The problem with SMF09 Dec 2008
As many of you know, I've been trying to set up a Simple Machines Forum for the last couple months. SMF in itself looks like nice software, but so do many other discussion boards. The reason I picked SMF for the OverTheWire community, is because SMF supports OpenID authentication.
OpenID is a nice invention and would be better if it was used a lot more. While OpenID providers are popping up all over the place (Even Microsoft is embracing it), it seems free forum software is lagging behind. SMF is one of the few that supports it and then it's even in a beta of their 2.0 release.
OpenID resolves having to authenticate/login for each site you use. Log in once and sites using OpenID will automatically let you in. The remaining problem with OpenID is that all those OpenID "consumers" still require you to create an account on their system. I would prefer that this account registration would happen only once for a community: login with your OpenID ID, choose a username and it automatically populates the databases of the community forum, community wiki, community blog and all other community services that are OpenID consumers.
SMF, like many others, takes a more geocentric (ever noticed how that's a permutation of egocentric ?) approach to this problem. They require you to use SMF as the "main" authentication authority and then provide "bridges" to a lot(?) of other software systems. Creating an account on SMF automatically creates an account on all those systems. That's good if you want to build a community or website around SMF, but not when SMF is just another software component.
Luckily, SMF also has an API which you could call from a PHP script and that can register an account for you. Too bad it doesn't work for OpenID accounts.
That brings me to the support of SMF. I was hoping to find an IRC-channel on freenode to ask some quick questions, but no joy there. If you want support on SMF, you need to register an account on the SMF forum and ask your question there. Don't bother formulating your problem too detailed there as I did, because the support people only seem to glance over your question and then promptly formulate a (wrong) answer. I then spent a couple weeks on their forum, making sure they understood the question. Then suddenly, noone replied anymore and I'm left in the dark.
For as little as 49.95 USD one can become a charter member of SMF. This means among other things that support questions are handled with higher priority. I've thought of paying that much money to get a decent response to my question, but I figured it would be money wasted. YMMV
Dear OverTheWire users, this is why I will not set up a forum for now: there simply is no decent forum software out there that can work with OpenID. While we all wait in suspense for such software to be created, there will be no OverTheWire forum.