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Scheduled Upgrades - New Features
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Bob
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 28, 2008 8:07 pm 
Post subject: Scheduled Upgrades - New Features

We will post more details in this topic once everything is in place, but the gist of it is this: we will have a substantial number of code upgrades / updates / bug fixes and so on going into production this weekend. The updates will include new icons, new features, and a few things will be dropped as well. We have made extensive changes in an effort to improve or at least retain our current level of performance under an even heavier system load. And we will be launching our new sponsor system, which was supposed to have gone live in January.

As a result, BOB will be offline or unavailable or may even generate page errors as we work through the update process this weekend. It is our plan to have everything ready to go by midnight, Sunday night, so that folks coming online in Europe or Asia for their early Monday morning fix of BOB-ness will see everything working fine.

Thanks for your patience.

icon_mrgreen.gif

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Bob
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 31, 2008 1:30 am 
Post subject: Re: Scheduled Upgrades - New Features

Version III - March 31, 2008
Wow, where do we begin. icon_smile.gif This is the largest batch of updates / upgrades we've ever rolled out at one time. Please keep your fingers crossed that everything works as expected. icon_smile.gif This post will detail some of the more obvious changes.

New Style
We've updated the older semi-blue/gray style to a brighter blue and white look. This doesn't make anything faster or add new features, but we think it looks a lot nicer. The BOB logo in the upper corner got a bit of a facelift as well.

New Icons
If you look on the lower-right corner of a post you will see some new icons. The icons that you see will be based on your permissions level on BOB. Here is a sample screen:
Image link

First, the red dot that appears as part of the lower boundary of the post. That dot allows any registered user to help out the moderator team by reporting the post as being something other than what we expect. The reasons to report a post include spam, cross-posting, post-bumping, advertising, and a number of other choices. You must select a reason for reporting the post, and optionally can enter some notes as well.

Here's what the Report-a-Post screen looks like:

Image link

Please use this appropriately. Users that abuse the report feature will lose the capability to report posts.

Can you report your own post? Sure, you can. icon_smile.gif If you realize that you have posted a topic in the wrong forum, just use the Report icon and enter "Wrong Forum" as the reason. A moderator will see your topic get flagged and can move the topic as appropriate.

Navigation and Other Icons
You might remember we had icons for printing a topic, watching a topic, adding a topic to your favorites, and so on. Those features are all still present but have been updated with new icons to go along with our spiffy new style. The icons are also much more consistent. When you see an icon with a green plus it means to start or add something. When you see the same icon with a red minus it means to stop or remove something.

So these icons are used to start watching a topic Image link and to add a topic to your favorites list Image link and these two reverse each of those: Image link Image link. As before, these icons appear both on the top and the bottom of the screen.

Annual Stars and Other Goodies
We've had annual stars for quite a while now. Some folks will be getting their sixth star soon. We have added two new types of "awards" that will show up in the same area: speaker badges and user medals. The star icon has been updated, and the speaker icon looks like this:

Image link

If a BOB member has been a speaker at more than one conference their speaker badge will have a number by it showing how many conferences they have participated in. Their profile screen will show the full list. The user medals are very rare, as we've only had one BOB Member of the Year contest so far. When you see one, it's special. icon_smile.gif

We have also changed our rank images.

Have you Searched?
Yes, we always nag people about searching, and with this upgrade we've rolled out a whole bunch of new features to help that process. First, the Search Box (the drop-down selector with various canned searches) has some new options, as shown here:

Image link

Each of those is detailed in the "Explain these options" page so we'll skip those details here. But here's another goodie:

Image link

When you see your search results you will also see a pre-populated search form. You can revise your search (most options, not all of them) right on the search results. This feature has been tested, but perhaps not thoroughly, so if you encounter any bugs or issues with it please let us know.

What does Topic Not Searchable mean?
Here's a typical scenario... a user comes to BOB, posts a question, and gets a great answer (naturally icon_wink.gif). They go away happy. A few days (weeks, months) later another user posts the same question, and they get nagged about not searching first. Repeat this process about two dozen times. icon_lol.gif Now what happens when a user visits BOB and does actually search? They get a page of hits to topics that are all useless, because every single one of them just says, "Didn't you search?" icon_biggrin.gif

Now we can fix that. As your moderator team works their way around the board, they can selectively remove topics from the search keyword index. This means that if you search by keywords, these topics are invisible. But don't worry, if you search for a poster name or use one of the canned searches from the Search Box these topics will still show up.

