GuildPortal Dev Blog

Updates from Aaron Lewis, GuildPortal Code Monkey

Posted 1/4/2013 4:14 PM by Aaron Lewis. 1444407 reads. Share:

From 1/1/2013 to 1/3/2013 at 10:14 AM (Mountain), GuildPortal services went offline. Here's what went down, in sequence. The cause of the problem had its start on 12/16/2012, so I'll begin there:

12/16/2012 to 12/31/2013: The server backups, which are stored on a network share, failed to execute for two weeks straight. In the case of backup failures, our server provider's management tools are supposed to alert them so that whatever the problem is can be fixed. That didn't happen. So for two weeks, GuildPortal was flying without a backup, and nobody knew.

1/1/2013: The drive on the database server that stores the full-text index, fails, and the site goes down. When there is a drive/controller failure, our server provider's system (again) is supposed to alert them. The first tech I spoke with later acknowledged this, but said that they weren't using their old notification system anymore, since the company that acquired them was going to have them use their newer system. What happens in between? No notifications or alerts of any kind. 
 
1/1/2013, 1:30 PM: Sandy finds out the site's been down all night when she does her usual check to make sure things are running. I get on the phone with our server provider while she lets everyone know that we're on it on our Facebook page. I am connected to someone in technical support who is genuinely helpful, but who has very little SQL knowledge. 

I put up an "offline" page on the GuildPortal site, informing everyone that we'll be back, and providing a link to our Facebook page where we begin posting updates as we have them, and answering questions.
 
Over the next 7 hours, the tech repeatedly attempts to get ahold of a DBA to help with the problem. We both breathe a little easier when we get a response back in the form of an IM from the regular DBA from home. A few IMs later, we have something to try, and the tech and I give it a go, brimming with optimism. I post on Facebook that everything should be up and running within 30+ minutes.

1/1/2013, 9:30 PM: It's taking far too long. I suspect something is wrong, so I cancel the operation. It takes 4 hours to cancel, even though it was only initially running for 1. The culprit, it turns out, was the database file itself. When the N drive failed, it left the primary database file and the associated log file in a totally unstable (and it now appears, unrecoverable) state. The DBA we were IMing is now incommunicado.

No problem, we thought, because I'd been paying for the extended SQL support package faithfully for all these years. That means he can hop on the phone and get the revered On-Call SQL Team to fly in on an epic mount, day or night. While we wait for them to respond to his initial pages and phone calls and IMs, we try a couple different restore strategies. At the time we didn't know the state of the main database file, so again, we were optimistic.

I again, stupidly, post an update on Facebook saying that our latest attempt resulted in a success and that the site would be up any moment. I end up staring at a spinning ball with the words "query executing" next to it for the next several hours.

1/2/2013, 2:03 AM: The restore failed. All phone calls, pages, and IMs to the On-Call SQL Team have been totally ignored. The tech is frustrated, apologetic, and (if I read it right) a little embarrassed for his company. I post apologies and stop giving ETAs on Facebook, but continue communicating with everyone, not wanting you guys to think I'd snuggled up to a pillow and said "heck with them."

It's now 13 hours after the initial phone call, and the odds of us getting a DBA involved at all before the regular morning shift are looking slimmer with every passing minute. Dread sinks in (forgive the melodrama).

The tech and I part on the phone, since he can only really sit there and listen to me breathe while I try different ways to restore the database. Attaching, single-file attaching, standard restore, restore with full-text indexing belayed, different recovery models, etc.. After we hang up, he continues to attempt to get ahold of the On-Call SQL Team until his shift ends, to no avail. My efforts, of course, were equally doomed.

1/2/2013, 5:08 AM: I've tried everything I could think of. At this point, I post updates on Facebook and wait for a herd of DBAs to show up all bright-eyed for work at our server management company's HQ (they're two hours ahead of me).

1/2/2013, 9:09 AM: I'm informed that a DBA is working to get the server fixed. I remain cheerful and optimistic, since now we at least had a DBA on the case, and (I thought) I'd be able to give you guys a reasonably accurate ETA before too long. I post to Facebook, with a smiley face even.

