A Necessary Overview

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GregChapman GregChapman
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A Necessary Overview

This post was updated on .

The Applications

By default Nabble creates a Forum app. For many administrators its particular set of features may be less than ideal. Selecting an alternative is simple and non-destructive. Once logged in with your Administrator address you can simply navigate through the links:
Options > Application > Change application type
and a screen like this appears:

App Selection Screen

Given the extremely limited description of the choices, and the fact that without a reasonable quantity of content it can be difficult to tell the impact of the choice made, it is not surprising that most administrators appear to look at this screen only once as they set up their app and never return.

However, I would recommend a revisit, periodically and certainly if you have added more than a couple of extra sub-forums or have begun to add sub-forums at deeper levels, as a change in structure could mean that a different way of presenting your content would make it easier for newcomers to understand the structure of your content and provide quicker ways of navigating for your more experienced users. As a change does not delete anything, and you can return to your original app in moments, it makes sense to experiment periodically.

App Classifications

Nabble offers no formal classification of the apps. However, it alludes to differentiating between them as some have menu options that refer to "Create new sub-forum" or "Create new Subcategory" while related options appear as "Manage sub-forums" and "Manage subcategories" seemingly at random.

As a result the three classes described below have been devised by me.

Loosely Structured:
Designed for public and private discussion groups. Topics may be placed in sub-folders in order to group related topics and aid navigation for users.
APPS: Forum - Mixed
Strongly Structured:
Designed for public or private discussion groups. Topics must be placed in sub-folders according to their nature or subject.
APPS: Category - Board
Journal:
Designed for individuals and organisations to report their news and ideas and where other users may only comment or reply.
APPS: Blog - News - Gallery

These classifications are intended to reflect some of the technical features of the apps, rather than how they might be used. It is quite possible to use the Forum app to maintain a blog, although it would be missing some of the features that many expect to see in a blog, such as a sidebar that indicates the number of followers and shows past posts in folders ordered by date rather than subject. Equally, it would be possible to use the Gallery app as a graphical front page for a forum. especially where the focus of the forum is on prioritising the latest posts and not the topic addressed.

It should be noted that all the apps in both the loosely and strongly structured classes feature a "Topics View" option. This replicates the main feature of those found in the Journal class, listing all posts made anywhere within the forum starting with the most recent. Users often fail to explore this view which can extremely useful for both regular users and occasional visitors of a forum as it allows them to see trending topics anywhere within the structure of a forum, something that is not easy to pick out in the standard "Main Page" view.

Topics View

While in most apps "Topics View" has to be selected manually, as noted below, the Forum app can have this view made the default for users, hence the observation above that the Forum App can be an appropriate vehicle for some types of blog.

Further Options

Apart from the default way each of the apps present their content, there are two particular options, "Page Layout" and "Forum Format" ,that can alter significantly how content appears. They can both be accessed through:
Options > Application > Change appearance > Preferences

Under Page Layout the choice is between "Wide" or "Narrow". The Narrow setting can be especially useful on embedded forums where the window width restricted because of a multiple column layout on the main site. Effects vary from app to app. When selected for the "Journal" apps the sidebar is replaced by the menu system used in the other apps. When used with the loose and strongly formatted apps, the number of columns used to display the content is reduced. Either some information is not displayed at all, or the remaining columns each hold more information in a more compressed format.

Under Forum Format the choice is between "Standard" and "Topics". Topics forces the default display to be "Topics View". Although not clear from the dialogue, this option works on the Forum app only and forces that app to display in "Topics View" by default.

Greg