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Forums: Development

To Do List
Started on April 2nd, 2005 at 2:58PM CST by Sulerin
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This is just my "To Do" list of things that I need to get done around here. It will change as necessary. I thought that forum readers would be interested in seeing what's in the future.

As you can see, there is a lot still to do.

Posted on April 2nd, 2005 at 3:02PM CST by Sulerin [bookmark]  [printable]  [reply]
Now that the privledges structure is in place they need to be enforced throughout the forums area. Privledge groups are Topic Members, Forum Members (general), and Guests (non-account forum users). Each group either has "none", "read", or "read/post" privledges. Reply posts inherit the privledge settings of the topic origin post.

Once this has been put in place then things can be done like topics where topic-members can make posts, but non-topic-members can only read the posts, which would be cool for campaign style topics. The moderator of a topic could create it with privledges like General=None, causing the topic to become private and displayed only to its topic-members.

Privledges should have a structure where the privledges of a lower order user are never better than their superiors. Thus, there's no situation where non-topic-members can post to a topic, but topic-members cannot post to the same topic.

Later on these privledges will expand to include forums. Comments welcome.
Post Pruning and Deleting
Posted on April 2nd, 2005 at 3:10PM CST by Sulerin [bookmark]  [printable]  [reply]
I need an administrative tool for trimming posts. Will need to operate recursively and have one main branching operation.

A If the admin is deleting the whole "branch" of the topic (or even the topic itself) then we need to recurse through the topic tree and delete each child. Might have to do this in reverse order (leaves before branches).

B If the admin is just deleting a single post and that post has children then the thread level of all descendents to the deleted post need to be reduced by 1. All the immediate children of the deleted post then need to have their parent assigned as the deleted posts parent.

Doing this would probably be greatly aided if we tracked a posts ancestors and its descendents. Then targeting a whole branch for some action would be a relatively simple task and would also assist for future plans where people can receive email notifications when their post is replied to. Similarly watches and ignores could then be set on branches of a topic rather than topic wide. See Email Notification For Reply Posts for more information.
Post Formatting and Buttons
Posted on April 2nd, 2005 at 3:14PM CST by Sulerin [bookmark]  [printable]  [reply]
Put together buttons for the post creation screen so that a user can click on one and create the appropriate effect. All html entered into the post by any other means is shown as message text and not interpreted on display.

Effects in consideration are as follows (if you see it working it's implimented):
Font Face
Font sizes
Images (and emoticons)
email addresses

quoted text

code formatted text

Anything I'm not thinking of?

Admin tool for pausing forum activity
Posted on April 2nd, 2005 at 3:33PM CST by Sulerin [bookmark]  [printable]  [reply]
Need an admin tool to pause forum activity. This will be necessary during more rigorous testing where large portions of the forum function is changing and I don't want people making posts during that time. Forums should still be readable at that time.
Posted on April 2nd, 2005 at 3:35PM CST by Sulerin [bookmark]  [printable]  [reply]
Eventually some topics are going to get very long and it would be a good thing to be able to paginate them. Pagination should respect member's pagination settings as shown in their edit account screen options.
Avatars and Personal Pictures
Posted on April 2nd, 2005 at 3:37PM CST by Sulerin [bookmark]  [printable]  [reply]
At the moment we don't even have an avatar picture pack, but I'd also like to be able to let users use their own personal avatars, which they could either upload (would need a file size and picture dimensions limit here) or pull from some other online resource (again, would need picture dimension limitations here).

The topic display functions will need to be modified to accomodate the display of avatars and they should also respect the member's setting for whether to display them or not.

Personal pictures will only be shown in the member's profile. There's only room for one picture (and once more there will need to be file size and picture dimension limitations here too).
Member Voting System
Posted on April 2nd, 2005 at 3:42PM CST by Sulerin [bookmark]  [printable]  [reply]
I'm considering adding a voting system where members can rate each other. Votes would have a small impact on a member's rating. Any thoughts on this are welcome.
Help Files
Posted on April 2nd, 2005 at 3:43PM CST by Sulerin [bookmark]  [printable]  [reply]
I need to put together a comprehensive overview of how to do things for forum users. As it grows in complexity, the forums will have certain nuances and details which members might forget how to access and there should be a summary to cover these things. Each of the major functions should be covered.
Posted on April 2nd, 2005 at 3:45PM CST by Sulerin [bookmark]  [printable]  [reply]
Eventually I'd like to fully impliment a moderator system. Most of it is already in place and the biggest question is "who gets to be a moderator?"

