BulletinBoards Review

(May 18, 2010 20:58)
Last Version 8.8 (July 29th, 2009). Released under Proprietary License.
Resources Website BulletinBoards Website Download Host your Forum...
Company Bulletin Board Corp.
Price $29.85 quarterly / $101.50 yearly.
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What is BulletinBoards?

Bulletin Boards offers private message boards since 1996. It's a really ancient website, that has clearly an old look when you compare it to modern interface like Twitter or Facebook. Once this first (bad) surprise and potentially disagreement passed, you slowly discover that BulletinBoards provides most and sometimes more features than the existing forum softwares.

The main goal of BulletinBoards is to literally provide a board where people post messages. It could therefore be more compared to a public and web based mailing list. It provides several possible appearance, from the most simple to the most advanced. Its threaded appearance for example, that divides the browser view in two panes, is perfect to consult and read several pages and discussions comfortably.

Here are some populated sample boards, that describe very well the possible thread modes:

Woooh, it looks like a bit old, doesn't it?

This is true, but BulletinBoards provides its services to really important names in United States: American Society of Retina Specialists, NASDA National Assn., University of West Florida, MTV Networks International, Virginia Neurological Society, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Childrens Hospital of Los Angeles,... These services do not require any eye candy, but need to be effective, so let's see if this is true.

Review Updates:

  • February 4, 2011: Add Smartphone Compatibility.
  • May 18, 2010: First Review.

BulletinBoards is recommended for Medium Community.

(and supports smaller communities perfectly as well.)

Client Requirements

Browser & Client Requirements
Compatible Browsers
List of Compatible Browsers.
Mozilla FirefoxMozilla FirefoxInternet ExplorerInternet Explorer
Google ChromeGoogle ChromeOperaOpera
Apple SafariApple SafariKonquerorKonqueror
Mozilla SeaMonkeyMozilla SeaMonkey
Required Plugins/Technologies
Additional or Basic Requirements from Client Side.
HTML.
Localization
Languages supported by BulletinBoards.
No.
No.

The underlying technology is the ColdFusion framework, from Adobe, that is based on ActionScript and Java.

Compatibility with Smartphones
Compatible SmartPhones
Compatible Cellphone Brands and Manufacturers.
  • AndroidAndroid
  • iPhoneiPhone
  • BlackBerryBlackBerry
  • Windows Phone 7Windows Phone 7
  • Windows MobileWindows Mobile
  • Symbian Phones <em>(Nokia)</em>Symbian Phones (Nokia)
  • HP WebOS <em>(ex-Palm)</em>HP WebOS (ex-Palm)
Application Distribution / Type
How it is distributed / App Store Availability
  • Web Application
BulletinBoards for Smartphones - Forums
BulletinBoards for Smartphones - Forums
BulletinBoards for Smartphones - Latest Posts
BulletinBoards for Smartphones - Latest Posts
BulletinBoards for Smartphones - Topics
BulletinBoards for Smartphones - Topics
  • Smartphones compatibility is ensured with a dedicated web application, that has a demo here

Forum Threads & Posts

Forum Threads / Topics
Forum Style Flat/Threaded Forum Organization
  • Forum Categories
Thread Icons No Topic Tags -
Hot Topics - Unread Topics Yes
Hidden Topics Yes Sticky Threads Yes
Related Threads - Detect Duplicate Threads No
Announcements Yes
Posting Messages / Answers
Message Editing Form
How to Post Messages.
  • Plain Text
  • WYSIWYG Editor
Post Editing Format
Supported Markup Language (HTML, Wiki, BBCode,...).
  • Plain
  • HTML
Spell Checker
Checks typos on posts and topics.
Yes
Image Attachment
How Images can be Attached and Displayed in Message Posts.
  • Upload via Classic Attachments. Images are all at the end of the post.
Embedded Videos
Videos and Media Websites Supported in Message Posts.
No.
Posting Features
Quick Reply Box No Smileys Yes
Attachments Yes Syntax Highlighting No
Message Rating
Yes Message Quoting Yes

The WYSIWYG editor is not included by default, but it is really simple to configure. It is exactly the same with HTML, that could be enabled, or not, depending on your needs.

