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IP.Board 3.2.0: View New Content and Topic Marking

Of all the features we receive feedback on, view new content receives the most. To many this is their primary browsing page and it's vital that it works accurately. We've had database level topic tracking for many years. It was introduced in 2.0 and has gone through many refinements for efficiency and accuracy.

We rewrote the system in IP.Board 3.0.0 as a global framework that all applications can use via a small extensions file. This provided great flexibility and a centralized storage area for the marking data. However, there were some technical limitations which made 'View New Content' a little unreliable in certain situations due to the partial reliance on cookie data to provide a full picture of what is unread.

Another common complaint is that partially read topics 'vanish' from the view new content list as they are marked read even when some pages are left unread which leads to confusion about which topics have been fully read.

As always, we listen very carefully to feedback from our customers and this feature kept coming up time and time again so I'm very pleased to say that we've tackled these issues head on in IP.Board 3.2!

Improved View New Content Tracking
We have rewritten large sections of the view new content tracking and parsing to make it much more accurate. We now fetch the data in a large chunk and then post process it against the topic marking table to ensure complete accuracy. This means that you won't have 'read' topics showing up in your view new content list again.

Sphinx Usage
We have added a setting to enable Sphinx users to use plain SQL View New Content to avoid the 15 minute 'delay' in the results due to the delta indexes being cycled. The SQL view new content is incredibly efficient so you can still use Sphinx for the general search areas but give your members instant view new content results.

Improved Topic Marking
Purely based on the feedback we've received from our customers, we've implemented a change so that a topic with many pages isn't marked as read until the last page has been loaded. This means you can partially read a topic and come back to it later. We've made it even easier to locate your last read position with a handy link on the topic page.

Improved View New Content Overview
Another common source of confusion was our two areas "View New Content" and "View Active Content". Most people were confused by the difference and ended up loading the wrong view to locate their unread content. We have now merged these views into one single "View New Content" page. This will instantly resolve that confusion and make it much simpler to fetch the data you are looking for.

The view new content page remembers your last selection preferences and stores them in the database so next time you load the view new content page, it'll automatically use those preferences. There's no need to go into your User CP to set them anymore!

Filter by "Followed" items only
In a future blog entry, we'll discuss the change from "Watched Topics/Forums" to "Follow" but for the purpose of this entry, assume that they are synonymous.
In IP.Board 3.2.0 you can now elect to filter the view new content result set by items you follow. This will search forums and topics you are following (in other words, 'watching') and present topics inside forums that are new or topics that you're following that have new posts. This makes the view new content area much more useful as it is delivering just the content that you want to read.

Please remember that the screenshots are taken from my development board and I've made little effort to 'style' the new additions as we're planning an interface update to some of these areas.

This shows the view new content page showing all unread content from items that I follow. I am following the forum "A Test Forum 2" and the topic "Test counters" but I am not following the forum "Sub Forum".

This shows the 'view first unread post' link available on partially read topics. Clicking it takes you to the first post that you haven't read based on marking data stored in the database.

We really hope that you enjoy these new features and improvements and please keep posting your feedback, we really do listen.

Feel free to comment on this blog entry below or, if you have feedback unrelated to this blog entry, start a new topic in our feedback forum. Be sure to check the What's New in IP.Board 3.2 topic for a running list of announced changes!

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