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CCS: Blocks Overview

This is the first blog entry going over specific features in the new Community Content System. See the full announcement for more information:

Our Community Content System allows administrators to create blocks that can be used anywhere within the CCS framework and anywhere within the forums, blogs, galleries, or any other IPB applications. Blocks are small content includes that can contain practically anything.

CCS allows you to create 3 main types of blocks.

Custom Blocks

You can create custom blocks which can contain anything you want. CCS allows you to edit custom blocks in raw HTML mode, bbcode mode (using the RTE from the forums), and raw PHP mode. The first two methods are pretty self explanatory - what you enter is what is displayed. The raw PHP block mode allows you to enter PHP code (you simply print or echo the output) and the result will be displayed where the block is set on the page. Using raw PHP mode, you can extend the system quite a bit to accomplish whatever you want.

Plugin Blocks

Plugin blocks allow the administrator to select an available plugin to include. Examples that are included with CCS by default include:

  • Mini-calendar
  • Poll
  • Welcome block
  • Online friends
  • Online users
  • Watched content

We should note that these plugins are completely abstracted from the system, so adding new plugins does not require any file modifications. You simply upload a new folder to the appropriate location, import an XML file in the admin control panel, and the block is ready for use! We expect modification authors will create some interesting plugins once they get their hands on the framework.

Feed Blocks

Feed blocks allow administrators to create "feeds" of data from their forums (or from an external RSS feed) to display. Feed blocks, like plugin blocks, work through a plug-n-play setup whereby you upload a file that defines certain methods and CCS will automatically detect the new feed type and allow administrators to create feeds from other sources. Default feed source options include:

  • RSS
  • Forums
  • Members
  • Calendar
  • Blogs
  • Downloads
  • Gallery

Each feed type can have multiple sources - for instance, the forum feed type allows you to pull forums (e.g. to create a forum "tree"), topics (e.g. for a "most viewed topics" block), and replies (e.g. a latest replies block). Feed types can define filtering, sorting and limiting options.

A few examples you can easily implement with no coding knowledge required:

  • Featured blog entry block
  • Latest topics block
  • Top posters block
  • Random gallery images block
  • Upcoming calendar events block
  • Latest news from CNN

Most feed types allow ordering by a date field (e.g. "latest"-style blocks), ordering by "random", and ordering by other fields specific to the feed type and source. It would be difficult to detail each possible configuration in a single blog entry, so we encourage you to simply look for yourself when CCS is available.

There are several other block-specific options you might be interested in. For instance, each block can be cached (or not) independently, and you can elect to hide blocks entirely if there is no content to show (rather than seeing an empty block). Each block creates a skin template unique to it, so you can edit each block's skin template independently of any other block for full customization.

Blocks are created through a wizard interface, allowing us to step you through the process entirely. Once created, however, you can quickly edit the template without relaunching the entire wizard process, allowing for faster customization of your site. The wizard interface allows the block process to step you through creation and present you with options specific to the block you are defining.

Additionally, blocks are not restricted to the CCS framework. Blocks are parsed through a template plugin tag, which means that you can add a block to any skin template in IPB. If you created an RSS feed block from your website, for example, you could easily display this block right on your forum index. Or you could create a block with advertisements in it, and use the IPB skin system to display this block anywhere within IPB. Blocks use the full power of the skin system, so you can embed blocks within blocks, use template conditionals, and do anything else that you can do within any other skin template. This means you can even add hook points in your blocks, and use the new IP.Board 3.0's hook features to extend blocks even further!

With all of this in mind, we believe you will find there is no end to the amount of customization that can be acheived through the blocks functionality provided by CCS.



Recommended Comments

Hope the renewal bill of CCS is yearly paid as same as the other components, so that I don't need to remember an 'extra' thing than the previous products. Also hope the copyright removal license covers CCS, too. These are the only 2 wishes I have so far on CCS. :P

Nice job! IPS!

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Am I reading this right? So this will be able to be installed outside of the forum directory and still pull in forum info? Kinda of like the vaporware IP.Dynamic was going to do? PLease tell me yes so I can stop trying to integrate with other CMS's and just getting annoyed with the results.

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[quote name='IWShady' date='16 June 2009 - 06:04 PM']
Am I reading this right? So this will be able to be installed outside of the forum directory and still pull in forum info? Kinda of like the vaporware IP.Dynamic was going to do? PLease tell me yes so I can stop trying to integrate with other CMS's and just getting annoyed with the results.

I mentioned this in another topic, but to reiterate here...

Technically, CCS is installed as an application into IPB. However, we have an index.php file that you can upload to any folder on your server that you can use to access CCS from there. Further to that, if you have mod_rewrite available on your server, you can create a .htaccess file (sample .htaccess code is supplied in the ACP) that will remove /index.php/ from the URL.

So, for example, you can have your main website in the root of your domain (example.com) and your forums in a subfolder (example.com/forums). Then you create a page "example.html" in CCS and you can actually access it from example.com/example.html (even though that file doesn't physically exist).

You can also create folders in CCS so you can have "example.com/articles" or "example.com/family_members/dad.html". You define the folders and filenames (.html extension is not required). More information on all of this will be available in a future blog entry, but for now just know that yes, you will have a lot of control over how the system is accessed.

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while i just spent about $300 having a CMS designed to match my forum since the Nexus plug was pulled on me, ill set my frustration aside as this will be QUITE useful for another project upcoming..

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could You give any rumours about price?
Problem is that we are ordering main page for our community and somebody asked me 500$ for skin and integration and Joomla for my site, and I'm not sure if it's good idea to pay such cash now.
We need to have totally new web page in the end of JULY. Is it possible to do this on CCS?

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so maybe You could do professional layout for my site for 100$?
There is no contract yet signed so maybe I can choose Your offer?
Please provide Your portfolio. Invoice will be of course included? You are not 13years old student?

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@ Nuclear General: I design basic skins and even I agree with you that $500 is way too much for the price of a skin.

@ WallBase Icon: I too would like to know this. For example, can someone add a custom block at the top of the Forums page to add YouTube videos or a Justin.tv streaming video player and such applications? If so, that would be awesome.

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