Posts tagged with "activeboard"

ActiveBoard Mobile

Today we are excited to announce the launch Beta 1 of our Mobile Activeboard application. You need to have a gold ActiveBoard subscription to use the mobile site.

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We are excited to support the following devices

  • Apple iOS 3.2-5.0 beta
  • Android 2.1-2.3:
  • Android Honeycomb
  • Windows Phone 7
  • Blackberry 6.0
  • Blackberry Playbook
  • Palm WebOS (1.4-2.0)
  • Palm WebOS 3.0
  • Firebox Mobile (Beta)
  • Opera Mobile 11.0
  • Kindle 3

To launch the mobile site, simply visit your favourite ActiveBoard from any mobile browser.

You can always visit the Standard ActiveBoard site by clicking the "Full Site" Button from the Mobile ActiveBoard menu. This will load the standard site by default on your phone. (You can switch back to the mobile site by clicking on the "Mobile Site" link at the bottom of any ActiveBoard).

You can also test out the mobile interface from any browser by appending mobile.spark to the URL.

For example, if the URL to your forum is http://adbutler.activeboard.com, you can visit the mobile site by visiting http://adbutler.activeboard.com/mobile.spark

While the standard ActiveBoard interface currently has more features, mobile ActiveBoard is a great way to engage with users online from a mobile device -- our developers are continuing to add more features to the mobile version.

 

 

Emoticon Management Console

One of the new features we're excited to unveil for ActiveBoard is the new Emoticon Management Console! From here, you can track your custom emoticon usage, and access the new ordering feature we've made available. 

Usage Statistics

 First off, lets dig into the usage statistics. Each time a post or private message uses a certain emoticon, the use is recorded and added to the total uses. The total number of uses to date can be seen under the Forum/Private Message Uses column. Additionally, each time an emoticon is used in a chat message, the use is recorded and can be seen under the Chat Uses column.

So what do you do with all this information? Well, once you get a sense of which emoticons are the most popular, then you might decide to order them in a specific way. This brings us to the next big feature: "favorite" emoticons!

Favorite Emoticons & Ordering

Each custom emoticon now falls under one of two categories: favorite or regular. Favorite emoticons will be displayed before regular ones whenever they're split into multiple pages. Lets take a look at how this can be set up.

First, lets get to the management console. Open up the administration panel from your ActiveBoard, and go to Settings->Posting->Custom Emoticons and click configure. Now click on the "Manage" tab to open up the management console. Adding emoticons to your favorites is very straight forward! Simply select the emoticons you wish to add, and click the "Add to Favorites" button (see screenshot).

addToFavorites.png

Now, once you have several emoticons set to favorite, you can further order them by specifying an internal order. To change this, simply enter new values into the "Order" field, and click "Save". Your custom emoticons will now be displayed according to the order specified (1 = first, 2 = second etc). You can use this feature to push popular emoticons to the front of the list, to avoid unnecessary searching through page after page of unused emoticons. The following screenshot show's the admin panel settings.

Ordering.png

 Finally, the result! The favorite emoticons have been pushed to the front of the list so that they're easy for users to get at.

emotePostOrdered.png

 We're currently working on a ton of great stuff, but we're always looking for other ways to improve our products! So please don't hesitate to submit a feature request via email (general@sparklit.com), support request, or through the "Make a Suggestion" link in the tabs at the top on your Administration Panel.

 

Themes, Templates & More

The much anticipated forum theme & template system for ActiveBoard has arrived!

On March 8th, we will be migrating all ActiveBoards to use the theme system. This will not affect your general forum usage, and may be enabled at any time at your own discretion prior to the migration.

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The theme system will provide you with an improvements to the way you change the style on your forum through an on-the-fly visual style editor, individual page template editing, and theme management for keep old styles, for example, a seasonal Christmas style.

If you have any questions, or run into any problems along the way, please submit a support request or email our general[at]sparklit.com inbox and let us know! We'll have it fixed as quickly as possible.

ActiveBoard Themes & Templates

Up and coming in the wide world of ActiveBoard are some significant changes to the way that themes work, and the addition of both an on-the-fly style editing system, and a template editing back-end for the power user. Clients will be able to completely customize the way their forum looks and feels.