This also makes our database more efficient as the search indexes is smaller. For example, by removing Michael's "Please Don't Post Here" topic from the search index we saved almost 33,000 rows of information. icon_razz.gif

Hey, We've Got Highlights!
No, we're not talking about hair treatments. A long time ago when BOB was first released there was a really cool feature that would highlight your matched search terms in posts. A while later there was a really nasty exploit released, where "Really Bad People™" could use that feature to load code onto our server and use it to hack our boards, or someone elses for that matter. For this reason we removed the highlight code. Later versions of phpBB2 fixed this issue, but we never had taken the time to add the feature back in until now.

Still More Search Tweaks
When you open the search form you'll notice that you can now search more than one forum at a time. This should really help, especially when you're not sure which is the best forum for your post. You can also select a parent forum and automatically search all of the subforums with one simple checkbox.

Still Even More Search Tweaks
This feature is a bit experimental, but we think active members will really enjoy it. If you are the type of member that stays online all day, you know that clicking this orange icon Image link will take you to the first post since you last logged in to the board. Now, it should take you to the first unread post. How is that different?

Well, if it works icon_smile.gif here's how it will play out. Suppose there is a new topic with 10 posts. When you log in, all ten posts are new, and the orange icon (pictured above) will take you to the first post in the topic. After you've read them all, you go on to the next topic. Meanwhile, a couple of other folks post back in that first topic (post 11 and 12). Under the old software, clicking the orange icon would take you back to post 1, since it was the first post since you logged in. Now, if you have enabled cookies, the orange icon should take you to post 11 instead.

This isn't foolproof, and we're testing it "live", so please provide any feedback.

Search This Topic
With so many search options now, we had to do something to condense the information. While viewing a topic you will now see three (or two) links on the top of the page. They will be labelled Search This Topic, Search This Forum, and Search Box. Each of these options invokes a tiny bit of javascript (so you have to enable javascript on BOB for these to work) that will open the appropriate form.

And yes, if you're looking at a very long topic, you can search within that topic for keywords, which should be very nice.

And Yes, More Search! ! !
Finally, the last search improvement to mention, I promise. If you look through this forum (About BOB) one of the most frequently reported issues is an empty page 2 for search results. We believe that we have identified and fixed the issue.

Other Moderator Tools
Your moderator team can handle reported posts. They can mark topics non-searchable. And we have a brand new "merge" feature. If a user starts with a cross-posted topic, but gets valid responses in both, a moderator can now merge the two topics together and place the resulting topic in the most appropriate forum.

All moderator actions are now automatically logged as well, so you won't have to see these notes in your posts anymore: [Moderator Edit: Moved to General Discussion]

Anti-Bump Notice
It has been a policy on BOB that you are not supposed to "bump" or reply to your own post for at least 24 hours. If you were the last to reply to a topic and you try to reply again, you'll get a red bar across the top of your posting screen that asks you not to do that. If you happen to miss it, you can still post. But we will be trying to cut down on the post bumping and hope this feature will help.

Privacy Policy
Our privacy policy now includes new information as required by Google. It's nothing major, but it says that Google may use cookies to track your responses to the adsense advertisements that we have at the bottom of the forum pages. If you have any concerns, please ask.

Parent Forum "Breadcrumb" Links
Our sub-forums implementation that rolled out quite a while ago was supposed to be a temporary solution. As you can see, it's still here. icon_smile.gif So we have fixed a few nagging details, like the parent forum will now always appear while viewing a sub-forum.

Contact Form
Despite the instructions, we continue to get inappropriate requests via the contact form. We have tried to reword the screen (again icon_rolleyes.gif) and have also added a checkbox challenge to prevent automatic form submissions.

Query Optimization
Something that is not visible is that we have tuned and tweaked just about every single query on the board. Many queries have been replaced or supplemented by a file-based caching system which skips the database access altogether. There aren't any screen shots for this feature, obviously, but we hope the improvements will be noticable anyway.

The Rest of the Story
We have spent literally hundreds of hours coding on this update, and a good portion of that time was spent on background stuff. We won't bother to list everything out for you, but be aware that lots of stuff has changed. We hope that it's all for the better, but if you find anything that isn't working quite right or as expected, don't hesitate to let us know.

