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Groupserver feature ideas

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Back To: Groupserver, Groupserver development priorities

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

Current development:


We've added notes next to the items that have been completed to best of our current knowledge and now exist in the pre-1.0 version of GroupServer used by E-Democracy.Org. Also of note is our Groupserver Brainstorm from March 2006.


Groupserver Feature Ideas

Most of these ideas require funding to implement. Also, while GroupServer is central to our Issues Forum effort, using different tools other than GroupServer (e.g. Plone, Drupal, Moodle, Word Press, etc.) may make sense if features already exist elsewhere or fall outside the core GroupServer focus. An example might be a set of tools that support group formation and recruitment.


Drafting Zone - Steven Clift

Steven Clift has a laundry list of tweaks, features and potential modules for GroupServer. E-Democracy.Org hopes to raise the funding required to help the GroupServer team add open source features for all system users. Some feature ideas below are beyond the scope or likely priorities of E-Democracy.Org but would be useful for online communities of practice.

  • Features = Something new beyond a tweak. Perhaps some are more like modules.
  • Tweaks = Adjusting an existing feature.
  • Modules = Big feature ideas.



Tweaks

Things that need/could be adjusted within the current system. Perfecting a good system already.

  1. DONE - Post Title - Swith post page title from "E-Democracy: default" to search engine friendly use of topic name
  2. Web Posting - Post via web-only option by group (useful for online events/consultations where keeping topics clean is important, but full-text e-mail delivery is desired)
  3. Sort Posts
    1. Ability to display topics and posts by all the usual sorting features possible in most e-mail programs
    2. Posts: Author, date, size? Topics: Date of last post, date of first post, number of posts, number of posters, alphabectical - both with displaying 50, 100, 200 posts per screen option
  4. Topic Cleaner - Catch FW: FWD: and other posts e-mailed with 75% of the same terms as a previous post (apply only to subjects with four words or more I guess), return full post with link to that topic they should post to via the web or instruct them to copy enclosed subject line exactly or create new subject line. Also erase any " " blank spaces in front of a subject line.
  5. DONE - Member Photo - Ability to upload and display photo to member page - add option to Site/Group Admin
    1. should include auto-shrinking feature to save jpeg within required parameters and reduce colors/increase compression *NOT DONE*
  6. Member Page Update Reminder - Allow group/site administrator to auto-generate a yearly (or other time) prompt reminding users to update their member page if they haven't done so within X time. A weekly auto-prompt for new group/site members that have not entered any additional information in their member page should be available and only stopped with a web or e-mail auto-request of the member. This would increase member page submissions.
  7. Sort Member Pages - Ability to sort member pages by various attributes like name, city, organization, length on forum, etc.
  8. Search Member Pages - Useful where member profiles are used extensively with multiple special "who who" or knowledge/interest exchange fields
  9. New Member Report - Generate a weekly/monthly digest of new members or members who have updated their member pages and e-mail to members and present link on the web for digest/web-only members. The alert should list the current number of members with reading setting numbers, list the new members, returning members?, and list those who have unsubscribed from the group.
  10. DONE - Web Post Limit Warnings - The web interface should let a poster know that they may not post for X amount of time. Right now someone can write their message, but not find out that they have exceeded their limit. We could allow people to submit messages that would be held until a certain time or e-mail posters a copy of the message they attempted to post.
  11. IMPROVED - E-mail settings for "My Groups" - streamline layout
  12. Disable list of recent user pages visited - perhaps replace with list of last ten pages visited
  13. Unsubscribe Check - Catch e-mail/web unsubscribe requests and give option to subscribe to topic digest (display sample) or become web-only member.
  14. Web-Only Remind - Those with web-only setting would receive monthly reminder that they are member and be sent link to recent topics, perhaps include recent headlines - this should be done at the server or division wide level and combine information from multiple groups
  15. Post Removal Audit Trail - Establish a default where any posts removed must be clearly identified based on the time of removal and who removed them. This should include an option for a site/group administator to note why a post was removed and who to contact for more information.
  16. DONE - Former Member Post Archives - Make sure unsubscribing from a forum or removing (deactivating) and account does not distrub the messages archives. The author of posts from those no longer active on the server should be known and posted.
  17. IMPROVED (Now ATOM feeds) - RSS Control - Create unique RSS URLs for logged-in members for public and private groups. RSS by design can't be fully secret, but using a long randomized RSS link name for secret groups could probably be good enough. Each group member must get their own random URL if it should be possible to ban/throw somebody out of the group. And in either case the secret of the URL could become public by pasting it somewhere, or by sharing it in an RSS reader. If that's not okay, than private groups can't have RSS. YahooGroups only offers RSS feeds for public groups.
  18. New Today - While it is possible on many web forums to show people the posts they have not read, with most people subscribed via e-mail, the server does not know if some read an e-mail or not. Web-only and topic digest members could be offered an advanced New to You window, while e-mail subscribers (or all subscribers) might be shown a view into all of their forums with an option to show What's New based on time - last hour, last 12 hours, last day, last X days/week ... since they lasted logged into the web site. It might not track what they read on the web to start or it could.
  19. Paced Welcome Messages - Allow a group administrator to assign a set of welcome/tip of the day/week e-mail instructions for new members. For example, after two weeks, send the "Too much e-mail?" note with instructions on how to receive the digest version. One month in might be, "Do you like it? Invite others" prompt. These messages can institutionalize good forum management practices.

