This is an experimental facility to manage communication with a group’s members, providing facilities to distribute newsletters electronically, and to run blogs and discussions. Future development could include electronic and formal votes on issues and committee elections. Blogs may be passive or active: -
· A passive blog allows users to post messages to it, and to reply to earlier messages. The messages and their replies form a threaded list: you can reply to a reply … FamNet’s blog “Letters to the Editor” is an example of a passive blog. People can post to this blog, and others can comment on their posts. The FamNet newsletter’s editor may choose to reprint some of these letters in the newsletter. However emails are not sent out to others by the act of posting to this blog.
· An active blog functions in the same way, but also sends the messages out as emails. “Ask an Expert” is an example of an active blog. When a user starts a new topic on this blog an email is sent to the members of FamNet’s expert panel. Their posted replies are automatically emailed to the original poster, and anybody else who has posted a message to this blog. Emails are NOT sent to other members of FamNet who have not joined this discussion, unless they choose to subscribe to the topic.
The blog administrator defines the characteristics of a blog, including who can see, start new topics, and reply, whether the blog sends emails, and if so to whom.
Section 1 describes how a group member would use the facility, assuming that it has already been set up on the group’s web site. Section 2 describes how the group administrator manages the facility, setting up new blogs, and editing the characteristics of existing blogs.
A page may have a blog list, or one particular blog. For example, the FamNet community page looks like this: -
If you click the button [Blogs and Mailing Lists] on the FamNet community page you’ll see a blog list something like this: -
Blogs (mailing lists) can be set up by a group administrator to be available to anybody (even unregistered visitors), to members, or to particular groups such as the group’s committee, so that this list will differ for different people. Whether users can look at messages, reply to them, or vote (when relevant) is controlled by the Group Administrator, so that you may not see a button to reply, or may even be refused permission to open a message.
Permissions are applied automatically and “instantly”. Thus if a blog has been set up for current members only, a user whose membership expires today will be able to use the blog today, and will be locked out tomorrow. If his/her membership is renewed the day after, he (or she) immediately regains access to the blog.
If you have permission to create a blog (i.e., you are a group administrator), then you will see a button [New Blog] above this list. Most users won’t see this button. Clicking this button allows the administrator to create a new blog.
Clicking the entry in the blog list opens the relevant blog. If you click the buttons [Ask an Expert] or [Letters to the Editor] you’ll open the blog directly. Either way, when opened it looks like this: -
When a blog is selected from the list, or a button such as [Ask an Expert] is clicked, then the blog is displayed: -
First appears the blog title and whatever blog-header notes have been defined (see Section 2). Then there is a list of controls. The list of controls that appear will depend on your permissions: -
[New Post] will start a new posting
On behalf of [ ] only appears to administrators. This allows an administrator to start a blog posting on behalf of somebody else, for example, when an email has been received from a group member. Enter the member’s userid or email in the textbox: it will be validated (is this userid/email registered within this group?). If valid, the post will be created as if the member had posted it themselves.
[Edit Blog] will only appear if you are a system or group administrator. It allows you to edit the blog’s characteristics: who can post to it, do postings produce emails, etc.
[Delete Blog] or [Archive Blog] will only appear for system administrators. When a blog is archived it will no longer appear except to system and group administrators. If the blog is empty – no messages have been posted to it – then this button reads [Delete Blog], and clicking [Delete] will remove the blog completely
[Subscribe] or [Unsubscribe]. This only appears for active (= send email) blogs. If the blog is set up so that you would receive emails, the button reads [Unsubscribe]: Click it and you’ll be removed from the subscription list and won’t receive emails as further posts are made. If the blog sends emails but you are not in the list of people receiving them, the button reads [Subscribe]: click it to receive email notices or messages when postings are made to this blog.
Then appear a list of postings. Any of these posts may have replies but this list shows only the “level one” postings, made from the [New Post] button.
On clicking [New Post] a basic Word-like editor opens, and the post can be written: -
Enter a title for the post, and write the post within the editor window. You can: -
· Write the post with formatting: paragraph styles, fonts, font size, and colour.
· Copy/Paste from other windows. For example, you may choose to prepare the newsletter with Word, and then paste it into this editor window to send it.
