New JSF Forum: progress report & features
I had another very productive day yesterday as I continued to prepare the brand new JSF Forums for launch.
The more I use the new software, the more I love it. I know you all are going to dig it, too. It’s fast, user-friendly, packed with amazing features, encourages interactivity and is tightly integrated with social media.
Of course the social media stuff is purely optional. If you have no use for Facebook, Twitter and the like, the forum is equally as functional without any of that stuff enabled.
Yesterday I got all the custom BB shortcode ported over to the new system and verified that it’s working correctly. Everything from pre-formatted text, to tables, to the Xbox gamer cards is working just fine. All of the existing posts are rendering perfectly.
Something that gave the JSF Forums its own unique personality was the collection of smilies that have been in use over the years. When the forums relaunch later this week you’ll find some new smilies, but yesterday I took the time to add all the existing JSF smilies–nearly 100 of them–to the new forums. Even the shortcode is the same, so you’ll feel right at home using them. You can also select any of the smilies from a menu if you don’t want to bother remembering all the shortcodes.
Video embeds are something I spent a great deal of time working on yesterday. With the old forums I had to create custom BB code ([youtube]video_id[/youtube] and [youtubehd]video_id[/youtubehd]) so that users could embed Youtube videos. The new system has support for video embedding built in, so the first thing I had to do was execute some SQL statements on the database to replace the legacy video embed code with the new code so that all the existing videos would render properly.
Embedding video on the new forums is incredibly easy, and many more video sites are supported. All you have to do is copy and paste the entire video link into your post, and the forum software will automatically embed the video for you! This will work for most of the major video sites, including Youtube, Vimeo, Daily Motion, Live Leak, Meta Cafe and even public Facebook videos.
Video embedding was a premium/VIP feature on the old forums, but on the new forums I’ve decided that it will be a standard feature available to all members.
The stock code on the new forums sized embedded video down to the lowest common denominator. This is fine if you’re on a smartphone, but not so great if you’re on a desktop or even a tablet. With a little css work I was able to make the video size truly responsive (meaning the video will automatically be sized to fit your screen). I set things up to fill 80% of the browser, and it works dynamically. In other words, if you resize your browser–even while the video is playing–it will automatically resize the video to fit. I got it working with all the media embeds that use an iframe, so that’s Youtube, Daily Motion, Live Leak, Meta Cafe and Vimeo.
Yesterday I setup and tested the APIs for Twitter, Google+ and Facebook. Now it’s easy to sign up for a JSF account using any of those services to authenticate. Existing members can even associate their accounts with those services if they like, and use them to log into JSF.
I also implemented Google’s innovative new “No CAPTCHA reCAPTCHA” system. If you’ve not see this before, it’s awesome. No more trying to decipher impossible to read letters and numbers to prove you’re not a bot. All you have to do is click a box and you’re done.
One complaint that I heard often over the years is that a user’s post count is, in some cases, a poor representation of his or her’s actual helpfulness. I agreed, but with the old forum software there was not a lot I could do about it.
The new forum software address that issue with an extremely flexible feature called “Trophies”. The Trophy system allows the administrator to define any number of custom achievements, each of which is assigned a point value. When a member meets the criteria for a trophy, the system rewards the member with trophy points. The accumulation of trophy points is a much more useful indicator of how helpful a member is compared to pure post count. I’ve created trophies for post milestones, of course, but I also have trophies for how helpful other members feel you are (among many other things).
Here’s what I’ve come up with so far (subject to change before launch). Click to enlarge:
User titles (“New Member”, “Member”, “Senior Member”, etc) will no longer be based on post count, they will be based on trophy points. These points are retroactive, so longtime members will log back in to the new forums and find some nice bling attached to their profiles. 🙂
Today I’ll be working on the permission system, and all the optional member upgrade packages. I’ll be changing the perks for VIP/donating members quite a bit. I want the forums to be awesome for everyone, but also want members who choose to support the site financially to enjoy some nice perks and enhancements. There are quite a few packages and add-ons that I’m installing that are not free. Many of the VIP features will be tied to those add-ons.
I also still have to purchase the custom themes/styles and get those installed and adjusted. I am planning to do that today or tomorrow.
It’s my hope to launch the new forums by Friday, and even sooner if possible.