Feature Ideas

All new features should be added to the web-based Group Admin panel. Use of the Zope interface should be reserved for those customized features particularly unique.

  1. Agenda - Creation of new topic items (subjects moderated) while replies remain unmoderated
  2. Topic Delivery - E-mail delivery of specific topics selected via web site or via e-mail click from line added to topic digest (key concept - keep all/most attributes of GroupServer fundamentally accessible via e-mail so those in developing countries (sometimes with only e-mail access) can participate/retrieve content
  3. Post Colors - assignable colors for "expert panel" or online debates where specific guests post backgrounds are shaded a unique color
  4. Member Posts - List posts from all public groups to member page in directory
  5. DONE -Auto-moderate new members - Create system where new members are allowed to post automatically after a certain time frame or as manually determined by the group administrator
  6. Member Headlines - Display headlines via RSS from member's blog on their member page
  7. Group Member Headlines - Display aggregated and render headlines from all member blogs
  8. Group Headlines - Allow a group to maintain a collection of share RSS/ATOM feeds of interest to a group (for example local news or government press release headlines related to a local issues forum) as well as aggregrate and render those feeds, allow OPML
  9. Syndicate - Share simple Javascript that would allow other sites to insert simple HTML into their web pages to display RSS headlines from our site, generated by our site
  10. Post of the Day - Determine metrics to highlight topics/posts of the day for automatic display
  11. Render RSS - While implied above with headlines, the ability to display RSS feeds from items embedded in other content objects or in XML via Zope interface for unique situations would be useful
  12. Announce Forms - The ability for Group Admins to create simple web to post forms (moderated or not). This could be used at the neighborhood level for example to collect "For Sale" or calender postings. The ability to approve and compile into one e-mail/web post - daily/weekly/hold until approved - for group delivery would be useful
  13. Topic PDF Print - Create template for reader/paper-friendly version of printed topic.
  14. Invite Others - An interface for members to invite others to join.
    1. Prompt near end of registration process, invite X others
    2. Advanced - allow members to see list of those they have invited, whether they responded, and allow them to send personalized reminders (assuming at least two automatic invites are sent a week a part), on the member page list number of people invited, joined because of them, and others who have joined down the line because of their initial invites - think Forward Track
    3. Also see our notes on Issues Forum recruitment technology specifically for E-Democracy.Org
  15. Wiki Markup - Allow Mediawiki style markup for external links embedded into posts made via the web or e-mail. E-mailed posts will get "raw markup" and the web version will hide link text in message post. This feature should be able to be turned off.
  16. Blog Style - Create view that presents topics like a multi-editor blog with the first post presented boldly and comments listed in a smaller format below the first post. GroupServer topics demonstrate that e-lists, web forums, and multi-editor blogs with comments are really the same thing (or close to it).
  17. Blog Standards - Fully integrate blogging standards where appropriate including:
    1. Ping - Allow groups to operate like a "multi-editor blog" where pings to key aggregation sites can be set - Technorati, etc.
    2. Permalink - Add word "Permalink" at the bottom of a post using the first short topic URL we assign to a post
    3. Trackback - Allow web posters/group admin to assign a trackback to a blog so discussions about external blog posts may be discovered from blogs accepting trackbacks, accept trackbacks to credit blogs commenting on discussions hosted on a groupserver site
    4. Topic Link Naming - A search engine optimized topic link, along with the short topic links embedded in the e-mail, like those in blog posts should be considered for public view versus the database string ... so http://..... /division/groups/name/messages/groupserver_feature_ideas or something ... I wish it could be shorter
  18. Short Content URL - Assign a simple and short referring URL to each content object. Something like http://forums.e-democracy.org/content/12345
  19. Mobile - A Mobile/PDA/Low Bandwidth basic view - current layout doesn't work right in Pocket IE, top banner with division chooser takes up first full screen
  20. Video Help - Mini help flash videos
  21. SOME AUTO-TAGGING AT OGN - Tag Posts - All nouns become automatic tags (or perhaps all subject terms with words like "to, the, of ..." removed. Additional tags could be assigned via the web interface. A "tag" based view would be presented as a sort post option as well as a "Related Topics" of the top five related posts to a currently viewed topic based on similar keyword tags.
    1. Determine how to connect tags to Technorati, Del.icio.us, and other tag oriented services.
  22. PARTIAL - SEARCH TO ATOM AT OGN - Search Tracking and Notification - Allow users to turn site searches (public groups as well as searches on private groups to which they are members) into automated notification options via e-mail and RSS. In E-Democracy.Org land this would be used by public officials and their staff to track when their name is mentioned. For example, the term "Governor Pawlenty" would most likely be monitored across all our Minnesota forums and therefore increase the awareness of discussions in the power centers of our state.
  23. E-mail Everything - Create a group option that would automatically insert specialized e-mail request links in messages that would return the text of link items a groupserver site (and potentially the text of external pages linked form messages.) E-Democracy.Org insert the URL of a member page in each message sent, with E-mail Everything turned on "req123ABC@forums.e-democracy.org" could be displayed on the send line. I see this as an option that would make this tool more attractive to developing countries and build on GroupServer's e-mail/web equity approach. E-Democracy might use it as a way to request the full text of topical posts from the Topic Digest or assuming that new files added to the server (or other content objects) could be set to notify group members of the URL to retrieve, adding an e-mail to retrieve option would make sense as long as the file size is listed.
  24. E-Announce - Ability to send annoucements server wide to a set of groups with dupes removed or to special groups based on member directory attributes or member profile information shared only with the site host
  25. E-mail to Friend - E-mail specific post or full topic digest (with excess quoting not sent and URL to topic on web) available - Must be able to turn this feature off on private groups if desired
  26. Question - Ability to ask a question via a web form to an online event host/moderator or simply to a group admin - simple web to e-mail form
  27. Topic List via E-mail - Request topic archive index via e-mail - send first 100 with e-mail command to retrieve specific full text of topics (should e-mails be removed?? - spam harvesting backdoor perhaps)
  28. Full Text E-Digest - E-mail full text digest of topics via e-mail - send daily/every x days based on user settings