· You can Upload and “attach” documents by clicking the [Insert Link] button. These are not actually attached to the email that is sent, but are uploaded to the web site and a link is included into the posting.
When you have finished writing your message, click [Save] to save it to the blog. If this is an active blog, i.e. one that sends out emails, then another button, [Post] will appear. The form of this email, and the list of people that it is sent to, is controlled by the blog settings.
Have you ever used a blog and posted a message, only to see it come back to you and “Oh ******, I didn’t mean to say that”? Or the message looks different after it has been through the email system. I have certainly had experiences like this, so I have designed these blogs to give you a second chance. Thus, after writing your message you click [Save]. This saves the message, and sends it to you – but nobody else, and a [Post] button appears. Of course you don’t have to check the email, you could click [Post] immediately, but I recommend that you have a look at your posting first. If you do not immediately email your message, you can edit and email it later. See Editing a message. When you are ready, click [Post] and the message will be sent. This is sent in both plain text and HTML (formatted) form, and recipients will see one or other version depending on their email program settings.
If the blog has been defined with “No Emails”, then it is a “Passive blog”. Postings can be viewed and messages replied to, but it will not send out any emails. In this case the [Save] button appears (it is now captioned simply “Save”, not “Save and Test”), but it does not send you a test email. For a passive blog the [Send] button will not appear when [Save] is clicked.
Once the message has been saved it will appear in the topic list, as here: -
(NB: you probably won’t see “on behalf of [ ], nor [Edit Blog] and [Archive blog] buttons)
Click View and you can see the message. If it is your message, then in the buttons underneath the message an [Edit] button will appear: -
Click this to edit the message can be edited. You can only edit messages if you created them, or if you are a group or system administrator. When you have finished editing the message you can [Save] it, and then [Post] it to email it to the appropriate list for this blog.
When you select a blog the page shows you a list of topics, like this: -
Click “View” to see the actual posting. The topic is displayed as a “threaded list”, like this, with the original posting, and all replies so far, and the selected message (posting) in this list is displayed. There may be replies to replies: -
· “Topic” shows the title of this posting.
· Under this, there may be further posting where others have replied to the post. In the above case there is only the original posting and one reply, but here’s another example where there have been many replies, including replies to replies: -
· Next you see the original message. In this case the message is just testing, and has been written to show the effect of using the formatting. By clicking on one of the replies, you can see the reply message.
· Finally, [Reply] gives you the option of replying, either to the original message, or to the reply that you clicked. This opens the editor window, which behaves as described above for a new post.
When you get an email it will contain a link after the message: -
Past the link, http://tinyurl.com/35b9pa6, into your browser: -
and click [Enter] you see a page lke this: -
Here you can UnSubscribe and Reply.
[Unsubscribe] will remove you from the email list. Assuming you remain a member of the relevant group, you will still be able to view the blog on line, and you’ll be able to re-subscribe there if you change your mind, but you will not get any more emails until you re-subscribe.
Reply functions as described above for on-line replies.
One or more of a group’s members is given a role “Group Adminstrator”. This gives them special powers to manage the group, and the group’s blogs.
Firstly, they will see a complete list of blogs, and also a button to create a new blog: -
Clicking the button [New Blog] displays a page where the blog’s characteristics are set. In this example we are setting up the blog “Committee Discussions”. Note that here, as in most cases, the permissions are set for “Show in Blog List” leaving the system to set all the other permissions to the same values. It is possible to set different permissions, for example you might allow even casual visitors to read your newsletters but only members can join discussions about them. As noted above, a blog can be passive or active. A passive blog allows users to post and reply to messages, an active blog will also send out email messages.
If you have appropriate permissions the you’ll see buttons [New Blog] and [Edit Blog] at appropriate times. Clicking these buttons opens the following view: -
At the top a section appears where you enter blog’s title is entered, and header text. The title should be unique.
If the section “Blog Id xxxxxxxxxx-xxxx-xxxx-xxxx-xxxxxxxxxxxx appears it can be ignored unless you’re an administrator. This provides the blog’s system id.
