I’ve created a WordPress Theme that turns WordPress into a pretty powerful forum! You can see it in action here (please check it out and tell me what you think!) It is currently using my TDO Mini Forms plugin to allow visitors start new topics without being turned into full-blown authors.
It works by treating Categories as Forums and treating Posts with omments as Topics. I’ve also built in a number of features to the theme:
- Lists Posts by date of last comment (instead of published date) (included as a page template)
- Unread topics are highlighted and can be used to filter posts list (included as a page template)
- A hierarchical Forum list (included as a page template)
- AJAX Comment Preview (can be turned off)
- Comment QuickTags (can be turned off)
- Forum-looking Layout
- Pages and Categories can be used as Tabs (configurable)
- RSS 2.0 Feed of forum posts (can optionally be included in the theme or replace the main post RSS feed link)
I also did some special integration with two popular plugins:
- Filosofo’s WordPress Gravatar Plugin so that users automatically have user-icons thanks to Gravatars.
- Paged Comments. With Paged comments, I’ve done quite a bit of integration. If you enable this plugin with the theme, essentially the blog post (which is the first post in a topic) appears only on the first page of comments, not on every page of comments as if it was a blog. And it handles ascending and descending order too.
Why use WordPress as a Forum instead of a Blogging Platform? Because WordPress is pretty darn powerful and it’s more like a full CMS geared towards blogging. It has comment spam protection, a huge array of powerful plugins, tagging, RSS feeds and really easy to extend and customise. Why not use WordPress as a Forum?
On the demo forum, with the aid of some plugins I’ve added OpenID support, email subscriptions for new topics and comments, and it pulls from my own blog the latest news about TDO Mini Forms (TDOMF) as new topics.
It uses TDOMF to supply the user posting forms for starting new topics but by it’s flexibility you can also have moderated forums and special custom posting forms. For example I’ve added a TDOMF support form that turns a forum/category it into a bug tracker and help request forum.
One of the things I was unable to do was to create a real private members-only forum as I couldn’t find a plugin that would lock down posts in a category. disclose-secret promises privacy settings for categories in a future version.
The other thing I wasn’t sure how to do was integrate the theme into an existing blog so that you could simply “add” a forum to your existing blog, but that’s a lot more tricky.
But a big warning, I’m not a web designer so the theme itself is not very pretty. I mostly styled it for spacing and layout. It’s pretty thin so it should be easy enough to turn into your own look and feel. It is still a work in progress and I plan to add some more features to it, in the coming days (weeks/months/whenever):
- Sticky Posts
- XHTML compliant
- An admin screen for the configuration options
- A page template that allows user posting (so that the theme is genuinely standalone and doesn’t require TDOMF)
The other interesting thing I could do is spin off the “features” I’d add to the theme as seperate plugins: Quoting Comments and Posts, AJAX Comment Preview, Comment Quicktags, Post and Comment RSS Feed, etc. For another rain day I think.
It was originally just a thought-exercise, inspired by these non-blog uses of WordPress: Prologue (a twitter clone) and WP-Contact Manager (an online address book). Each of theses is built using a theme, no changes to WordPress. But the little project consumed me a bit and now I’m seriously considering it as a replacement for my existing forum.
If your interested in getting your hands on the theme or knowing more about how I did anything, please feel free to post on the demo forum or drop a comment below!