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Jim M

Invision Community Team
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  1. Like
    Jim M reacted to Matt for a blog entry, Invision Community 4: Pages databases in Clubs   
    Finally, one of the most requested features for clubs in Invision Community is coming with our March 2024 release: Pages databases in Clubs.
    You may be surprised to see a new feature being introduced for Invision Community 4 during our flow of news for Invision Community 5, but as we're committed to Invision Community 4, we wanted to continue to bring optimizations and improvements to the platform.
    What is the benefit of this new feature?
    Clubs enable communities to host multiple micro-communities with many benefits. Clubs allow more specialized and focused discussions on specific topics. This can lead to higher-quality content and a deeper exploration of niche subjects that may get overlooked when posted on a busy forum. Clubs also offer the ability to tailor the community experience based on the needs of that community. That customization is what this feature focuses on.
    Pages is a powerful application that allows truly custom layouts for content areas. Simply by adjusting templates, you can create a news feed layout (it is what we use for this news blog area!) or something even more customized to your needs.
    The March 2024 release allows you to create Pages database categories directly inside clubs, including custom fields and templates.
    How does it work?
    Setting up your Pages database to allow clubs to use categories is simple. Simply allow categories to be created within clubs when creating or editing a database.

    Once that is done, club owners can add a Pages database category to their club in the same way they can add topics, galleries, etc.

    Once the Pages database category has been added, you can then add content as you would any other club area with the added features of Pages, including custom templates and custom fields.
    This example club uses a custom Pages database listing template to show the articles in a custom format along with custom field data.

    Likewise, viewing an article in this example club showcases the use of custom templates to present the content differently from the standard topic templates Invision Community uses elsewhere.

    Allowing Pages database categories inside clubs brings the opportunity for more complex custom areas making use of multiple custom fields along with truly custom layouts using templates. This is a great way to bring additional areas, such as news articles, into your club areas to compliment discussions.
    We hope you enjoy this feature, and if you have any comments, please leave them below!
  2. Like
    Jim M reacted to Matt for a blog entry, Invision Community 5: New Live Community Features   
    Bring your community to life with the latest live community features coming to Invision Community 5.
    Last year we introduced new features that immediately showed who was currently reading a topic and who was replying. This feature leveraged new technologies to connect members with each other instantly.
    In this blog post, we'll delve into the latest live community features for Invision Community 5 and explore how they enhance our sense of togetherness within our communities. We'll examine how these features instantly notify us about new events, updates, or interactions and how they contribute to a shared sense of presence.
    These features go beyond the static posts and comments we've grown accustomed to and introduce a real-time element. Whether you're part of a support community, a gaming forum, or a professional network, these features will have you feeling like you're interacting with other community members simultaneously, fostering a strong sense of shared experiences. 
    We've all been involved in a busy topic where you're keen to see what replies your latest post has. Select packages on Invision Community 4 can see who is active on a topic and who is typing, but you have to hit refresh to see the new posts added to the topic. If you're anything like me, then you hammer refresh until something new appears.
    With Invision Community 5, this is no longer a problem. As you interact with a topic, new replies are automatically added to the topic without needing to refresh. This one feature brings the conversation to life, and you get a real sense of other members interacting with the topic at the same time as you.

    Did you drop a razor-sharp GIF or post something applause-worthy? Watch as others react to your content in real time with Invision Community 5. There's no need to refresh or return to the topic later to see who enjoyed what you wrote.
    Getting rewarded for your content is gratifying and encourages you to post more and show your appreciation for other's content via reactions.
    Notifications have long been a valuable way to be notified when anything important happens in your community. It may be that someone has quoted your content, tagged you in a post or started a new topic in a forum you're following.
    With Invision Community 5, you can watch the notification count rack up in real time, alerting you to new events that you may otherwise miss as they happen.

    We hope that you've enjoyed reading about these new features and look forward to them coming to select packages for Invision Community 5. They provide a sense of togetherness and immediacy, making it feel like we're interacting with fellow community members simultaneously. 
    We're keen to hear what you think, please leave a comment below.
    The features discussed in this announcement will not be available for Invision Community Classic. Click here to learn more about switching to our platform to get this and other benefits.
  3. Like
    Jim M reacted to Ehren for a blog entry, Invision Community 5: A more performant, polished UI   
    As showcased in our past blogs, Invision Community 5 introduces a brand new, modern interface which brings improvements to performance, aesthetics and mobile usability.
    An optional side navigation panel, new view modes, light/dark modes, customizable header layouts, a search modal and a mobile navigation bar are some of the things we've showcased previously. Today, lets take a closer look at some other miscellaneous changes that we've been working on while developing Version 5, including some of the code reductions and performance improvements that we've been able to achieve in the process.
    For those of you who are developers, we'll also give some simple explanations of how (and why) we've implemented these changes.
    Sidebar widgets are perfect for displaying content feeds, featured members, announcements, advertisements and more on your page. In version 4 however, the widget column would often become an empty space once the widgets had been scrolled past:
    In version 5, widgets now stick to the screen once the last widget has been reached, ensuring your readers have more convenient  access to your widgets rather than a void space:
    The Messenger is a great way to reach out to members when a private chat is more appropriate than a topic. Inspired by modern email clients, the messenger in Version 5 has been revamped with a full-height, sticky inbox, a longer message snippet, mini profiles and a more polished UI - all with a 25% reduction in CSS and a 100% reduction in Javascript.
    Sticky elements
    We've mentioned sticky elements a couple of times now, so lets take a look behind the scenes at how they're created, and some of the performance improvements with Version 5. Traditionally, sticky elements were created using Javascript which would calculate the position of the element on the page and adjust it's stickiness every time the page was scrolled. Scroll events can be quite taxing for browsers, and when it comes to Javascript, the less, the better (especially when aiming for great page speed scores)!
    With that in mind, all sticky elements are now handled using sticky positioning via CSS, which is a native and much more performant way of controlling these elements. We've been able to replace an entire 400 line Javascript component with just 3 lines of CSS.
    Grids and Masonry
    Grids have previously been handled in a similar fashion. Javascript would scan all elements within a grid to determine how many could fit on a single line, and would then shuffle these elements into position after the page was loaded or resized. CSS has since introduced its own grid properties, which has allowed us to replace more than 350 lines of Javascript with just a few lines of CSS, resulting in more performant page rendering and nicer looking grids (especially on small-medium displays such as mobiles and tablets).

    Fun fact: We first introduced a similar performance improvement to "masonry grids" in our Gallery update from January this year, by replacing more than 400 lines of Javascript with, you guessed it, just a few lines of CSS.

    Click targets
    We wanted to make Version 5 as simple as possible to navigate, and one way of doing that has been by implementing larger click targets. Clicking anywhere inside an entry in a table or grid will now take you to that entry (you can still click on other links like normal within the click target, such as subforums or profile links). Click targets are optional and can be disabled via your theme settings if necessary.
    Data Lists (tables)
    Speaking of tables, they too have been revamped. Tables automatically adapt to the space they've been assigned to (for those curious, this is done using CSS container-queries), so they're always neat regardless of the screen size, with no overflow or squashed layouts. Behind the scenes, the two columns below are created with identical code, yet they're quite different visually due to the size which they've been allocated. Even with these improvements, tables have received a 25% reduction in CSS.

    Profiles have been polished for Version 5 and include some nice improvements such as sticky widgets and tabs. 
    On mobiles, the side column collapses into a carousel, and the sticky tabs allow you to easily flick between content types without scrolling to the top of the page.

    You may have noticed in the above clip that tabs on mobiles are now scrollable, compared to a dropdown menu from version 4. We made this change to ensure that tabs are given more equal exposure on small devices, and have managed to reduce the CSS by a whopping 80%.
    Last and certainly not least, are carousels. Carousels are great for displaying large amounts of data in a confined space and they've been rewritten from scratch for version 5. Previously, a Javascript library was used to create the "scroll effect", however this has never been the smoothest experience on laptop trackpads and touch devices.
    In version 5, carousels are powered by native smooth-scrolling and scroll-snapping, which results in a much nicer user experience, especially on touchscreens. We've been able to remove a staggering 95% of the Javascript, substituting it with just a few lines of CSS.
    To be honest, we've only just scratched the surface here! In addition to these changes, we've modernized (and reduced code) in almost every component throughout the suite including avatars, cover photos, dropdown menus, forms, inputs, buttons, lists, off-canvas menus, side menus, columns and more!
    Combined, these changes result in not only a significant reduction in code, but also a polished UI that performs smoothly on desktop and touch devices. We're excited to continue modernizing Invision Community well into the future as new technologies and techniques become available to us, and are looking forward to getting it in your hands in 2024.
  4. Like
    Jim M reacted to Matt for a blog entry, Invision Community 5: Quickly find the most helpful answers   
    Forum platforms have a wide range of uses, from helping with support to sharing knowledge, ideation and social interaction.
    Topics can span years, and once the initial explosion of replies has passed, the topic lives on in local search and search engines for future viewers to discover and get value from.
    However, it's not always easy to get the best content from a very long topic.
    You may have noticed that when you come to a topic seeking an answer, some replies are less than helpful.

    How do I fix my Apple Watch? Like this!
    It's common to find a lot of social content mixed in with useful replies. Jokes, GIFs and off-topic musings are all great while the topic develops organically in real-time. Having fun is critical to feeling a sense of belonging in a community. However, those coming to the topic a little later, say from a link Google has suggested, just want to get the useful content in the fastest way possible.
    That's where 'helpful' voting comes in.