Modules

These are ideas for mega-features that would allow unique uses of GroupServer. A plug-in or module framework for GroupServer is advised (we haven't asked the developers about how they invision a plug-in concept working).

  1. Exchange - An intelligent "who's who" and information exchange member directory. We'd like to ask people when they sign up for local Issues Forums which local issues from a list of 20-40 typical topics interest/concern them most. Then when they confirm the list they may opt-out/opt-in "Would you like to receive questions and answers related to the topics selected from citizens in other local Issues Forums?" This would allow us to develop a Q and A system where questions on graffiti removal or traffic calming for example could leverage knowledge across communities and also provide content for a Q and A database. An e-mail digest of Q and A topics could also be created for a set of groups across a site.
  2. Event or Consult - Set of tools for online consultations, events, expert panels, citizen panels. Special time-based events are often quite labor intensive. Supporting the backend of an online event, like auto-prompting of panelists to meet posting deadlines, answer specific questions in a queue for them, etc. would be quite useful.
  3. Photo Album - Specialized display of images, use of tags ... add connections to flickr, perhaps display photos via RSS
  4. STAND ALONE CHAT AVAILABLE - Chat - Create or use something like CGI-IRC to host/point people to related chat spaces to groups. The key is to create an HTML-based chat space that can get around firewalls and not require Java or unique applet to be downloaded. Possible integration with hosted IRC server would allow users to also use their own IRC chat tools and still communicate with novice chatters
  5. Interview - Real-time, auto-refresh interview tool with moderated incoming audience questions - like Washington Post lunch guest, Ask the White House
  6. Calendar - RSS, Organizational/group accounts - Should connect to iCal, Outlook, and other calendar programs and standards
  7. Petition - Petitions are one of the most effective ways to generate opt-in e-mail interest. Petitions that lead to joining existing online groups or the creation of new groups would be of interest. Also, in the UK, more formal e-petitioning elements are being used by local councils. There may be a potential tie in.
  8. Survey - A quasi-academic tool for surveying group/site members either as a whole or based on representive or stratified samples.
  9. Demographics - The ability to securely ask demographic questions without displaying the information in the member profile or allowing access to unauthorized individuals. This information can be quite important to funder of online communities.
  10. Ratings - Ability to rate posts, even members. While the web interface for ratings is obvious, creating an e-mail "request" submission of rating information is of interest. Possible ratings might include - Agree, Disagree or +1 Substance, -1 Style or ... We've thought about how to allow rating to be used as a tool for member accountability. With substance and style ratings you could have them time out and move back toward zero as a reward to good behaviour or a penalty for decline in continued substance.
  11. Credits - A display of points on the member page for successful invitations, using the invite tool for the first time, posting a message, adding a file, etc.. Not sure what you would do with these.
  12. Trade - E-Democracy.Org is exploring the creation very very local of neighborhood community forums in cities where we have Issues Forums. The city-wide forums are the place for more political debate, while in larger cities having a space for community exchange - from local events at the park to local furniture for sale style postings. If we do this, special forms for personal adverts or perhaps localy owned small businesses selling locally made products or services would be useful. This might include an agreement to contribute X percent of the sale to E-Democracy.Org or even involve creating an account to pay for distribution of appropriate ads. Take a look at the content in the Cleveland Park neighborhood of Washington, DC to get an idea of what we might see in a very active community forum.
  13. Forum Start-up - More to come ... technology package to support E-Democracy.Orgs forum start-up process from drafting a group charter and forming a steering committee to strategic planning and forum recruitment. This would involve the development of technology to support the steps in our guidebook.
  14. Wiki - GroupServer support News items. Perhaps this could be extended into a simple integrated wiki.
