Turn Comments Into Forum Threads On WordPress

Every website that is ever set up has a goal to get a high viewership and build loyal followers. Readers like interactive websites that keep them engaged. A good discussion can keep up the interest in a topic or post and encourage repeated visits.

A simple comment by a lone reader may not be very encouraging. But if that comment triggers a discussion, that generates interest in the post. Discussions and forums can be a very stimulating approach to build a loyal visitor base and online communities.

Many websites may not have an audience size big enough to require a forum. Often, even though a website receives significant traffic, there may not be too many comments. But if your website happens to attract a good number of readers who leave comments and replies or open new topics for discussion, then an online forum linked to your article may be a very good idea.

There are quite a few open source forum software options available, but not all may integrate well with WordPress. This is where bbPress, an open source plugin that is built for WordPress, can help. It is faster than most open source software and is also compatible with many other add on plugins.

Just follow the simple steps below and you will have a forum in place in no time at all.

1.Installing bbPress

The first step is to install the WordPress bbPress plugin. You can find this in the admin area of your WordPress.

Follow the path Plugins > Add new. Search for bbPress. A list of results will be shown. Click on bbPress and install it.

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Activate the plugin.

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You should now see the screen shown below. In the admin area of your WordPress, you will see that 3 items have been added – Forums, Topics and Replies.

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2.Creating a Forum and Displaying it on Your WordPress Site

Now that you have downloaded bbPress plugin and activated it, click on Forum > New Forum and a screen quite like the post edit screen of your WordPress will open up. Provide a title in the title bar and type out a description in the content area, then click Publish.

6(new forum created after clicking publish)

Go to Pages > Add New. Give the page a title. Paste the following shortcode in the new page: [bbp-forum-index]. Click on Publish after turning off Comments and Trackbacks. (refer to Step 6 for turning off comments and trackbacks).

7C creating forums page after pasting Shortcode and clicking publish)

Now Go to Menu > Appearance, and add this new page to your navigation menu.

8B Adding Forums page to menu

At this stage, your main forum index will appear as shown below when a user clicks this page.

8Z forum index

3.Integration of WordPress with bbPress

You are now ready to open your forum to new registrations. So go to Settings > General and tick the box against “Anyone can register”.

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The next logical step is to create a registration page for users. This is a near repetition of Step 2.

Create a new page, name it Register, add shortcode [bbp-register], and then click on Publish.
9B (registration page, after clicking publish)
As many users are likely to lose passwords, a lost password recovery option is necessary. Again, create a new page, name it Lost Password, add shortcode [bbp-lost-pass], and then click on Publish.

10A (lost PW page after clicking publish)

Next, go to Appearance > Widgets and find the bbPress Login Widget, click on it and drag and drop it to any widget area or to the sidebar.  Enter the title, and the URLs for the register and lost password page. Then save the widget.

11A

Now, a login form will appear in your sidebar, with links to registration and lost password pages. For logged in users, their user name and log out link will appear in the place of the login form.

4.Managing Forum Settings in bbPress

To do this you simply need to go to Forums > Settings and then adjust the features to your liking.

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Using these settings you can control many features in the forum, like the time limit within which a participant can edit their post after it is published, after how much time a new post can appear in the forum, marking favorites and subscriptions.

5.Understanding User Roles in bbPress

bbPress comes with 5 user roles and the levels of access and control each role has is well defined.

  • Keymaster: The WordPress administrator or website owner is automatically assigned the highest role of keymaster. The keymaster can pretty much do everything on the forum –add, delete, edit all posts, topics and forums.
  • Moderators: Persons nominated as moderators can moderate forums, topics and posts with the help of moderation tools.
  • Participants: This is the default user role and participants can create and edit their own topics and posts. They can subscribe and flag favorites as well.
  • Spectators: Spectators have read only access to topics and posts.
  • Blocked: They cannot be participants in the forum. They can merely read what can be viewed by the public.

At this stage, the creation of forum in bbPress is complete. There are over a 100 bbPress plugins and you can choose among them for extended functions.

6.Installing bbPress Topics

Download, install and activate the bbPress Topics for WordPress plugin. (It has not been updated for more than 2 years, but is still a good plugin.)

Then go to Settings > Discussion > bbPress Topics for Posts Defaults

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Choose a forum where topics for your posts will be created. You can choose an existing forum or create a new one manually while writing a new post.

To create topics for all the existing posts in the forums, you need to click on the Apply settings to existing posts button.

You can choose to copy post tags to topics, to limit the number of replies displayed or display a link in the forum so that participants can discuss the post in your forum.

If default forum is chosen, a topic will automatically be created for the post you publish. Latest replies and form for reply will appear below the posts.

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If you want to create a topic for each post manually, in the post edit screen of the click on Screen Options fly down menu > Discussion box. There are boxes which enable trackbacks and comments. As you may want to use forums instead of Comments, you should disable trackbacks and comments on new topics.

To disable comments on older topics, you will need to update SQL using phpMyAdmin.
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Forums will certainly help drive discussion and engagement on your website. I hope you’ve found the tutorial helpful in setting up a forum on your WordPress site :)

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