The support tool has served us well for many years. You can identify, at a glance, potential issues with your community both presently and down the road, right from the comfort of your AdminCP, and you can often resolve those issues with just a few clicks.
But what if we could do better? What if we could make this useful administrative area of the software even more useful?
The next version of Invision Community introduces a new "Health Dashboard" which replaces the previous support tool and helps you get a better overview of potential issues within your community while retaining all of the functionality you've come to know and rely on to resolve issues with your community.
When you launch the new health dashboard, the first thing you will notice is that the previous "Wizard" process is now gone, in favor of a single page giving you access to everything you might want or need.
Central to the page are blocks that identify specific areas of your community, server, and configuration which could be problematic now or in the future. Invision Community will check for available updates, modified source files, server software configuration issues, whether your server is running required and/or recommended versions of important software and more.
Additional checks and recommendations have been added to this page, to help identify other adjustments that could benefit or prevent harm to your community. Issues are color coded and classified as informational, recommended, or critical and a summary is provided at the top of the page with an easy "check again" button which will do so without taking you away from the screen.
If we become aware of an issue, we can quickly notify communities through a bulletin which will be displayed in the "Known Issues" block on this page. These bulletins can also trigger AdminCP notifications, however they will continue to show on the Health Dashboard so long as they are relevant, even when the AdminCP notification is dismissed.
A graph showing system, error and email error log activity has been added to the page to help you identify spikes in logged issues. Commonly, if an issue begins to surface on your community there will be an increase in these types of error logs, so the graph here is intended to allow you to identify an increase in these logs, allowing you to investigate and react quicker.
The right-hand sidebar surfaces common tools you may need to access.
The first block allows you to see our most recently featured guides, as well as search our documentation. While this functionality was available in the existing support tool, we found that it was rarely used because people more often visited the tool to allow the software to check for common issues, and the ability to search the documentation required a separate work flow through the support wizard. With the block always available (and searches performed "live" via AJAX), we expect users will find the ability to search our documentation from the AdminCP much more useful now.
Next up, the Tools and Diagnostics block gives you access to common tools you may need to use. You can quickly clear your system caches, as well as access phpinfo, the SQL toolbox (for self-hosted clients only), and disable all third party customizations. The process and behavior for disabling customizations is very similar to the existing process within the support tool, with the list of customizations disabled opening in a modal window and the ability to re-enable all customizations, or selectively re-enable individual customizations, still available.
Disabling customizations is still simple
Finally, the ability to submit a support ticket is still available right from this screen. Upon clicking the button to submit a support ticket, you will be presented with a form inside a modal dialog that behaves very similarly to the existing form with one minor but useful addition: if there are any patches not yet installed on the community, you will be alerted to this right on the form before submitting your ticket. Think of this as one last reminder that your issue may already be solved by installing any available patches before reaching out to us for official technical support.
Submitting a support ticket is still just a few clicks away
We believe the improved workflow and user experience will help administrators and support technicians alike more quickly identify any issues that need addressing on the community.
For a very long time Invision Community has allowed community owners to choose how open or private their communities should be. Communities could optionally allow guests to post without registering, they could allow the use of pseudonyms or they could require the use of real names.
This covers a diverse range of communities but feedback from our clients made us realize that some use cases have not been accounted for.
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.
With our next release, we are pleased to introduce Anonymous Posting to make this a reality.
When enabled, members will see the option to post anonymously when creating or replying to content.
Starting a new anonymous topic
Author details for anonymously posted content is hidden throughout the community and instead a default profile picture and name is shown.
Total anonymity is not always desirable however and in some cases it may be necessary for trusted staff members to know who posted the content. Where allowed, these staff members will be shown an option to reveal the content author.
Author details are hidden but can be revealed by trusted staff members
Anonymous posting can be enabled on a per group basis and also limited to specific forums, albums and categories etc. The ability for staff members to reveal who really posted the content is a moderator permission.
We hope this new feature is a useful addition and where appropriate makes your members feel safe or comfortable to share info they might not have otherwise.
How open or private is your community and what do you find are the benefits or disadvantages of anonymity?
When the clocks strike midnight on New Year's Eve, we will enter the third decade of producing Invision Community.
