Jul, a forum

Jul‘s a forum I run. If you’ve been around me for a while, you’ve probably heard of it. It’s a fork of an ancient forum, both in the sense of community (from Acmlm’sĀ Board) and software (Acmlmboard). They were created by (surprise) Acmlm back in early 2001, 18 years ago. The community went through a lot of… turbulence over the years, branching into several different, smaller communities, before mostly settling down around 2010.

While a full genealogy chart is a little much for the first post about it, especially at 11:40 PM, there are a lot of variants and forks of the code, as well as several attempts to recreate it. Jul runs on a version that’s more similar to the original than most modern ones, though.

As most of the internet has moved on to social media like Twitter and Facebook, forums have been left behind. They’re simpler, they’re not centralized, and they’re a lot more relaxed. Forums aren’t going to send you push notifications or flood your e-mails or shove a bunch of recommendations in your face, and for that they fall behind the “engagement” metric… but as a long-form place to organize, discuss, and just hang out? Can’t beat them.

The code Jul uses is on GitHub, though it’s still full of Jul-specific hacks features and isn’t really usable on its own. It has no installer or readme, no guides, and is, frankly, a mess. Even then, it still manages to run, over 18 years after it was first made! Pretty impressive.

One of Jul’s more notable features — shared with other Acmlmboard-likes — is the ability to make “post layouts”. Unlike typical forum signatures, post layouts (and posts themselves) can include full HTML, both before and after a post, letting you flair your posts with a touch of style. Of course, users can also disable those by default if they’re too obnoxious.

Anyway, this post was brought on because I did some updates to it, mainly in redesigning the new reply page:

New Reply page for a user not logged in, showing an invalid username/password error next to the username field
The new reply page now simply shows an error if you’re logged out and give an invalid username or password, instead of cancelling your post entirely. Of course, if you post while logged in, you never see this.

The changes are fairly minor, but hopefully make it nicer to use:

  • “Mood avatars” are a dropdown instead of a large list of radio buttons
  • Posting while logged out and putting in an invalid username/password will return you to the form, without losing your post
  • Internally, the code is cleaner and better organized
  • The post reply box can now be resized fully, instead of being locked to 800px wide
  • Post previews now use the same form as the initial reply, instead of a separate one (for some reason)
  • In the event that you aren’t able to post your reply (because e.g. the thread was closed or moved to a restricted forum), you’re given a chance to copy what you had written — you no longer instantly lose it
An error when replying caused by the thread being closed. There is a textbox under the error with the content of the post that was being written, letting the author copy and paste it elsewhere.
The days of typing a long monologue only to lose it are (hopefully) over.

It’s a neat place! You should come visit some time.

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