The Phorum PhAQ!

Phorum PhAQ: Phrequently Asked Questions

Version 2.7

Welcome to the PhAQ. This document exists to help new members figure out what's going on. It also exists to provide amusement to current members, or at least to me.

I, the author of this document, am known in these parts as Vlad! (and yes, the exclamation point is part of my name). If you have any other questions, feel free to PM me.

Contents:

  1. Language conventions
  2. The Phorum Software
  3. Phorum Rules
  4. History/General Phorum Questions
  5. The People
  6. The Pub

  1. Language Conventions
  2. Any community develops its own idiosyncrasies and eccentricities over time, but fortunately we're small enough (and can spell well enough) that our colloquialisms don't deviate too far from plain English.

    1. What's with the 'ph' thing?
    2. A: Get ready. After this, you're going to have a phreaking PhD in 'ph'. I, Vlad!, created the 'ph thing'. When we switched from our crappy EZBoard forums to our marginally less crappy Proboard forums, I began calling the Proboard forums the 'phorums', to signify that they were cooler than our previous forums. This became a meme, and grew until practically any word starting with an 'f' is a candidate for a 'ph'. Those who use the Phorum are the 'Phorum Pholk', this is the PhAQ, et cetera. For a newbie to figure this out and use his or her own clever ph-substitution in a post is a good start to becoming a true member of the community.

    3. Should 'phorum' be capitalized?
    4. A: Congratulations for caring about stuff like this ;). We have no official stance as to whether phorum is a proper noun or not. I usually write it as 'phorum', but when I'm trying to be extra officious I'll write Phorum or The Phorum. We will (translation: I will) get on your case for grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors, but I leave capitalization errors well enough alone so long as you don't type in ALL CAPS or use some sort of StrAngE SySTeM of your own.

    5. Sometimes, one member will use another member's real name instead of the phorum nickname.
    6. A: That's not really a question, but OK. Some phorumers use real names as nicknames, while most choose to use a handle instead. But since some of us know others of us in real life or in multiple contexts, you occasionally see both come into play. Also, the software allows people to change their names at will, so sometimes longtime members will have several different names associated with their identities (which is why everyone calls enemy anemone "Schil"). The rule of thumb is: use the nickname unless either nobody else does or you would feel really awkward doing so. In personal messages, of course, you are free to use whichever name you feel most comfortable with. If in doubt, ask.

    7. What is a bobservation?
    8. A: In the Random Observation thread, some people (*cough* Schil *cough*) like to use the amusing word bobservation instead of observation. This comes from Uncle Tom's Cabin, though I wouldn't expect you to know that (actually, I wouldn't have known it either if she hadn't told me...).

    9. Speaking of the Random Observation thread, why are there so many threads that just seem to live forever?
    10. A: I observed that phorumers tend to be reluctant to create new threads but have less inertia when it comes to participating in already-created threads. To help foster discussion in the Off-Topic board, we created several threads designed to stick around near the top of the thread list all the time (though they aren't made sticky, so that if the community becomes bored with one, it will eventally fall into disuse). When one of those threads starts to drift onto a single topic for several posts, I or another mod will split those posts off into a new topic (where, generally, it will promptly die off). Thus, threads like the Random Observation thread and the Hangout can be seen as breeding grounds for new topics (though of course you are free to create your own topics from the get-go if you feel so inclined).

    11. Do these special threads have special rules?
    12. A: Not too much. Keep their purpose in mind--for example, the Amusing Quotations thread is only for funny things you've overheard. For the Hangout thread, however, there is no topic. You may post about anything and everything in there: the weather, stuff you read on the internets or saw on the news, a funny thing that happened on the way to the phorum, etc. Just remember that this is not your myspace page or your weblog or whatever it is the kids are calling it these days. The only person allowed to do any self-absorbed rambling here is me (actually, I'm not sure why I get away with it either, so don't try this at home).

    13. Um...I meant to type 'spoon' but it says 'sthingy'. What gives?
    14. A: On the old (ProBoards) forum, there were some mildly amusing language filters set up by default. One of the most dangerous was a filter that changed the word 'poon' to 'thingy'. The problem was, it would be caught even if it was in the middle of another word. Thus, spoon became sthingy and Reese Witherspoon became Reese Withersthingy (Charlie Peacock also became Charlie Peathingy, which frankly is hilarious). This would generally pop up in completely serious posts and add to the air of hilarity we try so hard to preserve. So when we switched to the Invision software, I removed all filter rules except that one. Naturally, one of the first things I did when setting up the SMF software was to, you guessed it, add a filter to do the same thing (note that I actually made the filter trigger only on 'spoon', so 'lampoon' no longer becomes 'lamthingy', for example). It annoys pretty much everyone except me.

