Like I said, it is just how "I" would build it, not how it "should" be built, because I'm not the expert. I just hope to bounce some ideas around the community to help making xF a better product for the future.
I think xF should only consist of a "core" and that's it. By core, I mean a modern coding method and style that provides security, admin system, permissions, and userbase. I don't even think a "forum" (as currently) should be considered as part of the core.
I would like to see xF set up similar to IPB with add-on modules such as a Forum, Blog, CMS, Gallery, Calendar & Events, Quizzies, and e-commerce type solution called a Store. This way people can buy and use only what they need, nothing more or less. This would help control and determine bloat.
The userbase should be very extensive and thorough, because that is what will be tapping into everthing else, linking it together, building the community with all other add-ons or modules. Things like user profile, likes and dislikes, following/followers, recent activity, custom profile fields, trophies, and bio should all be part of that userbase core.
To me, that makes the most sense, a userbase that taps into everything that is added later on. I would consider everything else added-on that taps into the userbase a "Module", and everything that extends a module, a "Plugin". That keeps it simple.
Now let's revisit a few things such as a CMS or Portal. I think a CMS should just be some type of block management. Not article management, as most would think. The reason I say this is because truthfully, there is no real difference between a forum post and an article. You could create an article by simply making a forum post, then have the option on the fly to allow comments or not, a poll or not, and what information should be displayed from that post such as when it was created, title, who wrote it, etc etc.
I think here should be PHP/HTML BBC tags that can be used with a post by the admin. I currently use the [parsehtml] bbc mod, and it works wonders. I'll never use a xF "page" option again, because I like to allow comments on my article, and keep it categorized properly. I just create a different style to use within my forum article category, that changes the layout of the forum post, making it appear as an article. Not only that, all content within my site can be found inside the forum itself, which is how I think it should be. The forum itself is our sitemap...
The add-on modules should be allowed to appear within the forum itself, not just a link in the navbar to outside the forum. In other words, I should be able to have a forum category called "Gallery", which is the Gallery add-on. Currently I use the redirect option for such things, and truthfully that works just fine, but it doesn't reflect in the breadcrumb properly.
Forum design should be different in my opinion. I think the first post within a thread should have a different layout than the proceeding posts afterwards. Even an option to "post as article", which merely changes the layout of the first post, and places the post above the other threads like when making a "page" currently with xF. Even so, it would make it easier for style designers to create different layouts for the first post, but not the rest. Currently this cannot be done...
Phrases should be a little different by default: "Messages" should be referred as "Comments", "Sub-forum" referred to as "Node", and "Discussions" referred to as "Topics" and "Threads" referred to as "Discussions". I know that this can be changed currently in the admin, but I just wanted to put that out there for the future.
Couple of things that I felt are overlooked. Polls are something that should have more clout. The user should be allowed to add more than one question & answers to a single poll. Professional communities could greatly benefit from this because it could be used to conduct surveys, and would eliminate the need to pay for survey software, and would greatly increase sales in my opinion. In fact, if "forum" was made as an module add-on(as suggested previously), then polls could be added-on as a plugin for the forum module. Another thing I feel that is overlooked in most software is anonymous posting or thread creation where allowed by the admin. Most professional help sites need this, because it allows the user to post something with discretion. Some user's don't want to be known as a taddle-tail, or are embarrassed and ashamed to admit something. Admin and moderators can still track/moderate the post/user, because the IP is still present.
Regarding AGE & Gender. I have struggled with something with every piece of software I have tried. I think AGE should be treated as a group with permissions, as well as gender. This would give admin's complete control over all content of the site based on user age & gender. I know it would be complicated to add permissions to every single age number, but maybe the would be a way for the admin to create a group, add user's from age to age, and give them permissions? Think about how many sites out there that pay for crappy software just to have age & gender restrictions? It would create a larger market for xF...
Well there you go. Love it or Hate it. Just my thoughts on how community software should be designed. I'm sure there are kinks, but it could be worked out. I hope to see some of these suggestions be added in 1.1, but overall it would need a major re-write to achieve.