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The ASP 101 Discussion Forum The ASP 101 Discussion Forum by John Peterson

Little did I know when we decided that we'd like a discussion forum on our site, what exactly we had in store for us!

This article is being written to address a number of issues about the ASP 101 Discussion Forum:

  1. Why we decided we needed to write it.
  2. The goals we set for the forum once we decided to build it.
  3. Overview of the pages involved and explaining what code is where.
  4. Additions and changes made since version 1 went online.
  5. Steps to take if you want to use the forum on your site.

Why Write a Forum?

Once we had ASP 101 up and running for a while, we started to notice that a lot of the feedback we were getting and the discussions we were having with visitors were getting repetitive.  It seems that rarely does only one person want information on any given topic.  We were trying to keep a personal touch to our correspondence and address all concerns on an individual basis, but it was getting to be a little overwhelming.  At one point I actually remember going to the outbox in my mail client, grabbing paragraphs from a couple other replies I had sent on the same topic, appologizing for it being impersonal, and sending the collection of previous replies to someone who had asked about how to implement our shopping cart sample on his site!  That's about when we decided we needed a way to make all these comments and suggestions we were making via e-mail available as a resource for other visitors to the site. 

Enter the ASP 101 Discussion Forum idea.  At this point, we knew we wanted a discussion forum, so we looked around to see what our options were.  We ended up with half a dozen or so that were running asp (naturally) and were either free or available for purchase.  Some worked well, but wouldn't integrate into our site, other would fit in, but didn't have some of the features we wanted.  The one we almost used seemed to fit in well and did almost everything we wanted, but was a nightmare for us to setup and administer.  So reluctantly, we decided to write our own. 

Design Goals

Now that we had decided we were going to write our own forum, we needed to decide where we should start.  Our approach was to go around to every discussion forum we could find and check them out.  We found a lot of ideas we liked and a lot of things we didn't.  When all was said and done, here's what we decided we wanted: 

  1. It needed to be running on ASP.  We are an ASP site!
  2. We wanted it threaded.
  3. We didn't want frames.
  4. It needed to run against both an Access and SQL server database (preferably without needing a DSN).
  5. We didn't want users to need to login to view the forum.
  6. We didn't want users who posted repeatedly to have to type in their information every time.
  7. We wanted the ability to search the forum (even though it wasn't available in the first release).
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