With threaded Web-based discussions, real-timesIRC chat, and NNTP-based access, O''Reilly''ssWebBoard is a collaborative product that will appealsto many types of customers.
June 5, 2002
Collaboration tools are the brave new frontier of the Internet, though they can take many forms, ranging from relatively low-level IRC-based discussions to more elaborate threaded discussions. Covering the spread is the idea behind WebBoard, the Web-conferencing tool from O'Reilly Software.
WebBoard facilitates real-time conferencing among Internet and intranet users in a number of ways. Users can access WebBoard forums in any number of fashions: via a standard newsreader, via electronic mail, via real-time Web-based chat, or reading Web-based asynchronous forums.
This is not a product appropriate for smaller or more casual Web sites; its intended audiences are corporations, larger ISPs, and educational institutions. A single license - reasonably priced at $1,199 - supports up to 255 virtual boards supporting an unlimited number of users. In addition, the single license supports up to 1,000 simultaneous IRC-based chat users.
Data can be stored on the Microsoft Data Engine (MSDE), but larger corporations will probably want to make use of built-in links to Microsoft SQL Server 6.5 or better.
We installed WebBoard directly on a Windows NT 4.0 server ... read more
Users won''t lose track of messages, even ones that they''ve already read, thanks to WebBoard''s powerful search facility. Messages can be searched based on a number of criteria (author, address, date, or status), and results can be sorted as well.
Don''t mistake WebBoard for a true groupware package, however. While you can grant users the power to attach files to their messages, WebBoard doesn''t feature any version-control capabilities, a la eRooms, that would allows users to collaborate and add input to their projects and documents.
ISPs will especially appreciate two aspects to WebBoard: its ability to manage up to 255 boards (each with the capability for individual customization as well as multiple conferences) and the ability to distribute WebBoard discussions across multiple machines, providing a mechanism for full redundancy. In addition, conferences can be placed on different WebBoard installations.
Corporations will appreciate the degree to which the WebBoard interface can be customized, ranging from the look and feel of the interface to the makeup of the types of users, including the ability to delegate management responsibilities to users. Logs indicate the top users of the system (by logins and by posts), the overall activity on a WebBoard installation, all HTTP requests, SMTP activity, uploads, and errors. In addition, the aforementioned scripting capabilities allows WebBoard to better fit within an existing corporate IT structures.
We would have liked to see a smoother way to authenticate users, however. Out of the box WebBoard authenticates on a per-board basis, rather than for the entire site. Authentication is handled via cookie authentication and basic (username and password) authentication. Neither method is on the robust side, and setting up a large number of users could pose a problem for the busy system administrator. WebBoard does include sample scripts that allow a ODBC data source, text file, or Windows NT user database to be imported as the user-database source, but we wished these capabilities would have been built directly into WebBoard and not handled via an outside sample script.
That said, WebBoard is a great tool for enabling collaboration and chat in any number of situations. Once you get past its limitation - namely, limited authentication and the lack of version controls on projects - you''ll find WebBoard to be a valuable and affordable tool.
Pros: Very customizable, !P Affordable, !P Offers
discussions in a number of formats, !P Good administration tools
New in v5.0:
Integrated with ChatSpace Community Server;
support for inline graphics;
support for an unlimited number of boards;
unique home pages for each conference;
e-mail attachment hot link;