    A very helpful reply
    Invision Community can already mark a single post as the best solution for that topic. Still, not every topic gets a definitive answer, and some community strategies resist quickly marking a post as the best answer to encourage more discussion rather than effectively ending it.
    Even when you have a definitive answer, there is often value in other highly rated posts offering more context, alternative solutions and more thorough explanations.
    With Helpful voting, your members are encouraged to flag which posts they find helpful in the topic. When enough votes are added to a single post, they are suggested as a possible answer. You can also tune out the noise and view the most helpful replies only.
    This is a powerful way to get the very best content from a topic in a short space of time.

    Want to just view the most helpful replies? No problem.
    If you eventually choose to mark a post as the definitive answer, the suggested post will be replaced with the answer you choose, but you can still see the posts voted as helpful to gain further context.
    The helpful voting works independently from reactions, which tend to cluster around social content. Social media conditions us to add a like or funny reaction to content that gets an emotional response. Indeed, a lot of the most highly reacted content is funny content. Social reactions are valuable when building connections between community members but often don't reflect what is the most useful content.

    The suggested most helpful post threshold is configuration via the Admin Control Panel.
    Helping your members find the best content within topics helps them do more in your community with less time.
    Forums continue to evolve, and while social content helps develop the community, content that solves problems and helps others is the rocket fuel you need to keep members and attract new audiences.
    Helpful voting also feeds into picking Community Experts, a new feature for Invision Community 5, but we'll talk about that in a future blog.

    A sneak peak at the new Community Expert badge
    I hope you found this update ✨helpful✨, and if you have any questions or comments, let me know in the comments!
  5. Like
    Jim M reacted to Ehren for a blog entry, Invision Community 5: The All New Theme Editor   
    Welcome to the third video of our sneak peak series! Today, we're really excited to introduce you to the new Theme Editor!
    Built entirely from scratch, the new editor provides an instant, live preview of your theme, as soon as you modify a setting. It's a zero-code approach to creating themes, and has been designed to ensure your theme adheres to your color scheme and looks great on every device, with very little effort. Let's take a closer look!
    Paragraph 1.mp4
    To the left of the editor, you’ll see a live preview of your community. You can navigate to any page, as if you were browsing your site normally. At the top left of the editor, you’ll find icons which change the theme between the light and dark color schemes. Below that are buttons which change the viewport size, from desktop, to tablet, to mobile. This is a really convenient way to ensure your theme looks great on every device, without needing to manually resize your browser window.
    Lets take a closer look at the Color Palette.
    Editing colors in version 4 was a fairly time consuming process. For example, modifying the color scheme from the default blue to another color meant that 26 theme settings needed to be changed. In contrast, the Version 5 theme is powered by just 3 colors: Primary colors are responsible for styling the main elements on your page, such as the Start new topic button. Secondary colors control minor elements, such as pagination links, while the Base color is responsible for controlling the overall tint on your site.
    Clicking on these colors opens a color picker. Let’s change this blue color to yellow.
    Video 2.mp4
    You’ll notice two things have happened here. First, the preview window updated as soon as we modified the color. All elements which were previously blue, now use yellow, such as the Start new topic button. Secondly, the text color in our button has changed from white to black. This is our automatic contrast feature and it ensures our text is easy to read on our new yellow background, since white text may be more difficult to read for some viewers.
    Below the color picker is a text box, with our color displayed in HSL. You can paste your own colors in this box, in any color format and that color will be applied to your elements.
    Video 3.mp4
    The Base color controls the tint of your backgrounds and text colors. Let's try a few examples to demonstrate how easy it is to recolor your theme.
    Video 4.mp4
    Next up are Logos! Invision Community 5 has three logo types: a text logo, an image logo for desktops and an image logo for mobiles. Let’s edit our text logo.
    Video 5.mp4
    After changing the text to “Theme Editor Demo”, we can see that the logo in our preview window updates instantly with our new text. Below that, we have multiple options to help us style the text logo, such as font-family These fonts are a combination of system fonts and web fonts. The web fonts are hosted locally on your site for optimal performance. Additionally, we can also change the font-weight and font-size. We might want a different font-size for mobile logos, so that can be edited too. We can see a live preview by changing our viewport to the mobile option.
    If you’d prefer to use an image logo, you can assign it using the Image Logo options. Image logos are made up of 2 upload fields, one for the light theme and one for the dark theme. Below these upload fields, a slider lets you resize your logo so it fits neatly.
    Video 6.mp4
    Layout options let you assign the default layouts in your community. In our first sneak peak video, we showcased the new side panel layout, feed view for forum categories, and compact view for topics. These can all be enabled via the theme editor using a simple select menu.
    Video 7.mp4
    Lets explore some Color options! In the Header panel, we can see a list of elements we can customize. Clicking on an element opens the Swatch List, which is a list of 22 colors that are powered by the Base, Primary and Secondary colors from earlier. We have 6 "light" base colors, 6 "dark" base colors as well as various shades of our primary and secondary colors. Clicking on any of these swatches will apply that color to your element.
    But what if none of these colors suit your requirement? That’s where the Color Picker comes in handy. Here, we can easily choose any color, or even paste in our own color like before.
    Video 8.mp4
    A major hurdle with themes in version 4 was customising the header. Depending on the complexity, this would typically involve modifications to both the CSS and HTML. That is a thing of the past with version 5! If we flick over to our Settings tab, you’ll see a brand new interface for customising the header. A new drag and drop feature allows you to easily reposition header elements without touching a single line of code.
    Video 9.mp4
    It’s an incredibly fun tool to play with, and we’re really excited to hear what you think!
    Below the drag and drop area, we can customise the header further by using sliders to adjust its height, or we can enable navigation icons with a single click. Body settings let you can customise global elements such as the body background color, text colors, the max-width of your site, the font-family, font-size and more.
    Editing Content boxes has always required code modifications in the past. Using this new editor, we can adjust not only the colors of the boxes, but also the borders and shadows. Theme editing has honestly never been this easy!
    Video 10.mp4
    And there you have it! Our brand new theme editor. With a few simple clicks and drags, we've been able to create a customised theme that looks great on desktops and mobiles, with a new color scheme, new logos, a customised header, new page layouts and restyled content boxes - all without touching a single line of code.
    Speaking of code, for those of you who want to apply more advanced customisations, we’ve added a really convenient way to access your custom CSS file, via a new dialog box.
    Video 11.mp4
    And last but not least - the new theme editor is fully responsive, so even if you’re away from the desk, so you’ll be able to change colours and settings, upload new logos, redesign your header and even add your own code!
    Video 12.mp4
    Developing this new editor has been a lot of fun, and it’s even more fun to use. Themes have never been easier to edit and we're really excited for you all to get your hands on it so you can have a play for yourself - but for now, let us know what you think the comments, and we’ll see you next time!
  6. Like
    Jim M reacted to Ehren for a blog entry, Invision Community 5: Dark mode, accessibility, performance and mobiles!   
    Welcome to the second video of our sneak peak series! Today we'll be taking a closer look at the new Invision Community interface, including dark mode, accessibility improvements, performance improvements and the mobile layout! Before we begin, I should mention that this is a pre-alpha version of Invision Community 5, so some areas of the design may change before the official release.
    New traditional header design
    In our previous video, we showcased our new, optional side panel which formats your navigation into a vertical list. For those who prefer a traditional, horizontal header, here it is!

    A much more compact header compared to version 4, the new design condenses the navigation bar into a single row, moving all sub-navigation items into dropdown menus. A new, optional area below the text logo allows you to add your website slogan or announce events such as anniversaries or holidays, and our new search modal provides convenient access to the advanced search filters from any page on your community.

    Accessible interface
    The main content area has been designed with accessibility as a priority. High contrast text colours and larger font-sizes help to make reading more comfortable and clickable table rows (which can be enabled or disabled via the Theme Editor) allow you to navigate between pages more easily. A visible focus ring significantly improves navigation for visitors who find it more comfortable to browse with their keyboard TAB key, instead of using their mouse (ie. visitors with conditions such as Parkinson's disease, or those who have temporarily lost function due to a broken arm).
    Elements are highlighted while navigating with the keyboard
    Dark mode
    Dark mode has become increasingly popular over the past few years - so it's no surprise that Version 5 has been designed from scratch with both light and dark mode in mind. With version 4, it was necessary to manage two themes in order to provide a light and dark colour scheme. In version 5 though, all of that is handled by a single theme.
    By default, your members will be able to choose their own color scheme preference: either light, dark, or system. System assigns a color scheme based on your system preferences - so if your device automatically switches to dark mode at night, your community will too! With that said, as an administrator, you also have the option to restrict your site to a single color scheme - so if you ONLY want to offer a dark theme, that's easily achieved.

    Despite all of these new inclusions, the version 5 UI has been coded with significant reductions in both CSS and Javascript. We'll dive deeper into code reductions in a future blog entry, however two great examples are:
    - Grids: which have had a 100% removal of Javascript and are powered by only a few lines of CSS, resulting in a faster rendering time, especially for users on slow connections.
    - And carousels: which have had a 95% reduction in Javascript and now rely on native browser scrolling, for a much smoother experience on both desktop and mobile!
    Additionally we've removed a number of helper libraries that are no longer needed with modern browsers saving even more.
    Mobile UI
    With an incredible amount of mobile visitors accessing the web, we’ve placed a huge priority on redesigning the interface to ensure it lives up to todays standards.
    A new navigation bar at the bottom of the page provides convenient access to your activity feed, notifications, messages, a search panel, and navigation links. A conscious effort was made to ensure that this information was available within a single tap, and we found that a bottom bar like this was easier to interact with compared to icons in the header.

