GuildPortal Dev Blog

Updates from Aaron Lewis, GuildPortal Code Monkey

Posted 1/4/2013 4:14 PM by Aaron Lewis. 1248864 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 10/10/2012 9:59 AM by Aaron Lewis. 568249 reads. Share:

Many enhancements have been incrementally rolled out since the last release announcement. I'll summarize what's been going on, minus a lot of the minor bug fixes:
  • New Feature Promotion Letters. Whenever a member is promoted to a higher level, you can replace the default system-sent mail with your own custom one, and you can have a unique letter for every level. For example, you can have a different letter sent when someone is promoted to member versus when someone is promoted to officer or council. Get started with promotion letters in Control Panel General Promotion letters or Guild Bar Admin Member Management Promotion Letters.
  • Enhancement New World of Warcraft roster with in-game WoW Guild Achievements. Configuration-free, fast sorting and filtering, more frequently updated, real thumbnails of your characters.. Stay tuned, more new stuff for WoW is on the way.
  • Enhancement WYSIWYG editor file selection/uploading. The editor tool for selecting an image has been revamped to function much like the file manager in the Control Panel. However, you now have additional buttons: one to add media (sound, video, etc) and another to add Flash content. All three tools allow for direct upload while editing your content.
  • New Feature User uploads from WYSIWYG Editor. Previously, there was no way for members to upload images or any other media for use in their forum posts. Now, they have access to the three tools mentioned above, but all of their uploads are stored in a special sub-directory off the guild root with the format /MemberUploads/memberid. That is their root directory, and they can create sub-directories, drag-and-drop copy files, and directly edit images (add text, skew, rotate, crop, etc). They cannot, however, see the guild root folder or navigate to the root of other guild member folders.
  • Enhancement Page Footer. The old page footer had a pretty low limit on the number of characters it allowed. This limitation has been eased up, and you may now also specify a background gradient fade and the top edge color and size for the footer area. If you want a solid color instead of a gradient, just select the same color for both the start and end colors. Control Panel Style Tools Page Footer or Guild Bar Admin Site Customization Footer.
  • Css For those who use custom CSS, the class for the new footer area is gp5-footer.
  • Enhancement 8 new GuildWars 2 themes have been added.
  • Maint Some of you may have noticed the new error reporting form you are taken to when you encounter a run-time error. Many of you who have, have filled out the "what were you doing when the error happened" field, and I just wanted to drop a quick "thank ya" for doing so. The details you provide, along with the actual error details, are both put together to automatically create a new support ticket, which is assigned directly to -- waaaaaaaait for it -- development. Anyway, it makes getting to the cause of a problem much easier and has resulted in many hotfixes over the past month! Oh, and to the individual who typed in "I was sleeping".. lol
Finally, a bunch of bugs were fixed.

Posted 9/4/2012 12:02 PM by Aaron Lewis. 250805 reads. Share:

Hey all! Please, feel free to rate the dev blog service updates (using the star rating thing), and leave comments! Let me know what you liked about any update, what you didn't like, what you'd like to see more of, and all that good stuff. So far, most of our feedback comes from admins who post in the Help Community, and while they provide many of the feature suggestions that are pushed out every week, they represent .78% of all active guild leaders -- and .13% of all recently active members -- on GuildPortal.

Now, I'd love to get more guild leaders (and even their members -- we know they have ideas, too) into the Help Community, but if you don't want to join that, feel free to leave any comments on any release here on the blog at the bottom of any post, and I will read them

I know a lot of people might not expect much along the lines of responsiveness from SaaS (software as a service) providers when it comes to listening to their ideas. Even fewer people expect to actually see their feature requests implemented any time in the foreseeable future. It's totally understandable, and I empathize.

For example, I've had ideas for things I'd love to see added to Facebook, Hotmail, GitHub, and many other SaaS providers. But I didn't send them in because either 1) they didn't even bother putting up a form or forum where I could submit my request, or 2) I had absolutely zero faith that any human being that was capable of making the decision to implement my idea would ever actually see it.

