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Matt

IPS Management
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Matt last won the day on February 16

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About Matt

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    Chief Software Architect

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  1. Thanks for the kind words! That's how it should be. Let us research and work on the tools, like SEO and you just focus on running your community. A perfect partnership!
  2. I'm sure that most reading this blog are running an up-to-date Invision Community and enjoying all the benefits of a modern community platform. Little things that get taken for granted now, like being able to view your community on a mobile phone without pinching and zooming just to read a few posts and having multiple automated tools to deal with community toxicity and spam. However, a little wander around the web soon uncovers some really old forum systems still somehow creaking along. Amazingly, most of these communities are still used daily, often with millions of posts in the archives. It might be tempting to ask why keep upgrading and investing in new versions of the software? After all, if the community is still running just fine and getting daily visitors, then it's ok to do nothing, right? But there is a hidden cost in doing nothing. Security This is the main one for me. Old platforms often have several published security vulnerabilities. Often these vulnerabilities are exploited by scripts that are shared around hacker communities. This means exploiting a website running an old version of a forum system is as simple as running a script and pointing it at your site. Older forums are also less sophisticated. They rely on unsafe hashing methods to store passwords and lack vital features like two-factor authentication. Also, consider that the server environment has to be maintained with out of date PHP and MySQL versions. It's a recipe for disaster. Could your community survive a major exploit where data is downloaded into the hands of a hacker? The cost could be fatal to your community. Declining engagement Even the most ardent of fans on your community will eventually tire of struggling to access your site on mobile devices. I think back to 2002 when we created the first version of our software. We only had to focus on how it looked on a computer, so naturally, that influenced the design of the forum. It's not so simple now. More and more of us are using mobile phones to access the internet. A recent statistic showed that mobile internet access outstrips desktop use 2 to 1; and for some countries, mobile internet access is almost the only way people get online. It's just a matter of time before new members stop registering and engagement tails off. Competition At the end of 2018, there were 1.8 billion websites (I Googled it). The competition for attention has never been as fierce. Your community may be the go-to place for your niche, but what if another community popped up running the latest version of a platform with all the features your members have been desperately asking for? It may not take long until there is a massive drain from your community. I'm sure there's a dozen reasons to make sure you're always re-investing in your community by upgrading to a modern platform. This blog merely scratches the surface. For those of you that do invest and upgrade? You reap the benefits daily by ensuring you are doing the very best for your community by keeping it secure and accessible for most. If you are on an older platform, now is the time to put some serious thought into making the move to something better. I put together a little downloadable guide that might help too. What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.
  3. The Internet is a fierce battleground for users, clicks, attention, and audience. Competition surrounds your community from all angles and new threats constantly emerge. The Internet has leveled the playing field for local businesses, solopreneurs, and small organizations which means more people than ever are competing for users. Online communities are no different, and as companies realize the growing power of communities, you too may face more challenges. Online communities are growing faster than ever: IDC predicts worldwide online communities market to grow to $1.2 billion in 2019 According to research by Leader Networks, twenty-three percent of marketers who have online communities indicate that the size of their communities doubled in the past year. How is your community competing against your competitors? Is your community growing or stagnating relative to your competitors? In this blog post, we identify core concepts of competitive strategy that stretch from traditional theory to unique methods of winning for communities. Theory of Competition The broadly-accepted understanding of competition in the business world rests on the seminal work by Professor Michael Porter, when he mapped out the origins of competitive forces in his 1979 book “How Competitive Forces Shape Strategy.” Fundamentally, all strategies for Porter distill into two basic options: Build on what you already do, or do something no one else can do. You can compete by doing what everyone else is doing but be more efficient, such as offering higher quality content, a better user experience, or having a lower price of member acquisition. Or, you can expand the pie by forging a new position in the marketplace, such as staking out an untapped niche or developing a unique service. What’s your current competitive strategy: be better at what you’re already doing and your competitors, or to do something completely