    The mobile navigation bar from Invision Community 5
    A goal of the mobile UI was to display elements that were previously only available on larger devices, while still maintaining a clean interface. For example, to improve navigation, we've added a scrollable breadcrumb list to the top and bottom of the page. To improve guest participation, we added Sign In and Sign Up links to the bottom navigation bar. These links were previously hidden within the hamburger menu, so we feel like this will really benefit those looking to improve registrations. And as demonstrated in last weeks video, profile information is now available within posts, comments and reviews on small devices.
    We’re really excited for you to literally have a hands on experience with the new mobile interface of Invision Community 5, and we're interested to hear your feedback in the comments!
  7. Like
    Jim M reacted to Ryan Ashbrook for a blog entry, New Spam Prevention Features   
    Spam has always been an ongoing battle for community owners as spammers find new ways to circumvent existing anti-spam practices.
    We have seen an uptick in new ways spammers are breaking through existing defense.
    As such, we here at Invision Community continue to look at new ways for community managers to combat against spam. For our September release, we have added several new tools that can prevent spammers from registering in the first place and help combat them even if they register successfully.
    Let's take a look at these new tools and settings.
    Geolocation based registration filtering
    Oftentimes, spam attacks can originate using bots and servers from specific regions. Using our existing Geolocation service, we have now added filters that will allow administrators to hold registrations from specific regions for administrator review, or deny the registration entirely.

    Using this, administrators whose communities are under a spam attack from a specific region, can temporarily filter registrations from that region. Multiple regions can be defined at once, and each individual region can either be held for administrator review, or denied completely.
    Disposable Email Filtering
    We have added an extra option to our spam defense system to filter users registering with throwaway disposable emails, which are often used by spammers to bypass email validation.

    During Spam Defense checking, we now also check the domain in use for the registration against a frequently maintained list. If the user passes through the normal spam defense checking, but is found to have a disposable email address, then the administrator can define one of the following actions to be taken.
    Allow the registration to proceed Allow the registration, but moderate all posts (which an option to remove moderation after a certain amount) Flag the account for administrator review Register the account but immediately ban it Completely deny the registration For both Geolocation and disposable email filtering, the existing Spam Defense Whitelist is always honored ahead of these filters.
    Contact Us Email Verification
    A common pain point has been the Contact Us page. While the spam does not go to a user facing location, it does still land in the administrators inbox, or other area defined by the sites Contact Us settings.
    To help with this, if a visitor who is not logged in attempts to use the Contact Us page, then in addition to the existing CAPTCHA, the administrator can optionally require the person to verify their email address before the message is ever sent. This applies to all Contact Us behaviors, including any added by third party applications.
    Cloud Content Analysis
    For our Invision Community Cloud customers, we have also added an additional layer of spam prevention after registration.

    After a user registers, or if the account has been dormant, then the first few content submissions will be analyzed using a custom developed algorithm within our platform.
    The algorithm takes into factor many different elements of the content, and will rank the post between 1 (not spam) and 5 (definitely spam).
    The algorithm can be constantly adjusted and improved based on trends without any intervention from the administrator, and without the need to update to new releases of Invision Community.
    The administrator can then decide one of the following actions to take based on the score that was received.
    Allow the submission Hold the submission for moderator review Deny the submission completely Of course, specific groups can be made exempt from this and not have their content checked at all, which is useful for sites with subscription based registrations which may not want to have this applied to new subscribers, but do want to have new non-subscribers checked.
    Spam can quickly become a headache for most community managers, and these new tools will help further combat it at the source. For our enterprise and Invision Community Cloud customers, being able to check for spam when posting is a new tool which will further filter out more of those annoying topics and posts.
    We hope these new features give you additional tools in the fight against spam.
    The features and changes presented here are available in the following packages:
    Geolocation based registration filtering, Disposable Email Filtering, Contact Us Email Verification: Beginner, Creator, Creator Pro, Team, Business, Enterprise, Invision Community Classic (Self Hosted).
    Content Analysis: Beginner, Creator, Creator Pro, Team, Business, Enterprise.
  8. Like
    Jim M reacted to Matt Finger for a blog entry, Giving you control with Email Bounce Management   
    Our May update brings Email Bounce Management to our Invision Community cloud platform. In this blog entry, I'll go over what it is, why it's important, and how you can use it when needed.
    What is it?
    For those who may not know, an email bounce occurs when an email message is sent and the recipient either doesn't exist (hard bounce) or they have blocked the sender (you!) in a spam complaint (soft bounce).
    When an email message bounces we block that address at the cloud level so it cannot receive new messages from any community. This is considered good practice for email service providers, and ensures that we maintain a low bounce rate when sending emails on behalf of all the communities on our platform.
    Please note this pertains to the Invision Community Cloud platform email service. If you use SMTP or SendGrid, email bounces are managed externally and may enforce different policies.
    What Bounce Management Tools are we providing?
    We're giving you the ability to see which members have blocked email addresses, and to unblock emails known to be safe.
    Seeing which emails are blocked
    In the AdminCP Members table (AdminCP > Members > Members), on cloud you will see a new filter: "Email Undeliverable". These are any member accounts that have emails blocked due to soft or hard bounces.

    Additionally, on the front end, if a Member's email is blocked, they will see a warning indicator in the Nav/User Bar prompting them to change their email in their account settings.

    Lifting Email Blocks
    As stated earlier, when an email is blocked, it is blocked on the cloud platform level. If the block is not locked (which can happen if it's unblocked too many times), you will see a warning the Member's AdminCP Profile page.

    Clicking into it you will see an option to unblock.

    One final note on the Email Block Policy
    If a situation occurs when an email is unblocked and gets blocked again a certain number of times, the block becomes permanent. In these cases, you will be able to see that the email is blocked but there won't be an option to unblock, and the member will have to change their email to resume receiving your Community's messages through us. This ensures that the Invision Community cloud platform retains a good email sending reputation.
    Thanks for reading and as always stay tuned to for the latest and greatest upcoming features and insights!
    The features discussed in this announcement are not available for Invision Community Classic. Click here to learn more about switching to our platform to get this and other benefits.
  9. Like
    Jim M reacted to Matt Finger for a blog entry, Introducing Live Topics   
    I am excited to officially announce the first release of Live Topics coming in our April release of Invision Community for selected cloud plans!
    Live Topics is a hosted live chat and question-and-answer event that is converted into a forum topic upon completion. It combines the fun and togetherness of a live event with the permanence of a forum topic allowing you to continue the conversation long after the event has ended.
    Recap: The first look at Live Topics including a video showing the main features.
    I know many of you on our community have already had sneak peeks and have been patiently waiting, so without further ado, let's get into it.
    Who is Live Topics for?
    Live Topics is a great way to bring people together for a live chat event. We have been using Live Topics for our monthly release chat webinars. In the past we have used Zoom to host the live stream and take some questions. This approach is fine, however once the Zoom finishes, the chat history isn't available on our community. We upload a video for those who missed the event, but it doesn't feel interactive.
    Live Topics automatically converts the questions and answers to a regular forum topic which allows the discussion to continue. Furthermore, the questions are separated from the general chat during the event making it easier for hosts to find and answer questions raised during the event.
    Live Topics is perfect for anything from product release events to monthly bookclub discussions and everything in between.
    How does it work?
    Live Topics are live virtual events within a community. The process to creating a live topic is simple:
    Schedule your Live Topic from the ModeratorCP. When it's time to start, a host starts the live session. This is the bread and butter of the system; attendees can answer your questions and post chat messages all in realtime. All done? End the topic. It will be converted to a regular forum topic for further discussion and reference.  
    Scheduling and Managing Live Topics
    Live topics are managed from the ModeratorCP.

    When scheduling a live topic, you can configure the following options:
    Duration - This is the scheduled duration that attendees will see before the event. This sets expectations of time for your community. Add To Events - This option creates a new Calendar Event in your Community. This allows the live topic to be searched, viewed, and promoted like other event within your community. Live Video URL - This is the url of a YouTube embed. You can also add this after starting the live session. (Support for platforms other than YouTube coming soon 🙂). We stream Zoom straight to a live Youtube video currently. Attendees - This option specifies who can attend the live topic. Leaving as "Recommended" allows any registered member to join. Staff - The staff are responsible for moderating user generated content as it comes in. The default setting will add all groups that are allowed to moderate live topics. You can adjust this default in the AdminCP. Additional Hosts - The hosts have the highest level of permission in the live topic. They create questions, update the video url, and guide the discussion. By scheduling the Live Topic, you are automatically a host but you can add more hands to help. All hosts get a reminder notification close to when the event is due to start. Require Approval for question replies/chat messages - During the live session, you will likely want to control the rate of incoming content (especially questions). Chat Message creation can be locked during the live session.  
    Hosting the Live Topic
    To start a live topic, you need to click into it from the ModeratorCP. Alternatively, if it was added to an Event you can click into it from there. Then just click start, it's as simple as that. Your attendees will see a waiting page with a count down.