Thanks, and welcome to BOB Version III. icon_mrgreen.gif

_________________
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Werner Daehn
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 31, 2008 2:31 am 
Post subject: Re: Scheduled Upgrades - New Features

The left hand

Bob
Site Administrator


looks candy like. eek.gif Very colorful. icon_eek.gif That's my only complaint so far, good job hence. yesnod.gif

Wanna more smilies, btw! boxing_smiley.gif


icon_mrgreen.gif

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Werner Daehn
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Bob
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 31, 2008 2:40 am 
Post subject: Re: Scheduled Upgrades - New Features

Werner, the new BOB rank icon was designed to reflect the entire team of BOB's:

Image linkImage linkImage linkImage linkImage linkImage link

icon_biggrin.gif Hopefully the colors won't be too bad, as BOB doesn't post very often. It does make things stand out.

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It is not enough for a handful of experts to attempt the solution of a problem, to solve it and then to apply it. The restriction of knowledge to an elite group destroys the spirit of society and leads to its intellectual impoverishment.
-- Albert Einstein
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bernard timbal
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 31, 2008 2:41 am 
Post subject: Re: Scheduled Upgrades - New Features

Hi Folk,

I have just seen BOB v3 is on-line again !! Congratulation for this GREAT J icon_mrgreen.gif B...

Just a few comment... I think there is a bug or a badly HTML coding in some combo-box (see picture in attachment the "&nbsp )

Regards
Bernard

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Bob
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 31, 2008 2:43 am 
Post subject: Re: Scheduled Upgrades - New Features

Thanks for the bug report, it should be fixed. It works in IE, but IE is fairly stupid about some of these things. I had not had a chance to test in Firefox yet.
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-- Albert Einstein
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Werner Daehn
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 31, 2008 8:35 am 
Post subject: Re: Scheduled Upgrades - New Features

Image link

What are favorites? Or better, I have added this thread as a favorite but where can I see it, what is the use case?

And what's the story about "add points"????


Any plans to enable custom avatars?

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Werner Daehn
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Dave Rathbun
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 31, 2008 9:06 am 
Post subject: Re: Scheduled Upgrades - New Features

Ooooh, so you've never used favorites before? They're awesome. icon_smile.gif

A "favorite" is sort of like a browser favorite also known as a bookmark. It is a way to add a topic to your private list of favorite topics so that you can easily come back and see it again. I do this all the time for reference tpoics, meaning a topic with a tip that is so good I want to make sure I can find it again without having to search.

Clicking the heart icon with the green plus adds to your favorite list.
Add a Favorte: Image link

Remove a Favorite: Image link

Then, your next question, how do I find them? If you look at the Search Box (which is my name for the drop-down box of canned search options) you will see this:

Image link

There is an option on the list called "My Favorite Topics". If you select that option, you will get a list of topics that you have added to your favorite list so you can easily find them again. As I said, it is sort of a substitute for a Browser Favorites but it is localized to BOB, meaning no matter where you go you will still have a record of your favorite topics.

There is a similar feature for Watching topics. There used to be a text link, which was redundant and has been removed. Now there are two icons (only one displayed at a time) to activate the email or remove it.
When you watch a topic you get an email. Thus, the icon:

Add email aka Start Watching: Image link

Remove email aka Stop Watching: Image link

Points are a way for you to award a topic some recognition. For example, if you think that this topic that you're reading right now is really helpful, then you can click the Add a Point icon Image link. When you do that, the topic gets a "+1" vote. The more votes a topic has, the higher the bar icon goes. You have probably seen the bar icons, they look like this:

Image link Image link Image link Image link Image link

The more bars are filled, the more points the topic has been awarded. So when you are looking at a list of topics, for example on your search results, if one topic has more points than the other you might start there first. You can also (yet another new Search feature for Version III) order your search results by topic points, to ensure that higher-rated topics come out first.

If you look at the list of canned searches (listed earlier in this post) you will see that you can also pull up a list of topics that you have assigned points to.

You are allowed to remove a point Image link but you are not allowed to vote negative for a topic. You either give it +1 or no rating at all. Topic Points or ratings were implemented years ago with the idea that they would be very useful for searching, but it is clear from your question that the use and importance of topic points has not been properly communicated.

With all of the new features I plan to restart my "Feature of the Month" column on BOB, to try to call attention to some of the many different features we have on our board.