I thank the DBA very much for taking it on and ask very politely and delicately (I'm careful around DBAs) if, at any time he has even the smallest update that I could give you guys, that he just shoot a real quick e-mail my way. KK? Tks u!

I head back to Facebook, posting and chatting it up to let you all know I'm staying with it until it's fixed, and also because it helps me stay awake. We all wait for the DBA to work his magic, and send us little updates that I can relay to you.

1/2/2013, 1:50 PM: The DBA comes back after some attempts with bad news. The database file is corrupt. But he has a plan that he has used before, and he is confident it will work. I post his e-mail, verbatim, on Facebook. Hope glimmers once more. Like anime eyes.

To pass the time while this plan is set in motion, I post some polls to Facebook. We all again wait, collectively, for the Awesomeness to happen. One of my guild leaders posts that he's a DBA too, and gives me a tip to pass along to Johnny that might save a lot of time.

So I call up and ask to speak with our server management company's DBA, thinking he'd appreciate the tip. Well, as soon as the guy who answered the phone IMed him that I had some info that might "help" him, he wouldn't take my call. Busy guy, I guess! Must have already thought of it anyway, right? No hard feelings...

1/2/2013, 4:02 PM: After waiting for around two hours with no update, and my guild leaders becoming understandably more anxious, I lose my patience, Samuel L. Jackson style. In a totally unreasonable rage, I write the following, unthinkably terrible thing to the DBA. The following is the actual body of the e-mail I sent. Parents, you might want to send your children out of the room. Here it is:

"Hiya Johnny! How's it going? Look like it's going to work?"

1/2/2013, 5:32 PM: The DBA replies with open hostility, accusing my "team" (I have a team?!) of detaching the database in a way that corrupted it, when in fact the loss of the N drive finished it off long before, and the failure of the entire alerting process all the way back from the backups that had failed weeks before to this point was the real villian of the story. None of which I had control over.

He closes by inviting me and my "team" to do it ourselves if we think we can do better.

At that point, I swear, the world turned upside down. It wasn't a proud moment for me, but I clicked on the reply button and type up an e-mail that conveyed some of the anger that had been building up, but more of the hurt and disbelief at what was going on.

Anyway, as far as I can tell, immediately after reading this e-mail, the DBA stopped any running restore, disconnected from his session, and walked away. I wouldn't hear anything from our hardware service provider until the following morning. The worst part is that he full well knew he wasn't just punishing me, but all of you, as well.

After I posted what had happened to Facebook, many, many guild leaders (you guys, yay!) basically raided the hardware service provider's Facebook page. Immediately upon seeing it (once they got in), they responded, saying they'd make fixing it a "top priority." While I wasn't contacted until a couple hours after that, I am sure that you guys proving you were real, and not to be trifled with, had everything to do with the fact that we would get some real results, and soon.

To my horror, the best that could be done was a restore from the last backup that had succeeded, on 12/16/2012. So any new data from then until the site went back online would be lost. Though catastrophic and totally unacceptable in my (and I'm sure, your) eyes, I had to give the go-ahead. There was just no other option, at least, none that they could or would provide.

1/3/2013, 10:14 AM: The site comes back online, with data restored from 12/16/2012.

This will not happen again.

For my part, even if we're paying our provider extra for support packages that include monitoring, alerts, and reliable backups, I will not take it for granted that anything, whether it's something I have control over or not, is working as it should be. I will check on backups and perform many of the other IT-type tasks that we have been relying on someone else to handle.

I'll invest (as soon as I can -- this event has cost us dearly, financially, and GuildPortal is already "in the red" because of the economy and lack of new games that really draw new players into the MMO world) in more hardware that will add more layers of fault tolerance to all tiers of the GuildPortal service.

Sandy has been diligently refunding all subscriptions for all new sites created after 12/16/2012 (since they're not there any more). She is nearly done as I write this update. If you fall into that category of site, and you haven't seen a refund come through PayPal yet, please give her another day to finish up. You do not need to send in a support ticket. We're not waiting for you to contact us refund you, we are just doing it.

