Our new website is hosted on AWS using a 'Free Tier' EC2 option. After trying out a few different options I settled with using Bitnami's deployment of Ghost - it was relatively easy to set up and seems to have loads of tutorials for it on their website.

We are able to use a program such as WinSCP to view the files in the hosting environment and if needed we can edit anything there - such as creating custom page layouts. WinSCP also give us the nice option of being able to directly open a session in PuTTY, for more complicated jobs such as updating the Ghost system or changing the domain name.

Changes to the ghost theme

So far I've made a few changes to the default casper theme:

  • given featured posts a soft purple glow on the main post feed - this is done via the code injection feature in Ghosts main control panel.
  • created a custom page layout for committee bios
  • changed the header and footer a little - as well as including new icons
  • added comments sections to the bottom of each post using Disqus
  • made the site more mobile friendly by following WebKit's guide on designing pages for devices with safe areas.
  • added the messenger 'Customer Chat Plugin' to our index page

Changes to the way we sign up to trips

In the past we have signed up to trips by repeatedly refreshing the Facebook page waiting for a link to a google form to fill out. This form was basic and slow to fill out.

We have now implemented Typeform forms instead of google forms for signing up to trips. They are much nicer to use and can still output data to a google sheet, meaning little transition is needed for committee members.

I tried out a range of options including distributing 'tickets' via Eventbrite and although it is very well tailored to distributing tickets, and it allowed me to quite easily add extra options to the sign up form; the perfect solution wouldn't be free.

You can now sign up to trips via this website rather than our Facebook page, although it will still be posted there too.

The Forum

Before the Facebook group which we now use for most of our club communication was the Forum: Feed the Rat. There was 26731 posts made here as it was the place where most conversations in the club were taking place; from when it was created in 2007 through to 2015 it was a thriving board of conversations but it soon died off when we moved to the Facebook page.

We have been paying a £60 annual hosting fee for the forum since day 1 but it seems silly to keep paying this when it is no longer used; at the same time it seems a shame to loose all of this history of the club. (I found in an old email chain that the idea of self-hosting the website to save money was raised in August 2014 but it seems this never came to fruition.)

I set about researching different ways of archiving the board and finally found a solution using HTTrack and re-hosting it through a GitHub page... completely free of charge! It's now hosted here and can be viewed here.

How to archive a pbpbb board free of charge

If you have found this post looking for a way to archive your own phpbb forum:

  1. Download HTTrack
  2. Log into your admin control panel on phpbb and create a new bot with the User Agent of 'HTTrack'
  3. Go to the permissions section and set the bot permissions to be able to see user profiles (if you want these archiving too)
  4. Load up HTTrack, make a new project, enter the url of your board, hit go.
  5. This could take a very long time so just leave it overnight - with my awful internet connection it took around 6 hours for a board with 26,000 posts.
  6. Make a new git repo in the same director as HTTrack downloaded all the files to and push to the master repo (your new GitHub repo) (guide)
  7. Set the GitHub repo to have a github.io page (guide > Project site > Start from scratch)
  8. You can set a custom domain if you want but you also don't have to

Additional new things

We now have a url shortener set up using rebrand.ly, currently it is for internal use only but we may expand this at a future date. It allows us to create links such as s.ubmc.uk/wow