    It is worth mentioning that the live topic cannot
    Run without any hosts in attendance. When hosts abandon a live session, it will automatically end within a few minutes Run longer than 6 hours. The aim of Live Topics is to accompany a live event and to be short term compared to regular forum topics. The live session will also end automatically in this case  
    Once it's started, the UI is divided into have 2 main areas: One for Main Questions and another for Chat. Any video streams you embed are show in the top right and automatically started.

    Main Questions (and Replies)
    Main Questions and their replies are what will be preserved when the topic is converted into a forum topic. Only staff can create main questions in order to ensure smooth topic flow.  For each question, you can also configure if the replies are "locked". A main question can be unlocked, locked to all members, or locked to non-staff. When a question is locked, new replies cannot be created.  
    Chat Channels
    For each Live Topic, there is a General Chat and a Staff Chat Channel. If a member is non-staff, instead of the Channel selector tabs, they will see only "Chat". When a non-staff attendee creates a chat message, it can be marked as a "question". This lets the host know that the question was intended for others to respond to. Optionally, the host can even convert the message into a question so it's integrated into the standard topic post-conversion  
    Live Stream Tools
    Hosts can select a time in the live feed a main question was answered. The video embed can also optionally be changed mid session. This is useful if you don't know the live stream URL before hand.  
    Moderation Tools
    Staff can hide or delete questions, chat messages and replies. The reply and chat feeds can also be set to automatically hide new items on creation. Non-staff attendees can report content. Reports show in the staff chat channel. Last but not least, staff members can silence attendees. This takes away their privileges to reply and create chat messages.  
    The Converted Topic
    When the live session completes, our Cloud platform gets to work converting all that data into a regular forum topic. Converted Live Topics feature a questions box which allows you to drill down to specific questions within the topic.

    The questions can be browsed individually, or even split into separate topics!
    Lastly, new replies come with the option to select an originating question.

    That's a wrap (for now)
    We look forward to seeing all of you use live topics on your communities. As we've hinted elsewhere there are many more features coming soon, so keep your eyes peeled!
    The features discussed in this announcement are not available for Invision Community Classic. Click here to learn more about switching to our platform to get this and other benefits.
  10. Like
    Jim M reacted to Matt for a blog entry, Live Topics: A first look   
    We're excited to bring you a first look at our new and innovative Invision Community feature: Live Topics.
    Live Topics is a hosted live chat and question-and-answer event that is converted into a forum topic upon completion. It combines the fun and togetherness of a live event with the permanence of a forum topic allowing you to continue the conversation long after the event has ended.
    Your event doesn't have to just be text based! Live Topics allows you to feature a live video for your attendees. You can present to your attendees while fellow hosts select messages from the attendee chat to raise as questions for answers via the video or message replies from other attendees. 
    Once the live event has ended, the questions and answers are converted into a permanent forum topic. Additional replies to the forum topic can reply to a specific question raised in the live event.

    If you choose to answer on the live video, you can mark the timestamp of the answer, allowing members to jump to that segment of the video from the forum topic.

    We're thrilled to finally share details of this new and exciting Invision Community feature. Although this is just a first look at Live Topics, we will follow this blog up with others drilling into the details, and multiple use cases Live Topics offers.
    Live Topics is unique to Invision Community and will soon be available to selected cloud plans.
  11. Like
    Jim M reacted to Gary for a blog entry, Keep it simple, silly!   
    Welcome to my first Invision Community blog post!
    For those that haven't yet seen me making my way around this community, I'm Gary, and I have just recently joined the Customer Service team at Invision Community. I want to take this moment to thank the staff for giving me such an amazing opportunity and welcoming me with open arms.
    My history goes way back to circa 2004-2005 (I was still in high school) where I first dug my hands into forums and forum software in the good old Invisionfree days. Through the years I have created too many communities to count, including my own free post-to-host hosting service (remember those days?). Some were successful and so many others were anything but. Little did I know these experiences would only get me more and more hooked into this virtual world!
    Forums have been more to me than just an invaluable source of information. They are communities of like-minded people sharing their knowledge, experiences, hobbies and most of all, coming together in a common place to just be themselves. I have experienced nearly every forum software out there, though I always made my way back to the Invision Community suite of products as I not only found it to be a very powerful and dynamic bit of kit, but it always provided the solutions I wanted and needed for my communities.
    I thought I would share some tips on things that have worked for me when creating my own community. This will make up part one of a set of planned blog entries relating to community tips in the coming weeks, so stay tuned!

    Use the KISS principle.
    One thing I have found in order to engage guests and new and existing members of my community is to incorporate the 'Keep it simple, silly!' principle.
    When you visit a community and you're overwhelmed with categories, forums and unnecessary pinned topics, you are actually not doing yourself a favour. It mostly adds confusion to your community and does the complete opposite to having things organised. Too much clutter is never a good thing, and keeping things orderly and ensuring content is concise will provide your members with a more comfortable and easier overall experience. I did not incorporate this principle into my communities, and soon realised that was a huge contributor to the cause of their demise. 😅
    Keep some of these in mind:
    Can I combine forums that are similar in content? Do I need so many separately pinned topics? Can I write more concisely? Targeting this point on the more administrative side of things like 'how to use this forum' topics, forum descriptions, etc. Are there things that are already self-explanatory and do not require repeat descriptions or mentions? Can I use less jargon and target my writing to a wider audience? Am I using too many graphics? If the above is not a factor, can graphics assist in reducing large chunks of plain text? When is too much, in fact, too much? Quality over quantity as they say. How about, less is more?
    Whatever stance you take and whichever influential quote you can most relate to, you want your audience to feel welcomed, not overstimulated with irrelevant content you think they need to see. Let your audience guide your community. I will delve into this further in the next blog entry.
    I'll leave it there for this edition, otherwise I may just keep you here all day...
    I'm sure there are many of you who are doing this so well already, so please share your own useful and proven tips and tricks. What have you found works for you and your community? What is something you are doing differently or uniquely in an effort to keep it simple?
  12. Like
    Jim M reacted to Jordan Miller for a blog entry, Unite your community with the Events application   
    Bringing your community together with both online and in-person events is one of the most powerful ways to create meaningful connections, long-lasting relationships and one-of-a-kind experiences. 
    The pandemic put a stop to many in-person events, but now that the dust is settling and people are beginning to return to some sense of normalcy, physical events are becoming commonplace. However, we can’t ignore the recent surge in online events now that COVID inspired a new norm. 
    Previously, the Calendar application acted as more of a personal planner, focusing on daily, weekly, monthly and yearly happenings. That functionality still exists, but we’ll leave it to Google Calendar and the likes to handle your standard appointments. 
    Instead, we’re shifting focus to community-driven events with our appropriately named app, Events, available for all Invision Community clients. 
    Our Events app features a beautiful overview page that showcases community events.
    Let’s take a closer look: 
    Featured Events

    Community leaders can now promote member-driven events with the “Feature” option. This highlights the event on the main overview page for all to see. It includes the event’s cover photo, date, title and description.
    Search Events

    Search for community events that are located near you. 
    Tapping the “use my location” prompt allows your browser to identify your physical location, then shows a list of events that are in close proximity to you. 
    Get granular with your search. Filter by general  location, date and/or whether the event is an in-person or online event. 


    When searching, a map is also available for you to see in an instant what community events are happening.

    Happening Near You

    This section shows a list of events happening near you. It includes a snap shot of the events happening near your physical location, as well as a map of where the event is taking place.
    This tailor-made page displays events based on geo-location, so communities with members from all over the world will view and experience the Events page differently. 
    If there aren’t any events happening, a message block is displayed instead that says: 
    Happening Today

    On the day of, your event will include a badge to show the entire community the special event is happening.

    Online Events

    This section displays a list of virtual events within your community. Events are shown in chronological order by date and time.

    Browse by month

    We extended the search functionality to automatically show both in-person and online events categorized by the month. 
    This is particularly useful to plan what events you’d like to attend and also see what’s in the pipeline. 
    Event Page

    Here's an example of what an Event's page looks like. It includes the event details, a map if it's an in-person event and an “Open Event” linked button for the online events. Optionally members can RSVP or confirm they attended when you request that per event.

    A particularly useful addition to our new Events application is the inclusion of popular, third-party video streaming platforms. When creating a virtual event in your Events application, you may include a link to your event and the platform will advertise it with the vendor’s logo so your community knows what to expect. When your members are ready to join, choosing the “Open Event” button will set them on their way.

