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  • Offline Reader for vBulletin

    Dear vBulletin community,

    I'm an active reader (and occasional poster) on a few vbulletin sites. I travel often and sometimes really wish that I was able to download my unread forums/messages for reading on the airplane or other places without internet access. I've tried using a few offline browsers to do that, but none of them work very well with forums, especially in the case where you have 20 pages of messages in one topic, but there are only new messages in the last two pages... the offline browsers tend to download all 20 pages.

    I own a company that does offshore software development (hence traveling often) and I started to think about developing a full featured offline reader for vbulletin forums that could be sold to vbulletin users with needs like mine. The reader would manage subscriptions to forums/topics to minimize downloading of unneeded information. I will not get into all the features here, but the reader would be very useful for navigating the forums, subscribing or unsubscribing to new forums and topics, and minimizing/tuning the quantity of information downloaded in a session. Then the messages could be read offline (or transferred to a PDA) and offline posts could be composed and uploaded on the next connect. Such a reader might be even useful to participants on forums with no real requirement to work offline.

    Such a development project would be reasonably large, so I need to understand the potential market and problems.

    I believe the reader could be very interesting for you as owners/operators of vbulletin systems, and the greatest opportunity (and possible conflicts) would be with you. I believe that by making access to the forums more convenient, the reader could boost participation in the forums. But I also think some admins might not be happy with it because it might promote lurking, advertisements might not get as many views/clicks, and there could be worries about effects of "Delayed posts" that people write offline and upload 8 hours later when (in a really active topic) the thread has already moved on.

    So I wanted to ask you some questions:

    1. Would you see a problem with your users working with your forum in such a way? Or would you think that allowing users to download and read offline (and later upload their posts) would increase the participation in your forum? Would you feel that it somehow violated your terms of service?

    2. Users would likely have the ability to disable downloading of banner ads on the pages/messages they download from the forum. (So if they were connecting on a low bandwidth connection like GPRS they could cut their download time). How big of a problem would that be for you?

    3. Would you, as vbulletin forum owner/operator, be interested to offer such a reader on your site if you got commission from every sale to a user that comes through a link on your site? Would that compensate you for lost "banner click" revenue?

    4. What % of your active users (let's say the users who have logged in during the past week) do you think would be interested in using such a reader if it cost less than $30? Basically I am trying to understand the size of the market. (I can get some statistics on the number of users during the last week on major vbulletin boards from big-boards.com, although I'm not sure how accurate their figures are).

    Don't hesitate to give me any other relevant opinions/advice/warnings you might have.

    Thanks!
    Ron

    PS. If you know of any offline reader for vBulletin forums, let me know. I've searched for one but did not find it.

    PPS. I wanted to post this on vbulleting.org in "Modifications not available?", but I do not have permission because (so far) I do not have any vbulletin software.
    24
    I do not think anybody needs this. Waste of time.
    25.00%
    6
    I would try to block my users from using this.
    16.67%
    4
    I think it could be useful to some. I will not block it, but I will not offer it to my users.
    33.33%
    8
    I think it could be useful and I would offer it to my users for a reasonable commission.
    4.17%
    1
    This is a great idea and I would offer it to my users even without commission. Do it!
    20.83%
    5

  • #2
    It's a nice idea and all, but there is no way in a million years that I'd share full content from my site and make it freely available to users (even those that'd pay a fee).
    Dean Clatworthy - Web Developer/Designer

    Comment


    • #3
      It's an interesting idea. I can't say I'd ever use it, but I could see it being useful to others.
      Forums

      Comment


      • #4
        a full featured offline reader for vbulletin forums that could be sold to vbulletin users with needs like mine
        This is a wrong approach.

        Instead of hundreds of users who dowload the forums, the Admin could generate an offline version from the database (Access/Firebird SQL) on CD/DVD.