new? Emerging Theories A new strategy on competition is emerging that is just as potent as Porter’s competitive forces. It’s especially relevant for online communities in the digital age: reacting opportunistically to emerging possibilities. Discovery-driven planning is the field’s most recent thinking. It was introduced 20 years ago in works like Tim Luehrman’s “Strategy as a Portfolio of Real Options” that talked about flexibility as a strategy. The idea was also introduced in the more recent “Stop Making Plans: Start Making Decisions” by Michael Mankins and Richard Steel, which argued for continuous strategic planning cycles. Online communities are impacted by – and can seize advantage of – fluctuating factors: Technical advances and digital disruptions Disruptions in your industry The faster you react to market or technological change, the greater your advantage will become over time. What disruption recently impacted your industry or niche? How can you capitalize on the opportunity? Application to Online Communities Online communities are at an especially powerful intersection of customers, superusers, industry experts, and brand representatives. By assembling a broad mix of users, you gain a source of competitive knowledge and crowd wisdom unmatched by traditional businesses. Market intelligence – Harness the power of crowds by letting your members feed you real-time market intelligence on the industry, market trends, and competitors. Use technology to your advantage – Become an expert on utilizing your Invision platform as a technological advantage, whether you’re increasing visitor registrations with Post Before Registering, adding in store filters in Commerce, or enabling the application manifest settings for faster access on smartphones. Collaborative ideation – Collaborate with users early in the design process to create services or products that are highly-differentiated. Co-Creation – Channel your user’s expertise, enthusiasm, and product knowledge into co-created content such as tutorials, support answers, industry news, contests, and more. Brand Ambassadors – Turn your membership’s most passionate users into brand ambassadors to provide outreach and personalized connections. Conclusion Communities are challenged and tested every day by a multitude of competitors that compete for users. Competition is fierce, and as the web continues to proliferate and level the playing field, competition will only get stronger. It’s no longer enough to host a general discussion forum. Successful communities envision a clear competitive strategy. Although competition is fierce, there are winners on the Internet who consistently gain market share. The winners are those who understand the fundamental drivers of competition: to create sustainable advantages over their competitors, to offer unique services and experiences, and to react opportunistically. They also leverage all facets of their community for maximum value. Join me in 2019 in defining your competitive strategy and becoming a Community of Excellence. - Joel R Joel R is a mystery wrapped inside an enigma. When he's not running his own successful community, he's peppering Invision Community's private Slack channel with his feedback, community management experience and increasingly outrageous demands (everything is true except the last part).
  4. Thanks again for the thoughtful reply. I absolutely agree that there’s more to a community than just the code that powers it. Theres so much to learn and discuss. I’m asking for case studies from some of our clients so we can dig in and see what made them successful. Go for it! Reviews are great for SEO and always get good engagement!
  5. One of the first things I do when visiting a site that I know has a community is to try and find it. More often than not, it's hidden away in the footer links or buried in several sub-menus and labelled something relatively obscure like "Fans" or "Support". This is a massive lost opportunity! We all know that social proof is incredibly important when making a purchasing decision. When I buy something on Amazon or book a holiday, the first thing I do is scour the reviews. Are the reviews mostly positive? What did other people think about the product after receiving it? I might see two almost identical products and the reviews, not the price that'll always sway me. It's that urge to herd to keep safe at play. So why bury all that out of the way? Your community should be full of fantastic social proof — hundreds of customers using your product and creating a buzz. Is it a fear of criticism? We all have had bad experiences with clients who are less than rational with feedback, but that's OK. The Harry Potter series of books are beloved by millions, made J.K Rowling a fortune, made a celebrated movie series and opened up several themed attractions which are always busy. Yet, there are a significant number of 1-star reviews on Amazon. Not everyone will get you or your business. You always have the opportunity to reply and explain your side, and you are always in control with moderation tools. Let's face it; if you are to handle negative feedback, it's better to manage it on your community than see it all over social media, Google reviews and review sites like TripAdvisor. Maybe you're a little embarrassed because the community platform is old and doesn't match your branding. If that's the case, then come and talk to us! We specialise in migrating communities from legacy platforms with poor mobile support. We offer brand matching services too. Maybe it's just that you're unsure of what to do with your community. I get that too. It can be hard to know how it fits in with your brand. I'm happy to help there also. Feel free to drop a comment below. Our product has several ways to pull content from the community and feature it on your site. We've helped big brands like LEGO®, Sega, Warner Bros. and more nurture a prosperous community that enhances their business. The bottom line is that a well manage community should be central to your brand and website. Hiding it among the "Privacy Policy" links is a huge missed opportunity. - Matt
