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Web Based Forums As an Alternative to Usenet

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Summary
Although Usenet is a fantastic resource, it is also open to abuse. As well as this, it is often
underused by people who are less pro cient with the Internet. This has led to a rise in the
popularity of HTML based forums, as an alternative to Usenet. Currently, there is a variety of
forum software available and in use by various websites, however, this software is often either
overly complicated, or far too simple. The main objective of this project is to create a new
piece of forum software, which lies within the middle of these extremities; being neither overly
simple and devoid of features, nor overly complicated and dicult to use.

Contents
1 Introduction 1
1.1 What is Usenet? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
1.1.1 Usenet History . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
1.1.2 Problems With Usenet . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
1.2 What is a forum? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
1.3 Comparison of Usenet Versus Forums . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
2 Appraisal of Existing Technologies 6
2.1 Existing Solutions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
2.1.1 Complex Systems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
2.1.2 Simple Systems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
2.1.3 Wiki Webs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
2.2 What Would an Ideal Solution be Like? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
2.3 Aspects of Existing Software to be Left out of the System . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
3 Designing the Back End 11
3.1 Language Choices . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
3.1.1 C++ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
3.1.2 Perl . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
3.1.3 PHP . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
3.1.4 Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
3.2 Storage Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
3.2.1 Text Files . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
3.2.2 XML . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
3.2.3 Database . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
3.3 HTML Choices . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
3.4 Database Choices . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
3.4.1 MySQL . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
3.4.2 PostgreSQL . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
3.5 Designing the Database . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
iv
4 Implementing the Minimum Requirements 19
4.1 Reading Existing Posts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
4.1.1 Index Page . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
4.1.2 Thread Pages . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
4.2 Creating New Posts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21
4.3 Remembering Which Posts Have Been Read . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23
4.3.1 How Should the System Remember Which Posts are Read? . . . . . . . 24
4.3.2 Marking Items as Read in I-Forum . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25
4.4 Use of HCI Methodologies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26
4.4.1 User Interface Design . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26
4.4.2 Use of Colour . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27
5 Implementing Further Enhancements 28
5.1 Switchable Threading Styles . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28
5.2 Search Function . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28
5.3 Administrator Functions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30
5.4 Updating User Preferences . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30
5.5 Security . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31
5.5.1 HTML Escaping . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31
5.5.2 Hiding Query Strings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32
6 Evaluation of the Solution 33
6.1 Software Testing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33
6.1.1 Approximation to the Ideal Solution . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33
6.1.2 Test Plans . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33
6.1.3 Existing Bugs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34
6.2 User Comments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34
6.3 Further Enhancements to the System . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38
6.4 Project Time Management . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39
References 40
7 Appendix A – Re ection on the Project 42
8 Appendix B – Test Plans 45
8.1 readFunctions.pm . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46
8.2 writeFunctions.pm . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46
8.3 userFunctions.pm . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 48
8.4 functions.pm . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49

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