        There are quite a number of forums, who do that.
        http://www.mcseboard.de/images/buttons/lastpost.gif www.MCSEboard.de
        German Windows Server & IT Pro Community dedicated to Windows Client & Server Systems. MVPs inside

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Dean C View Post
          It's a nice idea and all, but there is no way in a million years that I'd share full content from my site and make it freely available to users (even those that'd pay a fee).
          I'm not sure what you mean. Why do you think it would be the full content? The idea is that it would download only the forums/topics that a user has subscribed to. There is nothing that they would be able to "download" that they would not be able to view using the browser. The difference is that new messages would be downloaded in a batch to allow the user to read later.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Thomas P View Post
            This is a wrong approach.

            Instead of hundreds of users who dowload the forums, the Admin could generate an offline version from the database (Access/Firebird SQL) on CD/DVD.

            There are quite a number of forums, who do that.
            I could see this being useful for users who somehow want to get a copy of the whole forum. But my idea is different... it is a reader to download the new messages in the subscribed forums to let me read them later. For example, I know I will be flying somewhere for 6 hours, so I would fire up the reader, download all the new messages in my subcribed forums/topics, and then on the airplane I could read through them at my leisure, compose new messages, etc. Then when I have access to the net, I could upload my posts and download the new messages since my last connection.

            Again, keep in mind the idea is not to somehow download everything and make a copy of the forum... the opposite, it is to download only those forums/topics I have an interest in... otherwise it would be downloading all day. And the first time the system would start, it would only download the new messages flagged by vbulletin, it would not download anything that vbulletin thinks I've seen already.

            This is completely different than getting the admin to burn a CD and send it by snail-mail.

            Thanks
            Ron

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by lewinr View Post
              For example, I know I will be flying somewhere for 6 hours, so I would fire up the reader, download all the new messages in my subcribed forums/topics, and then on the airplane I could read through them at my leisure, compose new messages, etc. Then when I have access to the net, I could upload my posts and download the new messages since my last connection.
              Ok, I get you there.

              This is completely different than getting the admin to burn a CD and send it by snail-mail.
              I don't think so. What about a combo. People who buy the offline archive get the program to read posts with the ability to update the offline reader online for later access.
              http://www.mcseboard.de/images/buttons/lastpost.gif www.MCSEboard.de
              German Windows Server & IT Pro Community dedicated to Windows Client & Server Systems. MVPs inside

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Thomas P View Post
                Ok, I get you there.



                I don't think so. What about a combo. People who buy the offline archive get the program to read posts with the ability to update the offline reader online for later access.
                I simply think that my intended audience is not interested in the Archive. They want to interact with the BB, not read through the archive.

                But I think you have opened my eyes to something that I might not have seen before. I guess you, as admins, sometimes get requests for archive copies of the whole BB. Of course nobody is interested in having a user download their whole BB. So in these cases, for admins who wish to sell or provide an archive copy of the BB, our reader could be used to access that archive.

                Now I see also that admins are afraid to lose control of the content. For this reason we would need to think about some system to protect the database from being copied. Two ideas immediately come to mind:

                1. some maximum retention period, like 60 days. (all older messages are erased). this would preclude the possibility to use the reader to access a historical archive of the BB.

                This would give owner/operators a bit more confidence that the reader would not be used to create a copy of the BB.

                2. some license key to the database, to ensure that if somebody retains a large archive of the BB they use it with another reader that is not running their personal license. (and of course we would ensure that their license is only being used on one PC). This would preclude people from transferring copies of the BB to anybody else... nobody could use the copy.

                Thise would give ability to owners/operators to sell an archive copy to a user with some assurance that it would be protected.

                These ideas would be mutually exclusive. (we would use one or the other, probably not both).

                Anyway, thanks everybody for your feedback... this is useful and can help us to ensure (if we go ahead with this) that we make it more useful (or just not dangerous) for everybody.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Check out http://visualbasicforum.com. They did this a couple years ago and have kept the codebase updated to work with the newest versions of vbulletin. There used to be a more advanced one, but, the people quit working on it. The source code is available for both versions.
                  Admins Zone - Resources for Forum Administrators

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I would try to block my users from using this.
                    TechArena - TechArena Community - News - Download - Video - Guide - Review

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by SaN-DeeP View Post
                      I would try to block my users from using this.
                      Why?