    15. What else should I know?
    16. A: Well, let's see here...many phorumers have a penchant for making really bad jokes and puns. If you've gotten this far in the PhAQ you probably already know that, though. We're a fairly literary and well-educated bunch, so we often make obscure allusions or use fancy words just because we can. If you don't understand why we would do this, you will probably not understand the phorum zeitgeist. If you get poked fun at, don't take it seriously. You can poke right back, or shake your head at the immaturity, but don't let it get to you.

  3. The Phorum Software
  4. Every interface has some sort of learning curve. The phorum handles most of the standard message board tasks in an idiomatic manner, so anyone familiar with the way bulletin board systems have worked for the past twenty years or more will feel at home on the Phorum.

    1. How do I use the phorum?
    2. A: Our current phorum install is a slightly modified version of the Simple Machines Forum software. It supports all the features you would expect. If you want to play around with the features, feel free: it's set up so that you can't mess up anything major. All the buttons are labeled in what is (hopefully) an intuitive manner so you can get an idea of what they do. And if you do manage to get in trouble, our expert staff of moderators and administrators (*flex*) will help you out.

    3. How do I quote?
    4. A: This actually is a frequently asked question (unlike most of this document, which I just made up). Quoting is a feature where your post references some text from a previous post so what you're writing can be put in context. Above each person's post there is a button labeled 'Quote'. If you click it, the software will automatically insert the text of that post in quote tags into your reply. Also, the [quote] and [/quote] tags can be put into your text manually and will do the same thing. Of course, if all this sounds too technical for you, you can just copy and paste. Quoting is recommended in a debate or a discussion that is moving quickly, or if you are responding to a post that was made a while back. If you are just responding to the last post, quoting is unnecessary and leads to text bloat.

    5. How do I make a link?
    6. A: Another actually frequently asked question, this one with multiple answers.

      • If you just want to display a hyperlink, simply paste it in. The phorum software is smart enough to linkify it automatically.
      • If you want to display something more complicated (like a link that the phorum software might not recognize), surround it with url tags (ex:
        [url]http://www.thephorum.net[/url]
        ).
      • To create a hyperlink in your text (so that your link appears like this), use the url tag again, like so:
        [url=http://www.thephorum.net/PhAQ.html]like this[/url]
        . Absolutely do not put quotes around the URL, because if you do the Phorum will mangle your link just out of spite.
    7. What are the different boards for?
    8. A: We have five boards in two categories. The 'Arts' category has boards relating to Movies, Music, and Literature. These are fairly self-explanatory, and don't worry: the topics are pretty loose. As an example, murlough and I got into a discussion of the band Dream Theater on the Movies board because he had seen a concert DVD of theirs. This sort of thing will happen, and we try to be flexible about it. The 'Life' category has the Off-topic and Faith boards. Faith is for religious debate, doctrinal exploration, or anything else of that nature. If it doesn't fit into any of the above categories, it goes in Off-topic. And like I said, we're not really strict on this; the worst thing that could happen is that your post is moved to a different, more relevant board.

    9. What is up with the ranks/pips/orange bar of lego blocks thing? How do I get to be a certain rank?
    10. A: Here is The Deal (tm) with ranks:

      Rank Posts # pips
      Phorum Deadweight   0
      Phorum Neophtye   1 *
      Inphrequent Poster   20 **
      Phrequent Poster   150 ***
      Phorum Phriend   300 ****
      Phorumoholic   500 *****
      Phorumophile   750 ******
      Phorum 1k Member   1000 *******
      Phorum Master   1500 ********
      Phorum Phreak   2500 *********
      Phorum Phiend   3500 **********
      Phorum Phenomenon   5000 ***********
      The Beast   666
      00b3r-l33t   1337

      This will change occasionally as we get more members or our members accrue more posts. The most recent rubric should be right here in the PhAQ.

      The joke rank of 'the beast' has been around for a while, but I added the 00b3r-l33t one as well sort of as a nod to the barely-literate computer gamer crowd. Count Dracula is another one I added just for my own amusement. And naturally, all the titles above 1000 posts are just there for those who don't know they can change it (or don't care). Once you're up that high, you can be anything you want.

      As for the image itself, the orange block with four grey holes in it, I designed it myself (which is why it's so bleh looking), but I happen to be fond of it. Admins and mods of course get uber-fancy pips which I also designed myself and which also look pretty strange.

    11. I tried to visit the phorum and got a nearly-blank page that said 'Forbidden' in big letters along with some mumbo-jumbo about a 404 error. What gives?
    12. A: This is a Known Issue (what technical people call problems they know about but are too lazy to fix). It's not my fault, so the problem either lies with our host or with SMF itself. Personally, I blame the media.

      The fix for this is simple: when accessing the phorum, make sure you type a 'www' in the address bar first (i.e. don't type 'thephorum.net', but instead type 'www.thephorum.net'). I would fix this, but it is out of my control (or at least, that's what I tell people so they get off my back about this).