Post Rating is called Votable Messages in the BulletinBoards terminology. See the complete list of features if needed. Post Quoting is even possible from multiple messages, to answer in the same comment to several questions.

Board managers can hide either entire forums or individual message topics from users, either by assigning "Restricted Access" to an entire Forum or modifying a users access privilege to prevent viewing of certain message topics. This allows the board manager to restrict access to a select group of users.

Hiding or Restricting access to forums and messages is accomplished via the Board Management, Board Forums section, then assign Restricted access to specific forums. Another more finer granularity of Restriction can be accomplished by modifying an individual's profile. to prevent access… via the Password Protection section of the Board Management page.

Posting by email is even possible with the Email Notification Plus

Additional & Technical Features

Additional Forum Features
Poll Creation Yes
Private Messages
Users Can Communicate using an Internal Messaging System.
Yes
Instant Messaging
Discuss with Visitors and Members in a Chat Window.
No
Calendar
Topic, Member Birthdays, Events are available from the perspective of a calendar.
Yes
Online Users List
Connected User List (Often Found in the Forum Footer).
Plugin
Members List
Search and Consult the List of Members.
Yes
Technical Features
Bundled Software
Additional Software Available with the Forum.
No.
RSS/Atom Syndication
Posts and Threads Exported to Feeds Aggregators Syndicate.
R
Friendly URLs
URLs are clear and contain information about the topic (title, message,...). Highly recommended for SEO purposes.
No
Post by Email
Post Directly From your Email Box.
Yes
Remote Control
Remote Control from External Software/Websites.
No.
Cache System
Cache pages to optimize bandwidth and load times.
No
Template Engine
It is easier to theme a forum using a known template engine (more docs & examples,...).
  • Custom Template Engine

Private messages are actually posts that have a different scope, to a restricted list of users.

Polls can be made available to only the board manager or to all users via the board manager's Management page, Main Settings section, then answer "Yes/No" to either of the following options:

  • Should Only the Board Mgr. be able to create "Votable" Messages?
  • Should Normal Users be prevented from creating "Votable" Messages?

User Profiles & Options

Some details about BulletinBoards features regarding members.
Member Options & Features
Bookmark Threads
User Profiles Keep a List of Followed Posts and Topics.
No
Email Notifications
Receive Emails When New Messages are Posted in Followed Threads.
Yes
Export private messages
Private Messages can be Downloaded by Users.
No
Payment Subscriptions
Paying Membership Subscription.
No
User Profiles
User Profile
User Information and Settings.
Yes
Avatars
Pictures of Members, Useful to Easily Identify their Posts.
Yes
Signature
Signatures Added at the Bottom of Each Message.
Yes
Ranks
Tags and Labels Identifying the Members, based on specific criteria (Total Posts Count, Credits, Moderation Level...)
No

Moderation & Users Management

Moderation & Threads Management
Moderation
Pre-Moderation In pre-moderation, every post needs to be validated by a moderator before being published.
Post-Moderation The moderation is done afterwards, if an administrator notices a problem or if a member reports something wrong. Each message is therefore directly published.
Reactive Moderation By reporting any problems, members are reactive against moderation problems. Moderators' main objective is to regularly check user reports, without having to follow each threads.
Distributed Moderation By organizing the forum around moderators, who are usually power and experienced users, moderation is self-powered and only depends on the community.
Moderator per section Yes
Global Moderator Yes
Move Threads
Move Threads from Topics
Yes
Shadow Topics
When a thread is moved, the previous position is kept in order to inform users of this modification.
No
Close/Lock Threads
Close/Lock Problematic Threads
Yes
Users Management
User Groups
Organize and define groups of users, and apply different actions and settings on them.
Common Groups: Guests, Members, Moderators, Administrators,...
Yes
User Registration
  • Free Registration
  • Registration needs Approval
  • User Account created by Administrator
  • Confirmation sent by email for validation
Limit Features For New Users
Features are limited if a user has created a small number of posts.
No
Guest Posting Yes
Multiple Administrators Yes
Send Warnings to Users
Inform users by email or PM that they infringe the board rules, and could be excluded for such behavior.
Yes
Forum/Section Restricted Access
ACL could be use to determine if a user or a group of users can access (in read only, post message) to some sections and topics.
Yes
User Banishment Yes

