GuildPortal Dev Blog

Updates from Aaron Lewis, GuildPortal Code Monkey

Posted 10/27/2012 4:38 PM by Aaron Lewis. 1355370 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 6/22/2012 1:38 PM by Aaron Lewis. 39416 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 12/16/2011 8:09 AM by Aaron Lewis. 17294 reads. Share:

  • Multiple choice voting is now available! When creating a new poll, just click the checkbox at the bottom to indicate that it is multiple choice.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic Server Status widget is now available to ST:TOR guilds. It displays your server name, up/down status, and current population.
  • The most recent posts count to display has been split out from the regular forum and most recent posts stand-alone widgets, so they can each have their own values.
  • When browsing Site Mods, you now have the option to display only those that are installed on your site.
  • 30 signature backgrounds were added to the signature generator background gallery specifically for Star Wars: The Old Republic.
  • The crafting marketplace now requires explicit selection of the tradeskill required to make the requested item.
  • The crafting marketplace now displays orders from all approved alliance guilds!
  • The needs list widget now has a new field for "days/times available."
  • The event signup texting reminder is now firing.
  • Section wrapper opacity now allows for more fine-grained selection.
  • There is a new "mailbox" in your mail widgets, called "GuildPortal Updates." It displays these entries, and is there in an effort to better communicate changes to the service to our members.
  • Spaghetti is good with or without meatballs, but better with.

Posted 11/4/2011 9:19 AM by Aaron Lewis. 11941 reads. Share:

A new widget called "Rally the Guild" goes live today! This beta widget operates much like a shout box, except instead of just adding a line of text to your site, it will send the text to members via either their cell phone or e-mail. For cell phone delivery, members will need to configure texting in their Profile (the widget itself provides a direct link to configure it, as well). Only those with officer level or higher access to your site may send out rallies, and only those marked as associate or higher receive them.

Also, images uploaded since the new file storage system was brought online (images that show as being located on a path that begins with /GuildImages) now show an Edit link next to them in the File Manager. Clicking it brings up a new web-based image editor that gives you the ability to crop, add text to, and otherwise manipulate images. The functionality of this editor already has planned enhancements, coming soon. It is also available from the Gallery widgets upon upload of new images, if the uploader has Images Admin rights on the site.

Over the past couple days, we ran across a hardware problem with one of the drives on our database server, causing some downtime. We apologize for this. The good news is, however, that we have replaced the drive with a mirrored array that has twice the space. Also, while they had the system open at the data center, we had them double the RAM as well, which should have a positive impact on performance.

To make things run even better, we have also brought in a company that specializes in the optimization of databases specific to the platform that GuildPortal runs on. They have completed their initial monitoring phase, and we will be working closely with them to implement their recommendations.

Other stuff addressed in this push:
  • Aion armory tooltips are fixed.
  • LoTRO Integration now allows manual entry of your guild name, in case your actual guild name was already taken for your server and you had to use a different one when creating your site.
  • Approving/denying item requests in the bank now visually updates the visibility of the approve/deny links, giving a better indicator that the command was performed.
  • A bug causing only one item to show when viewing item requests has been squished.
  • SuperAdmins can now delete crafting orders from the main display of the Crafting Marketplace.
  • Spotter's Order was nerfed in Rift. (Okay, so we had nothing to do with that -- we're just very, very angry about it)

Posted 8/5/2011 10:20 AM by Aaron Lewis. 13989 reads. Share:

* Updating attendance/awarding DKP will now immediately update the totals on the Raid Point Standings widget, instead of showing cached data.
* The Silverlight gallery has been replaced with an entirely javascript gallery that has similar functionality, but does not require a plug-in.
* Animated GIF thumbnail images uploaded in your Profile settings will no longer be converted to PNGs (ripping out the animation in the process).
* Files with multiple periods in the name will now upload without error.
* Setting the URL for your banner in the General Style Settings will now save correctly.
* Saving your profile settings after canceling out of uploading a new thumbnail will no longer error out.
* The "Select from guild files" globe icon on image selectors in the control panel now works correctly with Firefox 5.