I'm extremely sorry this happened!

This has been, without any question, the worst downtime event in GuildPortal history. It's the worst data loss event for sure (there was only one other -- the result of me writing a bad trigger that deleted a bunch of old shouts it shouldn't have).

It would be tempting to blame our hardware service provider for it all, but deflecting is their game, not mine. The short truth of it is that I should have been double-checking that they were doing their part, whether I was paying more for alerting and reliability services or not. That should have been something I considered part of my job before this all happened, and it most certainly will be, moving forward.

To all of you who lost data, I cannot begin to convey to you how much I feel your rage, anger, disbelief and loss over this. You're not simply punching in letters and numbers to practice your typing, you're building community. To have over two weeks of that just taken away as if it never happened is unacceptable. I was awake from 1/1/2013 at 8:30 AM until the site went back online at 10:14 AM on 1/3/2013, because I wanted to keep providing updates, or at least keep the lines of communication open while we were down... To let you know that your guild is very important to us, whether it's a paid site or not. I didn't choose the guild web hosting vertical niche just because there was nothing else filling it back when we started; I love the idea of providing and enhancing tools for people to build and personalize their communities online, and I just so happen(ed) to be a gamer.

I feel terrible for disappointing you. While the financial hit to us is tremendous, GuildPortal will survive and be here for your guild for years to come. I'm currently looking for another job, as, like I said before, we're in the red, and have been for some time. Once I have one, I'll still be able to provide support and some feature enhancements; I'll just be limited to a couple hours a day or so.

Thank you!

If you are going to leave over this, or have already left, thank you for making your home with us for however long you did. Thank you to all you guild leaders and members who were understanding and supporting on our Facebook page. Thank you to those who are staying, and a promise: it won't happen again.

As always, thank you for choosing GuildPortal!

Posted 10/27/2012 4:38 PM by Aaron Lewis. 1501628 reads. Share:

10/27 Update - Activity Wall

The Activity Wall, a new widget, goes live today! It's like the walls you'll find commonly on social networking sites. It's what the old Status Updates widget was kind of trying to do, only it does it a lot better. It could also be looked at as a replacement for shout boxes altogether, since it supports media.

In order for people to post to it, they'll need to be granted higher than public/applicant access to your site. Here are some of the features:

Posting

The familiar WYSIWYG editor is used, only in a slimmer version. Tools available for now are: toggle full-screen edit mode, spell check, some formatting, insert link, insert image, and insert video (from either YouTube or Vimeo). You may find the area too small to work with, especially if you're inserting big images or videos, so make use of that full-screen toggle on the far left!

Adding Video

Adding video from YouTube or Vimeo is easy. Just go to the web page on YouTube or Vimeo where the video is shown, copy the address, click the blue Play icon to the far right in the wall editor, and paste the URL. Hit your tab key and you'll be presented with a preview of what it'll look like in your post, along with some options.

Most of them can be left alone. The one you want to pay attention to is "Play the video automatically on load." You'll probably want to un-check that box, else risk the wrath of guildies opening the page with the wall on it, getting hit with all kinds of videos starting to play at the same time!

The Next Thing

Sample wall postOnce you've added your text/video/images, click the post button and boom -- there you have it. Emoticons are automatically parsed based on defaults and/or any custom emoticons the guild uses. Clicking on the name of the poster displays the standard drop-down menu for doing things like viewing their profile, visiting their blog, chatting with them if they are online, and all that good stuff.