A lot has changed since we set up in 2002. Our team has grown and our product matured. In a world where online startups explode and die within a few years, we're something of an anomaly.
We still have the same love and passion for creating the very best tools to build a community, and we have always ensured that Invision Community is in touch with modern demands.
This decade has seen Invision Community go from strength to strength. In 2010 we were one of many forum systems catering to smaller niche audiences. In 2019 we're powering discussion for many international and well-known brands.
Online habits may have changed in this time, and social media may have swallowed up smaller informal communities, but the need for independent community platforms remains strong.
2020 will see us release 4.5 which will bring another round of essential updates to existing features and a fresh batch of new features.
But first, let us climb inside our Delorean, rewind the clock to 2010 and start from the beginning.
As the sun rose on 2010, Bruno Mars was singing about parts of the human face in "Just the way you are", Katy Perry irritated Microsoft Word's spellchecker with "California Gurls", and CeeLo Green was trying to "Forget you" (at least in the radio edit).
Christopher Nolan's boggled all our minds with Inception, James Franco lost the ability to clap in 127 Hours, and Colin Firth stammered his way through The Kings Speech.
Steve Jobs unveiled the iPad to a collective snort, moderate derision and questions over just how useful a giant iPhone will be.
President Obama, just a year into office warns of "Snowmageddon" that eventually dumps up to 40 inches of snow on the east coast of the United States.
We lost comedy legend Leslie Nielsen (we'd never dream of calling him Shirley), and we gained a small child named Ryan who in just nine years would be earning $29,000,000 by opening boxes of toys on YouTube.
62% of us were using Internet Explorer to the chagrin of most web developers who wished that Chrome's 5% market share was more significant.
Facebook celebrated its sixth year by reaching 400 million users (a far cry from the 2.5 billion it currently has). Twitter, just four years old hits 30 million monthly active users (and none of them talked about fake news).
And how about Invision Community?
We hit 2010 running by releasing numerous updates on IP.Board v3.1, including finally using long-established web standards, and share features now that "social networking is all the craze these days" noting that "friends and colleagues often share similar interests, after all."
How innocent we all were in 2010.
Back then, each product had its own name and release cycle. IP.Gallery's new features included being able to rotate images by 90 degrees. Honestly, people used to go crazy for this stuff.
In May, we released a brand new application called "IP.Commerce". A few months later we renamed it "IP.Nexus" and years later, it was changed back to "Commerce". Naming things is hard.
The announcement contained exquisite details such as "It's hard to say when it'll be available" and "we don't know how much it will cost". We were so sure that it would be accepted positively, we removed the ability to post comments to the blog entry.
As summer turned to autumn and the end of the year loomed large, we released news about a significant update to Gallery called "IP.Gallery 4.0" which pre-dates Invision Community 4 and confused customers for years (so IP.Board 3 works with IP.Gallery 4, but IP.Board 4 works with Gallery 4?). Numbering things is hard too.
The last blog entry was about an app called 'IP.SEO' that I had utterly forgotten existed. It was written by Dan who once locked Lindy out of his own datacenter, but we don't talk about that.
I don't even remember this website
Charles opens the year by managing expectations for IP.Board 3.2 by outlining our three key goals (promotion, usability and modernization). The last one was us removing the "back to top" button and then spending the next eight years explaining why we removed it.
Our spam monitoring service processed 300,000 requests in the first two weeks of 2011. 30% of these requests were deemed to be spam and blocked (0.1% was probably an administrator registering 50 fake accounts before being banned from their own site).
I posted about "exciting new technology" in our new "WYSIWYG" editor (although what you see is sometimes close to what you get) would be more appropriate but slightly less catchy. We spent the next eight years explaining why no one uses BBCode anymore to almost everybody.
Brandon closed out the year with a blog promising "new toys" for IP.Content 2.3 (now called Pages, keep up!) which promises a "who's online" widget and a "shared media field" that was not only complicated to explain, but also use.
IP.Board 3.2 in all its glory
We start the year with news on IP.Board 3.3. This release was to feature essential updates such as the "Remember me?" checkbox on the login form and emoticons in signatures.