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 31, 2008 9:46 am 
Post subject: Re: Scheduled Upgrades - New Features

wdaehn wrote:
Any plans to enable custom avatars?

Here is the very short answer: No, not at this time.

And here is the much longer answer with reasons why. icon_smile.gif

The answer is still "No, not at this time" but there are a variety of reasons for this, the two most important are probably this:

1. Performance of off-site avatars versus size control of local avatars
2. "Taste" or quality of content in avatar images

There are 3 standard options for avatars in phpBB2. You can have hosted avatars in a local gallery (which is how the moderator avatars work now). You can allow users to upload their own avatars. Or you can allow a link to an avatar on another web site. For example, this is my avatar that I use when posting on phpBB2 support sites, as it relates to my www.phpbbdoctor.com domain name:

Image link

That avatar is quite small (less than 100x100 pixels and under 1000 bytes) and so it does not impact the performance of a topic that I participate in. It is also hosted on a very reliable and fast server, so it loads quickly. However, if off-site avatars are allowed then the topic may load more slowly if the hosting server is down, or overloaded.

A logical answer to that is to allow users to upload their own avatars. There is a feature to do that, but it has also been deactivated at this time. There is no easy way to limit avatar sizes with the functions available in php. There are some code change options that have been published by other coders, but they all have potential issues. We can easily limit the file size (bytes) it is the geometry (height and width) that can become an issue.

At the same time there is the "taste" issue. I am a moderator at phpbb.com where this software is supported. The moderator team there spends as much time dealing with users with inappropriate avatars as they do on everything else. It's just a waste of time. icon_smile.gif There is also the question of whether user A is offended by user B's avatar, even though user B's avatar might be seen as completely tame by most standards. For these reasons we do not allow offsite or user-uploaded avatars either. The intent is to retain a fairly professional atmosphere on BOB to avoid any corporate blocks being put in place because someone used something like this as their avatar:

Image link

Or this:
Image link

Or this:
Image link

Every single one of those is in use as an avatar on another board that I go to. I don't think we want any of those here. icon_smile.gif

The last option is to allow locally hosted avatars that are reviewed and added to the gallery. I can tell you that no avatars will be allowed to be uploaded without a proper review, and there is no process in place for this right now.

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 31, 2008 10:33 am 
Post subject: Re: Scheduled Upgrades - New Features

I obviously disqualified myself when asking things that have been here for ages. I'd say, if you want people to give points, it should be more prominent. (I have seen that gauge, but thought it is related to the length of the thread. Actually it is, but in a probability kind of way, isn't it?)
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 31, 2008 11:22 am 
Post subject: Re: Scheduled Upgrades - New Features

wdaehn wrote:
I'd say, if you want people to give points, it should be more prominent.

That's a fair statement. At one point I was writing a "Feature of the Month" article, and I plan to restart that. The problem is that most folks don't care, they just want to get to BOB, get their question answered, and move on. icon_smile.gif

If anyone has suggestions on how to improve the use of this (or any other) feature, by all means please post.

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Dwayne Hoffpauir
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 31, 2008 4:21 pm 
Post subject: Re: Scheduled Upgrades - New Features

Not a bug, but just a cosmetic "difference" that I've noticed only on the viewforum page. There is some extra whitespace above the topic list. On the right-hand side I use the "mark all topics read" link quite a bit, and it is not "snugged up" with the "Last posted" column header any longer. Again, VERY cosmetic!
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 31, 2008 4:45 pm 
Post subject: Re: Scheduled Upgrades - New Features

Did you like it that way? icon_smile.gif I moved it up so that it was more visible. I've put it back.
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 01, 2008 7:47 am 
Post subject: Re: Scheduled Upgrades - New Features

Dave Rathbun wrote:
Did you like it that way? icon_smile.gif I moved it up so that it was more visible. I've put it back.

Even in our BOB activities, we become such creatures of habit ... at least I do. Totally silly, but the first couple of times I went to mark all as read, I actually wondered if the link had moved in the changes. Well it had, but not very far lol.gif . Obviously not a big deal, but the comment was more one of consistency. No other screen had white space above the "main frame" (pun intended). All better now.

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adnohr
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 01, 2008 11:59 am 
Post subject: Re: Scheduled Upgrades - New Features

Is it a new feature that the BOB Daily Digest doesn't work anymore?

Yesterday and Today's emails had 0 posts in all topics.
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