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IP.Board 3: Personal Conversations

Around ten years ago, I was hard at work on one of the first 'Private Message' modifications for a board that has long ceased to exist. At the time it was an exciting novelty to be able to message another board member. These days it's an expected feature for any seriously considered forum software.

Not much has really changed with messaging's core features. Sure, the interface has become a little smarter and there have been a few little bells and whistles added such as message tracking but ultimately it's still sort-of email based in functionality.

This was a limitation I noted when developing IP.Dynamic. In fact, almost two years ago, I blogged about Personal Topics, the next logical step in private messaging.

Enter Personal Conversations
As, with most of IP.Board 3.0.0's new features, personal conversations - as we like to call them - have been a popular request. A request that we have now fulfilled! Why bother CC-ing and forwarding messages to other members when you can invite them right into the conversation?

How it Works
Where you would normally 'compose' a new message, you now 'start a new conversation'. The form looks largely the same. However, instead of there being a space to "CC" other members, there are boxes for you to invite other members. How many members you can invite is up to the administrator as it's limited to your group settings. In fact, the admin could remove your ability to invite other members completely if they desired to return to a more traditional messaging system.

The recipient and each invited member will be notified they have a new message (in terms of notification, a message is either a new conversation or a reply to any existing conversation). The new conversation will appear in both their "Inbox" and their "New" folders. It will remain in their "new" folder until its read and then it will only be available in the inbox. Why? Well, because of the magic folders. But more of that in a moment.

The conversation looks largely the same as a normal topic does; linearly sorted with the newest replies last. There is even a "fast reply" form much like you use when replying to topics. This instantly makes it easier to view previous replies and keep the 'thread' of conversation without having to delving into your 'sent' folder to see what you replied with.

The topic starter (and any participating super moderator) can choose to 'block' any participant that is blockable. Immunity from being blocked is granted by the "Not Ignorable" setting. This means you can ensure that you (the admin) can never be blocked from a conversation you are participating in. When a participant is blocked, the topic vanishes from their folders until they are unblocked.

Each participant apart from the topic starter can choose to leave a conversation at any time. Once the participant has left the conversation, it is only available in the magic "Finished" folder and the replies no longer count towards your space allowance. The topic starter cannot re-invite you but you can choose to rejoin the conversation at any time.

The topic starter can choose to invite more members (up to their invite allowance) at any time from the conversation display screen. Each participant can also view all participants and see the last time they read the conversation.

Magic Folders
This is the term we give to certain folders that are not editable or removable. They are: "New", "Finished", "All" and "My Conversations". Topics in "New" and "My Conversations" can also be in other folders. "My Conversations" is the default location for any conversation you start. You can then move into another folder -- but it will always be accessible from "My Conversations".
"New" simply lists any new personal conversations or any personal conversations with new replies. So, you could have a conversation in "My Folder". When it receives a new reply, it will also be listed in "New" until you read it.
"Finished" simply lists all the conversations you've left, allowing you to rejoin if desired.
"All", as the name implies, lists all the conversations you are participating in as either a starter, recipient or invitee.

We think this is a very exciting step forward for personal communication and opens up new ways to communicate via the forum. Ten years is a long time to wait for change. We hope you find it worth the wait!

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This sounds fantastic! Can't wait to see it in action--there are many times in the past that I could have used just such a feature. :)

I mentioned this elsewhere, but I'll ask here: Will you be able to search your private messenger? I have my inbox set to a very large number of messages (since I am the admin on a pretty busy board) and it's become nigh impossible to search for old messages. At minimum, I need to be able to search for specific text (title and/or message text) as well as filter by specific users. Anything else (such as a date range) would be gravy.

Thanks!

..Al

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  • Management

Luke - no, they are kept "personal" as per personal messages.

If the topic starter deletes the conversation, then it disappears. It's their prerogative.
You can also delete or edit your own replies, if so desired. It's your prerogative.
Tracking is no longer required. There's a topic participant box to the left of the conversation which shows you who can read the topic and the last time they read it.

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Will there still be a way to CC? I only ask because this will not help when I want to send a message to multiple people but don't want to have them see/talk with the others for the same message. I guess more of what I am asking is there still a way to send the same PM to multiple people without copying and pasting multiple PMs.

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[quote name='Matt' date='Sep 26 2008, 05:22 PM']Luke - no, they are kept "personal" as per personal messages.

Matt, with a forum such as mine being able to moderate this area is vital. Having an area that the administrator has no access to is a hazard. Perhaps you don't just understand the legal ramifications when running a site for kids. Such features are needed to ensure that predators are not inviting children to places off site. As a site administrator, it is my responsibility that I provide some form of protection. Saying "I didn't have the ability to do this" is not a good enough excuse. I just can't ignore what goes on behind the scenes. At the same time, I don't want to have to sift through personal messages either (which is why a keyword flagger would be nice).

