more posts “live”, and then probably I will do a wrap-up post when I get home. 8-)

Londonvasion Part III: Testing and Security

Filed under: Londonvasion 2008, phpBB — Dave Rathbun @ 6:26 am Comments Off 

We have just seen a presentation from naderman about the testing procedures being put in place for future phpBB development. Testing is an often overlooked and underappreciated area of coding, and I am quite happy to hear about plans in this area.

Right now we’re taking a quiz from Kellanved about security issues that are possible in php applications, and some of the many steps that phpBB3 is taking to address the issue. It’s quite good; I hope to download the slides later and think about them in more detail.

Londonvasion Part II: The Past and the Future

Filed under: Londonvasion 2008, phpBB — Dave Rathbun @ 5:18 am Comments Off 

Marshalrusty has opened the conference and we are moving forward. :) Acyd Burn is the first presenter and he reviewed the history of phpBB from 1.x to 3.0. He has introduced the entire dev team (except Vic, who is not here) and is now talking about the development process for 3.2 as well as some general process changes. It shoulds like things are going to be more organized and therefore more productive.

When you have a volunteer development team, being organized and efficient has to feel good.

There have been a number of questions from the audience; I think the ability to ask the dev team specific questions about current and future code is really being appreciated by the group here.

3.2 is going to implement memory caching which will extend the file (disk) caching present in 3.0. They are (it sounds like) completely reworking the BBCode system. For example, there will not be any standard BBCode values anymore; everything including the former “standard” codes like bold and so on will be implemented as custom codes, which means that there’s only one process. There will be an option to configure which codes can be nested. That would mean you could enable smileys within the code bbcode, if you really wanted to. Or at least that’s the way I understood it.

One of the very interesting concepts for 3.2 is the new event / trigger system. This was originally a community coding project for 2.x, and I guess was left out of 3.0 for time reasons. But it looks like 3.2 will include it. The system will be composed of three components: a trigger, a condition, and the action. The trigger is what starts the process, the condition is used to test whether some action will be taken, and then the action is, well, what happens. :)

So this could be used to replace an “Auto Group” MOD, where the trigger is a change in post count, the condition is an increase or decrease above or below a threshold, and the action is to add or remove from a group. Another example was automatically locking a post based on certain keywords present in the subject line. It sounds complicated, but interesting.

A question was just asked as to whether we would be able to add our own triggers, and the answer was positive. So that sounds really interesting. Triggers can also start other triggers, so you could end up with a cascading series of events. That sounds scary. :shock: Hopefully they’ll include some sort of stack call limit to prevent a runaway process.

I asked about search, and it seems that the sphinx search engine is close, and would be in 3.2. That will be something that I am very interested to watch.

Acyd is wrapping up, so I will post this and see what’s coming next. 8-)

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