    Below is a complete list of platforms that Invision Community’s Events app can showcase (see examples in the screen shots above):
    Zoom YouTube EventBrite On24 Facebook Google Webex Slack Discord Microsoft Teams
    Here are a few examples of how your community can leverage our Events with in-person events:
    Team building meeting
    Unite your team with a collaborative event celebrating the company’s wins and victories. Sometimes in-person meetings spark new ideas in ways that a virtual environment can’t. 
    Donation drive
    Round up your local community and raise money for those in need with an in-person fundraiser. 
    Training programs
    Gather a group of community moderators and/or employees together and teach them how to innovate, strategize and lead with a physical training event. 
    Flash sale
    Make Black Friday, Boxing Day and other major retail sales an event within your community. Encourage your community to show up to a limited-time flash sale where in-person purchases are the only route to obtain an exclusive item. 
    Let's check out some examples for online events:
    Virtual happy hour
    Let loose with a few of your community buddies at a virtual happy hour. Schedule something once a week or month and make a few extra friends no matter where they live (a cold brew at 5 a.m. your time when it’s 5 p.m. their time might be a tad awkward, but hey, it’s 5 p.m. somewhere). 
    Holiday party
    If your company is remote-based, an online holiday party is the perfect solution to spread the good time vibes. 
    Invite fans of an artist to watch a virtual live stream or music video where they can actively engage and contribute.
    Fan gatherings
    Speaking of fans or an artist or brand, unite people who share common interests together with a fan-fueled event. Conduct a Q&A, share inside information and create a space for them to celebrate their collective passions.
    Our Events application is a welcomed addition designed to bring an enhanced presentation of the events happening in your space both on and offline. Community users can enjoy this interactive overview as an add-on to the traditional view. As a site admin, the overview page can be set as the new default in your AdminCP.
    We are excited to bring the Events application to all Invision Community plans in an upcoming release.
    Let us know what you think in the comments. 
  13. Like
    Jim M reacted to Jordan Miller for a blog entry, New community manager tool: schedule topics   
    Community managers and moderators have a simple but powerful new tool at their disposal: scheduling a topic's future publishing date.
    Previously, if a community manager wanted to draft a topic for a future release, they would have to craft the content elsewhere. It wasn’t the best experience. After listening to client feedback, we implemented a path for those with moderator privileges to create topics now, but have them go live in the future. 
    Set this new permissions setting in the Admin Control Panel -> Moderators -> Content -> Can set a future publishing date? 
    Notice the Publish date and time fields at the bottom:

    Here are a few examples of when this would be useful:
    Welcoming new members
    A community manager can compose a topic welcoming members from that week, but set it to go live the next week. It’s a powerful, engaging and visible way to acknowledge new sign-ups. Pair this with our new Alerts System.
    Big day coming up? Create content around it now, but set the topic's publish date on the actual day. 
    Content calendar
    If you are in charge of creating community content, budget a chunk of time towards creating engaging topics. Set their future publish dates apart so there’s space for members to engage accordingly. It also allows your team to visually see the content and weigh in with changes (or hoorays!) before members see it.
    Scheduling an announcement inside a topic, in tandem with our Announcements workflow functionality located in the Moderator Control Panel, allows community moderators to create space for feedback from loyalists. 
    Promo campaign
    As a community manager, time is a commodity. Setting up a promotional campaign for a future product release sets you up for success. When planning intricate marketing projects, organization and editing are paramount. Setting a future release date creates space to ensure the messaging is clear and effective.
    This feature, available for all Invision Community clients, is available in 4.7.1 Beta 1 (out now). View our release notes.
    Thoughts? Let us know what you think in the comments (preferably now 😉).
  14. Like
    Jim M reacted to Jordan Miller for a blog entry, Introducing The Alert System   
    Invision Community’s forthcoming release includes an exciting new feature available for all. 
    Announcing the Alert System! 🚨™
    The Alert System is a new tool for community managers to communicate with their members. There are times when a community manager needs to bring information to the attention of either a single user, or a group of users; when existing systems such as PMs or warning points are not suitable. So, we developed a happy medium to empower you. 
    The new alert system offers multiple ways to engage with single users or multiple member groups with a message that must be acknowledged and dismissed before further engagement with the community.
    Here are a few examples of when a community leader can use the Alert System for individual members:
    Moderator actions 
    A moderator moves a topic and wants to inform the topic starter that the topic has been moved and why. 
    Get ahead of warnings
    A member left a comment that doesn’t justify a warning point, nor should it warrant a private message. You want to kindly remind them of the community guidelines. 

    Community leaders may wish to send information to an entire member group. This may to warn them of new limits, or to notify support changes, etc. 
    Here are a few examples of when a community leader can use the Alert System for groups:
    Updates to community guidelines
    After reviewing and updating your community guidelines or terms of service, you can send an alert to all affected member groups outlining the changes, so they are aware. As the message needs to be dismissed before any further interaction with the community, you can be sure it has been read before any more posts are made.

    This example shows an alert with send anonymously switched on.
    Welcome message
    To strengthen your onboarding flow, you may like to send all new members a welcome message to introduce yourself and your team, along with some helpful information to help get them settled in.
    This example shows an alert with the option to reply, with send anonymously turned off.
    Heads up
    Remind a group of a permanent account-related change, like their subscription will be decreasing/increasing. 
    New forums added
    After consultation with your community, you want to add some new discussion areas for your VIP Members. You can now send an alert targeted to members in that group to let them know where the new forums are and what their purpose is.
    Let's chat
    You notice that a great community member is having a bad day. Instead of reaching for punitive tools, you can send them an alert that they have to reply to before being allowed to continue engaging in the community.

    These are just a few examples; of course, the alerts functionality has a lot of flexibility built in. 
    Alerts are managed from the Moderator's Control Panel.

    Let us take a look at the different areas that can be configured.

    Each alert has a start date, and this date can be in the future. This is especially useful if you have an event coming up you want to showcase. You can optionally set an expiration date to only serve the alert for members that visit between the start and end date. You can also leave it running indefinitely for uses such as the welcome message.
    Send to
    This section allows you to choose to send to a single user or to a single or multiple groups. If you are sending to groups, you can further fine-tune the deliverability by choosing to send to everyone currently registered and to new members when they register, or you can target just new members (to be precise, this will target members who register after the alert date), this option is ideal for the welcome message alert.
    Send as yourself or anonymously 
    You can choose to send the alert anonymously or from yourself. There are times when you want a personal touch and times when you need more of a system style alert, perhaps when notifying of guideline updates. Or, if the message is general, or you want to protect members of your team, send the alert anonymously. 
    If you choose to send the alert personally, then you can allow the member to reply, force the member to respond to dismiss the alert or remove the ability to reply. For a welcome message, you'd likely want to allow replies which then will create a new personal message between you and the member. 
    We have built the system to be very flexible to cover a wide range of uses where you want to directly engage with a member or group of members and be confident that they have seen the alert before any further engagement in the community. Alerts can be used to strengthen onboarding, notify sections of your community about exciting new features and changes or even create an open dialogue after a punitive measure such as having a posting time-out.
    This feature is coming to Invision Community 4.7, across all platforms.
    Thoughts on our new Alert System?! Drop us a line in the comments and let us know what you think.
  15. Like
    Jim M reacted to Jordan Miller for a blog entry, Interview with the founders of Invision Community (VIDEO)   
    To celebrate Invision Community turning 20-years-old (an eternity in Internet years), I interviewed the company's founding fathers.
    Ahh the good ol' days. Remember simpler times?
    This new video interview touches on Invision Community's past, present and future thanks to the invaluable insight from  @Charles, @Matt and @Lindy. 
    In our chat together, these gentlemen...
    Take a nostalgic trip down memory lane and reflect on the company's origins Explain the power of community amidst the social media boom Offer advice for new community leaders on how to grow Share some of the biggest changes to the platform Recant fond memories from the earlier days Reveal a teaser of what's next for Invision Community  
    Noteworthy quotes:
    Thoughts on the interview? We'd love to hear from you in the comments! 🎂 
  16. Like
    Jim M reacted to Jordan Miller for a blog entry, Why community forums stand the test of time   
    Since the dawn of the Internet, forums have remained a dominant force on the worldwide web. 
    Invision Community not only survived the social media boom, we thrived. Our community forum platform is an industry leader and continues to serve thousands of businesses year-round. 
    If community forums are tried and true, then why is the average Internet user bombarded with pleas to follow a brand’s Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts versus a forum? 
    It's often the case that when decision makers consider building a community, they look to social media tools first and overlook the power an owned community platform has.
    It's rare to find an instance where exclusively maintaining a social media presence builds a rich and diverse community that shares information and actively help each other.
    Every smart company should invest in fostering a community through the means of a forum.
    Without geeking out too hard (I’m about to geek out real hard), allow me to explain why forums harness immense power.
    Meaningful user generated content
    I added meaningful because the fabric of social media is also user generated content, however, much of the time it's followers competing for attention or having no interest or knowledge of your brand and its products. One issue with social media is random trolls and people misunderstanding a brand's products or services. That causes a lot of noise or adds little value.
    This is because community forums focus on the content, whereas social media centers around the individual user. 
    Social media comment sections have become increasingly divisive with tempers easily flared. It can be hard to have a worthwhile conversation. You’re either tossing a comment into the social media campfire, arguing with someone you’ll never meet or double tapping a “like” to show public support. None of which adds value or elevates a brand’s identity. 
    On the other hand, a community forum offers various pathways for meaningful engagement. 
    A library of content 
    Topics build on top of one another and eventually creates a searchable library of content for new users to discover. Easily discoverable
    Search engines don’t typically respond to your query with social media posts. On the other hand, forum posts are quickly indexed. Invision Community’s latest update 4.6.11 includes IndexNow, which quickly informs search engines about new content changes. This draws in new users with little effort.  Belonging
    Successful forums are inherently niche. Generally, members who participate share overarching commonalities with one another, and where they don’t they have a platform to express otherwise. Social media is too gargantuan to recreate these special connections.  Moderation
    Social media can be powerful, but often spirals into toxicity because these platforms rely on automatic moderation tools. Our community forum has built-in tools for automatic moderation as well as tools for moderators (actual people caring for your community!) to ensure stability.    