Despite being constantly told that we don't take SEO seriously, we round up the latest serious SEO changes including tags, soft 404s and micro schema.
We also celebrated our tenth year in business.
Something terrible must have happened to one of our competitors because we asked if you'd like to switch to IPS.
The year ends with IP.Board 3.4 being released for beta testing. This being a rare year where we release two major versions in less than 12 months.
Brandon has eight coffees and tries to explain what it's like to be a developer: "us developers are a strange bunch. We have a lot of crazy thoughts that just don't make sense to anyone else. Our brains are wired differently. We get from point A to point B by going around point Z and bouncing off point M first.", he closes the blog entry by urging you to ignore us.
The big news is that work on 4.0 is officially underway! Don't get too excited, releasing two major versions in 2012 clearly fatigued us as "IPS Community Suite 4.0" is not released until June 2015, over two years later.
4.0 was our first complete rewrite in years. We threw out all our stable and tested code and started over with an empty editor. It was a vast undertaking that consumed us completely. The result was worth it as we had a new modern framework that still serves us today. But we're getting ahead of ourselves a little.
Back in 2013, Mark talks about trees. Not the kind you find laying around in forests, but rather the programmatic type. It's just a way for Mark to show off how beautiful his code is.
IP.Board 3.4 still gets many updates (along with IP.Gallery, IP.Blog, IP.Content, IP.Downloads and IP.Address (ok that last one was made up)).
We spend the year talking about various new things in 4.0, including a new-new editor and various special features (and no one noticed we started calling it "IPS Social Suite 4.0" - it just rolls off the tongue!)
I introduce the new theme engine for 4.0, and this time, my code is not deleted by Mark (true story).
We didn't know it at the time, but 2014 was not the year that IPS Social Community Suite 4.0 (naming things is hard) will be released. Still, Rikki talks enthusiastically about "extending JS controllers and mixins" a way of coding so complex, to this day you can count the number of people who truly understand it on one of Rikki's fingers because it's only Rikki that understands it.
Determined not to be outdone in the confusing customers' stakes, I go on about how important it is to convert your database to UTF-8 when upgrading from 3.0.
As 2014 neared its inevitable end, we did manage to put up a pre-release testing site and release Beta 1 a release so unstable; it makes the current political climate look absolutely peachy.
IPS Community Suite 4.0 (Preview)
Finally, the year that 4.0 is to be released! We released six betas and a few release candidates before nervously hovering over the 'release' button (actually it's a collection of git commands and 'to the letter' instructions I ignore).
After a year of training customers to call our forthcoming release "IPS Social Suite 4.0," we release it as "IPS Community Suite 4.0". Lindy writes a lengthy blog article that sounds like a cross between a technical discussion of the Brother 8987-A printer and an award acceptance speech.
Quite frankly, after nearly two years of development, we're just relieved to have finally released it.
The year is spent refining and fixing 4.0 and culminates in the news of 4.1, where we add activity streams and a menu manager. We also talk about the new-new-new editor.
December 16th marks the time that IP.Board 3.4 officially dies as we declare it "end of life" and no longer support it. That shiny new release we were excited to talk about in 2012 is finally put out to pasture. The last we heard, IP.Board 3.4 moved to a farm and is doing well.
Now that IP.Board 3.4 is end of life; we do the sensible thing and make a few minor IP.Board 3.4 releases to improve security.
IPS Social.. sorry, Community Suite hits version 4.1.17 (confusing Lindy) before the year is done with many new improvements, including embeds, warning notes and the new leaderboard.
We're still mostly undecided what to call the product, so we avoid trying in all our blog entries.
In fact, looking back, it's quite remarkable how often we changed the name of our product. You'd be forgiven for thinking that it was a robust and well-considered attempt to prevent Google from serving up relevant search results and to confuse potential customers.
We find time to update our own website and introduce a new developer's area.
Barely 16 days into the new year, and we release news of the two-factor authentication feature added to IPS Community Social Invision IP.Board Suite 4.1.18.
When spring has sprung, Charles drops the news that we're working on 4.2, the main feature being a screenshot of the Admin CP log in. We promise that you will love it and that it will be released mid-2017.