  6. Thanks so much for the lovely feedback. Let me know if I can help you at all. 🙂
  7. Release parties at Invision Community are a fairly tame affair. You'd think after months of planning, coding and testing we'd want to cut loose and dance the night away. The reality is we send each other a few amusing GIFs in Slack and then wait for support tickets to start appearing while our developers crack their knuckles and prepare for bug reports to be filed. It's a nightmare trying to get a photo of our team, so here's a stock image. Just pretend it's us. That's me looking at a report of how much code Mark Wade has refused during reviews I did manage to find five minutes to ask the team what their favourite feature of 4.4 was. Here's what they said. Marc S Support, Guides and Keen Cyclist @Marc Stridgen I'm going to go with 'Post before registering', because it allows for more effective onboarding of new members on your site. People are much more likely to register after just having written a topic, then they are if they have to register before getting started. It also gives you the opportunity to see how many people are not actually registering, and maybe address that on the site. Ryan Developer, T3 support and reluctant AWS wrangler @Ryan Ashbrook My favorite 4.4 feature is the progressive web app settings. I now have our site pinned to my phones home screen for quick access, and use our site on mobile even more now that I can just hit the icon to pull up our site. Mark H Support, Beta Tester and remembers this when it was fields @Mark H While this isn’t “a” favorite feature, I most like the steady small improvements to Gallery in the 4.x series. Photography-centric sites should especially like the additions to extended EXIF data in 4.4 so that authors can provide the most detail about their submitted photos…. where it was taken, what camera, which lens, shutter speed and aperture, etc. Daniel Developer, T2 support and airport security fan @Daniel F As IPS4 consumer, I'm going to say that Lazy Loading and mobile create menu are my favorite enhancement. As community owner, I'm most excited about post before register and email advertisements.. That's going to bring the $$$ Brandon Developer, Enterprise Support and proud of his thorough code reviews @bfarber My favorite change in 4.4 (besides the overall performance improvements, as I'm a geek for that sort of thing) is the overhauled Conversion experience (which we haven't even blogged about). We took converters and flipped them on their head for 4.4, so you now choose what software you want to convert from, what applications from that software you want to convert, fill in any required details, and the conversion process just launches and runs from beginning to end right then and there. You no longer need to convert each application and each type of data within each application individually, making for an easier and overall smoother experience. Stuart Developer, Conversion Specialist and PC enthusiast @Stuart Silvester This is actually hard to answer than it seems, there are so many great changes and features in 4.4. The combined performance improvements including HTTP/2 Push, More aggressive caching, SVG letter photos, lazy loading are definitely some of my favourites. After all, time is money. (A smaller favourite is the browser notification prompt change, especially with visiting as many customer sites as I do in Tier 2). Jim Support, Beta Tester and suspiciously quiet in staff chat @Jim M The communities I run are about cars and very heavily image based. Whether it's "I have an issue" or simple sharing of car builds, topics get image heavy very quickly and doing anything to improve moving throughout that topic more quickly is going to go far. I feel a lot of communities can relate and why lazy load of images is my favorite 4.4 feature. Jennifer Designer, Enterprise Theme Specialist, owner of several super powers @Jennifer M There are so many changes with 4.4 it's actually really hard to choose just one change that is my absolutely favorite. I would probably say a lot of the more micro features are my favorites. Colored usernames everywhere, lazy load for images, improved notifications experience, text or URLs for announcements, reordering of club tabs, ability to hide widgets/blocks from mobile etc. They are all quality of life improvements that I love and appreciate on so many levels. We're Steve Ballmer levels of excited about 4.4. It looks like Rikki's lazy loading is a clear winner. I'm not surprised, it's a real boost for page speed and reduces hosting costs. Personally I'm a fan of the progressive web app settings which, like Ryan, enables me to have our community on my phone's home page. Let us know what your favourites are below!
  8. We're thrilled to announce that Invision Community 4.4 is available to download now. After months of development, over 1650 separate code commits and quite a few mugs of questionable coffee you can now get your hands on the beta release from the client centre. Not our office Invision Community 4.4 brings numerous new features, over 450 bug fixes and a lot of refinement. We've been talking about the highlights since September on our blog. Here's a recap of all that we've added. We'd love to know which is your favourite feature so far! Drop a line below and let us know!