    Invision Community's forums in Fluid mode

    Fosters community
    Community forums facilitate community building. They are the apparatus for Internet users around the world to instantly connect with one another. 
    Think of community forums like a neighborhood. A construction company (that's you) builds the community, but the community needs residents (your members) to transform the houses into homes. 
    Once the infrastructure is set up, forums can use time to its advantage. Unlike social media, forum content can remain relevant and circulate throughout a community for long periods of time. That’s because ongoing conversations aren’t dependent on complex algorithms that display content based on past engagement.
    For example, your Instagram explore page shows you similar content based on other content you’ve engaged with in the past. That keeps you stuck in a loop and prevents you from interacting with new content. The algorithm sees you liked X, it shows you more of X, you see X, you engage with more of X and the cycle repeats itself, never allowing yourself to explore A, B, C or literally anything else. 
    Forums display content based on what the community as a whole is interested in (not just the individual).
    With the Invision Community’s forums application,  the member also has the option to decide how they want to consume content (maybe engaging with X is all that member wants, but they have the ability to discover more content outside of what machine learning dictates). 
    Own your community forum
    Imagine spending years building a following on social media only for it to vanish overnight. Even worse, there’s no point of contact to reach out to to gain an understanding of what happened.
    That can’t happen when owning your own community forum. 
    Not only do you maintain control, but you…
    Call the shots 
    You are the decision maker. On social media, there’s no ability to enable, test, try or optimize new ideas / features. Have access to rich reporting
    Social media offers some insights, but it’s limited. Invision Community’s reporting inside the ACP includes various engagement reporting metrics to help you better understand what’s working (and what isn’t). Can monetize
    There are roundabout ways to get monetized on social media, however with our community forums application, you have far more flexibility to integrate digital campaigns such as banner ads, affiliate links and paid promotional content.  

    Invision Community's Activity Streams

    Free market research
    Save money on market research by tapping into your audience's needs free of charge. Your power users want to tell you about their experience in your community, something big brands without a community pay big money for.
    If you’ve made it to the bottom of this post, you probably think I have something against social media. To the contrary! Social media is a powerful tool, but most use it as the be-all end-all when it can better serve businesses to encourage new audiences to visit your community (versus attempting to create community directly on a platform you don’t own, control or have any real say in). 
    Owning your own community forum is so immensely powerful, and, despite message boards and forums existing since the early ‘80s, it still feels like a secret. 
    Invision Community’s forums application is the best in the industry. If you have your own community forum, show it off in the comments! Don’t have one yet? Please reach out to us and we’ll get you started. 
  17. Like
    Jim M reacted to Matt for a blog entry, Twenty years of Invision Community   
    Twenty years ago today, Invision Community was founded and within months the first version of Invision Community was released. Little did we know, this would be the start of a remarkable journey spanning several decades.
    Our first version appeared shortly after we founded the company. It might be hard to imagine a time before social media and YouTube, but when we started out, the web looked very different.

    The first version of Invision Community was called Invision Board, reflecting the popular term for forums back in the early 2000s. It was full featured and you may recognise some elements that persist today.
    Like today, it even had a separate control panel where you could create new areas of discussion and customise the theme.

    Twenty years is a long time and we've continued to adapt with the ever-changing needs of community managers. We've seen the rise of social media impact how people consume content and found ways to compliment Twitter and Facebook by offering a place for long-form permanent discussion.
    Several elements remain from those early days but the concepts behind the theme have change significantly. New workflows, UI elements and views have helped the platform stay fresh and we've certainly innovated a few features that have since become industry standard over that time.
    I can't express how proud I am of what we've built together. From those humble beginnings working until 2am to growing a creative and talented team around our passion for community.
    I'm still as excited today as I was back in 2002. This year will see us build and release new tools to help guide and inform community managers. Our community platform continues to go from strength to strength.
    Of course, the platform is only one part of Invision Community. Over the last twenty years I've been grateful to get to know many of you and watch your lives unfold.
    This is as pure as community can get and I'm privileged to be part of it.

    We have a few other surprises to celebrate our twentieth anniversary. We can't wait to share them!

    I'd love to hear your memories of Invision Community! When did you first use our products and what was your community for? Please let me know in the comments below.
  18. Like
    Jim M reacted to Jordan Miller for a blog entry, Improve your client relationships by offering a public support community   
    Front-facing support creates visible opportunities for clients to find answers to both frequently asked and uncommon questions. 
    Earlier this year, Invision Community lifted the veil off support, shifting from a private, 1-on-1, email-driven medium to open topics in our community support forum. 
    We found ourselves answering the same questions because we hadn’t fully leaned into community support, which also gives our existing clients opportunities to weigh in with solutions. 
    While we still do convert a chunk of community support questions to a private ticket, most issues are resolved for all to see. This is important to note because it's created an invaluable resource for others who may be searching for similar answers. 
    We have:
    Improved support staff time management Improved retention Improved support response times for clients Built a resource library and knowledge base Forged stronger connections
    A few key stats in our support areas: 
    71% solved (+80%) in 3 months 9 hours is our average time to find a solution (50% faster) in 3 months 14% of topics became a ticket
      Feel free to mirror what we do for your own community! This is done through four key steps: 
    1) Identify, 2) Assess, 3) Execute, 4) Follow up

    1) Identify:
    The first step is to identify the client’s problem or concerns. Our team keeps an eye on the support forums and anticipate new topics are incoming. 
    We are equipped with any stored access details, and cloud access details, to login to a client’s community and take a look if needed (with their consent). This can aid us in identifying the issue.

    2) Assess:
    After assessing the issue and gathering information, we put on our critical thinking caps. One of several things may happen:
    A solution is provided More information may be requested A ticket can be created if needed for more sensitive issues, or items needing more detailed review Sometimes our support team needs to investigate an issue further. That requires us to take things off the community and open a specialized ticket for our tier two support team to take a closer look. 

    3) Execute
    Now that we’ve created a path towards finding a solution, we get to work. 
    Each ticket can result in one of three outcomes: 
    It's resolved It needs to be further investigated Or, it’s a bug
    Hey, they happen. If an item is determined to be a bug, that bug is also added as a follow up item and the topic is marked as a known issue.

    When we follow up on a bug item, we go through a few processes. 
    Our developers will work through these bugs to get them resolved, in order of priority/severity. Once done, they are reviewed and added to a new release.
    Fun fact: Every week, we list out all of the platform updates and fixes in our Community Manager's Lounge!
    As items are fixed, our support staff will pick up on this through the followup process. The ticket will be changed from “known issue” to “in future release” to show its status. The follow up item status is also changed to show it being in the next release.
    Upon release of a new version, the above items are gone through to mark them as solved, then we inform the client that the issue is resolved.
    We also have weekly development meetings to discuss items with developers, as well as weekly support staff meetings to discuss issues with any support processes for that week.

    4) Followup
    Following up with a client after we found a solution helps us stay connected to our community and improves retention.
    We like to check back in a few days, a week, or even more depending on what the nature of the issue was. The aim is to provide a working solution to the client then ensure that, well… it worked! 
    If an item is escalated, we have an internal follow up system that allows us to keep an eye on your ticket.
    Shifting the way you handle support, from behind-the-scenes to center stage, has been one of the most profound and rewarding changes to Invision Community. Not only is our support community a wealth of knowledge and saves our clients time, but it also creates trust with our clients because we’re held accountable. 
    How do you handle support in your community? Drop us a line in the comments; we’d love to hear from (and see) you!
  19. Like
    Jim M reacted to Jordan Miller for a blog entry, Achievements just became even more powerful   
    Earlier this year, Invision Community launched a native gamification system called Achievements. We added significant improvements to Achievements in our new release, 4.6.8, out now!  🎉 
    Achievements allows community leaders to reward members with points, badges and ranks for their outstanding contributions. We listened to your feedback and implemented some very exciting changes.
    In this post, you'll get a crash course on the new updates included in your Admin Control Panel (ACP) upon updating your community to 4.6.8. Once you're familiar with these concepts, you can take action to elevate your community.
    New! Married group promotions with Achievements. 
    New! Added metrics to better understand how Achievements functions within your community. 
    New! Implemented additional rules to further empower your members. 
    New! Updated email notifications to let your members know when they've earned a badge.
    New! Download member lists based on Achievements criteria.
    Before we expand on the new features, here's a recap of Achievements to refresh your memory:
    Related: Want to know more about Achievements? Read our original blog post.

    Now that you’re up to speed, let’s take a look at the new metrics and rules.
    Group promotions

    Group promotions lay out various user journeys.
    Based on actions a member takes in a community, for example  commenting 100 times, having a high reputation score or having joined a community a year ago, the platform will automatically place them in a group (based on the rules you previously set up). This is useful when creating a hierarchy in your community. The more your members are engaged, the more access / privileges they receive.
     Now, community leaders can automatically place members in specific groups based on what badges they've earned in the community.  
    Couple examples:
    A moderator manually awards a member the 'Helpful Superstar' badge. In this scenario, that badge can only be earned if a moderator chooses to give it. Once someone earns that badge, they're automatically placed in the 'Helpful Superstars' group. This group may have the ability to create clubs (whereas the other groups can't).  A member earns the 'Engaged' badge. 'Engaged' badges are earned when a member has replied 100 times since joining. Once they've posted 100 replies, the system automatically places them in a new group with other contributing members.   
    Related: Learn more about Group Promotions
    Metrics reports are essential for understanding what's working in your community, and what needs improving. 

    Badges Earned: Track what badges were earned during a defined period of time. This is especially useful to track both member engagement as well as identify how often your community moderators are awarding badges manually.
    Badges earned by member group: How many members in each group earned a badge. Track this when quantifying what groups are most engaged with your community. Understanding which group(s) earn the most badges helps you better tend to groups that might be less engaged. It might be a good idea to show them some extra attention. 
    Badges by member: Search a time-based list of all members with an earned badge total. Easily discover who your VIP members are and reward / thank them for being active contributors. 
    Related: Maximize community growth with our new reporting metrics
    Set up rules based on various criteria. These rules will automatically take a specific action once the criteria has been met.

