I’ve long enjoyed hanging around on the Baen Bar, the password-protected web forum where many of e-book pioneer SF publisher Baen’s authors, staff, and readers hang out and communicate with each other—though my ardor for the forum had cooled over its last couple of incarnations. In recent years, the bar has gone through several different software packages and web configurations, due to the providers of previous software going out of business or otherwise not meeting Bar needs, and it had shed a number of useful features along the way.
Happily, I have lately discovered that the Bar has again turned over a new leaf and is now more stable, more easily navigable on the web, and once again accessible via email or NNTP, the Usenet newsreader format
The Bar is the only web forum I know that offers nontrivial reading and posting access via email and NNTP as well as over the web—a necessity because the Bar’s regulars include people (such as myself) who prefer the orderly and uncluttered interface of their favorite newsreader, or who do not have regular web access (for example, personnel stationed on US Navy ships, who can receive and send email but not surf the Internet). In the last couple of incarnations, NNTP was something that they were going to have working “any time now” but never actually got around to.
The new configuration is based on open-source web forum software FUDForum, with interfaces to a standard INN2 NNTP server and MAILMAN mailing lists, running on an Apache server hosted in Rackspace’s Texas data center. Not only does it provide all the features of the original incarnation of the Bar, but it does so in a much faster and more stable way. (And it does not appear to have lost the postings from previous incarnations, either.) So I’ve once again fired up slrn and pointed it at the Bar. Good for Baen for getting the old Bar back in working order again!