dotCommunity 1.7

This page briefly outlines the new features of dotCommunity 1.7. More detail of how to use these features are available in the documentation.


Highlights

The most obvious new feature is the entirely new Admin Interface, which is now common between all clients, and uses a consistent interface whether you're a sitewide administrator or a community administrator. The new interface is based around a set of tabs which brings similar actions together in sensible and logical groups. We believe both you and your users will find it much easier to use (once they get used to the change!)

Another obvious change is that when using the standard templates, you can edit content inline without having to go into the full CMS. This is a great and quick way of making small changes to the page. Have a go with it and see what you think!

Also when editing content, if you want to add an image into your page this is now much simpler - when you click on the image icon in the WYSIWYG (which itself is updated to a much newer version) you are given a new dialogue box which allows you to choose images from the assets library, and upload new images.

We have made quite a lot of improvements to the usability and administration pages of some of the standard apps - most notably Surveys and Feeds.

It is now also possible to see web page access stats for all years - and not just the current year/month.

To make life easier for users and instance administrators alike, dotCommunity 1.7 now comes with a complete set of end-user documentation. Previously each instance had its own documentation maintained independently of us.

There are lots and lots of small changes and fixes too. Literally hundreds of them!


Further Details

Admin Interface

  • Common across all instances
  • Tabbed grouping of related admin tasks
  • Reduced number of 'clicks' required for common editing tasks
  • Content and applications unified into a single Site Map, making editing more intuitive
  • Much easier to use (we hope!), and much prettier!

Updated and Improved Themes System

Some time has been spent tidying up how things look in the standard themes (e.g., the calendar view etc, and ensuring they work well at different resolutions). As well as this it is now possible for sitewide administrators to upload and download themes, and selectively make themes available to different communities. This will over time make it much easier for third party themes to be added to the system (something which VOICE have been doing for a while).

There is also no longer a distinction between 'custom' and 'external' themes - these have always been very similar to one another, and perhaps somewhat confusing! All custom CSS (whether stored in the assets library or on an external site) is now specified using the 'custom' theme, and the administration of these has been simplified.

Under the hood, the themes system now supports multiple different HTML markup structures - this means that if a theme wants to it can change quite dramatically the underlying HTML of the pages, rather than being forced to only change the CSS. We hope to use this in the future to add some new and more interesting/exciting themes!

In summary:

  • Uploadable and downloadable themes (sitewide admins only)
  • Fine control over theme availability
  • Configurable HTML structures

Inline Content Editing

This allows pages to be edited without going into the CMS backend. We hope this will make it easier for novice users to make small changes to pages.

NOTE that this feature is only available in the standard themes, and not in custom themes (since it requires some CSS to be defined to prevent it looking too strange!). If you would like further information on how to integrate this into your custom themes then please ask.

Improved Asset Management Interface

As well as updating to a new version of the WYSIWYG editor, we have also more tightly integrated the selection and uploading of image assets into the CMS. You can now add images from the WYSIWYG's image dialogue box without having to go to the assets library.

You can also more finely control the placement of images, allowing them to be floated left or right with text flowing to the side.

Inline Help Text System

All the help text in the admin interface can now be edited by sitewide administrators. We have provided some default help text for all pages, but you are able to edit these with your own information if you wish to.

Over time we will improve the default help text by collating the best changes from all clients.

Application Enhancements

We have worked on the usability of all the applications, in many cases making significant improvements t usability, especially for community administrators. We hope this will make them simpler and more intuitive. The main changes are in the Surveys, Form Builder, and Feeds applications, which have much improved admin interfaces using tabs to group common tasks together.

Permissions and Sharing

The permissions have been looked at carefully. Not only have we simplified the configuration of the permissions for applications, we have also added in safeguards against users setting 'unsafe' permissions (e.g., it is now no longer possible to accidentally grant write access to your applications to members of the public).

For the most part we have now standardised on only three levels of access, which can be assigned differently for each application as desired. These are:

Read - the ability to view an item.

Edit - the ability to add items, such as photos to an album, files to 'our files', and posts in the weblog.

Admin - total control over the page or application - allowing you to delete other peoples additions, and control the permissions that others have.

New inactivity reporting

An improved system whereby all community sites are monitored to see if they are being used. The administrators of inactive sites can be automatically emailed after a period of inactivity. Sites which remain inactive even after several warnings can be automatically disabled. It is hoped that this will help to keep the content of all subsites up to date, and prevent stale information from lying around.

Stats

All web access stats can now be viewed from the day a subsite is created right up to the present. Previously only the current year was visible, and only the current month visible in detail.

Administrator Messages

As sitewide administrator, you can now add a message which appears on the main admin page of all community sites. Useful for passing on news for example.


Under the Hood

A lot of the changes in 1.7 are not apparent, even to a reasonably well trained eye. We have made large numbers of improvements to the underlying architecture to improve the speed and responsiveness of dotCommunity sites. In particular:

New Web Servers

  • The new sites will run on new more powerful servers, with a newer version of Linux. This should provide greater site performance, stability, and security.

New Database

  • We have upgraded to a newer and much faster SQL database - PostgreSQL 8.3. In some instances we have observed queries running over 50 times faster on the new database compared with the old one. We anticipate that as a result sites will be more responsive after this change, especially when viewing pages that have many database queries (such as editing content).

Spam Blocking

  • We have implemented code to block link-spammers (scripts which repeatedly try to post spam into the feedback forms and into forums etc).
  • This works on many levels - firstly we simply block anonymous users from posting any content containing links (99% of spammers are trying to post links to dodgy sites). Persistent offenders are automatically blocked by the firewall to prevent them from continuing to attempt to post things, and to reduce server load.

 

We hope this has given you a good idea of what features to look out for in this new version of dotCommunity!