Posted 7/6/2010 1:54 PM by Aaron Lewis. 5961 reads. Share:

Guild newsletters are now available! As a site admin, to enable and configure your newsletter, open the Control Panel and select Newsletter from the left menu. Users who wish to receive your newsletter will need to enable Guild Newsletters in their Characters/Settings page and be associate-level or higher in your guild. Moving forward, we might change this to being enabled by default, but for the moment we're making it opt-in to avoid "spamming" a whole lot of people at the beginning.

Some might have noticed a lot of ninja-enhancements going live over the past weeks:
  • When editing a page's properties (Control Panel > Pages & Content > select a page and then click the Page Properties tab), you now have the option to specify a hover image, in addition to the previously available default and selected images.
  • The Banner Builder (Control Panel > Style Tools) has an additional effect that you can apply to the text called "perspective." It renders the text at an angle (which you can also specify using the slider).
  • "Nav Bar Builder" and "Navigation Type" have been combined into "Navigation Style" (Control Panel > Style Tools). You can now select the type of navigation you want your site to use (Nav Bar, Side Nav or Standard Tabs) and the interface will show the appropriate options.
  • The Content Boxes (Widgets) styling options now allow for an icon to be shown in the header, without the need to provide custom HTML.
  • The Forum Specific style tools now use the updated gradient generator/guild storage image picker, so if you're using images you've uploaded through the file manager, you won't need to go back and forth, copying and pasting URLs. Many image fields throughout the Control Panel have been updated to use this tool.
  • You can now provide hover state images for the following forum icons: reply, quote, edit, and delete. In addition, pre-set forum icon themes are now importing all of the images they should. Check it out in the Control Panel, under Style Tools > Forum Icons.
  • The signature generator, available in Characters/Settings, has been cleaned up, had some effects and options added, and has been given some more images that you can import from the gallery. If you have any packs of thumbnail images or backgrounds that you'd like seen added for your game, please let us know!
  • The GPHelper add-on for World of Warcraft now imports bank items into more appropriate categories.

Posted 6/9/2010 12:20 PM by Aaron Lewis. 7418 reads. Share:

Largely in response to support tickets, the following updates were deployed today:
  • The image gallery widget now pulls more images, and does not only pull them from the most recently-added. You will now see more of a mix of new and old images.
  • A quirk when opening the member editor from FireFox (where the browser behind the editor would then display a blank white page with "false" in it) has been fixed.
  • The tree view used for selection of members to send new mail to was missing expand/collapse and level images. They are back now.
  • Custom jQuery document ready code now loads correctly.
  • Custom CSS Additions (not Full CSS) should now all be included when pages render.
  • The notification window that appears when a person's application is pending review/approval will now only display once per session.

Posted 4/30/2010 3:00 PM by Aaron Lewis. 9751 reads. Share:

First, the Recent Topics Stand-Alone widget has been added.  While the forums currently have a listing of the most recently added posts (and there's a stand-alone widget for it, as well), this new one lists the most recently added topics.

Next, the Silverlight gallery that was previously only accessible by first opening the full gallery and then clicking a link is now its own widget (it's listed at Image Gallery: Silverlight).

Finally, the vast majority of pseudo pop-up windows that open when you edit content have been banished in favor of more traditional ones.  This decision was made because you couldn't edit content and then refresh the page you were working on by itself to see the changes.  With normal pop-ups, you can.

Finally, when editing widgets, you can now edit the title of the container in the same editor, instead of having to go through the Control Panel.

Posted 1/27/2010 12:52 PM by Aaron Lewis. 9487 reads. Share:

There's a new Silverlight-based gallery for your guild images available.  You can get to it from any gallery widget on your sites by clicking Open Gallery.  This opens the existing gallery, but in the top, right-hand corner is a new link to open the Silverlight version.  If you don't have the Silverlight plug-in, you'll be prompted to install it.