Administration & Support

Database Management
Backup Database
Backup forum datas that you could store somewhere else.
Yes
Prune Database
Remove old and unused datas from your forum.
Yes
Restore Database
Restore a backup of your database if the previous install crashed.
Yes
Administration Tools
Statistics
Statistics about posts count, users, traffic...
Yes Error/Notice Log Viewer
Forum Logs could be consulted.
No
Tasks Scheduler
Maintenance tasks are regularly launched and could be scheduled.
No Mass Mailing
Send an email (newsletters, advertisements, information,...) to all users.
Yes
Installation & Upgrading
Installation Method
How this forum software could be installed.
Installation Wizard
Upgrading Method
How this forum software could be upgraded.
Upgrade Wizard
Updates Notifications
The Admin Panel informs you when a new version is released.
No
Forum Migration
Convert an existing forum to BulletinBoards.
No.

Security & Spam Protection

Security & Spam Protection
CAPTCHA
Captcha protects your forum against spam bots.
e.g., Syndicate
Yes
Abnormal Behavior Detection
Detect users or request strange behaviors, and try to process proactive actions.
No
Words Filtering
Offensing Words are automatically replaced.
Yes
User Blacklist
Prevent specific user accounts to register (based on email address, name,...) and disable potentially harmful members.
Yes
IP Blocking
Prevent access to spam robots and other scripts that could attempt DDOS or Brute Force attacks on your forum.
Yes

HTML and Profanity Filters is the way to filter words.

How to enable CAPTCHA
In Manager's management page, Hiding Buttons section, Spam Control Options, answer "Yes" to the option.
How to enable IP Blocking
In Manager's management page, Utilities section, click on the BanIPs button.

Customization & Social Networks

Customization
Plugins
Add new features to your forum installation.
No.
~0 Available Plugins.
Themes
Modify the style of your forum easily.
Yes.
~100 Available Themes.
Custom BBCodes No Smiley Packs No
Custom
Thread Icons
No Additional User Profile Fields
Ask more about your members with custom fields.
No
Integration with Applications, Social Networks, Intranet...
Social Networks
Users can share information from their social network account...
CMS / Blog Bridges
Integration with existing Web publishing tools.
No.
User Accounts Integration
Do users be able to log in with their corporate, Google, Facebook,... accounts?
No.
Content Aggregation
Forum allows to integrate news and content from other website, using an aggregation protocol (RSS, RDF, Atom,...).
No.

An automatic bridge is able to convert your post to a blog entry, and the reverse is also possible. Note that integration with third party website is done with small icons available at the bottom of each pages.

W3C Norms & Accessibility

Norms & Accessibility
HTML / XHTML Markup
HTML 4.01.
HTML 4.01
Click to see if it respects HTML norms.
CSS Stylesheets
CSS 1.
CSS 1
Click to see if it respects CSS norms.
Accessibility (WAI)
Web Accessibility ensures that the forum is usable by people of all abilities and disabilities.
Conformance to A level.
A
UTF-8 Support
Default encoding used to support all locales and countries.
Yes
Conformance to W3C Norms
Does BulletinBoards correctly follow (X)HTML and CSS norms?
No.

As we wrote previously BulletinBoards is slightly old, and it does not follow the new HTML norms.

Unique Features

Key points and major differences that make BulletinBoards unique:

  • Advanced Thread Modes
  • Cold Fusion based technology, well tried since 1996
  • Really important administrative structures rely on BulletinBoards: University of West Florida, University of Delaware, Maine Education Council, Cornell University, Univ. of South Florida, Newman Theological College, Apostolic Ministries of America, Charter Alliance Project, International Hydrofoil Society, Kansas City Track Club, Assn. of 40th Inf. Div. Veterans,...

Final Words


Good.

Despite on its old look, BulletinBoards is quite a good surprise. It correctly does its job, and the support is one of the key point of this service. BulletinBoards is a perfect alternative if you don't look for advanced features but more want to use a traditional and efficient forum software. We would particularly suggest the usage of this forum software for a more mature community, about for example serious subject like health or trips. This is clearly the target of this forum software.

The existing and impressive count of forum communities hosted there is extraordinary, and it proves the quality of this company, that exists since 1996.

Additional Resources:

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