Thursday, 21 February 2013

Why I Shut Down My Forum.

After much careful thought and much consideration I have decided to close down and delete my forum Andrea Computer Forums.
I started my own forum back in August 2012 last year because I was having problems on some other forum and also as a result of my bans from some Windows Forums. So I wanted to start my own forum so that I and other people would be able to speak their mind with out fear of being banned by a ban happy moderator as is what happened to me on some forums,for nothing. Such as going slightly off topic for example.

So I started my own forum,Andrea Computer Forums which was about computers and a Windows software forum.The idea was good but unfortunately I made the mistake of going with Forumotion a free forum service.
Also their forum settings was easy to lean to use the problem with free forum service like Proboards,Forumotion,Zeta boards and others is that they can delete you forum anytime.
And I soon found out I could not do what I wanted. Forumotion has very strict policies and I had started to read stories about forums being banned or deleted. So I began to worry.
First off my forum was a Windows software forum so of course my members would want to post topics and maybe download lins to Windows software as this is what you do on a Windows forum.

I will give you one example,over on My Digital Life Forums ,there was this member who invented the Windows 7 Games Patcher for Windows 8. Which enables games like Purple Place from Windows 7 to work on Windows 8.If you copy the program files onto Windows 8.

The members on other big Windows forums,such as Windows 7 Forums and others  can and do post links to software as long as it is not pirate software or links to illegal sites. But then the big forums are not hosted on a free forum service. They are hosted  on a paid web host or their own server. 

But my forum was not,it was hosted on Forumotion which is a free forum service. And though it was on a custom url which I bought though Forumotionthis does not make any difference at all. Forumotion,Proboards,Freeforums.org and the other free forum services,all have the option for you to buy a custom domain,URL through them but you are still subject to their terms of service the same way you are if you do not have a custom domain name. 
As all you have done is paid for your own custom URL,it does not mean anything. 

So if you do anything to violate their terms of service they can delete or ban your forum and there is nothing you can do about it. So you could have your forum one day,then wake up next morning to find it gone.
Also the free forum services Forumotion and the other will not let you export your database or forum posts. So you cannot transfer your content should you decide to move your forum to a paid web host.

As time went on I became very uneasy with my forum  on the Forumotion. I also looked into other free forum services like Proboards,Freeforums.org,Invision free and free My Phbb Free, and they are actually stricter than Forumotion.
For example one free forum service TOS said they don't allow flame wars . But on all forums,you get some members who will argue with one another and if it gets out of hand a moderator may tell them to stop,depending on the situation. And yes I have had some of my members argue with one another and there was this member who I banned for just reasons who upset some of my other members. As a result a few of my members called him a troll. But that happens on all of the forums I know. So as a admin I cannot tell my members not to speak my mind as that would not be right.

Then there was another issue and that is I have my own websites about Lebanon and Hezbollah and I started to worry. Because what if Forumotion found out about my other websites and my You Tube channel. Which also has videos in which I talk about Hezbollah and Lebanon.I also put my website link in my forum header same as the link to my You Tube channel. 

So would Forumotion and the other free forum services delete or ban my forum if they found out that I support Hezbollah,or found out about my websites,or of I even put a link to my website on my forum?
Then there were the other worries someone who has got a grudge against me could flag or report my forum. Also I was constantly looking over my shoulder and worried that there might be something in mine or my members posts that Forumotion could say violates their TOS. It could be a weblink,a link to software even though it is legit,it could be a comment made by another member.

In short if you are hosting your forum on Forumotion,Proboards or a free forum service,it does not matter if you bought a custom URL or not you are still under them.
They can delete your forum anytime they want to,so you could loose your forum for some thing or for nothing. Also if the service closes down,so does your forum.
That is why the only safe way to host your forum is to host it yourself through a paid web host or on your own server not on a free forum service like Forumotion or Proboards.

Then I had another problem which was the turning point for me. Some of my members emailed me and they were very upset because Forumotion had blocked them from logging into my forum. Forumotion have this Online Guardian plugin which cannot be disabled by the forum admins.my members tried to log into my forum with their account and got this message.

"Online Guardian has detected suspicious activity on your account and your account has been blocked,click here to unblock it."

 My members were presented with captcha,verification code,which they had to fill in. But every time they did so, they were given a message incorrect verification code, and presented with more captcha. But no matter how many times they filled it the page would just refresh again to more captcha. And my members DID fill in the code correctly, but the captcha was did not work,and they were locked out of their forum accounts.
So I tried changing their usernames and that worked for about half an hour, and they were blocked again,so it did not work.
This has been going on for quite some time now.Also other Forumotion Forums have had this problem.
It has something to do with Online Guardian which is part of Forumotion and is also a plugin on all Forumotion forums.Which owners and admins cannot disable. Yet Forumotion have done nothing to fix it and the catchpa just does not work so my members were locked out of my forum and every time they tried to log in the same thing happened.It was impossible to complete the verification codes.

It was then I got together with my members,and we talked. I decided that was the last straw and I have now deleted my forum two days ago on Tuesday.
I knew there was always a possibility as everyone who uses a free forum service does that you could always loose your forum and if you host on a free forum service,Proboards etc,they could always find some excuse,say you violated their TOS even if you did not and delete your forum.
So when I realized that, I decided it was better for me and fairer for my other members to get out now. Before I got in too deep and in the end, maybe I could have lost my forum anyway,who knows.

The blogging services like Blogger and Wordpress are not so strict as the free forum services.In fact Blogger are the most relaxed, but then it is run by Google, which could be the reason,I don't know.   I would have had a forum on Blogger only Blogger don't do forums.So I went with a free forum service which I now realize was a mistake so I got out.

My opinion is if you are going to start forum and are thinking of using a free forum service my advice is DON'T. If you are going to start a forum do it properly and host it yourself through a paid web host then you can do what you want and are your own boss and have full control over your forum.

I deleted my forum because I found I was not getting anywhere as because I was with a free forum service I was in fact less free that what I was on all of those forums I had been complaining about,some of which banned me as you know.
So I have no regrets about cancelling my forum and I think I have done the right thing and should have hosted my forum the proper way myself on a paid web host.

You see you have no control over the free forum services,they can put adverts on your forum,make other restrictions you do not want and they can delete your forum. And they won't give you the database.
So it is best to host your forum yourself through a paid web host then you have full control and no one can delete your forum except you. 
But it is a waste of time using the free forums services,it sure is. But my members will stay in contact with me and we will keep in touch. 

I have tried to learn to host my forum myself but I just do not know how to it seems to complicated. But one thing is for sure if you go to a free forum service like Forumotion,Proboards and other you are putting all of your work,time and efforts in the toilet.
Because you could end up loosing your forum,either for something or for nothing. And that's the truth.
Lesson learned I think.



















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