Now, the guild leaders who know this isn't the case with GuildPortal are the ones who frequent the Help Community. They make feature requests all the time. Here is how we break down feature requests, and how long it usually takes before each category of request is live on production (keep in mind that providing support for existing functionality takes up the bulk of our time, and that maintenance, upgrades, tuning, and refactoring must also be constantly done to keep GuildPortal speedy and clean):

 Who Benefits from Feature Complexity ETA (Cycles) 
        
 Many Guild Leaders Low  1-2
  Medium  2-4 
  High 4-8+ 
     
 A Few Guild Leaders Low  2-4 
  Medium 4+
  High 8+
      
 Many Guild Leaders, Many Guild Members Low 
  Medium  1-4 
  High  4+ 
     
 Many Guild Members Low  1-2 
  Medium  2-4 
  High 4-8+ 
     
 Few Guild Members Low 1-4
  Medium 4+
  High 8+ 

Behind the scenes, our "cycles" are milestones. Every week has its own release milestone. But sometimes single features -- or a combination of related features -- will have their own milestone and branch of the code, so that it can be worked on without its changes (especially if there are a lot of core, architectural changes) interfering with the regular support/feature update milestone code bases. This is a fairly recent addition to our toolset, and it makes the entire development and release process -- including adding new features -- much easier to manage.

Every feature request that is made is reviewed by both Sandy and I, whether it comes in via a post on the Help Community, in a Support Ticket, or a comment on the Dev Blog. It is then entered into our issue tracking system, which is a ticket system developed in-house that integrated with GitHub, where bugs, feature requests, and a lot of other things are stored in a way that allows us to link fixes and enhancements to the actual lines of code that were affected.

Feature requests with no ETA are internally assigned to a milestone specifically for those types of feature requests, and it is regularly reviewed to see if anything in there can be squeezed into the next actual release milestone. Not all feature requests are implemented. For each of them, we need to balance the benefit versus the impact to GuildPortal overall. Also, we have to consider the amount of time each request would take to develop.

But no feature request is ever deleted or ignored.So please, for the many guild leaders out there who haven't asked for anything because you don't think anybody's listening, please, talk to us. We're not Microsoft -- we're entirely family-run by a married couple with a dog who forces us to go outside every couple hours to throw the ball for her. We do listen. Most of the features you see us adding to the service, week after week, are the direct result of a guild leader asking for it either on the Help Community forums or by sending in a support ticket. I'd like to see that extended to commenting on development blog service updates, as well.

Posted 8/24/2012 6:49 PM by Aaron Lewis. 452113 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. 36703 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. 127068 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 5/22/2012 10:56 PM by Aaron Lewis. 222596 reads. Share:

Note: If you do not want to read through this whole post and just want to get to your mobile site, the address is your.guild.domain/m. For example, if your sub-domain is icanhaz and your primary domain is guildportal.com, your mobile site would be at icanhaz.guildportal.com/m
Phone showing GuildPortal Mobile I've been mostly working on support tickets and this nebulous thing I'm calling GP-5 (shhh, Sandy would be furious if she found out). Also, Sandy and I are really going to put our heads together to come up with something for the progression widget. However, with all this stuff going on, we managed to get something pretty neat out the door for those of you who use a phone to check up on your guild forums and web mail...

Now, a lot of people already know that GuildPortal can notify you of things such as when new web mail arrives, an event/raid is starting soon, whether someone replied to a topic that you are subscribed to, when your (or others, if you're an events admin) event/raid status changes are sent to your SMS-capable phone. Also, admins can be notified the instant a new applicant signs up to the site.

For those who didn't know about this feature, open Profile from any guild page, then click Text Messaging to set up your cell phone provider, number, whether notifications are enabled, and which types of notifications you want to receive.

Okay, this next part is a relatively big deal for us. If you go to your site's domain (like http://admins.guildportal.com) and add /m after it, you will be on a site that has some functionality of your full site, but has the added benefit of being much faster to load. So, if you're a member of the Admin Help Community, head on over to http://admins.guildportal.com/m right now on your phone and check it out. If not, try your own guild's domain.

The mobile site was written on jQuery Mobile, and so it should support the following devices with no problems (although not all the bells and whistles may be there on older devices -- like mine. Iphone 1. I swear it's gas-powered.):