An overview of the new features includes:

  • Updated Administration Panel Sections
  • New Themes & Theme Selection
  • Easier-to-use Style Editor & Preview System
  • Theme Template Editor
  • Theme Backup and Storage Manager

Administration Panel

We took a good look at the options available in the Administration Panel with regard to the style of your ActiveBoard, and the options which govern how much of what displays, and the custom HTML options. The end result was a split from "Style & Appearance" into two new sections, "Theme & Style", and "Display".

The Theme & Style section encompases the browsing and selection of themes, style editing and previewing, header text and logo, forum icons, template editing and lastly theme management.

The Display section consists of the options which handle how many topics and comments per page show up, their default order, the SEO and meta configuration, and both your inline and custom HTML fields.

forum-theme-template-01.png

Themes & Selection

We've been aware that our theme selection has been a little dated for some time now, and wanted to do something about it. My colleague Willem was set to the task of devising a quick and snazzy way of selecting themes for your ActiveBoard, and he's come up with a slick system to accomplish the task.

forum-theme-template-02.png

Style Editing

Modifying the style of your forum has been a thorn in everyone's sides for a long time -- how to accomplish this in an usable way which is completely dynamic. A problem? I think not!

The new ActiveBoard style editor allows you to change the look and feel of your board on the fly, without leaving the page. You can view the forum, and navigate around with your changes visible even before you actually apply them to make sure they're just the way you want them.

forum-theme-template-03.png

Template Editor

For a long time, we've wanted to offer additional customizations to ActiveBoard on a per-client basis, but technically speaking this is difficult when you're using an internal framework and only the content is dynamically created by the clients and the members of their boards.

As a result, we've come up with a template parsing system which will allow you to modify the layout and display of the majority of your ActiveBoard.

This is actually related to my post from a little while ago, Templates & Layout Customization, which outlined template parsing in BlogBaker. The template parser in ActiveBoard has been expanded, so technically speaking it is more powerful than the options available in BlogBaker. We'll be bringing BlogBaker up to speed in this regard soon!

forum-theme-template-04.png

Theme Manager

If you can create, modify, and save themes... you had best be able to manage them too! We're not letting anyone down in this regard, and will be providing a theme management system to keep track of your saved themes. You will be able to activate any theme from the manager, edit them, delete, and also preview the theme on your forum as if you had activated it. In other words, your users will never be impacted while you test!

forum-theme-template-05.png

Magic & Beyond

Well, unfortunately it isn't magic! Sparklit is keen to provide all of our clients with high quality, ingeniously designed software which both the geeky power user, and the happy-go-lucky casual user can use easily and painlessly!

I'll also include a little hint of two things to come:

Search Upgrades

We'll be adding an upgraded search system which will support some fancy additional options: such as + to indicate the word must exist, - to indicate the word must not exist, and " to indicate a string of text which must exist in a search. This new search application will be based off of an implementation of Sphinx Search.

Permalinks

For the SEO-interested folks out there, and anyone who would like to see some pretty URLs... they're on the way! Imagine your forums having their own pretty names... an example from our example ActiveBoard might look like: http://example.activeboard.com/forum/suggestions-and-feedback

Keep your eyes out for these upgrades and more! Also, we're always open to feature suggestions and are also often able to do custom programming jobs for our clients as per their needs. SO! Don't hesitate to submit a feature request via email (general@sparklit.com), support request, or through the "Make a Suggestion" link in the tabs at the top on your Administration Panel.

(o``)--o

Forum Language Translations

While ActiveBoard's default text is in English, it also offers a multitude of translated versions of the language which our clients may use, and even contribute to. In addition to English, the languages supported include: Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Norwegian, Finnish, Danish, Swedish, Hungarian, Polish, Turkish, Russian, Japanese, Chinese, Croatian and Greek.

For each supported language, we keep track of a version of the text in that language. Users are encouraged to submit their own translations to individual pieces of the language, or vote existing translations up or down according to their accuracy.

Over time, the translations become more and more complete, and require less attention.

To enable a language on your ActiveBoard, navigate to your Administration Panel and scroll to the bottom. There you will find an option called "Language Set" and a drop-down box consisting of all supported languages.

forum-language-01.png

Select your desired language to view the specific translation details of that language, and then change the "Use Translation" drop-down box to "Yes". Presto, your forum will now be displayed with the selected language. Easy as pie!

forum-language-02.png

Additionally, we give you a little visual cue for what's left to be translated for clarity!~

In this example, 27 pieces of text from the Russian translation still need translating! This is likely due to the addition of new phrases or words to the overall list of translations.

