Forum modifications – worth it?

A week ago I got an email letting me know the forum software I use had released an update. As one of my sites runs on this software I planned to do the update this Sunday (today). I awoke at 8:30am and decided to crack on with it, but as I turned on my laptop I received another email… there was ANOTHER update!

“Great”, I thought!… oh… how wrong was I?!!!…

The problem was, the forum I run is quite a large one, with lots of members and a few modifications. As it is a worldwide forum there is a mod on there letting members display a little flag showing their nationality. This is a great little mod, and people like it a lot, but upon upgrade it broke! After the upgrade happened the flags were no more.

The problem

The problem is the way the forum software works is not very “mod friendly”. It’s not like WordPress where your mods are protected somewhat, modifying a forum required major surgery to the core files… not nice when it comes to upgrade time!

Anyway, all in all there were two mods that broke, the flags and the “quick reply” feature. The quick reply was an easy fix, as it only involved alterations to a single file, so fairly low maintenance, but the flags mod was a lot of work to find out what went wrong.

By the time I had finished with this fiasco it was well into the afternoon. This made me think, are these mods really worth it? Fair enough, if the version of the forum was fixed, great, but it’s not… there will always be fix released and bug patches going on, each giving the possibility of your mod breaking.

…and so…

I have learned a lot of the the past year or so, but I am learning that sometimes it is necessary to simplify things in order to give the reliability necessary to keep a site running, in order to maintain your own sanity, and not give your entire Sunday up in the quest to get “the little flags working”.

By the time I think about all the time I have spent making sure these modifications survive all the upgrades, these aren’t half expensive little flags!

3 replies
  1. Lyndi
    Lyndi says:

    This is one of those things we all have to face. Even if an upgrade breaks nothing it is very frustrating to spend a lot of time on an upgrade just to find that it offers virtually no new features or benefits.

    The thing that always bothers me about updates, is that if you ignore them you could be opening yourself up to all sorts of security issues.

    I have found that when you make modifications to any application it is very useful to keep proper documentation of the changes. When it comes to updating you are normally very glad you went to this trouble.

    Reply
  2. Rarst
    Rarst says:

    “By the time I think about all the time” – I can feel people from close timezones by writing on Monday mornings. 🙂

    I think just kill those flags, modern forums pack too much fluff anyway.

    Reply
  3. Jim
    Jim says:

    @Lyndi: You are right, we need to keep on top of updates for security reasons. I have seen the affects of slacking in this area, and it’s not pretty.

    @Rarst: Yeah, was burning the candle at both ends yesterday, just wrote that before I went to sleep.

    The thing about modifications to a forum as opposed to a blog is WordPress has a fantastic plugin system. You can instal a plugin, test it, remove it, all in 10 minutes, and mostly they survive updates. To put this into context, the install time for the flags is 49 minutes!

    I fixed the flag issue this time, but if it breaks again I think they are gone!

    Reply

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