Updates come thick and fast. Calendar event reminders, content messages, recommended replies, letter profile photos device management and delayed deletes all make the blog.
Still not convinced that people take us seriously when we say we're committed to SEO, we post about more SEO improvements.
This time, we talk about implementing JSON-LD, rich snippets, pagination tags and more.
We also squeeze another one in about the new-new-new-new editor.
We overhaul our own blog (using Pages because that's how we roll) and I start a hilarious series of blog entries where I troll our own team. Everyone including me loses interest early on in 2019.
During April, we do the sensible thing and change the name of our product once more. IPS Community/Social Suite 4.1 is out, and Invision Community 4.2 is in.
Just to recap: IBForums > IPB > IP.Board > IPS Social Suite > IPS Community Suite > Invision Community.
You're welcome search engines!
As promised, we release Invision Community 4.2 around the middle of the year. Well done, everyone! We finally hit a release date!
As is now tradition, we end the year with news of our next big release Invision Community 4.3 (and tease the new emoji feature). We also calm nerves about Europe's endless fascination with regulation (it's this kind of joke that caused Brexit you know) and wrote up a guide on GDPR.
Phew. We're almost there, dear reader. If you skimmed through most of the blog to this point and expected me to finish with a bang, you'll be disappointed.
We start 2018 at full speed releasing feature news on Invision Community 4.3 including emoji, OAuth, community moderation, REST API, subscription manager, announcements and more.
Oh and we hit our sweet sixteenth birthday in February!
We release Invision Community 4.3 in April to rapturous applause after a short beta testing period. We all agree that 4.3 was a great stable release which instantly makes the developers nervous.
Towards the end of the year, we announce that work has begun on Invision Community 4.4. We talk about new features such as GIPHY integration, AdminCP notifications, Post Before Registering, Commerce Updates and more.
Still not sure if we care about SEO? Well, how about another blog entry on SEO?
The only thing missing this year is a new update on our editor.
And we arrive back home in 2019. A week into January and I pull the massive twist that we're using Invision Community 4.4 on our own community. It's not quite up there with "Bruce Willis is a ghost" though.
In March we write up a case study on The Trevor Space, an LGBTQ charity set up to prevent suicide and to provide crisis intervention. TrevorSpace commends Invision Community for allowing anonymity online which isn't possible with social media.
Rikki drops a bombshell in September when he announces that we're actively working on native iOS and Android apps for Invision Community. Apparently mobile is a thing now.
November starts a series of blog entries talking about our new upcoming release, Invision Community 4.5. We talk about the Admin CP overhaul, Club Pages, RSS Feed Improvements and Club improvements.
And here we are. Right up to date. This decade may have only taken us from IP.Board 3.1 to Invision Community 4.5, but it really has seen a massive change in the company we are, and the industry we are in.
We have seen the inception, rise and stumble of social media. While it's true that forums are no longer the preserve of Star Trek fans obsessing over continuity errors and informal communities have been absorbed by Facebook and friends, spaces that you completely own to host discussions are still very much in demand.
Invision "Chameleon" Community in 2019
Over the past year or so we've seen a sustained rise in the demand for independent communities. Brands especially like that you own your data and can use it to gain insights into customer habits. Just this year, we've launched communities for LEGO, HTC, Sage, Mattel, Gibson Guitars, Squarespace, and many more.
We are constantly evolving Invision Community (assuming we stick with that name) to be at the very centre of your online presence. We have tools to add discussion comments to any page of your site, to embed widgets with a few lines of code. We want to showcase your community throughout your site by adding multiple touchpoints to take your customers on a journey with you. Our native apps will offer new and exciting ways to interact with a community via new interfaces.
As we move into our third decade, I can only see a resurgence for independent communities as we tire of the crushing intrusion of social media. We give away so much of our attention, time and information for very little reward.
We have never been more divisive and fiercely tribal.
It's time to come back together to discuss a topic with care and thoughtfulness. It's time to allow our personalities to take a back seat and let considered discussion live again.
And we'll be here doing what we have always done; creating the very best community platform possible.
I'd love to know when you joined us on this crazy ride. Was it before or after 2010?