Building an online community can be a daunting task. Countless different applications are available for you to use as the foundation of your community. When I first envisioned this book, I saw that online communities were primarily based on three different types of applications: content management systems, bulletin boards, and blogs. I then found three open-source applications that fit into these categories that I believe are at the top of their class. Let's take a closer look at each of the categories and the selected application.
A content management system, or CMS, is an application that can be used to deal with various methods of web publishing. A CMS can generally be customized by adding or removing specific features, so that the end result is only those features that you want for your community. Features included with a CMS can include file management, photo galleries, private messaging, discussion forums, articles, polls, and much more. Many online newspapers, magazines, and other news sources use a CMS for their web presence. You've probably been a user of a CMS without even realizing it. An extremely popular web site built around a CMS is http:// slashdot.org/. In the first portion of this book, Robert Douglass will teach you about the CMS named Drupal. You can find the official web site for Drupal at http://www.drupal.org/.
Bulletin boards, also known as forums, are a medium in which users can post messages and reply to those already posted. Bulletin boards are a great medium for creating a community where users interact to help each other out with a particular subject, or just to discuss common interests. Bulletin boards exist across the Internet, discussing everything from automobile repair to web hosting. Today's bulletin boards allow you to have customizable user profiles, embed images in your posts, generate polls, and host private and public forums, just to name a few features. In the second section of the book, Jared Smith will cover everything you need to know to get started with the phpBB bulletin board package. You can find the official web site for the phpBB project at http://www.phpbb.com/.
Blogs have emerged in the last few years to become a very strong player in the online community arena. Blogs are generally sites that express a single person's views about life, politics, a particular hobby, or anything in between. Companies have been hiring professional bloggers to do nothing but blog about things happening at their company and help generate a "buzz" around the company. The user interaction in blogs comes from comments, which users can leave on each blog post, and TrackBacks, which enable other blog owners to link their blog posts to yours. In the final section of the book, Mike Little will explain how to set up your own blog using WordPress. The official site for WordPress can be found at http://www.wordpress.org/.
I know that you will find this book to be a valuable resource in choosing and using the application that is right for your community. If you create a great community based on the information in this book, I'd love to hear about it!
Matt Wade, Editor ([email protected])
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