It's in "beta" for the moment.  One notable feature is missing -- the ability to comment on images.  We wanted to get it out there in order to get some feedback on how people feel about taking a more RIA approach when it comes to future features and enhancements. While RIA (rich internet applications) can be, at the lowest level, simply Ajax-based (as GuildPortal is now), the frontier "Web 3.0" world looks to be populated with technologies like Silverlight and Adobe AIR/Flex.

If this is received well, we can put more emphasis on developing these kinds of richer (even occasionally disconnected!) features for your guild sites, moving from web sites to richer, more fully-featured guild management applications with more responsive and attractive interfaces.  Of course, our stamp on the world of guild hosting has always been customizability, and that would move to the new platform, too!

It's important to emphasize that we've no plans to abandon the web-page side of things.  All of this would be complimentary and fully integrated.  Nor is building bigger and better always the way to go.  For example, we also have plans for a fully-featured mobile client (based on standards, not for any specific device).

So if  you've got a moment, pay a visit to the GuildPortal Admin Community and let us know what you think.

Posted 11/3/2009 1:48 PM by Aaron Lewis. 120636 reads. Share:

Gallery images are now automatically optimized when uploaded by guild members, to keep page load times speedy.  When a Super Admin uploads images via the file manager, however, it is completely optional.  Initial testing shows size savings of up to 70%, so your images won't just load faster, they'll also take up less space, leaving you more to play with.

Posted 6/26/2007 7:13 PM by Aaron Lewis. 84070 reads. Share:

To more fully explain exactly what we've been up to around here, I'm going to add a blog entry along with the accompanying news item

For starters, we've migrated to the latest version of the .NET framework.  For those of you in the field, we're not running "Orcas" or anything in beta.  We'll leave the testing of production applications on beta frameworks up to the Fortune 500-type companies.  For the end user, this doesn't mean a whole lot at first, but it does open up the GuildPortal platform to move in some pretty compelling directions.

For starters, the whole "Ajax" thing that's been circulating the web, annoying anybody with a low tolerance for the latest thing that some of the most ADHD people in the world latch on to (I'm talking about us programmers here), is now something we'll be able to integrate into the application. 

Now, before anybody gets dizzy or starts to feel their lunch coming up, we're not going to toss everything out and start from scratch with a ton of useless Ajax-for-Ajax's sake widgets. 

As an example of a (hopefully) not pointless implementation of Ajax into GuildPortal, you can see a bit of it at work with the image gallery control on your pages.  Of course, if you don't like the scrolling, you (guild admins) can shut it off by hitting the Edit icon and then clicking display options.  We'll try to provide as much user choice in any Ajax-y enhancements moving forward.

Next, security has of course been a continuing area of focus, eating up a lot of development time.  Of course, I can't disclose too much about the specifics, but I can tell you that the vast majority of the attacks we had a while ago took advantage of a misconfiguration (our bad) that has since been all sealed up into a little plastic tube and had the oxygen sucked out until it died.  

In completely unrelated -- heavy sarcasm -- news, several well-known hotbeds of hacker activity in certain Chinese provinces have been blocked from accessing the site for a bit, until their ISPs decide to cooperate a little bit in getting these people shut down.

A revamping of the style controls is coming up, with a whole lot more control over individual elements of your site, without the need to resort to doing up your own custom style sheet.  Of course, those of you who like that kind of thing (a lot of you are on the spotlights page!), will still be able to do so, and we'll be adding a few more classes that will give you an even finer level of control over the appearance of your site.

The Control Panel as a whole will be seeing some updates, with changes made to the applications system, content editing, and a few other odds and ends.  The effort will be to provide a more consistent user interface.

As always, thank you for choosing GuildPortal as your guild's home on the web!