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Groupserver development priorities

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ARCHIVED DOCUMENT - See GroupServer's Development Schedule and join their Development group to get coding.

Many of the features below are now in GroupServer.

2008 General Improvement Suggestions

Suggestions to refine and then submit to the GroupServer development community.

  1. Search within a group as the default response if a search query is entered within the space of a group. Currently it is difficult to select to search within a group unless it shows a recent result.
  2. The bold word "Sticky" before a sticky topic (a topic like Introductions) may cause people to scan past the topic item. Perhaps place the phrase (Sticky Topic) in italics after the subject line.
  3. When navigating the Earlier/Later content, add a sense of direction <<< Earlier | Later >>> since some (like myself think of earlier as "recent" ... hmmm, what do people think is the most recent or latest direction?

2008 Feature Enhancements

E-Democracy.Org has a budget for a number of feature enhancements based on resources from four primary sources - participant and supporter donations, funds from our Rural Voices and Neighborhood Forums projects, and a technical assistance grant from Ashoka.

Watch this space for a list of funded features.

Previous List, in Order of Priority

  1. Posting Files
  2. Authenticated Web Feeds
  3. Fix widgets so that Forum Managers can update them.
    • The code that generates these widgets is found here (in ZMI - Zope Management Interface): sites/edem/Templates/groups/standard/related-links.xml
  4. Digest template
    • restore # posts of Y in last 24 hours
    • only include topics that have been updated since last digest OR add line "Recent topics with posts older than 24 hours:"
    • Display all topics that have been updated in the last 24 hours.
  5. Add YouTube viewer to topic display when a YouTube video is linked to.
  6. Add [X] rules agreement check box on register page with some rules summary text
  7. Restore hours to post warning on web/e-mail when over X post in Y time quota instead of only listing the time.
  8. Automatically display thumbnails of photos that are uploaded to site.
  9. Ability to turn a group "off" or make it an announcement group
  10. Make it so that "Web Only" users get a weekly/monthly topic digest along with a message. Message should be set by forum manager in Admin Panel.
  11. Allow email notification of Join/Leave requests to be delivered to more than one person.
  12. Member Directory List enhancements - adding sortable columns of site selectable (via web admin) of profile information OR standard: Full Name, Title, Org, City, Country
  13. Delivery Options When Joining - user should be able to choose delivery options upon joining a group - E-mail, Digest, "Web-based" (instead of web-only so we can send folks monthly update down the road)
  14. Fix times zones (as discussed)
  15. Footer template - Review footer template and explore what to add/substract

Working list of priorities for Groupserver Development

This is our current list of priorities, in order of importance to us, for update of Groupserver.

  1. "Start A New Topic" link on main page for each group.
  2. Allow Forum Manager to change email settings for any member of their group (for that group only)
  3. Make it so new groups created via the web admin require no behind the scenes Zope tweaking to work.
  4. Add ability to see "Previous 20 posts" on a participants profile. (NOTE: This may already be in the works)

Lower Priorities

  1. Review, optimize and compress our CSS to reduce initial load time
  2. Compress large javascript file(s) to reduce initial load time
  3. File area divergence from OGN plans - Current dual access to shared files is brilliant and should remain on E-Democracy.Org indefinitely
  4. Tell a friend feature
  5. Double check unverified users - if a user remains "unverified" after 3 days send additional verification messages every week. If user remains "unverified" for 30 days, remove account (keep a log of accounts that are removed in this manner).
  6. An option (on the web interface) to "flag" a message for forum manager attention (for example a rules violation). A "flagged" message might have a RED flag icon, once the forum manager has dealt with the post/problem, they might turn the flag green. By leaving a Green flag, other future readers would know that a problem was flagged and resolved.
  7. Test GroupServer/OGN with iPhone, Pocket IE, consider css redirect tweaks for mobile navigation
  8. (For Discussion ONLY) How about the ability for each user to set their own preference for "reply to group" or "reply to sender."
  9. Add link to more recent headlines from across the site at bottom or forums page list
  10. Restore ATOM feed with condensed to latest headlines only (offers most topic diversity for feeds integrated into other websites)
  11. User ability to turn photos on/off (so they can choose whether or not to view individuals photos while reading forum on the web).
  12. Redo the member directory, to break the list into smaller groups. Perhaps view by letter or in groups of 50?
  13. An ability to send all existing members a sample digest, on a one time basis only, with instructions on how to subscribe via digest.

