I have had some new ideas floating around about the website lately. I wanted to be more community centric. I would like to try and get more people to contribute information. However, blogs (in my opinion) are not the best method for this. Blogs are more like a traditional classroom setting. The blogger (teacher) writes about a topic (stands in front of the class) and gives his expertise (hopefully 😉 ) or opinion about a subject that he chooses. If anyone on the internet (students) have any questions for blogger, they are free to post them. If not, the blog post stands on its own.
… where a blog post would automatically be entered into a forum. …
A forum however, is much more like a community of learners. The site owner may choose the direction of the forum such as, which topics to talk about, appropriate language, etc. But, the users of the site can help each other through their own means of posting individual questions, opinions, and answers. Blogging is a one to many communication. Forums are a many to many communication.
So, my first thought in creating this environment would be to combine the two together. Surely, someone has already thought of this and has developed a plugin to combine a forum and wordpress together. My google searching first brought me to ZMAng‘s post regarding Integrating a Forum with WordPress. This was a decent start for what I wanted to do.
However, the more I examined the solutions he presented, the more I realized that they really did not fit what I was looking for. I liked the idea of integrating Vanilla with WordPress. The integration was minimal at best, like the other solutions, of basically just integrating the user database. Plus, it was not a plugin, I actually had to go hack the php code around. Who knows what would break the next time I upgraded one of the pieces of software.
I also looked at bbPress, from the authors of WordPress. I figured that this would be my best shot for what I was looking for. However, even with this, WordPress integration was minimal at best. All of the integration solutions I looked at essentially just integrate the user databases together. There was no actual communication between WordPress and the forums. Nor was there any graphical integration (theming).
So, that brought me to write down what I was really looking for. I was looking for an enviornment where a blog post would automatically be entered into a forum. If someone were to reply either in the forum or in the blog, it would should up in either one. Pings and trackbacks should work the same way. Architectually, it should be the same content instead of duplicating the content between the two. Normal users could make forum topics without it showing up in the blog. Ideally, the forums and comments would be threaded. Also, theming of the forum would follow the blog. In other words, only one theme.
As I did some more searching, I discovered that there some other people out there looking for the same thing as me. I found an interesting post by Darren Stuart entitled Are Blogs the New Forums? It mirrored some of my thinking.
Another tidbit I found was when I was looking at a forum plugin I discovered off of the codex. While I was viewing the comments of Simple Forum, I noticed a very interesting one. A user named Jason (sorry can’t link to the comment) stated:
… For example, what Iâ€™d love to see is admins being able to mark a forum post to be displayed as a blog post as well and vice versa, defineable on a per post or per category basis. In this manner you could have a â€œSimple Forum Announcementsâ€ category on your blog associated with the same category/section of your forum in which it would be flagged that topics could only be started by the admin and all posts to that section would be posted in the associated blog category. For such posts, commenting could be redirected to the forums or displayed inline but kept in sync. Is this making sense or just getting confusing? …
This was just what I was thinking. Andy, the author of Simple Forum replied with:
… There is some thought provoking stuff in here some of which I like. Especially the notion of linking a forum to a category. That certainly has a lot of merit and will go on my list straight away. Iâ€™m not too sure about the forum as post notion but give me time to think it through! …
I am hoping that Andy runs with the idea. But, this got me thinking again. Maybe I should not be looking at blog software per se. Maybe I should be looking at CMS software. So, after searching for while between the big CMS names (many I have tried in the past), I took a look at Drupal. Drupal has both a forum module and a blog module built in.
I started to play around with it too see how much integration the two had. Looking at them seperately, it appeared that both forums and comments to blogs were threaded in the same manner. This was certainly a step in the right direction. Then I noticed while playing around with posting to the forums that there was checkbox you could click to send the forum post to the front page. Could this be it, what I was looking for? It did indeed post the forum post on the front page. So now I had both a blog post and a forum post on the front of my website. Unfortunately, it appears that there is still a difference between the two. When I clicked on the overall blog link there is no mention of my forum post. I am doubting that any pingin and trackbacks would work as well. So, I took two steps forward and one step back.
Unfortunately (and correct me if I am wrong), it does not appear that there is any readily available software to perform what I am looking for. While I could write up the pseudo code for such a beast, I don’t think that my programming skills are up to task. Nor would I have the time to make such an investment.