  9. Matt

    4.4.0 Beta 4

    Major New Features / Enhancements Post Before Registering Animated GIFs AdminCP Notification Center New Email Features: Email Statistics Email Advertisements Unfollow Without Logging In SEO Improvements: Improved pagination with page number now in path (rather than query string) and unique page titles for paginated pages. Improved use of canonical tags. Improved handling of empty containers and profiles to reduce soft 404s. Improved JSON-LD markup, adding @id tags and fixing URLs for comments. Removed page output hidden by JavaScript. Performance Improvements: Added Lazy Loading for images, which will speed up page rendering. Added HTTP/2 support with prefetch/preload. Added support for Brotli compression. Improved default profile photos to use inline SVGs rather than generated images, which will speed up page rendering. Improved browser caching of pages served by the guest page cache, which will reduce the number of requests reaching the server. Improved handing of session data for guests to reduce database reads for guests. Optimized images to reduce file size for faster page rendering. Other minor performance improvements to reduce database queries and fix unnecessary code execution. Commerce Store Filters allow customers to filter products by price, review, stock, or custom admin-defined filters. Core Added setting to display user group formatting in more areas (see 6 New Micro Features). Added less intrusive browser notification prompt in Notifications menu (see 6 New Micro Features). Added ability to show sidebar blocks to only certain types of devices (see 6 New Micro Features). Added ability for club owners to reorder the navigation tabs (see 6 New Micro Features). Added ability for announcements to be linked to an URL or be a title only (see 6 New Micro Features), improved consistency in how announcements are shown in different areas. Improved UI for entering time intervals in AdminCP settings (see 6 New Micro Features). Added a new Icons & Logos section in the AdminCP which allows providing logos for use when sharing links from the community, adding the community as a home screen app on a mobile device (along with additional settings for a PWA manifest to control certain aspects the community’s behaviour when used in this way), and in Safari’s favourites menus and pinned tabs on macOS. Added a new UI for attachments, showing a box with some information about the file, rather than a plain line (see Turbo charging loading speeds). Commerce Braintree Gateway including support for PayPal (with recurring payments), Venmo, and cards. Deprecates some PayPal features. Added ability to target bulk mails to members who have spent certain amounts. Added sidebar widgets for best sellers, latest products, product reviews and a featured product. New Server Requirements: PHP 7.1.0 or higher required (7.3.x now supported). MySQL 5.5.3 or higher requires (5.6.2 recommended). Removed Features Removed EmojiOne-style emojis due to licensing issues. Removed Gravatar support due to privacy concerns and performance issues. Removed password hashes when downloading a member list from the AdminCP. This is for security, to reduce the ease of obtaining sensitive data if the AdminCP is ever compromised. Removed the name of the content (e.g. topic) from the “Next Unread” link which could consume significant server resources on large communities.
  10. Thanks Davy, very much appreciated my friend. Absolutely. It's great that you have the power to remove and amend these settings. Pink Panther, now you're talking!
  11. We attach a significant amount of personally identifiable data to our social media profiles daily. I regularly use social media to share photos of my kids and holidays. I post my personal thoughts on products I've used and TV shows I've watched. I'm even tagged in location-based check-ins. It's all there in my news feed for anyone to see. I'm not alone. More and more of us live our lives through the prism of social media. We share things we love, things we loathe and things that make us laugh. With just a few clicks, you can discover a lot of information about a person. More often than not, you can see where they work, where they live and what school they went to. Scrolling through their timeline often reveals their stance on hot topics such as gun control, the current President and other recent headline news items. This information follows you when you join a Facebook Group. Your past Tweets are always available to trawl through. Indeed, there may be some groups that you decide you cannot post in as people would be able to identify you. This is particularly true for stigmatised conditions, such as financial help, illness and mental health. After all, if you were seeking help with a large amount of debt or managing an embarrassing medical condition, you wouldn't feel comfortable knowing that work colleagues, friends and family could read your posts. The benefit of anonymity for stigmatised topics "Forums can all offer some initial anonymity, a community, and information that geographically proximate others may not have. What stigma-related forums uniquely offer is that the anonymity protects those who are not ready to be publicly associated with sensitive topics; the community helps to neutralise the “spoilage” of identity that accompanies stigma." (1) Unlike social media where reams of personal data is willingly added, and which can identify you to other online users, forums allow you to add as much information as you are comfortable with. Support communities for mental health and illness flourish using forums for this reason. An individual may feel devalued in society and unwilling to share their condition over social media. "Nowadays people can both avoid and proactively cope with this devaluation by turning to online forums populated by others who share the same devalued group