Given the scope of how much the messenger has changed (which I love, don't get me wrong), previous modifications that I have developed myself would be useless. Is it too much to ask to provide some kind of "view all" for administrators? An option? Display some type of notice if the feature is turned on.

As far as moderation, what happens if someone reports a personal topic? Is the moderator given silent access to that topic for review? Is there anything at all?

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Nice news, I'll use it for sure! :wub:

EDIT:

Good question, +1 :o

Will there still be a way to CC? I only ask because this will not help when I want to send a message to multiple people but don't want to have them see/talk with the others for the same message. I guess more of what I am asking is there still a way to send the same PM to multiple people without copying and pasting multiple PMs.

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Matt,

I just have another question regarding deletion processes.

1. I understand the conversation starter can delete the conversation, and then will it be deleted from all participant's boxes as well? I don't know how I feel about that, maybe should leave a copy in the participant's boxes and let them choose when/if to delete it? Or make it an admin option?

2. Once a participant "leaves" a conversation and it goes into their "Finished" folder... is it possible to delete the conversation/hide it from view even in the finished folder, or does it stay there forever?

3. A topic starter/super moderator can block a user from a conversation, but is it possible to remove them from the conversation/invite list? Or is that essentially what it does? I understand it as them still showing in the invite list just with (blocked) next to their name and the ability to unblock them, but I think it'd also be a good idea to be able to remove a participant altogether.

Thanks.

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[quote name='Luke' date='Sep 26 2008, 06:28 PM'][quote name='Matt' date='Sep 26 2008, 05:22 PM']Luke - no, they are kept "personal" as per personal messages.

Matt, with a forum such as mine being able to moderate this area is vital. Having an area that the administrator has no access to is a hazard. Perhaps you don't just understand the legal ramifications when running a site for kids. Such features are needed to ensure that predators are not inviting children to places off site. As a site administrator, it is my responsibility that I provide some form of protection. Saying "I didn't have the ability to do this" is not a good enough excuse. I just can't ignore what goes on behind the scenes. At the same time, I don't want to have to sift through personal messages either (which is why a keyword flagger would be nice).

Given the scope of how much the messenger has changed (which I love, don't get me wrong), previous modifications that I have developed myself would be useless. Is it too much to ask to provide some kind of "view all" for administrators? An option? Display some type of notice if the feature is turned on.

As far as moderation, what happens if someone reports a personal topic? Is the moderator given silent access to that topic for review? Is there anything at all?


Thinking about it I'm guessing reporting wouldn't really be needed, just invite a mod/admin and they'd be able to see the conversation and deal with abuse as necessary.

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This is probably the most interesting and exciting feature so far and i didn't really even like the idea originally. I like the cool features listed.

Also (not mentioned in this entry) I like that the messenger is apparently separate from the rest of the control panel. That was something I really hoped for.

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I would like to add a "+1" to the option for reporting it (I am assuming IPB3 is not feature locked).

There is a report centre in IP3, yes? In my opinion, there should be a report button to each reply in PCs (personal conversations) just as there is in any topic.
When a PC is reported, I think either the whole conversation, or just the reported reply (I'd be interested to hear other people's opinions on that) is viewable in the report centre for all who have access to it (maybe even an extra "can view reported PCs?" moderator permission?) until it has been dismissed.

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[quote name='Professor P' date='Sep 26 2008, 07:31 PM']I would like to add a "+1" to the option for reporting it (I am assuming IPB3 is not feature locked).

There is a report centre in IP3, yes? In my opinion, there should be a report button to each reply in PCs (personal conversations) just as there is in any topic.
When a PC is reported, I think either the whole conversation, or just the reported reply (I'd be interested to hear other people's opinions on that) is viewable in the report centre for all who have access to it (maybe even an extra "can view reported PCs?" moderator permission?) until it has been dismissed.

They've already confirmed a report feature for PMs actually, but it doesn't seem as important if you can invite a mod/admin to look at "Personal Conversations". ;)

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Regarding CC-ing other members. I guess I can see a need for that although it's not currently catered for in the messenger. It would get a little complex having both CC and invite boxes.

I may add a feature to 'copy' a conversation to another user with the ability to invite members for existing conversations.

Luke. I'm on the fence. I see what you're saying, but they're personal conversations. And an admin would have literally hundreds of conversations appearing in their inbox each day. An option to view conversations via the ACP is an option but some would see that as a privacy violation unless it was made very clear that admins could read *your* personal topics.

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[quote name='Matt' date='Sep 26 2008, 04:22 PM']If the topic starter deletes the conversation, then it disappears. It's their prerogative.
If the topic starter deletes the conversation and it disappears from EVERYONE's inbox, this is undesirable in my opinion. I like the "conversation" aspect of what you've described in this blog, but I don't like that the topic starter can delete the conversation and having it suddenly vanish everyone's inbox. If the topic starter wants to close the conversation ("Lock" the topic) that's one thing, but deleting should be an admin-configurable option for conversations involving multiple parties, just as giving users the right to delete their own threads in publicly readable forums is a permission.

..Al

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