Images

Know how sometimes, you can put an image in a post or a news item and if it's too big, it'll stretch out the page, wrecking the design? Well, I think I've got that figured out now (and with all the layout possibilities there are due to customization, and the fact that IE ignores max-width unless everything's set a particular way at the parent level, it took a while -- that, and I'm dumb as a rock)! Anyway, when you post an image to the wall, it'll now do its best to fit inside the available space, without stretching things out. Notice: if your browser is way, way old, it'll probably be icky like before. So with a large image (the one shown is actually around 1200 pixels wide, in a widget that's about 700 pixels width), here's what a well-behaving browser will show (minus the purple arrows I thought were neat while putting the screens together in Fireworks):

But hey! What if the image is gigantic because there's that much going on? Easy to do with something like an in-game screenshot. And you might want to see it full size. No problem! You can click any images on the wall and they'll open up all sexy like in a gallery-type scroll view dyno-resizing nifty thingy. Stuff. Whatever you wanna call it. Hey, I'm not a writer, k? Anyway, it's got arrows (way better-looking than my purple ones up there) that you can use to move between other images on the wall.

The Morning After (after you post, I mean)

There are a few things at the bottom of each post. People can click on Comments to show comments or add their own. The date and time of the post has been sacrificed in a pagan ritual, making way for the more friendly "how long ago" display. There are tools to delete the post if you're a Super Admin or the original author, and if you're the author you can edit the post, too.

The comments are pretty simple. Not much to explain there. I thought about spinning it so they sounded all complicated and neat and shiny, but... Yeah. No. Oh, and both of those posts are from me. I talk to myself while testing, and for a reason I cannot fathom, I always revert to a despicable sub-set of the English language.

Future Enhancements

Instead of cramming the thing with everything I could think of, taking ideas from some of the major social sites out there, I decided to hold back and push it as it is now. I'm counting on feedback to direct the decision making when it comes to further enhancements for the wall. After all, there are things I found that I like which a lot of you might really not, and there were some features the big boys are sporting now that I really find... icky (who says "icky?" I do!).

So let me know what you would like to see done moving forward. Maybe WYSIWYG editing of comments instead of the simple type-and-hit-enter behavior it has now? Or automatically-entered posts by the site when people apply, add a shout, post something in the forums, add a news item, create a new raid, add an image to the gallery (all linked automatically to the source item)? Anyway, let me know!

Chat Updates

When someone requests a one-on-one chat session, you will now hear a... beeping thingy. Useful if you have more than one browser window open, are looking at a different screen, or have your head spun around facing behind you, like that girl from the Exorcist. I do that sometimes. Don't judge me!

Typical GP Chat

Also, on-demand playable sound effects have been fixed in guild chat. Type /sounds for a clickable list of the currently available ones. In addition, lots of little bugs and stuff were fixed.

Other Stuff

  • Many widgets have had their displays cleaned up a little. There will be more of this going forward, as we move to a more universally clean (and still customizable) theme format. This is primarily being done to enable us (and you) to create much higher quality themes than is now possible. We will be making use of HTML5, CSS3, and responsive design principles.
  • Quirky behaviors in some of the style editors have been un-quirkified.
  • Your hamster has been watching you with malice as you sleep.
  • The ability to add an image to a post via link instead of the image manager has been restored.
  • Many other bug fixes.

Posted 8/24/2012 6:49 PM by Aaron Lewis. 533629 reads. Share:

There are a couple releases rolled up in this:
  • Those who have topic update notifications sent to their mobile devices (via SMS) will now be able to click a link that will take them directly to the topic on the mobile version of their site (site.url/m).
  • Clicking on profile links now displays a context menu that provides the following options: Member Detail (displays the window that used to be the only option when clicking a profile link), Private Chat (if they're online), Visit Site (their personal site), Visit Wall, Send Mail and, if you're a roster admin of the guild, a link that will open up the member editor.
  • The voice server status widget now displays detail for both Ventrilo and Mumble servers. Previously, only Ventrilo server detail was available.
  • The Global Guild Bar can now have the foreground text of the main bar customized.
  • The Star Wars: The Old Republic server status widget was hanging when the SWTOR servers were slow to respond, so the duration the data is cached has been increased.
  • The Who's Online widget will now auto-update its list as members log in and time out.
  • Links to support videos in the Control Panel Dashboard have been fixed.
  • New CSS classes have been added for the Shouts widget for those who want to modify the appearance of it at a more detailed level. They are gp-shout, gp-shout-source, gp-shout-body and gp-shout-ally-link. They, along with full descriptions of where they appear and what they contain, are documented in the GuildPortal CSS class listing (available from many of the Custom editor sections of the Control Panel).
  • The Forums widget would stretch out beyond the boundaries of the page width style settings if any of the forums had a lot of sub-forums. This only happened in IE, but it's fixed anyhow.
  • The One-on-One Chat area that displays incoming chat was not scrolling far enough down when new items came in. This has been fixed, along with an overhaul of the One-on-One Chat UI.
  • The member editor grid in the Control Panel now offers the option to export to Excel, PDF, Word or CSV.
  • The member editor grid has also been enhanced with an easy-to-use filtering control that lets you build complex queries against your member listing. For example, you could easily build a query to return all members with an access level less than officer that haven't logged on for over a year.
  • The queries involved in reading posts in a topic have been optimized quite a bit, so your forums are a bit quicker.
  • The border color of Guild Global Bar sub-menus can now be customized.
  • The size of the content zones (left, center and right) on any guild page can now be dynamically resized by simply clicking and dragging when you are logged in with Designer rights. You don't even need to enter page edit mode.
  • When updating to the latest version of a widget-type mod, your settings for which page it appears on, the title, and the order were all wiped out. This no longer happens.

Posted 8/9/2012 10:02 AM by Aaron Lewis. 36727 reads. Share:

There will probably be a few unscheduled pushes today as I finish ruthlessly crushing the problem that was causing the "Service Unavailable" errors over the past couple days. I was up all last night (no pity, I was well-dosed with caffeine!) tweaking and narrowing down.

While I'm pretty sure I hit the problem -- it looked like an infinite loop in the page you see when you click on someone's name -- I'm going to continue monitoring it today and seeing what else I can do to further optimize things, to make better use of the processing power and memory of the web and database servers.

By pushing the hotfixes, I'm also moving some feature enhancements to production that weren't going to be released until Friday. Not a bit deal, and none of them is ground-breaking. One of them is a context menu that pops up when you click on a member link (like in the who's online box or the last poster column in the forum display), which provides a much easier way to view their info, start a private chat, send mail, visit their site, and so on. Little things like that.

Sorry for the service interruptions, thanks for your patience, and as always, thank you for choosing GuildPortal!

Posted 7/30/2012 4:22 PM by Aaron Lewis. 143310 reads. Share:

What was done:
  • The password reset e-mail was made to include the account names.
  • Header elements (H1, H2, etc) were set to no padding, causing them to appear flush with the sides of the widget body. Padding was added so it's not so ugry.
  • A bug causing the "additional options available" prompt to vanish when adding a new widget has been fixed.
  • A global guild bar (aka GloBar) has been added, which shows the count of members in the guild chat room, provides a list of everyone online, and shows how many unread web-mail items you have. You can disable it in your Profile settings if you don't dig it. Customization options are on the way!
  • Guild chat room UI bits are all expando-flexy now, so you can resize it to your liking.
  • The admin command /roomname in guild chat now works.
  • Apparently, Verizon is mysteriously cutting off e-mail-to-text service for random subscribers, making it impossible for our notifications to get through. If you're a Verizon subscriber and your texts from GuildPortal are not working, head over here for information on how to make sure the e-mail-to-text service is activated: http://support.verizonwireless.com/faqs/TXT%20messaging/faq_vtext_website.html
  • The news category selection drop-down, which appears when editing or adding a new news item, now sorts and also shows the associated image that will be automatically placed within the new item's body, if there is one configured for the category.
  • A bug causing the shout box to behave like a brat in certain situations has been fixed.
  • Several of the third-party components we use have been updated to their latest versions.
  • The alert window, which appears when a guild mate logs in, has been fixed so that it never shows white text on the light gray background.
  • Shouts were caching too long, so you wouldn't see them if you refreshed the page immediately after adding one. This has been fixed.
  • Member titles, set in member admin, have had their allowed length increased to 1,000 characters (5x what it was before).