      Note: I haven't seen or heard of this recently, so it may have been fixed. All hail Chuck!

  5. Phorum rules
  6. "Rules, rules, everything's gotta have rules" laments Calvin, the late philosopher of our age (that would be Bill Watterson's Calvin, not John Calvin). We are in a fairly delicate position, because we try to uphold good community values while at the same time not cramping your style. This board is for you, the user, and exists for you to express yourself. So long as your posts show a respect for your fellow posters and at least a nod to common decency and decorum, you will probably be OK.

    1. Who can post on the phorum?
    2. A: Anyone can. You can. We ask that you treat others with the same respect you would like to be treated with, but other than that, knock yourself out.

    3. Who DOES post on the phorum?
    4. A: A very diverse group of people. There are 'regulars' who post with great phrequency and others who stop by occasionally to throw their two cents in. We're not a 'niche' board like you might see at a band's official site, but we don't have such a large userbase that we see a lot of traffic on a regular basis. Those of us who aren't complete slackers have profiles that let you know a bit more about who we are. Check them out.

    5. Are any topics off-limits?
    6. A: In theory, no. As long as you plan on discussing it intelligently and without deliberately offending people, go ahead. If you want to share a joke, news story, or personal event, that's fine. Song lyrics and poetry, either yours or others' can be posted. Any art that you wish to discuss is fair game.

      Note that your intention and your approach matter the most: a topic that would be perfectly OK for rational debate or discussion will be deleted if you post in an inflammatory way or speak hatefully about others. Always remember: talking badly about a thing is usually OK. Badmouthing a person isn't. We generally permit limited advertising of other personal sites and message boards, but commercial advertisements and spam will be deleted without mercy and/or mocked.

    7. Are any words off limits?
    8. A: You mean besides spoon? ;) Seriously, we don't have a list of words that you're never able to say, because words are just vessels of ideas. We can (and will) delete your post if you are being intentionally vulgar, profane, or otherwise disturbing, but that can happen through ordinary language as well as the so-called 'bad' words that society doesn't like. On the other hand, if the ideas your words convey are worthwhile, we will be more lenient about your speech.

    9. How strictly are topics enforced?
    10. A: Not very. In fact, sometimes the mods will change the topic to fit the discussion. If a comment on-topic makes you think of something completely off-topic, good form is generally to post a separate thread. If your comment is mildly on-topic and you think other people will be interested, go ahead and make it. Mods have a lot of magic that we can work if we feel that your comments are important but off-topic. We will never delete a post just because it doesn't follow the topic exactly. We will never lock a thread just because we feel like it's getting off-topic (personally, I don't like it when board do that). As long as you have something to contribute, feel free to post.

    11. What punishments exist for people who break the rules?
    12. A: There are plenty of punishments available, but we prefer not to use them. If a thread is getting out of hand--a very rare occurrence--it will be locked. If a single post is out-of-bounds, it will be deleted. We mods don't really see ourselves as disciplinarians so much as facilitators, and we hate having to do stuff like lock threads. Whether this is because we're kindhearted or lazy is open to debate.

    13. What happens if my post gets deleted?
    14. A: I can't speak for the other mods, but when I delete a post I will send you a message letting you know why. You are free to appeal the deletion either to me or to any other mod. Also note that our software sends deleted posts to a garbage can that other mods can see. This means two things: first, all mods have an opportunity to view deleted posts and thus check up on what the other mods are doing, and second, if a post gets deleted and it shouldn't have, we can restore it.

    15. What are the guidelines for signatures and avatars?
    16. A: Avatars: you are free to use pretty much anything the software will let you upload. If your avatar is so graphic or disturbing that we get complaints, we reserve the right to remove it.

      Signatures: should be within the bounds of taste. A single image, not too large, is fine. Text is fine. A rule of thumb: if your signature is longer than your average post, it's too long. Again, just like with posts themselves, anything egregious will be removed.

  7. History
  8. The phorum has a history, complete with its own little dramas, battles, stories, and major events. More experienced users will understand references that leave new people in the dark. Hopefully I can explain some of this here.

    1. What is The Rebel Base?
    2. A: The Rebel Base was (not is) a website that reviewed art. It was a collaborative effort between Josh and Mark, two friends who believed in artistic excellence and wanted to point it out. Many of the older phorum pholk were at one time Rebel Base readers, editors, or writers. Sometimes I will refer to The Phorum as The Base in a moment of excitement or confusion. Geezers like me do that from time to time.

    3. What was the Rebel Base's relationship to The Phorum?
    4. A: The Base gradually evolved over the years, and at one point it got a mediocre forum at a free forum host called EZBoards. That was the distant ancestor of The Phorum. The Phorum is essentially a site's messageboard that took on a life of its own and outlived the site itself.