    Member downloads a file: Members may earn a badge for downloading a specific file. This could be useful if your company wanted to share new policies or an announcement; track which members took the time to download the information and publicly recognize them for staying on top of things. 
    Member purchases a package or product: Members may also earn a badge for purchasing either a package or a specific product. For example, you could create a rule for members to earn a coveted product badge for opting to purchase a physical product (like a t-shirt). Only members who've purchased an item from your community would receive this type of recognition. 
    Jump into your members' inboxes with tailor-made good news. 

    New Email notifications: New notification emails let your members know when they've received a coveted rank.  
    Download a list of members based on a number of Achievements criteria, including points, ranks and badges.

    In theory, you can upload this list of members elsewhere to target this specific audience (like sending an exclusive email drip campaign in Mail Chimp).
    Several examples include downloading a list of members who've:
    Earned 500 or more points Earned a specific badge Reached a specific rank  
    Achievements is a robust feature to engage your VIP members and spark the fuse of inspiration for newcomers. There’s a lot of power at your fingertips.
    Unsure where to start with implementing Achievements? Check out our original post and determine what behaviors you want to reward within your community. Sometimes just logging in is a good place to start. Reward them for that. 🙂
    Ready to take Achievements to the next level? Check out the new Group Promotions and Achievements Metrics now available in 4.6.8.

    Where are you in your journey with Achievements? Drop us a line in the comments. We’d love to hear from you!
  20. Like
    Jim M reacted to Matt for a blog entry, SEO: Improving crawling efficiency   
    No matter how good your content is, how accurate your keywords are or how precise your microdata is, inefficient crawling reduces the number of pages Google will read and store from your site.
    Search engines need to look at and store as many pages that exist on the internet as possible. There are currently an estimated 4.5 billion web pages active today. That's a lot of work for Google.
    It cannot look and store every page, so it needs to decide what to keep and how long it will spend on your site indexing pages.
    Right now, Invision Community is not very good at helping Google understand what is important and how to get there quickly. This blog article runs through the changes we've made to improve crawling efficiency dramatically, starting with Invision Community 4.6.8, our November release.

    The short version
    This entry will get a little technical. The short version is that we remove a lot of pages from Google's view, including user profiles and filters that create faceted pages and remove a lot of redirect links to reduce the crawl depth and reduce the volume of thin content of little value. Instead, we want Google to focus wholly on topics, posts and other key user-generated content.
    Let's now take a deep dive into what crawl budget is, the current problem, the solution and finally look at a before and after analysis. Note, I use the terms "Google" and "search engines" interchangeably. I know that there are many wonderful search engines available but most understand what Google is and does.
    Crawl depth and budget
    In terms of crawl efficiency, there are two metrics to think about: crawl depth and crawl budget. The crawl budget is the number of links Google (and other search engines) will spider per day. The time spent on your site and the number of links examined depend on multiple factors, including site age, site freshness and more. For example, Google may choose to look at fewer than 100 links per day from your site, whereas Twitter may see hundreds of thousands of links indexed per day.
    Crawl depth is essentially how many links Google has to follow to index the page. The fewer links to get to a page, is better. Generally speaking, Google will reduce indexing links more than 5 to 6 clicks deep.
    The current problem #1: Crawl depth
    A community generates a lot of linked content. Many of these links, such as permalinks to specific posts and redirects to scroll to new posts in a topic, are very useful for logged in members but less so to spiders. These links are easy to spot; just look for "&do=getNewComment" or "&do=getLastComment" in the URL. Indeed, even guests would struggle to use these convenience links given the lack of unread tracking until logged in.  Although they offer no clear advantage to guests and search engines, they are prolific, and following the links results in a redirect which increases the crawl depth for content such as topics.
    The current problem #2: Crawl budget and faceted content
    A single user profile page can have around 150 redirect links to existing content. User profiles are linked from many pages. A single page of a topic will have around 25 links to user profiles. That's potentially 3,750 links Google has to crawl before deciding if any of it should be stored. Even sites with a healthy crawl budget will see a lot of their budget eaten up by links that add nothing new to the search index. These links are also very deep into the site, adding to the overall average crawl depth, which can signal search engines to reduce your crawl budget.
    Filters are a valuable tool to sort lists of data in particular ways. For example, when viewing a list of topics, you can filter by the number of replies or when the topic was created. Unfortunately, these filters are a problem for search engines as they create faceted navigation, which creates duplicate pages.

    The solution
    There is a straightforward solution to solve all of the problems outlined above.  We can ask that Google avoids indexing certain pages. We can help by using a mix of hints and directives to ensure pages without valuable content are ignored and by reducing the number of links to get to the content. We have used "noindex" in the past, but this still eats up the crawl budget as Google has to crawl the page to learn we do not want it stored in the index.
    Fortunately, Google has a hint directive called "nofollow", which you can apply in the <a href> code that wraps a link. This sends a strong hint that this link should not be read at all. However, Google may wish to follow it anyway, which means that we need to use a special file that contains firm instructions for Google on what to follow and index.
    This file is called robots.txt. We can use this file to write rules to ensure search engines don't waste their valuable time looking at links that do not have valuable content; that create faceted navigational issues and links that lead to a redirect.
    Invision Community will now create a dynamic robots.txt file with rules optimised for your community, or you can create custom rules if you prefer.

    The new robots.txt generator in Invision Community
    Analysis: Before and after
    I took a benchmark crawl using a popular SEO site audit tool of my test community with 50 members and around 20,000 posts, most of which were populated from RSS feeds, so they have actual content, including links, etc. There are approximately 5,000 topics visible to guests.
    Once I had implemented the "nofollow" changes, removed a lot of the redirect links for guests and added an optimised robots.txt file, I completed another crawl.
    Let's compare the data from the before and after.
    First up, the raw numbers show a stark difference.

    Before our changes, the audit tool crawled 176,175 links, of which nearly 23% were redirect links. After, just 6,389 links were crawled, with only 0.4% being redirection links. This is a dramatic reduction in both crawl budget and crawl depth. Simply by guiding Google away from thin content like profiles, leaderboards, online lists and redirect links, we can ask it to focus on content such as topics and posts.

    Note: You may notice a large drop in "Blocked by Robots.txt" in the 'after' crawl despite using a robots.txt for the first time. The calculation here also includes sharer images and other external links which are blocked by those sites robots.txt files. I added nofollow to the external links for the 'after' crawl so they were not fetched and then blocked externally.

    As we can see in this before, the crawl depth has a low peak between 5 and 7 levels deep, with a strong peak at 10+.

    After, the peak crawl depth is just 3. This will send a strong signal to Google that your site is optimised and worth crawling more often.
    Let's look at a crawl visualisation before we made these changes. It's easy to see how most content was found via table filters, which led to a redirect (the red dots), dramatically increasing crawl depth and reducing crawl efficiency.

    Compare that with the after, which shows a much more ordered crawl, with all content discoverable as expected without any red dots indicating redirects.

    SEO is a multi-faceted discipline. In the past, we have focused on ensuring we send the correct headers, use the correct microdata such as JSON-LD and optimise meta tags. These are all vital parts of ensuring your site is optimised for crawling. However, as we can see in this blog that without focusing on the crawl budget and crawl efficiency, even the most accurately presented content is wasted if it is not discovered and added into the search index.
    These simple changes will offer considerable advantages to how Google and other search engines spider your site.
    The features and changes outlined in this blog will be available in our November release, which will be Invision Community 4.6.8.
  21. Like
    Jim M reacted to Jordan Miller for a blog entry, Announcing new updates to Clubs and Activity Streams (plus a sneak peek at our website refresh)!   
    It’s been a minute since our last blog post, but we have cooked up several epic projects in the interim.
    To refresh your memory, we recently launched a new platform update, 4.6. It includes *takes a deep breath* Achievements, Zapier integration, web app and push notifications, anonymous posting, solved content, the ability to show when a team member has replied, a new health dashboard, spam improvements and more.
    In the time since, we prepared a few special treats for you. Before we dive into the feature feast, sample our forthcoming website refresh. In the very near future, our entire website will slip into something a little more comfortable. Not only will the look and feel change, but we’re implementing new sections to explain how and why Invision Community is any business’ go-to- solution for community building. More on that to come, but for now take a bite out of this:

    Onto the feature updates; hope you’re hungry!
    Extended closed Club functionality
    Clubs with ‘closed’ permissions have more flexibility than ever. 
    Now, the owner of a closed club can opt to have the club’s forums, calendar, pages, gallery and downloads be visible for all to see (despite the club being set to closed). Previously, members could not access any part of a closed club unless they joined.
    For example, a closed club leader could create a special landing page that’s viewable by members who have not yet joined the club, but the rest of the club is closed. This might be useful as a means to encourage someone to join, share information that’s pertinent to those in and out of the club or as a sales tool. 
    Another example could be keeping the club-associated forums visible for all, but keep the club’s calendar and image gallery exclusive to the club’s members as an incentive to join. 
    Gobble up this screengrab below:

    Subscribe to Activity Streams
    Never skip a beat! Members of a community can now subscribe to any default or custom activity stream (minus the All Activity Stream) and receive either daily or weekly email notifications with a roundup of content they may have missed. 
    This is especially useful for die-hard community members and moderators who frequently consume content. By subscribing to an activity stream, members have important, need-to-know items they’re interested in delivered straight to their inbox. 