Posted 7/13/2012 4:12 PM by Aaron Lewis. 365316 reads. Share:

Here are the highlights from this week's update:
  • One-on-one chat now works across public-side (meaning just browsing around GuildPortal), blogs, and guild pages. You'll be notified of chat requests no matter where you are.
  • Posts now have a link along the bottom for forum moderators/admins that lets them move the post to another forum/topic of their choosing.
  • Inbox messages now show up on the /m (mobile) versions of your sites.
  • The guild chat link again displays the count of people in chat.
  • A new widget, called "Available Achievements and Medals," has gone live. It lists the achievements from the guild that members may earn, medals they may be awarded, and also GuildPortal achievements that are available.
  • The "Wall" and "About Me" links are now back on the profile page.
  • Some more work has been put into the Dev Status pages. Next week's milestone is empty, but that just because this week's kept me busy up until the very end. I'll be filling it in on Monday.
  • RSS links have been added to the issue comments so you can subscribe and be notified when issues you are interested have updates to their status.
  • The member editor's "Characters" tab for each member now displays a link indicating whether that character is blocked from display on the roster. It also allows you to toggle block status.
  • The member editor grid displays more rows now.
  • Achievements (all three kinds) now display on the "About Me" page of member blog sites.
  • The roster blocks that were mysteriously applying themselves to innocent victims have been slain.
  • A bug causing the forum moderators editor to come up blank has been fixed.
That's all for now!

Posted 6/22/2012 1:38 PM by Aaron Lewis. 39427 reads. Share:

Today's update includes stuff and things! Namely:
  • Added the ability for forum moderators to merge topics.
  • A new right that you can grant members, called "Designer." Those granted this access will see a link to "Site Design" on guild pages, and when they click it, they will be taken to the Control Panel, but with only the design-related areas accessible.
  • Added ability to move images between galleries in the editor UI by dragging and dropping them from one gallery to another.
  • Fixed broken one-on-one chat.
  • Fixed icons in the WYSIWYG editor.
  • Fixed the "View" link in the gallery editor.
  • Fixed the Forum Moderator selection UI.
  • Fixed forums mass move functionality.
  • Fixed link to blog when viewing the pop-up profile for a member.
  • Fixed the gradient builder not saving widget header gradients.
  • Made the gradient builder open in a larger window, so IE users could see everything.
  • Updated GuildPortal to the latest non-beta .NET framework, including an update to our tools which should result in improved productivity. :)
  • Removed the forced delay that made you wait 10 seconds before going back to edit a post you just made.
  • Fixed the "No Signature" check box not working when adding a new topic.

Posted 4/8/2011 7:17 AM by Aaron Lewis. 11825 reads. Share:

Hello all! It's update time again, and this week we've got some fixes and an enhancement or two:
  • Fixed: In event follow-up > attendance, updating was only happening if you filled out the form in a specific order (ie, checking the box indicating the member attended before entering the amount of DKP awarded for attending).
  • New: Event admins may now update attendance directly from events. As was the case when setting attendance in follow-up, allied events put the responsibility for tracking attendance and awarding DKP on each guild the event is shared out, allowing for each guild in the alliance to have their own DKP point structure.
  • New: The process that checks for new one-on-one chat requests now updates more frequently.
  • Fixed: Clicking Return to Preview while in drag-and-drop page edit mode wasn't always clearing out the cache, and refreshing the page right away would not always reflect the changes made.

Posted 8/20/2010 3:06 PM by Aaron Lewis. 12358 reads. Share:

  • Guild bank item requests now provide the ability for the person requesting to specify the quantity of the item(s) they are requesting, as well as to which character the item(s) should be delivered.
  • Quest step completion has been greatly de-ickified (hush, spell checker). Now, when viewing a quest's details, there is a link under each step that, when clicked, will expand a grid. The grid shows all guild characters, is sortable/searchable, and has a check box next to each character's name. Both the owner of a character and a Quest Admin for guild sites are able to check/un-check the box, indicating whether or not that particular character has completed that step in the quest.
  • A glitch in the one-to-one website chat has been fixed.
  • Finally, a buncha other things have gone live in response to support tickets.
Have a great weekend!