Click the little [>] button to create header text, such as: -
This will open an editing panel where you can write this text, using different fonts as necessary to achieve the effect that you want.
section is a column of drop-down lists where each permission is given. If the permission is left unspecified,
indicated by “???”, then it will be filled in from the previous permission if
this is valid. However “visitors” may
not post either a new topic or reply to an existing one, nor can they be sent
emails. In the example above, by
setting “Show in Blog List” and “Subgroup” for the first permission but leaving
all the others unspecified, all permissions will be set to “Must be in Sub
Group/Subgroup = Test”.
Available options are: -
· Visitors. These are people viewing this page who have not logged on, even with a free registration.
· Anybody Registered. Anybody who has registered with the group, whether they are a current member or not.
· Current Members. This is anybody recorded by the membership system as a member from a date earlier than or equal to today, until a date later than or equal to today. It is up to the individual group to manage membership, and whether this requires a subscription or not.
· Must be in Sub Group (next field). A group may define various sub groups – Committee, Officers, Life Members, Project Team, etc – and the Group Administrator can put members (or even non-members who are registered) into one or more of these groups. If this option is taken, then a value must be set in the following “SubGroup” field.
Only. When applied to “Show in Blog
List”, this hides the blog from all users except group administrators.
The various permissions are: -
· “Show in blog list”. If the user qualifies, then the blog will appear in the list of blogs, and the user will be able to click the blog title and open the list of message titles. If the user does not qualify then they have no access to the blog.
· “Start New Topic”. If the user qualifies, then the [New Post] button will appear, and they can start a new topic. They cannot be a visitor.
· “View Message”. If the user qualifies, then they can click on the “View” command to open a message. Normally this would be the same as “Show in blog list”, but a separate option is provided in case a group has a list of articles that are only available to members, but wants to show others the list of articles because this may provide a reason for joining.
· May Reply. Cannot be a visitor. If the user qualifies, then they will see the [Reply] button and be able to post a reply to either the original message or to a previous reply to this message.
Set the length of time that messages are to remain on the blog, in months. After this number of months the messages will be automatically archived, so that they are no longer visible except to administrators.
If set to zero (or blank), which is the default, then messages are not automatically archived and will remain on the blog indefinitely.
The first option is “Email Option(form). Set this to one of: -
· No Email. This makes this a passive blog: no emails are sent. The remaining options of this section can be ignored
· Email Notification. Brief text emails are sent “A new message has been posted to xxxx. Click here to see it”
· Email Message. The message posted to the blog is emailed, both as a text and an html email.
If emails are sent, then the next question is “to whom?” You can separately control who gets emails for new topic postings, and for replies.
· New Topic. This controls to whom emails are sent to when a new topic is posted. Options are
o Blog Subscribers
o Whole Group
o Group Members
o SubGroup plus Subscribers
· Replies. This controls to whom emails are sent when a reply is posted. Options are as for New Topic, plus another option
These options function as follows: -
· Nobody. Emails are not sent. If both New Topic and Replies are set to this option, then this is equivalent to email option “No Email”
· Blog Subscribers. With this option users must individually subscribe to this blog. They can subscribe or unsubscribe. Note that having subscribed they may continue to get emails even if their membership of the group lapses.
· Whole Group. This is everybody who is registered within the group, without checking that they are current members.
· Group Members. This checks for current membership of the group, and will not include those whose membership has lapsed
· Subgroup. This sends a message to members of the subgroup – Committee, Expert Panel, etc – specified in the SubGroup control
· Subgroup plus subscribers. Emails are sent to members of the subgroup, plus any subscribers to the blog.
· Topic. This sends an email to everybody who has posted to this topic. The intention of this option is to allow the whole group to see new topics that have been posted, but not be involved further in discussions of topics that don’t interest them. However if you “join the discussion” by posting a reply to this topic, this reply will be emailed to the topic originator and everybody else who has posted on this topic, and you will receive emails from any further replies.
When the Group Administrator selects a blog, they see two buttons that are not available to normal users: -
[Edit Blog] This allows the blog’s characteristics to be changed: as described above for Creating a New Blog, but starting with the characteristics already established for this blog.
[Archive Blog] or [Delete Blog]
If the blog is empty, then this button will say “Delete Blog”. Clicking it will cause the blog to be deleted.
However, if the blog contains any messages, then it cannot be deleted, and the button will say “Archive Blog”. Clicking this and it becomes available only to Group Administrators, effectively deleting it for all other users.