    5. What happened to Mark?
    6. A: When The Base gave its last hurrah, Mark ventured off to different endeavors, while Josh stuck around to foster the Rebel Base community, which was by that time already well on its way to becoming the completely independent Phorum community. If Mark could be bothered to update his weblog more than once every four months or so, maybe it would get linked here.

    7. What happend to Josh?
    8. A: Josh got older and became progressively more curmudgeonly until we decided he was no longer allowed at the phorum. Actually, that's not true at all. He got married and moved to North Carolina and gradually became less interested in the phorum. He had a good run--about ten years--but as with all parents, it was time to let his child grow up. Also, once he started getting paid to write reviews professionally, he naturally focused much more time and energy on that. You can follow him on the tweeting machine here, if you so desire.

    9. Does that mean that Vlad! is the only one running the ship?
    10. A: Are you saying that's a bad thing?

      Actually, I have some help with moderating and folks I can run things by if I'm not sure what the right course of action is. I also get technical help from Ninja Admin Chuck when necessary.

    11. What are the various incarnations of The Phorum?
    12. A: It started out with the aforementioned EZBoard forum (this is the proto-phorum, as it was pretty lame and not worthy of a ph). We then moved to the Proboard forum, which originated the spelling phorum (see question A-1). Then, in 2003, Josh purchased a domain, IPB license, and hosting plan for The Phorum. This incarnation was the first one which didn't inundate users with ads (believe it or not, the first version of this PhAQ was designed to tell users how to get around the increasingly persistent ads on the Proboard forum) and also the first one that was actually easy to use for admins, mods, and regular posters. Then, after the Great Phorum Hack of '06 (see next question), we switched from IPB to Simple Machines Forum, or SMF, which is what we're using currently.

    13. What is the Great Phorum Hack of '06?
    14. A: Mid-April 2006, a few users noticed that strange popups were appearing on phorum pages. One user even reported being infected by a trojan thanks to these popups! Concerned, I investigated. I found that the index.php file itself had been altered to display these ads...a disturbing development. I contacted the host, and he quickly informed me that, according to the logs, the phorum had been hacked, the index file compromised, and the database copied. This was accomplished thanks to a flaw in our version of Invision Power Board; IPB is a commercial (read: you have to pay for it) product, and we were back on a version that archaeologists have confirmed was first used by the Piltdown Man. Rather than shell out for the latest and greatest in IPB (and then probably have the same thing happen again three years later...), we switched to a free and open-source board that had most of the features we were used to and that we could upgrade when necessary at no cost (other than the time it takes to apply the upgrades and code patches, of course).

    15. Is The Phorum related to CMC (Christian Music Central)? There are a lot of people who post on both boards.
    16. A: No. There are some phorumers who are (or were) also CMCers, but that's because there is a significant amount of discussion of music that goes on at both boards. Plus, we have gotten several members from their ranks. There are occasional dramas where someone who is a member of both boards will get banned or reprimanded over at the CMC. Since we do have a certain amount of overlap, the discussion sometimes flows over to the phorum and hijinks ensue. They think that we're conceited, pretentious snobs with overly-permissive admins and we think that they're ignorant bumpkins with poor taste in music and mods who are Nazis. Altogether, it's a great example of how Christian communities can interact with love and mutual understanding.

    17. How old is The Phorum?
    18. A: The IPB Phorum was started on June 30, 2003. You can do the math from there. I have no idea when the EZBoards or ProBoards versions were started, but it's not unreasonable to say that the earliest, vestigial proto-phorum started in 2001 or so.

  9. The People
  10. For some reason, people seem interested in those of us who are privileged enough to be administrators of the phorum. Well, all two of us. When I opened the floor up for questions, most of the ones I got were about us. I promise I did not make any of these up.

    1. Can we see a picture of you or Josh?
    2. A: I have, at various times, posted pictures of myself. If you're obsessed enough to want one, you can probably find one somewhere. There are rumors that Josh writes a weblog and that his picture is available therein, but this is the stuff of legends.

    3. Which phorum members do you or Josh know in real life?
    4. A: Nowadays the only phorum members I keep up with IRL are the ones I'm related to. I can't speak for Josh of course, but my highly-efficient stalker network suggests that the same is more or less true of him. Most of the original phorumers, i.e. the ones Josh and Mark went to high school with, are gone.

    5. Can I buy a stuffed Mighty Armored Assault Duck?
    6. A: No, we don't sell merchandise. If you want to set up an online store for us, we have one rule: you do all the work and incur all the expenses, we get all the profits. So far, strangely enough, there have been no offers.


Hopefully this document has answered your questions. If not, ask away, either by posting on the Off-Topic board or by sending me a PM. If your question is relevant enough, I may put it in here!