Posted 4/9/2010 3:09 PM by Aaron Lewis. 7025 reads. Share:

The Login Bar can now be styled in in the Control Panel, under Style Stools -> General Style Settings -> Login Bar.  It's the area that lets your users log in or invites non-logged in visitors to join your site, and contains links to their blog, chat, mail, and settings.  Previously, it adopted style settings from your widget style.  It will continue to do so, however, if you do not give it a style of its own.

Also, three new videos have been added. One's about changing your site's name, game and/or server (game-wise), including re-generating a dynamic banner if you want to.  Another's on adding sound to your web pages.  The last covers creating a new Ventrilo voice server for your guild.  To see the videos, head to the GuildPortal home page, scroll to the bottom, and click the Videos link.

Posted 4/8/2010 12:48 PM by Aaron Lewis. 11746 reads. Share:

A new Achievements system is going live with today's code push.  From the Control Panel, click Member Management, and then Achievements.

Achievements are configured by administrators to automatically award members of your site for their participation on the site. You can choose from the different types of actions to reward achievements for, such as: new posts, replies to posts, voting, adding shouts, sending in item requests, reading library articles, adding story chapters, participating in chat, and more.

You can also set the threshold for awarding, and even have multiple achievements for different thresholds of the same activity.  For example, you can have an achievement for 10 posts, then another for 50 posts, etc.

To go along with this, there is a new widget available for you to add to any guild page.  It's called, "Achievements."  It will display a listing of recent achievement earners on your site, and adapts itself to which container you place it within.  If you have it in the center of your page, it'll display wider, with a bit more information.  If it's in one of the side containers, it'll display in a list.

Clicking on a user's name from various other widgets will also now show their achievements.

Tracking of progress towards achievements started yesterday, so if you were to add an achievement now for posting more than 10 times, it will not add achievements for all of your members who have posted more than 10 times.  It is in effect only moving forward.  If you want to start completely over from now, the Achievements section of the Control Panel also offers the ability to reset all progress for all members to zero.

Posted 2/26/2010 9:31 AM by Aaron Lewis. 6992 reads. Share:

Links to blogs from the most recent blog entries widget, as well as links to your own blog in both the top and side nav areas have been fixed.

Also, upon entering guild chat rooms, you are shown the help command.  When you type it in, you can see the available slash commands for chatting.  Included are sending a sound to the room, listing available sounds, and sending an emote.

Posted 1/21/2010 3:48 PM by Aaron Lewis. 7196 reads. Share:

Because it was being a pesky, quirky thing, Guild Chat has been completely rewritten.  Aside from everything working the way it should, it has had some niceties added:
  • Notification by "System" when a user enters or leaves the room.
  • Sound Effects (which can be disabled using the checkbox to the lower right) when new chat comes across.
  • No longer brings itself to the front of all other browser windows. We had a long talk with it, gently explaining that it might not be the most important thing you're doing on the web at any given moment.
  • Allows the playing of a (currently) small list of available sound effects using the /sound sound_name_here command. Current list includes things like machine_gun, kiss, phone_ringing, rifle_shot, baby_cry_1, baby_laugh (to cheer up the kid from baby_cry_1), and, of course, flushing_toilet. Some sort of listing system for available commands and sounds will be coming.
Also, the Control Panel has had some issues addressed, informally, with a crowbar to the back of the neck.

Posted 1/7/2010 3:48 PM by Aaron Lewis. 126926 reads. Share:

The World of Warcraft Add-On (GPHelper) has had a couple of changes made: 1) the add-on itself has been marked for the latest version of WoW, and 2) guild bank item imports now work. 

To get the latest version, open your Control Panel, click WoW Integration, and then click the download link.  Instructions for installation are also on that page, in case you haven't done it before.  Instructions are also given on how to use the add-on in-game, and finally, on how to upload the data the add-on collects to your site.

