Forums are ubiquitous these days, so you’ve probably used one at some point. Although they all provide browsable, archived threads of conversation, they differ on some basic points. Our version of forums has been developed in response to the ways our clients use them:
- Forums within Groups combine the browsing advantages of any forum with the email reach of a traditional listserv. Every post to a group forum is automatically sent by email to every member of the group. This email copy includes a link directly back to the forum discussion so readers can effortlessly post replies. This approach keeps the entire discussion clear and avoids the endless quoting of prior posts that plague listservs.
- Forum discussions are single-threaded, since multi-threading ends up producing confusing branches in discussions, and no one has yet managed to come up with a user interface that keeps these branches clearly separate.
- The main page for a given forum automatically places the issues with the most recent posts at the top, along with information about the number of posts and date of the latest post for each issue.
- Forum posts are collected by the New Content tool (see below) so that it is effortless to track what is going on in all discussions within the site.
Users with “Publisher” superpowers can easily create as many forums in each group as is needed to support the discussions in the group. They can also create as many public forums as is appropriate.
Pages and Images
Our platform provides intuitive tools to create and edit relatively static content such as what you’re reading now. Each Group — and the public area — can manage its own set of web Pages, which are organized into Topics.
- Topics and pages are easy to create using web forms edited using Textile, a simple markup syntax, instead of HTML tags. We provide a quick guide to Textile just underneath the edit form. Users quickly learn the amount of Textile they need, but the cheat sheet is always there for further reference.
- As you write, you can easily see your results using the Preview button.
- As you save your page, each revision is saved so that you can return to an earlier version if you like. If you revert, the later versions that you are now skipping are themselves saved, so you never lose your work.
- Links to other pages are simple to add using Textile, as are images.
- Pages begin as drafts, and become visible to regular users only when they are published.
- Both topics and pages can be manually arranged in whatever order makes sense.
- New pages show up in the New Content compilations.
Images are similarly easy to manage. A link to the image system is present in the Page edit form.
- Each group can maintain its own image repository, and the public images are also separate.
- When you upload an image from your computer to the web site, four alternate sizes are automatically created to make it easy to choose what works best in your page.
- To insert an image into a page, simply copy&paste the link included next to the version of the the image you want.
Frequently Asked Questions are also ubiquitous on the web, and they’re very easy to create and maintain using the Epimetrics Epicenter platform.
- Each group can create as many FAQs as it needs, and public FAQs are similarly separate.
- Questions and answers are created using web forms with Textile syntax just like Pages.
- Your edits can be easily monitored using the Preview button.
- Questions/answers can be simply re-ordered after they’re created.
- FAQs are automatically presented with the questions at the top, each of which automatically links to the answer below.
- New FAQ questions/answers show up in the New Content compilations.
When you have a timely, usually (but not necessarily) short bit of content you want to present, the Blog/News tool is just the thing.
- Each group has its own blog, as does the public area.
- Each blog post is easy to create and edit using the same Textile-based forms and preview tools as other content like Pages.
- Each new post automatically is presented at the top of the archive — which is presented by default using an intuitive paged “accordion” interface (which can be switched).
- New posts show up in the New Content compilations.
Although most content in a collaborative space should be shared and visible to everyone who is involved in the same group or project, there are times when private communications are useful. For this we provide in each group a Message tool that makes it easy to include the recipients who should get communications and to avoid accidental misdirected emails.
- Users can select the entire group or individuals within the group through an intuitive checkoff list of the group’s members.
- The message is edited using the simple Textile syntax as in all the other tools.
- The tool generates and sends an email to the designated recipients. A copy of the message is stored within the group message archive — but it is visible only to the author of the message and Group Admins.
Nearly every other content type has the capacity to collect user comments. Only logged-in users can post comments, but comments are visible to all users who have access to whatever the comment is about. Comments also show up in the New Content compilations.
Because every type of content in an Epimetrics Epicenter site is stored in a database, we track associated information about who edited it and when. This permits us to generate automatic compilations of new stuff so that users can effortlessly keep track of what is going on.
- Users can check over various intervals of interest — defaulting to one week, selectable times extend from one day to one year.
- Users can target their inquiry to what they want to track. The New Content tool on a site’s home page returns just new publicly-accessible content. On a Group’s main page, it generates new stuff only from that group. However on the user’s Workspace page, the New Content tool finds new content from all of the user’s groups.
If you’re acquainted with other collaborative systems, you may be wondering where a couple missing options.
- Chat is not one of the currently-available tools, since to date no client has wanted this sort of real-time communication medium. Indeed, it has been the asynchronous capabilities of our other tools that has proved most useful to the busy people who use them. Users can access and update information at their own convenience and allow the system to keep all contributions clearly ordered.
- A Wiki is basically a versioned, editable page — which we do have. In our basic platform, only specialized users with advanced roles can edit pages, while most wikis allow anyone to make edits. To date, our clients have preferred to develop documents using offline tools (primarily Word) since they are busy, frequently on airplanes, and otherwise want to be able to work without access to a web site. However, if we ever encountered a demand for a wiki tool, we could easily add it to the Epicenter platform.
Created: September 15, 2009 12:46
Last updated: March 07, 2010 16:43