To help contribute to the translations of your language, click on the link below the translation information: "Quickly help everyone by improving the Russian translation." This will take you a page which gives you a random selection of 10 untranslated pieces of text, with the option of translating additional pieces as desired!

forum-language-04.png

Simply click on the Translate button (in Russian, "переведите"), and enter your translation into the text field that appears. Submit your translation (or translations, if you added several), and by the next day they will be active and show up on your forum!

Sending Private Messages to a Group

Continuing in the vein of improving the private messaging features on ActiveBoard, we're happy to announce the addition of Group private messaging.

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This feature allows the administrator of the forum to send a PM to everyone in a defined group. Need to keep all of your moderators up-to-date with changes on the board? No problem!

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Select from the available groups and fire away. :)

Private Message Threading: ActiveBoard

Introducing a new way to keep your private messages organized! We've just added a new viewing option to ActiveBoard that allows you to display messages as threads containing back-and-forth replies, rather than simply viewing each individually.

You can enable this from your user settings on the forum, as in the screenshot below:

PM-threads-1.png

Once selected, your private message inbox and outbox will display messages using the new option. Clicking on a thread will load all of the messages between participants. As an example, here is a sample private message inbox:

PM-threads-2a.png

Threaded, this becomes:

PM-threads-2b.png

An easy way to cut down on clutter. Enjoy!

Templates & Layout Customization

With the addition of BlogBaker to the collection of amazing Sparklit products, came a few neat changes to how content is displayed.

Traditionally, a website URL contains a number of parameters, which are evaluated by the webserver for interpretation. The inputs are sent to a black-box (from a user perspective) and out comes a dynamically generated website.

BlogBaker is the first of our products to take the black-box portion of this process, and open it up to give the users significantly more fine tune control over how their pages are displayed. Some of the other hosted blogging software on the market also allowed you to do this, but not nearly as well as we do.

Templates in BlogBaker

We created a pseudo-HTML template parsing back end, which accepts HTML templates that contain non-standard HTML formatted tags and turn them into the pages of your blog.

There are a number of custom tags, including the following:

  • bif, belseif, belse -- conditional logic
  • battr -- accessing information from objects
  • bdata -- accessing stored data from the application
  • bcontainer, bsection -- container elements for rendering
    • bcontainers require that all the tags inside of them are either bsections or bwidgets
    • bsections allow any custom tags, or HTML to be added
  • bwidget -- configuration for a widget

At the moment, we're in the process of writing documentation to support the templating system, so that users can easily look up what these tags do, and read up on some practical examples. Here's an example of a tag in use:

<bwidget id="category0" type="category" title="Categories" sorting="alphabetical" flat="false" layout="dropdown" counts="true"></bwidget>

The category widget has several attributes which you can use to configure how it is displayed. Note that the "type" and "id" attributes are required, and that the "id" attribute must be unique, and the "type" attribute must be one of the allowed widget types.

  • title -- the title you would like displayed (optional)
  • sorting -- the order you would like have your categories displayed in, possible options are:
    • alphabetical, reversealpha (reverse alphabetical), frequency (display based on popular usage)
  • layout -- the type of category list you want to show, possible options are:
    • dropdown (a dropdown select box), hierarchy (shows up in tree format)
  • flat -- set this to "true" if you want to flatten the displayed list of categories
  • counts -- set this to true if you would like to see the number of times each category has been assigned

Note that the "type" and "id" attributes are required, and that the "id" attribute must be unique, and the "type" attribute must be one of the allowed widget types. (I won't list all the possibilities here though.)

Templates in ActiveBoard

A project that I have been working on for the last week or two is to implement the templating system I created for BlogBaker in ActiveBoard. A forum is actually quite similar to a blog in the general scheme of things, and both products benefit greatly from the additional customization that templating provides. It also means that when a client comes to me saying "Can I make my ActiveBoard do this?" I will be able to reply jovially "SIR, YES SIR!" ...or something like that anyway.