  15. Submission Forms - A tool to create special submission forms for content. An example might be event announcments with specific fields. Announcements might go straight to the group or be held for a moderator/editor to approve and or select for distribution in a digest format.
  16. Support Form with Response Tracking - A basic system to store and display administrative queries from users for reply by a team of site leaders. This could include basic ticketing where an auto-reply is generated with a case number and site leaders would be able to respond via the web and store responses. (Right now comments to http://e-democracy.org/comments.html are sent an an internal e-mail list and replies go back to the group. Some queries are missed and distribution of queries is difficult because users are asked to pre-sort or choose the subject of their queries.
  17. RSS Collections - Allow groups to collectively maintain and view shared collections of RSS feeds relevant to their groups. This could include the option to convert RSS feeds into e-mail headline digests that bring people to the site to read the full feed or for those with e-mail only access could provide a unique e-mail request address to be sent the full text.
  18. Forum Statistics - Generate monthly group statistics, trends lines that can be shared with group members inside of their group reminder or independently via an e-mail note, add some graphical views via the web site
  19. Groups Directory - Create a subject tree option and view of all groups on a single site. Integrate group description and statistical information into this view.
    1. Allow meta-data on public groups to be aggregated into a mother directory of all public GroupServer groups - allow sites to clearly opt-out at install or at anytime. This should build on the Open Groups idea with extensive anti-spam harvesting considerations taken. ListServ has a network wide directory called Catalist.
  20. Page Trackers - Issues Forums are greatly enhanced with a few people take the time to let others know about new relevant content to the group on the web. Like the shared RSS Collections, a list of web pages tracked daily or weekly for changes could be either shared amongst a set of group editors or automatically generate alerts to the group. This would be useful in tracking sites, like city council agenda pages or press releases from small groups, that do not generate RSS (most do not despite the hype). If a shared editor view exists, an option to forward an announcement about the update to the group could be given. I use Copernic Agent to track pages for DoWire.Org. The problem with automatic alerts to the full group will be too much noise with page changes not being substantial enough to bother the full group.


Ideas to Sort

These ideas will be sorted into the more comprehensive list below ...

  • An ability to manually send a reminder to all "unverfied" users - or auto reminder.
  • I would like to see Groupserver automatically take some action, when users fail to verify their account. Either, automatically send them a second (and maybe third) verification message or contact the forum administrator.
  • DONE - A short URL for files uploaded to the library
  • The short URL in the footer of messages, should take you directly to the specific message in question.
  • Put a short URL for each topic at the bottom (or top) of the topic, so that users can cut and paste the short URL.
  • USERS CAN CLICK - Let user decide if they prefer "topics" or "posts" as the default view for "messages."
  • DONE - Ability for forum manager to exceed by time posting limits
  • DONE - Ability to turn-on automatic moderation of new members and know from the admin interface which ones moderated members are new
  • An ability to display the top ten posts/topics of all time. This could simply mean having the forum manager fill in links. Or allow participants to nominate and vote for them. Or let the server calculate this based on some activity measurement. (Possibly using the "democracy constant" ideas from aktivdemokrati.se?)
  • Ability for forum manager (thru admin interface) to adjust participants email settings for them (digest, web only, email).
  • Authenticate users against external database (Please explain more? Is this about OpenID or something else?)
  • Retrieve some profile information from same external database (e.g. name, e-mail address). Keep Groupserver's information on users synchronised with this database (perhaps load it from the external database and overwrite Groupserver's own info on the user every time they log in -- try not to clobber "extra" info that Groupserver keeps).

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