FAQ: Viewing new posts


There is a bit of confusion about how vBulletin handles new posts, especially given the differences between it and the old WebBoard software.

WebBoard actually tracked read messages in the database itself. It knew which messages you had "marked" as read and any that were new were always shown as new until you explicitly marked them read (or had the software automatically mark them read).

The good thing about this was that because it was in the database, WebBoard remembered eveything for you, and posts would stay "new" until you were ready to mark them read - even if you logged in from a different computer !

The unfortunate side effect of this was that because it had to track this information for every message and for every user, it meant that as we got more posts, more users and more traffic, everything slowed down, as there was much much more database access required.

vBulletin handles new messages a bit differently to the old WebBoard forum. For starters, it does not track things on an individual post basis. It simply works on the last time you were logged in. A message which was posted after your last login time is regarded as being new.

Now the tricky part comes when managing when it was that you last logged in. Obviously if you explicitly log out, then the software knows exactly when you finished reading. But if you don't actually log out (most people won't... they will simply close their browser or go to another website) - then the software has no way of realising that you have left.

vBulletin gets around this by using cookies - small bits of data that are stored on your computer - which allows it to track key bits of information about you accessing the site. When you log in, it creates one of these cookies on your computer to mark that you are active on the forum - and to track your "session" identifier - something it uses to keep track of where you are in the site.

Now, this cookie has a limited lifetime. The vBulletin software sets the cookie to expire within 30 minutes, unless you keep accessing the forums. Every time you do something - read a message, post, search etc - then the cookie expiry is "reset".

So if you are viewing a post, and then walk out of the room to go and watch your favourite TV show for a half hour or so (but still leaving your browser open on that post), then the cookie will timeout and vBulletin will think you are starting a new session. This means that your unread or "new" messages will only be those since your last action on the forum.

So how do you manage this ?

Well, first of all, if you are the type of person who fires up the forum and reads everything that is new since you last connected all at once, then you will generally have no problems with the "View New Posts" search - it will always show you what you want.

If you happen to be distracted by things (such as a spouse or boss or dinner etc), and come back and find that all those threads that were in your new posts search are no longer there, then you should go and try the "View Today's Active Threads" search, which will show you all new threads in the last 24 hours. This at least will show you recently new posts, and you should be able to work out which ones you haven't read yet.

However, if you are also an infrequent viewer, and you haven't read posts for more than a couple of days, the "View Today's Active Threads" search won't help you terribly much. In this case, you're pretty much going to have to do it manually. There are some tools to help you.

If you go into an individual forum (say, the "Property Investment - General" forum) and read the thread list, you will see near the bottom of the page some selection boxes which allow you to choose which threads are shown and how they are ordered. By default forums only show threads from the last 30 days. You can change this to show only the last day, last 2 days, last 5 days, 10 days, 20 days, etc. Using this, you can cut out threads that haven't been posted in for some time and only concentrate on the newer ones.

I know it's not perfect, but at least the performance is very very good without all those extra database lookups !

One more piece of advice... don't be afraid to just browse ! You can change the order of threads in each forum to show things in ways that suit you, but since threads are listed by default in descending order of last post date, you can simply browse through all the threads that have had recent postings in them. The performance of the software is good enough that this can be a realistic way of managing things.