                      I was hoping that such a reader would bring value to BB owner/operators. While I originally stated that I thought there might be problems around banners, that hasn't really been mentioned so I'm having difficulty understanding people's objections.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I understand SaN-Deep, they eat bandwidth and most likely don't contribute to the community since they are offline.
                        http://www.mcseboard.de/images/buttons/lastpost.gif www.MCSEboard.de
                        German Windows Server & IT Pro Community dedicated to Windows Client & Server Systems. MVPs inside

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by lewinr View Post
                          Dear vBulletin community,

                          I'm an active reader (and occasional poster) on a few vbulletin sites. I travel often and sometimes really wish that I was able to download my unread forums/messages for reading on the airplane or other places without internet access. I've tried using a few offline browsers to do that, but none of them work very well with forums, especially in the case where you have 20 pages of messages in one topic, but there are only new messages in the last two pages... the offline browsers tend to download all 20 pages.

                          I own a company that does offshore software development (hence traveling often) and I started to think about developing a full featured offline reader for vbulletin forums that could be sold to vbulletin users with needs like mine. The reader would manage subscriptions to forums/topics to minimize downloading of unneeded information. I will not get into all the features here, but the reader would be very useful for navigating the forums, subscribing or unsubscribing to new forums and topics, and minimizing/tuning the quantity of information downloaded in a session. Then the messages could be read offline (or transferred to a PDA) and offline posts could be composed and uploaded on the next connect. Such a reader might be even useful to participants on forums with no real requirement to work offline.

                          Such a development project would be reasonably large, so I need to understand the potential market and problems.

                          I believe the reader could be very interesting for you as owners/operators of vbulletin systems, and the greatest opportunity (and possible conflicts) would be with you. I believe that by making access to the forums more convenient, the reader could boost participation in the forums. But I also think some admins might not be happy with it because it might promote lurking, advertisements might not get as many views/clicks, and there could be worries about effects of "Delayed posts" that people write offline and upload 8 hours later when (in a really active topic) the thread has already moved on.

                          So I wanted to ask you some questions:

                          1. Would you see a problem with your users working with your forum in such a way? Or would you think that allowing users to download and read offline (and later upload their posts) would increase the participation in your forum? Would you feel that it somehow violated your terms of service?

                          2. Users would likely have the ability to disable downloading of banner ads on the pages/messages they download from the forum. (So if they were connecting on a low bandwidth connection like GPRS they could cut their download time). How big of a problem would that be for you?

                          3. Would you, as vbulletin forum owner/operator, be interested to offer such a reader on your site if you got commission from every sale to a user that comes through a link on your site? Would that compensate you for lost "banner click" revenue?

                          4. What % of your active users (let's say the users who have logged in during the past week) do you think would be interested in using such a reader if it cost less than $30? Basically I am trying to understand the size of the market. (I can get some statistics on the number of users during the last week on major vbulletin boards from big-boards.com, although I'm not sure how accurate their figures are).

                          Don't hesitate to give me any other relevant opinions/advice/warnings you might have.

                          Thanks!
                          Ron

                          PS. If you know of any offline reader for vBulletin forums, let me know. I've searched for one but did not find it.

                          PPS. I wanted to post this on vbulleting.org in "Modifications not available?", but I do not have permission because (so far) I do not have any vbulletin software.
                          I got through a couple of lines and I would like to know how are you going to download if you have no internet?

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            There is a "Save to PDF" addon at vBulletin.org. If there is a PHP class out there that helps manage XPS documents, that could be added on as well. PDF is pretty universal and XPS will become more common.

                            As far as bandwidth concerns.. I would offer it to my users for a reasonable subscription fee. If my content is worthy enough that they will take it on the road to seminars and business trips and not wait until they get to the hotel room to read it, then it is worthy enough for a fee.
                            Translations provided by Google.

                            Wayne Luke
                            The Rabid Badger - a vBulletin Cloud demonstration site.
                            vBulletin 5 API - Full / Mobile
                            Vote for your favorite feature requests and the bugs you want to see fixed.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              forumurl.com/external.php?type=rss

                              Download with your feed reader of choice and enjoy

                              Comment

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