The so-called "A-grade" browsers. Full enhanced experience with Ajax-based animated page transitions.
  • Apple iOS 3.2-5.0 - Tested on the original iPad (4.3 / 5.0), iPad 2 (4.3), original iPhone (3.1), iPhone 3 (3.2), 3GS (4.3), 4 (4.3 / 5.0), and 4S (5.0)
  • Android 2.1-2.3 – Tested on the HTC Incredible (2.2), original Droid (2.2), HTC Aria (2.1), Google Nexus S (2.3). Functional on 1.5 & 1.6 but performance may be sluggish, tested on Google G1 (1.5)
  • Android 3.1 (Honeycomb)  – Tested on the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and Motorola XOOM
  • Android 4.0 (ICS)  – Tested on a Galaxy Nexus S. Note: transition performance can be poor on upgradeddevices
  • Windows Phone 7-7.5 – Tested on the HTC Surround (7.0) HTC Trophy (7.5), LG-E900 (7.5), Nokia Lumia 800
  • Blackberry 6.0 – Tested on the Torch 9800 and Style 9670
  • Blackberry 7 – Tested on BlackBerry® Torch 9810
  • Blackberry Playbook (1.0-2.0) – Tested on PlayBook
  • Palm WebOS (1.4-2.0) – Tested on the Palm Pixi (1.4), Pre (1.4), Pre 2 (2.0)
  • Palm WebOS 3.0 – Tested on HP TouchPad
  • Firebox Mobile (10 Beta) – Tested on Android 2.3 device
  • Chrome for Android (Beta) – Tested on Android 4.0 device
  • Skyfire 4.1 - Tested on Android 2.3 device
  • Opera Mobile 11.5: Tested on Android 2.3
  • Meego 1.2 – Tested on Nokia 950 and N9
  • Samsung bada 2.0 – Tested on a Samsung Wave 3, Dolphin browser
  • UC Browser – Tested on Android 2.3 device
  • Kindle 3 and Fire - Tested on the built-in WebKit browser for each
  • Nook Color 1.4.1 – Tested on original Nook Color, not Nook Tablet
  • Chrome Desktop 11-17 - Tested on OS X 10.7 and Windows 7
  • Safari Desktop 4-5 - Tested on OS X 10.7 and Windows 7
  • Firefox Desktop 4-9 – Tested on OS X 10.7 and Windows 7
  • Internet Explorer 7-9 – Tested on Windows XP, Vista and 7
  • Opera Desktop 10-11 - Tested on OS X 10.7 and Windows 7
"B-grade" browsers  Ehanced experience except without Ajax navigation features.
  • Blackberry 5.0: Tested on the Storm 2 9550, Bold 9770
  • Opera Mini (5.0-6.5) - Tested on iOS 3.2/4.3 and Android 2.3
  • Nokia Symbian^3 - Tested on Nokia N8 (Symbian^3), C7 (Symbian^3), also works on N97 (Symbian^1)
C-Grade Basic non-enhanced HTML experience that is still functional
  • Blackberry 4.x - Tested on the Curve 8330
  • Windows Mobile - Tested on the HTC Leo (WinMo 5.2)
  • All older smartphone platforms and featurephones – Any device that doesn’t support media queries will receive the basic, C grade experience
There is a feedback button there in your member screen. Please feel free to use it. We would love to hear back from you on this. We will no doubt be adding more features (right now, only mail and forums really work completely, oh and the welcome message, underneath the user's start page for the guild).

For more information on graded mobile browser support based upon JQuery Mobile (which we are using for the /m functionality of your sites) library, click here.

This is not the regular update. There's just been enough testing that I'm comfy letting you all know about it. :)

Posted 3/30/2012 5:43 PM by Aaron Lewis. 25929 reads. Share:

Big enhancements to the calendar system have been made over the past couple of weeks! Here's what's been done:

Event Submissions : Associate-level and higher members of your site are now able to submit events for approval by events admins. When they view the calendar, they have a new button in the top right-hand corner:



When they submit the event, event admins are notified via web mail. When they go to the calendar, if there are any submissions pending, they see the following:



Clicking the button shows them the details of the event, and gives them the option to Approve, Approve and Edit, or Reject the submission.

Simplified Sign-Up: Signing up to an event no longer requires multiple steps. Members can now sign up directly while viewing the event:


In-Line Sign-Up Admin: Like the sign-ups, administrating status and role of sign-ups by event admins has been simplified to a couple of drop-down boxes that appear in-line while viewing the event:


Enter Loot Drops from the Event: Entering drops for an event used to require several steps. Now, it's right there in the event view and much more efficient:


Enter / select the item that dropped. If you start typing the name of the item, a drop-down appears with matching items that have dropped for your guild previously. You can then use your arrow keys or mouse to select any match, or just type in the name of the item if it's something that hasn't dropped before:



Selection of the person who received the item works in the same way. You begin typing, and a list appears with matches:



Here's a partial list of the rest of what's been done over the past couple weeks:
  • New topics default to "subscribed."
  • E-mail notification is sent out when you receive web-based mail.
  • Users can delete their own posts unless the admin disallows it by clicking Edit under their forums, Options, and then checking "Disallow users from deleting their own posts."
  • Ventrilo server status was fixed.
  • The calendar now lets you choose between Monday or Sunday as the first day of the week (click Edit under the calendar, go to Display Options, and select the day from the "First Day of Week").
  • Fixed duplicate characters appearing on the default roster.
  • Added two new widgets: Rift Addons: Hottest and Rift Addons: Newest.
  • Event categories now support a background image, which appears on the large calendar display. To configure event categories, click Edit under your calendar, and then Event Categories.
  • Multiple events may now be deleted at once from the calendar editor by checking the boxes and clicking "Delete Selected."
  • The EverQuest 2 auto-roster has been fixed.
  • The forum icon legend now shows if you have custom forum icons, but can be disabled by clicking Edit under your forums, clicking Options, and checking the "Disable forum/topic icon legends" box.
  • Selected character fields now show up in event sign-ups.
  • An asterisk is displayed next to events that you have signed up for in the main calendar view.
  • If there are applicants awaiting approval, the member admin link flashes.
  • Many Web Fonts have been added and can be selected for your widget titles and widget body areas by going to the Control Panel > Style Tools > Content Boxes (Widgets). Not all of the fonts work with Internet Explorer.
  • Other miscellaneous bug fixes. =)

Posted 2/14/2012 9:45 AM by Aaron Lewis. 20227 reads. Share:

GuildPortal now supports the Mizus RaidTracker third party Add-On for WoW guilds when used with the EQdkp Plus XML export option for loot drops. Because of its superior functionality and popularity, it replaces the GPHelper add-on for this functionality. For more information, open an event follow-up and select the Loot Drops option.

Aside from numerous other minor bug fixes, the following also went live:
  • Event sign-ups are now numbered.
  • "New Activity" link from forums main view shows you new topics since the last time you logged in.
  • Tooltips of most recent posts have been improved, especially for quoted items.
  • "Deleted" shown in sent items next to read status when recipient deleted the item.
  • Selected mail folder now bold.
  • Fixed info section editing problem.
  • Multi-event days now say which event is blocked from sign-ups, or available to be signed up to.
  • Fix for bug when editing an alliance event.

Posted 12/16/2011 8:09 AM by Aaron Lewis. 17293 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 12/9/2011 7:10 AM by Aaron Lewis. 18974 reads. Share:

  • Widgets sometimes only adding to the home page (regardless of what page you select) has been fixed.
  • Newest Members widget displaying incorrect data has been fixed.
  • You can now specify a custom favicon (the icon that appears in the browser when people are visiting your site) to be used instead of the default GuildPortal ones. The place to specify the icon to use is in Control Panel > Style Tools > General > Layout.
  • Story chapters will now display in order of chapter number instead of the order in which they were entered.
  • New widget: Torhead Search goes live! For those using the Mod, you no longer need to (but you still can).
  • In the forum display options, you may now specify that the most recent posts to show should be 0. If you do, the most recent posts will not be displayed at all. Some may find this useful, especially if used in combination with the Most Recent Topics widget.
  • Bank items with "Display to Members" un-checked no longer show in the bank widget.
  • Guilds with subscriptions expiring soon will now receive a more informative e-mail reminder.
  • Guild Events/Raids can now be set to "Block Signups" when entering them. Doing so prevents members from signing up to the event.
  • Application Questions may now be edited, although once the type is saved (multiple choice vs. text entry), that cannot be changed.
  • The maximum number of Recent Posts to Show in the forums has been raised from 20 to 50.
  • The signature generator should now always update your profile with the new image.
  • A new page in the Control Panel, called Raid Points Tools (under Member Management), provides quick and easy ways to mass adjust everyone's raid points/DKP by a set amount (either deducting or adding), reset everyone's DKP to 0, and individually edit member DKP without having to enter an adjustment.
  • ATT/AP were dropped from the Raid Points Standings widget. The data was essentially meaningless, and became only moreso over time.

Posted 11/4/2011 9:19 AM by Aaron Lewis. 11940 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 2/4/2011 9:56 AM by Aaron Lewis. 13003 reads. Share:

Todays update brings the new Crafting Marketplace widget. Members of your guild can use it to place, claim, and mark tradeskill-related orders fulfilled. For example, a member could place an order for 1,000 Arrows of Burning Ouchies. Another member, with the requisite skill of woodworking (and hopefully a pair of oven mitts), could then take the order. After the crafter has completed the order, they mark it as ready for pick up/delivery. Finally, the person who initially placed the order marks it as complete (picked up/delivered).