Who Moderators Are
Ideally, moderators should be members of good standing and substancial contribution to the Forum's community, so perhaps a certain quality rating and number of posts should be required before a member can receive moderator privledges. Naturally, there should be an administrative override for this, allowing admins to upgrade or downgrade a members access level to the forums.

Moderators should probably operate in two modes: active and passive. This mode should be a setting of the topic (not specific to the moderator).

Active Moderation
An actively moderated topic/forum requires its moderators to manually accept or reject each post to their topic/forum before it becomes available to the community. So there may be a substantial delay before a post becomes visible if none of the moderators for it are available. A topic/forum can have multiple moderators to help share the burdon.

Passive Moderation
A passively moderated topic/forum automatically allows all posts to enter the topic. Moderators can then reject posts after they are already visible to the public. Rejecting a post with this option would probably work similar to deleting a post, requiring the descendents of the rejected post to be adopted by a new parent (and thus their thread level changes and so forth). This is a particularly powerful option and might be inappropriate for new moderators.

Editing Posted Messages?
This, naturally, brings up the thought of whether members and moderators should be able to edit their messages. (or in the case of moderators, edit other people's posts whom they moderate). Personally, I think that the preview function is enough for people to decide whether their post is ready and to preserve forum integrity that members/moderators should not be allowed to change the content of posts. Looking around on the web at various forums seems to indicate that other developers feel the same way about this, but I'd be interested in hearing other people's ideas on the subject

Topic title locking
Moderators should have the option of locking the topic title. This should be a topic wide setting.

Any ideas or observations of how other forums have done this are very VERY welcome.
Member and Guest Management
Posted on April 2nd, 2005 at 4:03PM CST by Sulerin [bookmark]  [printable]  [reply]
I need to put together two administrative tools for this particular item. It will be necessary for when a member requests to have their password reset, though some kind of system will be necessary to validate that the user requesting a password change is who they really are, and with how easy it is to spoof email addresses I'm not sure how best to do such a thing.

Anyway, this first tool should let an administrator (me) edit all aspects of a member's account. Allowing me to change their access level, remove particularly inappropriate text, fix stuff broken during testing, and a variety of other situations. Naturally, for most problem users who abuse what can be stored in their account I'm not going to bother editing it out, I'm just going to take punative action, which brings me to the second tool that needs to be built.

Second, I need to make a tool for setting bans on forum users. Bans are of the following flavors: account suspension or ip ban. Naturally, users who circumvent their account suspension by creating a new account, will be elevated to an IP ban. Bans/suspensions should have two levels of enforcement: a cookie on the users machine as well as a record on the forums server. Certainly, the cookie can be circumvented, but most users will probably not know how to. Account suspensions should include the IP address of the account, preventing users from simply creating a new account to continue their abuse (such users who change IPs and pursue this action will have to be dealt with in some other fashion, maybe I'll hire hitmen *wink*). Users whose IP has been banned cannot view the forums at all, while suspended account users can still read the forums. Naturally, bans will have expiration dates, though in the case of particularly annoying users the expiration date might be longer than their expected lifespan.

Any ideas on user management as relates above are quite welcome.
Inter-Member Message System
Posted on April 2nd, 2005 at 4:18PM CST by Sulerin [bookmark]  [printable]  [reply]
None of the structure for this has been prepared yet, but it seems like it would be a fairly simple thing to impliment. Such a system would allow members to send each other private messages. Members who are ignoring the origin of the message would not receive it, in keeping with existing policy. A link for reading/sending messages would be placed in the Forum Sidebar (the right side one).
Topic Icons, Message Icons
Posted on April 2nd, 2005 at 4:21PM CST by Sulerin [bookmark]  [printable]  [reply]
These are icons placed to the right of a topic in its forum view and at the root post of a topic when in a topic view.

Topic Priority: An icon representing that this topic has been given display priority and appears at the top of the forum list of topics. Maybe something like a colorful push-pin icon would be appropriate. Different colors for different priorities (since up to ten are specified besides the general topic priority).

Passworded: These topics have been passworded. Topic passwords should be stored as a session object so that users only have to enter them once per visit to the forums. A passworded topic icon should be something like a padlock or a key.

Read-Only: If a topic is Read-Only for the users current access level then this icon should appear next to the topic title. Maybe something like a red "R" or a crossed out version of the "reply post" icon.

Member-Only Topic: These topics are only visible to thier members, but should stick out from the rest. Maybe with something looking like an "M". If you can see a member-only topic then you can enter it (because you're recognized as a member).

