" bbPress is not going to have avatars, or put post counts next to your name, or give every user 80 options about how they want their dates formatted " – yes yes yes! This is precisely what has always frustrated me about the likes of phpBB and many of the other big forums out there. In cases of a large well-knit, largely computer-literate community avators and signatures are a nice touch (although some are ridiculously over-used). When you just want a forum to start threads and post replies – particularly with a group of people who’ve never really encountered forums before – this is all superfluous fluff.
Similarly I’ve never really gotten the point of private messaging in forums. What does it achieve that email doesn’t? The only benefit I can see from it is a sort-of anonymity, protecting you (the author) from exposing your email (true identity?) to the recipient. Since I tend to deal with users who have no reason not to expose their email addresses, this system is complete bloat. Fortunately phpBB allows you to turn it off, but I’d rather it not be on in the first place.
The first thing I do with a fresh phpBB installation is remove most of it again.
I hope/think Matt might have the right formula – for my needs at least, he’s very clear that it might not be for everybody! – If you can start with a basic, straightforward piece of forum software, with enough flexibility and extensibility from the start, then it must surely satisfy many people’s needs whilst allowing for various other tastes through plugins. The important thing is to get the basic forum running – all the fluff can come later as an option! Good luck to Matt and his team with what looks like a very interesting project.