Some Feature Ideas we think would mutually strengthen our and OGN's value

  1. Date display evaluation - Isn't 14 JUL 07 easier to read that 2007-07-14?
  2. Offer authenticated access to ATOM feeds from private groups requiring login and password information
  3. Daily/weekly search-term based cross site or group specific e-mail alerts extending ATOM feed from search feature
  4. Automatic image thumbnailer and web view display in topic/post for uploaded/attached e-mails
  5. Flash-based video player automatically inserted in web topic/post view when simple URL is shared for YouTube and a few other popular video sites.
  6. Flash audio player inserted to MP3 files attached or linked.
  7. Some kind of reputation system
  8. Post/topic "recommend" system that results in most recommended lists with time sorting elements
  9. Most web viewed topics of the week per group/overall on site
  10. Tagging via e-mail - Also recommend single word tag format used by the most popular tagging sites including youtube, flickr, del.icio.us
  11. Tag editing, gardening
  12. Ability to filter out users that a participant does not want to hear from (Note from Steve - I oppose things that allow people to block receipt/viewing of specific things on an ongoing basis and support concepts that help raise cream the top or encourages trolls to improve their behavior by letting them know what people think of them - however, negative vibe tool would likely be gamed by political majority to drive out minority views)
  13. Groupserver feature ideas - We have a laundry list of ideas we'd like to see implemented, but know that most require significant funding

Features emerging in likely grant-funded projects

1. In our grant proposal to the Blandin Foundation for at least three rural Minnesota Issues Forums, we included the following text:

While the GroupServer platform supports discussions, file and photograph sharing, a participant directory, and other Web 2.0 features, the new communities will be engaged in an effort to enhance this “open source” tool with new citizen media features. With each funded expansion, sharing new value across the whole of the E-Democracy.Org network is essential. A “Neighborhoods Online Forums” grant for efforts in one or two neighborhoods with a high concentration of immigrant/low income/communities of color areas was recently approved for $25,000 by the MSNet fund of the Minneapolis Foundation and will mutually benefit the network including this proposed project.

...

GroupServer: This is the open source tool used to host Issues Forums. It includes online discussions (e-mail/web), file sharing (including photos), and an important "who’s who" member directory. Enhancements based on the input of newly formed local steering committees will reflect their goals in the technology infrastructure.

  • WordPress: This open source blogging platform has a number of features and plug-ins making it ideal for a Community News and Life Blog. The key enhancement will be the integration of blog post e-mail distribution and comments with the local Issues Forum to sustain a critical mass for interactivity.
  • Aggregation: E-Democracy.Org encourages the use of popular third-party tools that support the generation of citizen media and user-driven Web 2.0 content. This was demonstrated in the Blandin Foundation funded “Voter Voices” section of the Minnesota Gubernatorial E-Debate (http://e-democracy.org/voices) in 2006, including YouTube video, Flickr photos, Del.icio.us links, and Upcoming event calendars. Aggregation is essential to display locally relevant content (sometimes called a “mash-up”) alongside the content generated with our own hosted technology (GroupServer, WordPress). This allows cost-effective integration of multimedia and the presentation of a dynamic community homepage with content from multiple sources.


2. In our Neighborhood Forums in high immigrant areas of Minneapolis and St. Paul, we included the following text (however, the total grant was about half of what we asked so this list will need to refined):

Neighborhood Forum GroupServer Enhancements

GroupServer is an open source tool that combines e-mail lists with web forums. It also supports file sharing. Based on input from the online survey, these are a possible set of small features that will be added under contract with the developers. Any features would then become available to any interested user of GroupServer which may be downloaded and used for free by more technically inclined non-profits and others.

Draft priority new open source features

  • Selective Disclosure - Each forum will be given the option of providing open access to the subject lines of posts while limiting full access to those registered in the forum. This will help the forum attract new members based on the content, but not expose the full content of these very local discussions to search engines.
  • Announcement Submission Forms - While members can easily submit any kind of appropriate announcement via e-mail, forum rules might call for certain kinds of announcements, like garage sale notices or offers of free items (like a used couch) to be submitted via a form. This would allow the creation of intelligent digests as well as allow someone to indicate that free item from a neighbor is no longer available.
  • Recruitment Tools - A remote sign-up box option will allow neighborhood and other locally-focused digital justice groups to integrate a sign-up form into their website.
  • Headline Sharing - The creation of some simple javascript that will leverage GroupServer's existing RSS (headline) feeds to make it easy for other websites to automatically present recent headlines in their sites (like an existing neighborhood website)
  • File Display Enhancements – While already quite advanced, additional file sharing features that display neighborhood photos automatically as an album or video and audio files in a certain manner will be explored. Alternatively or in addition, based on our recent Voter Voices social software “tagging” and aggregation experiment – http://e-democracy.org/voices, a unique tag “mplscedarriverside” for example will be promoted to local YouTube (video), Flickr (photos), and Del.icio.us (links) user and a GroupServer page will automatically display the content from such services by using the APIs from those services on the website for a particular neighborhood forum.
 

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