Throughout the process, web-based mail and regular e-mail are used for notification. For example, when the above sample order was initially placed, all woodworkers in the guild would have been notified of the new order.

Posted 9/16/2010 3:43 PM by Aaron Lewis. 12893 reads. Share:

System updates (like this one) are now showing up in web-based mail, as well. By default, most items will only show for those who have any administrative rights in the guild, so we don't be spamming your members with info that isn't relevant to them.

This was done to improve communications between us and guild admins, making it easier for you to keep notified on updates to the service.

Posted 7/30/2010 5:15 PM by Aaron Lewis. 12211 reads. Share:

A problem with new posts sending you to the home page of your guild site after you were done has been fixed. We cornered the posts and explained to them that they were the ones who got sent, not the other way around. They put up a brief fight, but after a cheap shot, rolled up in a little ball.

When a new user applies to be a member of your guild site, a listing of characters they're signing up with will now be sent along with the mail you normally receive, as well as show up in any automatic forum post you may have configured.

The voting polls admin UI has been updated a bit, and you are now able to edit an already-created poll, so long as no votes have yet been cast for it. If they have, you will only be able to edit the close date and the minimum level to vote on the poll (old votes already cast from those below the new minimum level will remain, however).

The GuildPortal Admin Community (admins.guildportal.com) has had a bit of a make-over, though nothing terribly drastic. Well, except for "The WALL." Beware.

Finally, we believe we've got our maintenance scripts and backups now running on a schedule that should prevent too much overlap, although we're operating on a "wait and see" basis for the moment. If you've been on later in the evening (or early in the morning, depending on which side of the globe you call home), you may have noticed really slow response times or worse. Turns out that nightly full database backups colliding with full index rebuilds causes a bit of a bottleneck! Who knew?

Posted 6/9/2010 12:20 PM by Aaron Lewis. 7417 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 6/8/2010 1:14 PM by Aaron Lewis. 12221 reads. Share:

Web-based mail may now only be sent from one user to another when they are associated either by 1) membership as associates or higher in the same guild or 2) membership as associates or higher in allied guilds. This has been done to prevent gold-seller spam.

A bug preventing editing the intro and title of stories has been fixed, along with various other changes that have been made in response to support tickets.

Posted 4/9/2010 3:09 PM by Aaron Lewis. 7024 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 3/26/2010 8:09 AM by Aaron Lewis. 9422 reads. Share:

Many updates have been made, most in response to support tickets:
  • The mail system has been reverted back to the previous implementation, due to demand.
  • The Custom Content Box (widget) image for the top right fader is now saving correctly.
  • Performance enhancements have been made in key areas, resulting in faster page load times.
  • Some widgets have had their UIs updated to be more uniform.
  • Dialog windows are now taking cues from guild style settings for their appearance (if the guild is not using custom CSS).
  • A FAQ entry has been added for IE 8 users experiencing problems with their session remaining active.  See the FAQ section of the main GuildPortal home page, under "Why Does Internet Explorer Keep Logging Me Out?"
  • When editing a page's properties, if you have images entered for the tabs but do not have the correct type of navigation selected, the tool will warn you and give instructions on how to change your navigation type to the correct one.
  • Several areas of the Control Panel have been updated to make things a bit more uniform.
  • The Idle Monitor has been fixed and should now be sending out inactivity warnings and auto-disbanding as configured by admins.
  • The Guild Funds widget now has a view that shows the history of adjustments.
  • When importing items into the Guild Bank from the editor, partial matches and searches based on the category of item are now allowed.
  • Padding issues with the main table within which widgets render have been fixed.
  • All guild pages have been updated to use version 1.4.2 of jQuery.

Posted 3/11/2010 10:13 AM by Aaron Lewis. 11500 reads. Share:

A new web-based mail interface goes live with today's push!  The new UI brings GuildPortal's mail up to date with some of the more intuitive mail systems out there, offering grouping, improved sorting, and simplified custom folder creation. 

It no longer requires a dedicated tab, as clicking on the Mail links (regardless of navigation type) will now open it in its own window.  For those who already have sites with an inbox widget on a page, it will now load the new UI embedded inside.  Admins who are particular about style settings within pages may want to remove their dedicated mail page completely and just let the links do the work.