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Group Forum Subscription v1.3

I’ve just put version 1.3 of Group Forum Subscription into the WordPress plugin repository. Lots of cool stuff has been fixed, added, or improved:

  • Localization complete. Shipped with four translations: French, German, Russian, Spanish
  • Dashboard menu moved under BuddyPress section
  • Forum Subscription notification block added to BP’s forum index.php pages
  • Forum subscription notification block removed for non-logged-in users
  • Fixed bug that subscribed non-confirmed users to forums created in standalone bbPress
  • Admins can choose whether posters receive notifications of their own posts (off by default; not togglable in standalone bbPress)

I got a TON of help from some readers of this blog, who were diligent about bug reports and extremely generous with their translations. Thanks so much for your help!

Group Forum Subscription v1.1

If you’re using Group Forum Subscription for BuddyPress, you might like to know that I’ve just pushed out v1.1. There’s nothing new in terms of functionality, but a lot of small bugs have been fixed, as well as a fairly large bug that was affecting automatic subscription on the joining/leaving of BP groups. Download the latest version through your WP Plugins panel, or download it from wordpress.org.

Thanks to r-a-y, MarkS, WestPointer, and other users for helping me to spot and squash those bugs!

New BuddyPress / bbPress plugin: Group Forum Subscription

BuddyPress and bbPress connect nicely, giving BuddyPress groups a handsome forum interface, but the software has no native ability to allow users to receive email when their favorite discussions are updated. Without this functionality, it can be hard for users to keep up-to-date with forums, and subsequently the forums are less active than they otherwise could be.

Subscription panel on group home page
A panel on each group home page lets users know whether they'll automatically receive email notifications of new discussion activity in the group

Group Forum Subscription is a set of plugins I’ve written (mostly on the BuddyPress side, with a small bbPress trigger plugin) that adds the missing forum notification functionality. GFS allows members of BuddyPress communities to subscribe to email notifications of new discussion activity. Subscriptions can be managed on a topic-by-topic or group-by-group basis.

Users can subscribe or unsubscribe from entire groups on the Notification Settings page
Users can subscribe or unsubscribe from entire groups on the Notification Settings page

The plugin also has some administrative settings. Notable among these is the ability to set up email notifications for the first time after the plugin is installed, so that users are automatically subscribed to topics in their groups without having to set it up manually. This is a setup process that we’ll be running in the upcoming days here on the CUNY Academic Commons.

Group Forum Subscription will currently work only on 1.0.x versions of BuddyPress – the brand-new BP 1.1 is not yet supported. I’ll be working on the upgrade very soon. Read more about the guts of the plugin or download it for yourself.

Recent Site Developments

Over the past several weeks, the Commons development team has made a series of major and minor changes to the site. I’d like to detail them here and discuss our future plans.

Navigation
Admin Bar Improvements
We’ve taken several steps to tie the site together through better navigation bars. You’ve probably noticed some big changes to our two nav bars, the BP Admin bar (so named for “BuddyPress admin”) and the main nav bar. Here’s a screenshot showing both nav bars: navbars

The new BP Admin bar essentially provides sitewide navigation, since it appears on every single page of the site, including each user’s blog. We’ve created a navigational tool that is significantly more robust than it was; now, instead of clicking “Home” and simply returning to the home page of the Commons, users can access the main sections of the site (People/Groups/Blogs/Wiki/Forums/News/About) directly from the admin bar.

If that first drop-down menu on the admin bar provides links to the major areas of the site, the second dropdown menu, titled “My Commons,” offers a more personalized set of links. When the user scrolls over that menu, a list of custom links (“My Friends,” “My Groups,” “By Blogs,” etc.) appears.

The next two dropdown menus, “My Blogs” and “My Groups” are somewhat redundant, since they seem, at first to replicate options available on the “My Commons” menu. But you’ll notice when you mouse over them that they offer more direct links to the user’s content, so that, for instance, one can choose to create a new post on specific blog simply by clicking My Blogs > (Name of Blog) > New Post.

Active State Navigation
We’ve added active-state navigation to the site, which means that the relevant section of the main nav bar will turn a lighter color when you are on that part of the site. In the following screenshot, the “wiki” link on the nav bar lights up to show the user that she is on the wiki:
active-state-nav

We hope that this makes the site a little easier to use.

Direct Access to Forums
Previously, the only way to create a forum post was to do so through the group interface. We’re now providing direct access to the discussion forums via the forums link on the nav bars.

What’s nice about this is that members of the site can start new discussion topics outside of their groups. Additionally, users can take advantage of increased functionality on the forums (attaching files, bookmarking favorites, etc.) when posting directly on them.

Redesigned News Page
We’ve redesigned the News page so that it provides a better overall picture of activity on the Commons. If you’re wondering what has been going on since the last time you visited the site, head to this page first to see recent sitewide activity. This is a very useful way to stay up to date on happenings in the Commons.

Assorted Bug Fixes and Usability Improvements
We’ve made a number of fixes to minor usability issues:
— Links to identities on social networking services from member profile pages now lead directly to those sites
— The default listings of Newest/Active/Popular members and groups on the homepage has been changed; the default for groups is now “Popular,” to emphasize size, and the default for Members is “Active,” to promote active users.

Known Issues and Future Plans
We’ve accomplished a great deal recently, but we know we have a lot to do. Here are some of the most pressing items on our to-do lists:

— Create a Help Section with screencasts and an introduction for new users
— Redesign home page of Commons to take better advantage of feeds
— Create a sitewide search that will include the wiki, blogs, member profiles, groups, and forums
— Add wiki feeds to sitewide feeds
— Assess group needs on Commons
— Get SiteWide tags working
— Formalize bug tracking system
— Implement a system for user suggestions
— Add login widget to homepage
— Fix email capability on BuddyPress (group wire email is currently not working)
— Build more robust member profile pages

That’s just a short list of some of the things we have planned. And, of course, we’d love to hear your thoughts about all of this. Please use the comments to let us know what you think and what you’d like to see!