In the coming weeks I am looking to launch this for practical testing and usage online. Several of our more prominent boards, such as MediaZoneJA, are looking forward to this, and have kindly offered to help test it out.

Here's a quick example of a template in ActiveBoard:

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<ul>
<loop var="categories" item="category" index="i">
    <li>
        <div><attr name="title" item="category"></attr></div>
        <if var="nsubforums" compare="greater" value="0">
            <ul>
            <loop var="subforums" item="subforum" index="j">
                <li>
                    <attr name="title" item="subforum"></attr>
                </li>
            </loop>
            </ul>
        </if>
        <else>
            <li>
                No forums have been created in this category yet.
            </li>
        </else>
        </ul>
    </li>
</loop>
</ul>

A "nice" implementation...

I also wanted to briefly discuss a bit of technical fun I've had during the creation of the template parser, and subsequent updates and improvements. PERFORMANCE! It's important, very important. So much so, that I've already gone through 5 iterations of the template parser.

The first method I came up with, was integration with phpQuery, a popular, jQuery modeled DOM traversal and manipulation project. phpQuery is easy to use, relatively bug free (though I found a couple during my time working with it), and uses PHP's built in DOM functionality.

phpQuery comes with a price though, in that it has a very high usage overhead. Importing DOM text strings has a hefty overhead (partially PHP DOM's fault), which means that if you have to create multiple documents your minimum execution time is going to be pretty high. Here's an example of what I mean.

Imagine you have a some simple template HTML like this...

<loop var="numbers" item="number" index="i">
<div>at index <attr name="i"></attr></div>
<loop>

...and there are "numbers" is a list of 10 numbers, from 0 to 9 inclusive. To evalulate this in phpQuery, once the <loop> is detected, you have to repeat the evaluation of the contents of the loop 10 times. Unfortunately, to do this, you cannot simply replace the <attr> tag 10 times, because after the first replacement you have actually removed it from the template.

Ultimately there are a number of possibilities, but I'll outline only two: 1) duplicating the contents of the <loop> 9 more times, and 2) copy the contents of the loop, save it and evaluate it separately 10 times.

1) This requires DOM manipulation (Ugh DOM manipulations.) 9 times, and then an additional 10 replacements as you traverse and update the newly created nodes.

2) This requires fewer DOM manipulations, but requires you to create 10 additional DOM documents (Ugh, overhead!), one for each iteration of the loop.

I'd also like to point out, that when I think of something as a "long time", I mean that it's taking several hundred milliseconds. So compared to a lot of things... it's fast but... on a massive scale, it's not fast enough.

Last but not least, a better implementation

It turns out that you can accomplish the same things that phpQuery can do with its object oriented DOM document approach, by doing a little string manipulation and a state-based system.

A very simple regular expression can split up an entire template on the opening and closing tags of special elements, and give you a flat array of all the important parts of a template broken into three categories: opening tag, closing tag, raw HTML.

After that you can traverse the array asking yourself simple questions: am I in a condition? am I in a loop? am I raw HTML?

At present, the template parser algorithm is roughly 18% slower than dynamically rendering a page with logic PHP, and by the end of next week I hope to have better than 5% slower parsing.

ActiveBoard Updates

We recently added some minor, but important features to ActiveBoard:

  • Spoiler tags now support content with BBCode
  • Spoiler tags have been added as a blog forum feature
  • Saving an edited post now returns you directly to the post itself
  • Chatbox new post notifications now link directly to the end of the topic

We have additionally added some new improvements to our ActiveBoard spam filter. Members who have reached a certain threshold of approved posts no longer risk having their contributions flagged. Now we can all discuss Ugg boots to our heart's content without the spam bot intrusions!

Spam Filter Added to ActiveBoard

We are pleased to say that our new spam filter has now been officially integrated with ActiveBoard!

Posts and topics that are detected as possible spam will be marked "flagged as spam." Under the "More..." option you can approve or deny these comments, as appropriate. If a spam comment makes it through without being flagged, please use the "Report Spam" option to remove the comment and help our spam filter learn and improve!

This option has been enabled by default, but if you'd like to disable the spam filter please go to:

Administration > Settings > Add-ons

Then, go to the bottom of the page and set Spam Filter to Off.

We hope this new development will help cut down on the spam out there. Happy posting everyone!

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