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One of the earliest functions the internet served when first developed 40 years ago was to permit conversations among likeminded people. Nowadays, one of the most popular venues for such conversations is the web-based bulletin board. Drupal includes functions that let you create such bulletin boards and control how your members use them. In Drupal we call them Forums. The first thing to do is to turn on Forums by going to Administer, Modules and Forums. We've already turned ours on, but you haven't, just make sure that this box is clicked, go down to the bottom of the page and click Save Configuration.
As with blogs, this adds another content type, if you go to Create Content, you'll see Forum Topic. But before we go any further, we should talk about exactly what a forum is. A forum is first and foremost a place for threaded, open, multi-participant discussions. Historically speaking, these are extensions of mailing lists, bulletin board systems and the Usenet system of new stories. In Drupal, these are organized in a multilevel hierarchy. The hierarchy is as follows. First is the Forum module, which contains all of the forums. Inside that module there can be Containers, so for example, you might have a container called Cars which would have multiple forums for Scion, Toyota, Honda and so forth.
Inside each of those forums, individual users can enter topics. For example, "How do I get more mileage out of my Scion?" And finally to each of those topics, other users or the original user can enter comments such as, "Well, here's what you do to get more mileage." We'll see what this looks like when we start to build our forum. To see how this works, we're going to add a new forum that's going to be called Tips for underwater living. To do so, we go to Administer and Forums. As you can see, we've no containers or forums, we'll add a forum here and call that as I said, Tips for underwater living. We'll also enter a description, Help for those who are livin' la vida mojada! Or for those of you who don't speak Spanish, Living the wet life.
We're only going to have one forum at this point, but if you had more, you could set it up in a hierarchy, so to use our earlier example in the San forum, there might be a subcategory for XA owners, XP owners and so on down the different models. But for now, we're just going to ignore it and keep its parent at root. That is the basic place where all forums go. Weight as with other screens determines which one is listed first. We're going to leave it on 0 since we only have one and we click on Save. There we've create our first forum, I'm going to create one more forum called Buying property and I won't put in any description just to make it concise. I'll create one more called Selling property and again just save that.
If we want to see all of these, we go to our website/forum and we see a full list of all of our forums and as you can see, we've our description right here where is these two which don't have descriptions are just given by their titles. Let's go back though by going to Administer, Forums and let's set up a container. We'll add a container, which is going to be called Trading property. Again, we'll leave that at the root and save it. Now, we've this container and we can put buying and selling property into it by grabbing it by this arrow icon and dragging it down like so. Incidentally, you can also put forums as subgroups of forums like so by moving it in and out of the hierarchy. I'll click on Save and then we'll take a look at what exactly that looks like by going to /forum.
As you can see, categories show up here, but you can't actually post anything in them, there are only containers for holding other forums. So, we've these forums, but how exactly do we add information to them? First, if we want to make them available to all of our users, we're going to have to give the permissions as always. We go to Administer, scroll down to Permissions and then go down to the Forums module. The main permission that we want to give people is whether or not they can create forum topics. We'll give that to our authenticated user, incidentally we don't have to give it specifically to the contributing user because they're by their nature also an authenticated user. We're not going to allow anybody to delete or edit their forum topic, although of course you're welcome to do that if you like. We scroll down to the bottom of the page as usual and click Save permissions.
Now, let's switch to our ordinary user, fishyjoe. Now, fishyjoe can add something to the forums by going to Create Content, Forum Topic and then entering whatever information he wants, let's say Seeking equity partner and he could say, "I'm seeking a $20K equity partner for my property in Soggy Acres. Comment here for more information." Now, there's one other field that we don't see in other content types which is which forum do we want to put it in.
In this case, we'll put it into Selling property, but if you look at the list, you can see how the hierarchy is shown. Remember Trading property is a container, you can't post there, but it shows these subcategories, Buying property and Selling property. We'll put it in Selling property, if you were to try to post it in Trading property, let's see what happens. Scroll to the bottom and say Save, oh ! Tells you, you can't do it. So, now we'll go to Selling property, go down to the bottom, Save, terrific, we've created it. Let's go, take a look at it by going to directly to Forum and there it is, we see that we've one topic with one post. The other way he could have posted was by clicking on the forum itself and saying, Post new forum topic.
Let's say somebody else comes along and wants to read that. They go through here, click on the topic and then they can add a new comment if they want just as they could in other places in Drupal. But for now, we're just going to go back to our homepage. As with blogs, forums are a double-edged sword. On the one hand they can increase participation in your site, but on the other, they can result in some unpredictable and sometimes offensive content in places that you don't want it. If you decide to enable forums, I recommend that you budget ongoing time to monitor them to keep out not only flame wars, but also spam, regardless forums are well worth the time for increasing participation in your site.
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