    Community administrators have the option to limit how many activity streams a member can subscribe to. 
    Because email notifications are inherently intimate, we have also implemented something called stream decay. If the user hasn't visited the site for a predefined amount of time, the activity stream email notifications they previously subscribed to will automatically stop until the member re-engages with the community by visiting. Pretty nifty, right?


    Health Club
    Since you’ve made it to the bottom of this blog post, sink your teeth into dessert. Sugar free, of course! 
    We recently launched a new Health Club. It’s free to join and available for all Invision Community clients. This is a great opportunity for you to connect with other community leaders in the industry, as well as our own team, through the important modality of physical and mental health. The world is in a weird spot right now; please utilize this club to lean on one another for support, give advice, ask questions and share your health wins and missteps. As cheesy as it sounds, upping your general well-being will make you a better community leader and ultimately elevate your community as a whole. Just some food for thought!

    The new Club and Activity Stream features will be made available in September.
    Questions? Comments? Feedback? Drop us a crumb in the comments - we’d love to hear from you!
    Header photo: Unsplash
  22. Like
    Jim M reacted to Matt for a blog entry, What's new in 4.6.0?   
    Well, friends, what a journey we've been on since we started work on Invision Community 4.6.0.
    With 11 developers accumulating 934 commits over 3,157 files changing 120,281 lines of code, we're ready to show it to the world.
    Along with over 260 bug fixes, this new release contains some great new functionality. Let's take a look at what's new.
    Achievements, badges, ranks, rules, gamification, whatever you want to call it, this is the most significant feature for Invision Community 4.6.0. This brings a whole new level of earning and showing trust to other members while gently nudging more quality contributions to your community.
    Zapier integration
    Do you want new member registrations to magically appear in a Google spreadsheet? Perhaps you want members who opt-in for newsletters to be added to Mailchimp or ActiveCampaign. Cloud and Enterprise customers can do all this and more without writing a single line of code, thanks to Zapier.
    Web app and push notifications
    We took the time to round out our PWA (progressive web application) framework for 4.6.0 to include service workers, push notifications and more. I barely understand it, but Rikki takes you through the changes in our blog entry.
    Anonymous posting
    For some types of community, where discussion topics are particularly sensitive, community owners want to make sure that members register with their real details but are given the option to post anonymously where appropriate. For example, organisations dealing with abuse or sensitive topics might want the member to feel safe and disinhibited to post info without fear of being identified by the rest of the community.
    Solved content
    In Invision Community 4.6.0, we have rounded out our "solved" feature by allowing the feature to be enabled on a regular forum, along with notifications, statistics and more.
    Show when a team member has replied
    When you're scanning a list of topics, it's helpful to know when a community team member has replied, as these replies tend to have more authority and are more likely to resolve an issue. 4.6.0 adds a feature to show when a member of the team has replied.
    Health dashboard
    As Invision Community is a top of the line community platform with excellent developers and an amazing QA team, it's unlikely ever to go wrong. On the infrequent occasions that you need to identify potential issues within your community, the new health dashboard makes it easier to diagnose problems and request support.
    Spam improvements
    Our Enterprise customers run very visible and very busy communities. One of the pain points they had was identifying and limiting the annoyance of spam within the community. We created a new round of improvements based on that feedback to mitigate spam, and these changes are available to all Invision Community owners with 4.6.0.
    Cloud and Enterprise customers will also benefit from multiple under-the-hood optimisations for our cloud platform, including better caching of resources for faster response times.
    Let me know in the comments which feature you're looking forward to the most!
  23. Like
    Jim M reacted to Andy Millne for a blog entry, 4.5: Sign in with Apple   
    Since the feature was announced at last year’s World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC) we have received lots of requests to implement Sign in with Apple in Invision Community. We’re pleased to announce that as of 4.5 this is now available.
    You will need a paid Apple developer account to use it but once enabled users will be able to sign in using their Apple ID and all the convenience that brings. Touch ID and Face ID is supported natively where available and works across all your devices.

    Choose to share or hide your email address
    Isn’t it just another login button?
    Sign in with Apple is built on similar technologies as other login buttons such as those already available in Invision Community from Facebook, Google and Microsoft. The difference is Apple’s unique focus on privacy. On certain community types users can be reluctant to sign up when they fear they need to disclose lots of personal details. Every community is different so allowing your users to share as little or as much info as they like could be important to your success. Apple have stated that no user tracking will take place in contrast to other services where this forms a part of their business model.
    When signing in with their Apple ID the user can choose whether or not to share their real email address with your community. If the user chooses to hide their email address then your community will receive a relay email address that will forward to their real address. The email address used is unique to your community so the user can retain control.
    Can users link their existing Invision Community accounts?
    Yes! If a user signs in using the Apple button and shares their real email address, then providing they already have an account on your community they will be prompted to link their account in the same way as other social login buttons. They can also link an existing account from their account settings. If linking from account settings then the email addresses used do not need to match.
    Sign in with Apple is already enabled here on our community and is available in the 4.5 beta available to download now.
  24. Like
    Jim M reacted to Stuart Silvester for a blog entry, 4.5: One More Thing...   
    Almost ten years ago we launched the Marketplace; a place to connect Invision Community owners with talented developers creating new functionality.
    Over the decade, the Marketplace has grown to hold thousands of applications, large and small. For many Invision Community owners, the Marketplace has become an essential resource.
    Our aim was always to have the Marketplace available inside your Admin Control Panel to make it even easier to purchase and install extra functionality.

    I'm pleased to say that as of Invision Community 4.5, this is now a reality. You can browse the Marketplace and install new add-ons without leaving the Admin Control Panel.

    Obtaining Resources
    Paid resources can be purchased directly from the Marketplace and are available to install immediately after the payment is complete. You no longer need to download and install the files yourself.
    You may also notice some additional information with the resource listing, we'll be introducing a new 'tab' to marketplace resources to allow the authors to provide more useful information such as answers to frequently asked questions, or configuration instructions etc.

    The video below takes you through the purchase and installation of a Marketplace application.
    Installing an Application
    Some of the eagle-eyed among you may have noticed in the first screenshot that there are more 'bubbles' showing in the menu on the left. These are supported for Applications, Plugins, Themes and Languages.
    In Invision Community 4.5 every resource available via the AdminCP is automatically versioned, you will see update notifications for everything you have installed (previously, you would only see update notices if the resource author supports them).
    Installing an update is as simple as clicking on the update notice, then clicking 'update' on the Marketplace listing.

    Installing Updates
    Downloads Changes
    Our Marketplace is built on our Downloads application, during development of this feature we needed to add new functionality. We have included as many of these improvements as possible in our software for the benefit of our customers, some of these are:
    Custom Fields can now be set to only show to members that have purchased a file. Files can now be set to accept a single file upload instead of multiple. New file versions can now be moderated without hiding the current version from view. Downloads REST API Performance Improvements New /download endpoint that counts the download Added more data to the /downloads/file/{id} response Ability to sort file results by last updated date We hope you're as excited about this feature as we are.
  25. Like
    Jim M reacted to Matt for a blog entry, 4.5: Everything else   
    We have announced a lot of new things coming soon with Invision Community 4.5. Most of these are pretty big new features worth a blog on their own.
    However, we've made a lot of smaller changes that may not deserve their own blog but still have a significant impact.
    Let's run through some of those.
    Performance Improvements
    For every major release, we take some time to run through the code and look at ways to make Invision Community run more efficiently.
    For Invision Community 4.5, we've made node forms, sitemaps and commonly run SQL queries more efficient, which is excellent news for you and your users who get reduced server load and a snappier community.
    TikTok Embed
    Although it confuses me greatly, TikTok has taken the internet by storm. We have added it to the embed list so pasting a TikTok share link automatically shows the video ready to play in the comment.

    A TikTok
    Upload Chunking
    Uploading large files can be tricky. Typically trying to push a large file to a server results in timeouts, memory issues and eventually frustration. We have added chunked uploading when using S3. Put simply; this uploads part of the file at a time to prevent memory issues and the server timing out waiting for the upload to finish.
    View Members by Rank
    Very recently, we were asked how you can view all members in the ACP of a specific rank. It turned out you couldn't. This quick change was added into Invision Community 4.5.

    Showing members with a specific rank in the AdminCP
    Download Statistics
    While Invision Community 4.5 has new and improved statistic displays, a common request was to be able to download the raw data. This is now possible.

    Export stats as a CSV
    In Invision Community 4.5, when you require approval of new versions of files submitted to Downloads, the original version will no longer be hidden from view. We've added a new flow for moderators to approve these new versions.
    Live Meta Tag Editor
    Invision Community 4.5 seemed like a great time to run through this feature and tweak the functionality to make it more useful. Now it's possible to remove default meta tags, and it's easier to remove custom tags.
    Closed Tag Autocomplete
    When using the closed tag system where a user can select from one of your preset tags, we have added a search box to make it easier to find a single tag from a list of potentially hundreds.
    EU Tax Support in Commerce
    Tax doesn't have to be taxing! But it generally is. Countries within the EU often have complex tax rates. Commerce now supports multiple tax rates for consumers, businesses and EU VAT-registered businesses.
    That concludes our mini round-up of all the things we've not talked about yet. Let me know which one you're looking forward to most!
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