How many members does your forum have? 50? 100? 1,000? 10,000? Are you sure this figure is accurate, though? Forget about your ego – ensure your member count is accurate and use it as a motivator to encourage you to continue working hard at attracting genuine members.
Why your member count may be inaccurate
Thanks to spammers and inactive members, it is highly likely that your member count is highly inflated. Many of your registrations will be made by people that are not real, or by those that have no intention of posting or getting involved in your community.
Even if these amount to only a few each day, if you do not take action you will find these ‘fake’ members accumulating over time to account for a large proportion of your current membership count.
Who do you consider to be a ‘member’?
Before deciding about whether to take action over your current member count, you need to determine exactly what you consider a member to be. I don’t think anyone can argue that automated bot registrations shouldn’t be considered as real members – but what about those that join but never seem to post? Should you consider someone a member if they joined six months ago but have not made a single post?
Over at the Just Chat message boards, I keep the member list as accurate as possible by stipulating the following:
- All new members must activate their account within 7 days
- All new members must make a post within 3 months of registering
I have customised the standard welcome emails sent by phpBB to include notification of this stipulation to all new members. I feel that offering someone seven days to click an activation link is a fair amount of time. Similarly, I feel that is a new member doesn’t make a post during the first three months of their registration it is unlikely they ever will.
Useful phpBB MODS
** Be sure to backup all files and your entire phpBB database before installing MODS or editing any of your forum files **
The MODS I list here are based on phpBB version 2.0.x.
The Prune Users Hack
To enable me to easily prune members who do not meet my membership stipulations, I use the ‘Prune Users‘ hack. It is relatively easy to install and allows you to delete members based on a large number of variables, including:
- Members who have never posted
- Members who have never logged in
- Members who have never been activated
- Members who have not visited recently
- Members who average less than 1 post for every 10 days registered
You can further customise the criteria by determining any ‘grace period’ for new members. For example, you can delete members who have never posted but exclude those that have joined within the past day, week, fortnight, month, year etc from being removed.
If you decide to install and use this MOD, be aware that there is no undo function – make sure you are deleting the right people before clicking the prune button! I would recommend you backup your database before you use this MOD until you know your way around the features and understand how they work.
The Anti-Bot Hack
One reason why you may need to continually prune your member count is due to the large number of automated spam registrations your forum may be getting.
You can significantly reduce spam memberships by making the following changes to your phpBB files:
EDIT FILE: /template/subSilver/profile_add_body.tpl
<!-- Visual Confirmation -->
<td class="row1"><span class="gen">What is 1+1?: *</span><br />
<span class="gensmall">Please answer this question to prove you are a real person (sorry we have to ask!)</span></td>
<input type="text" class="post" style="width: 200px" name="antibot" size="6" maxlength="6" value="" />
SAVE AND CLOSE FILE
EDIT FILE: /includes/usercp_register.php
if ($board_config['enable_confirm'] && $mode == 'register')
if (!isset($_POST['antibot']) || $_POST['antibot'] != '2')
$error = TRUE;
$error_msg .= (isset($error_msg) ? '<br/>' : '') . "Incorrect answer to the mathematical anti-spam question (the answer is 2)";
SAVE AND CLOSE FILE
Of course, you can change the question to anything you like (but keep it simple) – just make sure you change the corresponding correct answer in the usercp_register.php file.
I also like to include the answer in the error message just in case people genuinely don’t know the answer to such a basic question!
Your member count is one of the most prominent indicators of your community’s popularity. Do you want to massage your ego and deceive your visitors by not keeping it accurate, or do you want to use it as a true indicator and motivator for you to keep working hard at attracting and retaining new members?