Hot Topic: These are topics which are receiving lots of attention. It might be fun to automate the appearance of this icon to topics which have had more than five posts in the last hour, but at first it will probably be a manual setting done by administrators. Something like fire or a burning sheet of paper or a finger pointing right towards the topic title would be appropriate.

Other Icons
At present we're using text links for activating various activities, but I've considered using icons to represent them instead to save space. I'm worried though that using icons will make the forums less user friendly, though ALT tags could be used to clairify an icon's function and they would also receive treatment in the help pages. Such icons include the following:

Watch Topic/Watch Member: Something like a bright eyeball might be appropriate.

Ignore Topic/Ignore Member: Something like a "Zzz" icon might work here.

Bookmark: Like a bookmark.

Printable: Like a generic printer icon.

Reply to Post: Maybe a little face with a back pointing arrow or something similar to icons used in email programs for "Reply To" functions.
Email Post to Non-Member Address
Posted on April 2nd, 2005 at 4:35PM CST by Sulerin [bookmark]  [printable]  [reply]
This function would appear as an option at each topic and at each post of a topic. Clicking on it would open a popup window, allowing the member (this is a member only function) to send a link and the text of the message to a non-forums member.

The idea of this, besides giving members more options, is to provide a vector for introducing new people to the forums.
Email Notification for Reply Posts
Posted on April 2nd, 2005 at 4:41PM CST by Sulerin [bookmark]  [printable]  [reply]
This option should be included in the "Post a Reply/Create a Topic" screen. When checked it causes the user to get an email each time there is a reply to their post or to any children of that post. These effectively act as watches, but with a scope limited to the branch of the topic that the member created. Members should be able to disable this option in their Watches screen. See Post Pruning and Deleting for ancestor/descendent tracking idea which could assist this.
Forums Searching
Posted on April 2nd, 2005 at 4:47PM CST by Sulerin [bookmark]  [printable]  [reply]
Quickly, it's going to become necessary to be able to search the forums. While the existing site Search tool is great, it will need to be slightly changed so that users have the option of just searching the forums or excluding the forums from their regular searches. Adding an extra link under the initial topic post for [search] might not be a bad idea, or as an icon (a question mark icon?).
Cross browser testing
Posted on April 16th, 2005 at 2:06AM CST by Sulerin [bookmark]  [printable]  [reply]
There are probably a number of bugs and inconsistencies in the forums borne out of how different browsers work. It will take some time to fully test this, but it's something that really needs to be done so that everyone can enjoy the forums and not just select users of certain browsers. Thanks for your patience regarding this issue.

If you happen to notice something not working in your browser that isn't listed in this to-do list then please report it in the Error Reports thread of this forum.

Thanks a bunch.
Cross browser testing
Posted on April 17th, 2005 at 7:47PM CST by Sulerin [bookmark]  [printable]  [reply]
I did a bunch of this yesterday and fixed a ton of buttons that weren't working in Netscape. Still, if you find something that doesn't look right or doesn't work then please let me know. Your input is valuable.
A polling system for various topics.
Posted on April 16th, 2005 at 4:41PM CST by Sulerin [bookmark]  [printable]  [reply]
Something similar to many other voting systems out there on the web whereby the opinion of forum reader's can be gathered in a quantifiable form. These would probably work similar to a topic, having a title and so forth, but a tally table will be necessary accompaniment along with the original topic question that people are voting on. Then, beneath could be the various opinions of member's on the subject.

One implimentation of this might just to be a add a poll_number column to the table which contains posts. This column would just hold a standard id stamp pointing to a tally table of some design like this:

an identity key

Where the poll number is how we recognize which option_name/tally pairs belong to what poll. In other words, all option_name/tally pairs for a given poll have the same poll_number. When a topic has a poll_number that isn't null then we would know to fetch the polling data and display it.
Who are our members anyway? A 'members' page.
Posted on April 16th, 2005 at 4:55PM CST by Sulerin [bookmark]  [printable]  [reply]
We should have a screen where members can browse through the profiles of other members. A simple link like "Members" just beneath the "Who's Online" link would do nicely. This way people can read about new members of our community who haven't posted anything yet.

While I'm thinking of it... maybe we should start a "tell us about your self" topic in the General Discussion Board forum where people can meet each other. Anyone want to start a thread like this?
Done: Member Roster browser
Posted on April 17th, 2005 at 7:39PM CST by Sulerin [bookmark]  [printable]  [reply]
Eventually I'm going to have to page the results produced by this add on, but for now it should do nicely. We've only been in beta for a week so the list is small currently. There's a new link when you log in to the forums called Member Roster which will show you who our current members are.

So, you won't have to wait for a member to post something before you can see their profile now.