Now, as functionality such as blogging, walls, mail and one-on-one chat have been added to GuildPortal, you've probably noticed the icons stacking up next to user names on your sites.  Though they can be disabled, once you do, the functionality that goes along with them is lost to you.

We're almost ready to push a change in how that works.  Basically, user names will appear on the site as simple links, with no icons next to them (except in the forums).  When clicked, a window will open up where you will be able to view the person's most recent blog entries, memberships and titles, and characters.  It's there where you will have the ability to send them web-based mail, visit their blog/wall, or open up a one-on-one chat.

This will significantly de-clutter you guild pages, without sacrificing features.  Expect that sometime next week, and as always, thank you for choosing GuildPortal!

Posted 12/1/2009 1:42 PM by Aaron Lewis. 119327 reads. Share:

People can now set their chat status in Characters/Settings, under the Chat Prefs tab.  The default status is available, and the other choices are to disable chat completely, "away," or "busy."  Also, there is an option in the Guild Control Panel to hide the chat icon, as you can with the mail and blog icons.

On a side note, we must apologize for a slow response time to tickets during the past few days.  We have a family member in the hospital and it looks like our development/support schedule will continue to be sporadic for the next several days.

Posted 11/24/2009 1:13 PM by Aaron Lewis. 10305 reads. Share:

Instant Messaging goes live with tonight's code push!  Wherever user links are seen (with the icons for sending a private message and viewing their blog), a new icon will appear for starting a chat session.  Especially useful when used in combination with the "Who's Online" widget, the Instant Messaging functionality is, of course, fully integrated with your site and requires no configuration on your part.  It requires no java or other plug-ins, and will not require any special firewall tweaks.

The chat icon is, of course, customizable to guild admin tastes in the Control Panel, under Style Tools, General Style Settings, under the "User Links" tab.

Posted 10/4/2009 10:05 AM by Aaron Lewis. 134506 reads. Share:

A small disclaimer: I'm speaking solely from the perspective of the early levels, with no knowledge of the end game content.  There are people, I hear, who have reached the latter levels of the game, but I'm nowhere near that. Now let me say, this game is amazing.  In my personal opinion, it is what every RPG MMO that has been released since WoW (and one released slightly before WoW) should have been.  No further details on that, since I'd have to list specific titles in doing any type of compare/contrast.

However, the biggest problem to me as a player is the inordinate amount of Kinah seller spam I see immediately upon logging into the game.  It's unbelievable.  The general channel, the LFG channel, and private whispers immediately fill up your screen with garbage ads, some of which lead to key logger sites.

I won't pretend to know how difficult (or trivial) it might be for the developers to implement an on-the-fly, configurable, timed-cache string pattern matching system to detect the spam -- perhaps based on the sites they're telling people to visit -- in order to auto-ban accounts (or at least mute for, say, an hour).  Instead, I'll just tell you what I did to cut down on the mass of garbage for myself.  Many will say you should just block the spammers individually, but that only works for about a day.  Next day you login, there will be a host of new spammer accounts at it, all over again.

  1. Open the Chat Preferences menu to the left of the chat window by clicking on the little sun-looking icon.
  2. Click Add Tab.
  3. Call it something like "No Spam" or whatever.  An options window for the new tab pops up, where you can check the channels you want visible in the new tab.
  4. Check the root Chat box.  Then check group, alliance, legion and alert.  Optionally, expand the Combat - Self node and select things like My Critical Hit and Critical Hit against.  Finally, check the root node for System Information.
  5. Click Change.
If the new chat tab isn't selected for you, hover over the chat area and select it (along the top). 

Three things to note: Under the root Chat tree, there is a Shout option.  I haven't seen the spammers use shout yet, but they might, and if they do you may want to disable it.  Also, they do use whisper, but not nearly as frequently as General and Trade.  But if you un-check whisper, you'll miss tells.  Finally, the "Find Group" channel is useful for group quests.  If you need to find a group, just pop into the "All" channel, do a /3 LFG [quest name/link/whatever], then pop back into the "No Spam" tab.  Odds are good you'll get picked up if others need to do the same quest.

I hope this helps!