membership." (1) Forums offer a safe space for these individuals to seek and receive support from others without disclosing large amounts of identifiable data. Allowing a level of anonymity encourages more people to register and over time, they will develop ties with other users. For an individual with a stigmatized condition, a forum may be a real life-line in coping with the condition as face-to-face support is often limited. Adrial Dale, who owns Herpes Opportunity agrees. "In order for us to truly be able to work through the shame that stigma can trigger, it's absolutely vital for us to feel safe to open up and tell all. Through opening up, we not only get to share with an understanding and compassionate community (which normalizes our shared experiences), but we're also able to begin to release what has felt like our own solitary burden to bear. Then a magical thing can happen ... an alchemical process that transforms shame into an opportunity for connection. An opportunity for us to be accepted for who we are *behind* the thick wall of shame. And ultimately, an opportunity to accept ourselves. Especially in these days of the internet not feeling so private (even in places where it absolutely should be), having true privacy and anonymity is paramount for communities like Herpes Opportunity. Anything other than that is grounds for paranoia and holding back from sharing ourselves. (In fact, just the other day someone messaged me asking "Are private messages really private?") Fear can lead to closing ourselves off, which can lead to isolation and paranoia, which can lead to a downward spiral of self-loathing and depression. On the other hand, safety, connection and compassion creates an an okayness with the nitty-grittiness of what it means to be human." The benefit of expressing a new identity "People may strategically express identities when they think they will not be punished, and/or connect them to an audience that is valued." (1) It is arguably true that not so many years ago, tech-related communities were very much male-dominated, with female contributions valued less. Forums allow a way to create a new identity that is either gender-neutral thus allowing the male users to assume a gender, or overtly male to ensure their contributions are evaluated on merit, and not with any gender bias. Christopher Marks who owns Nano-Reef has seen this first hand. "During a discussion with a women’s group in our generally male dominant hobby, a number of women had expressed the benefit of having an anonymous username and profile when asking for help and advice on forums, they receive equal help without the unfortunate gender bias or belittling that can sometimes happen in real life when seeking the same help in person." Invision Community's Jennifer has also experience of this on her own community; RPG Initiative. "RPG Initiative is a community for all roleplayers. We focus on all text-based roleplaying forms that are hosted on the internet. We encourage roleplayers to find each other, discuss roleplay and grow as collaborative writers here at the Initiative in a safe environment." Jennifer relies on, and encourages anonymity. She knows that because her site is predominately female, some female users identify as male to increase the chances of getting others to collaborate with them. "Male players are rare, in fact, I recently ran a poll on my site and of those that responded to it less than 15% of them are male (or identify as such). So this gets them more attention and in turn, more people that want to write with them." Jennifer explains how anonymity is critical to her site's growth. "Anonymity is a difficult thing to accomplish in a small niche like mine, but it's sort of like a small town where everyone knows everyone, and they likely know all of your secrets. So enforcing rules to preserve anonymity is really important to my community and me. This includes prohibiting the "naming of names" or the "site" that the drama is coming from when seeking for advice or help. This doesn't negate that people may know the existing situation or people involved because they are also involved or know some of the people involved, but it helps cut down on the drama and the spread of negativity and false information about people." With a forum community, you can truly be who you want to be. This is not so with social media where others can create bias based on your gender, looks or topical preferences. Together, together "In her early work, Turkle argued that the internet provided myriad positive opportunities for self-transformation, but more recently, she argues that the explosion in social media options has led us to develop superficial, emotionally lazy but instantly available virtual relationships." (1) It's hard to argue against this statement when you consider the content that predominates social media. And often an endless stream of self-focused content. "Indeed, we provide clear evidence that online forums afford users a way of being genuinely “together, together”, as opposed to what Turkle calls “alone together.”(1) The bottom line is that it has been proven that allowing a degree on anonymity increases engagement across all niches, but especially those that are built to support those with stigmatised conditions. These forums have a greater sense of community and depth than those built on social media. When you allow your members to take back control of their privacy, you are empowering them to make decisions about what to share. Given how eroded our privacy is in our modern always-connected world, this is a precious gift. If you are looking to create a new community then consider this before choosing your community platform. References: 1: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S074756321500268X 2: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10410236.2017.1339370
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