One great way to add visual interest and update your community site is to include eye-catching photos. But what if you're not Ansel Adams?
Not to worry. As a photography challenged writer, I am intimately familiar with this problem. The great news is that there are tons of free and cheap resources out there to help you achieve photographic greatness.
Instagram is the app that launched a thousand dinner photos. But you can also use it to create cool effects and snap quick candid pictures for your community. Because it has a social component, it might be cool to use it to take photos at your next community meetup! (And did you know that Hoop.la includes optional Instagram integration in the member profiles?)
This is how you can start to participate in memes, or create your own. Overgram allows you to instantly add text, with fonts and colors, to any photo (from your library or a new shot), along with other goodies. Simple and effective.
My current favorite photo doodad. What would take you 20 minutes in Photoshop can be handled in a matter of seconds on Color Splash, right on your phone. Boom. Allows you to isolate the color (or grey) any portion of a photo with your finger (see the fishie above). Best 99 cents I've spent lately.
Where can you use these pretty pictures on your community site?
Header graphics, forum icons, avatars, embedded in blog posts or forum topics, background images, shared over to your social outposts, basically everywhere!
I hope this sparked some creative juices...please share your own favorite photo editing apps here. I love new shiny objects!
Twitter has been taking steps recently to get more control over how its content is delivered via third party applications and websites.
In this announcement, Twitter announced that starting March 5, it will begin the process of stopping the mechanism that Hoop.la currently uses to deliver its standard Twitter widget (which is currently an unauthenticated API call).
This will take away from the convenience of having a standard widget, but it's still not very difficult to incorporate a Twitter feed widget into your Hoop.la/UBB Forum pages.
How to Create Your Own Twitter Widget for Hoop.la or UBB Forum
Go to your Profile on Twitter.
Click the Create New button.
Choose from timeline, favorites, or list, or search to create your own stream.
Click Create Widget.
Copy the code.
Go to your Hoop.la site.
Click Add Widget.
Click Create New Custom Widget.
Paste the code in the box.
Click Create Custom Widget.
Drag your widget to your desired location on the page.
We are putting out a release today that will remove the standard Twitter widget for Hoop.la and UBB Forum sites. Note that this change only affects the Twitter widget, not the Twitter social profile integration in Hoop.la/UBB Forum, since that is an authenticated API call.
For existing sites that are already using the Twitter widget, it will disappear with this Hoop.la/UBB Forum release.
If you need help making these changes, or you have any questions about this process, please visit our help community at: http://help.socialstrata.com. You'll find friendly faces to help you out!
Ted and I just returned from the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where we saw a lot of 3D televisions, different flavors of gestural interfaces, and a massive variety of charging devices. Nothing too earth-shattering, but Samsung apparently revealed bendable displays that could rock things in the next couple of years.
Part of the fun of CES is letting the wave of new technology wash over you, and then coming out the other side with intuition on where things are heading.
I thought it would be fun to share some video---
This video shows the Drywire nanotechnology for protecting devices. In plain English---never worry about dropping your phone in the toilet again. There were several vendors with this particular type of technology, and I think it's going to become a standard feature for devices as manufacturers get on board.
We watched this guy for a while. It's like a Segway with one wheel. It has a handle on the top so that you can take it in to work with you when you arrive. I'm pretty sure I'd need to be wearing a helmet on one of these.
This one was my favorite new thing. It's from Beam, and it's a remote-controlled telepresence robot. We were chatting with a woman in Palo Alto, who could turn and track with someone walking, or move the device to a charger. It reminded me of the episode of Big Bang Theory when Sheldon created a homegrown version of this (and ran into Woz at the restaurant).
Just for fun, here's video of "Glitch" from So You Think You Can Dance. He was livening up the Speck booth. (Thanks, Speck for the shiny new iPhone cases!)
This is rather cool. It's a device that makes anything on a monitor appear as if it's a hologram. No idea how it does it, but we saw a few different companies trying this idea. Maybe we'll just skip over 3D and go straight to holograms.
What technology are you most anxious to see in the coming years?
In the hustle and bustle of everyday work, it’s easy to let the months slip by without recognizing the progress we’ve made over time.
2012 was an extremely exciting year, including opening an office in Charleston, SC, finishing a major upgrade of our data center operation, and incorporating some pretty amazing features into the Hoop.la community platform.
Here are some highlights of what was added to Hoop.la in the past year, many of which started out as customer suggestions in our Help Forums. Want to see your favorite feature get added next year? Post a suggestion and maybe it will get voted up for consideration!
2012 Hoop.la Highlights
Hoop.la’s mobile UI got a beefy update, including pull-to-refresh.
More admin controls were added in February, including permission to view the member directory, per-forum ad slots, ability to export member data, admin control over member email edits, and suppression of poll vote counts.
We added more control over profile fields for the admin, including whether to include the field on registration, custom Graemlins, user ability to search everything, ability to customize the “powered by” graphic, and new registration settings area.
July brought supercharged member profiles, including ability to follow other members, an improved activity point system, community rankings, social network integration, activity streams for the site and per user, social network widgets, and support for mobile themes. This was a biggie!
In September, we added numerous small enhancements to the admin control panel, and released the Portfolios option for Pro plans. Portfolios make life much easier for sites with multiple distinct target audiences.
Premium memberships got an overhaul. We increased your revenue share, added new permissions, made it much easier to promote premium memberships, added a lifetime subscription option, and created a default premium membership plan.
Latest, but not least, the “Control Freak” update added several new permissions, permission-sensitive widgets, separate blog content and forum topics widgets, ability to edit guest post author names, and a new home page top banner option.
If you've stopped by our Hoop.la website any time in the last few months, you may have noticed a popup window that offers live assistance.
We're using a 3rd party service called SnapEngage, and since many of you have asked about it, I thought I'd share how you can use it on your own site. (This same tip would work whether you're using Hoop.la or Eve Community.)
Go to your Hoop.la site and click Manage > Admin Control Panel > Settings > Basic Settings.
Paste the SnapEngage code in the Hoop.la site footer, just above the closing </body> tag.
Click Update Settings.
How You Can Use Live Help Chat
We use live chat to answer quick sales questions or give on-site direction to information on our website. It's been very helpful to be able to provide a response on-the-fly, and often we have prevented potential new customers from just walking away. The chat conversation appears in our IM client, which makes it very easy to manage during normal work flow.
This type of live chat is one-to-one, and is ideally suited for quick customer support or sales questions.
If you decide to install live chat, please come back and tell us how it went!
Disclaimer: We have been using SnapEngage and love it, but there are a lot of other vendors for this type of service. This is just one example of how you could implement live help chat.
Once upon a time, there was a COPPA Rule. It was enforced by the FTC and lo, many beheld it to be out-of-date and unworkable.
Yet hark! The FTC spread tidings throughout the land that the COPPA rule would be modified and updated. Hither and yon, the knights and viziers of the kingdom didst scurry and submit many a wise and sage counsel unto the FTC.
The FTC, hearing the many goodly advices of the gathered masses, did hearken to their pleas. And so I announce unto you a fresh request from the FTC, beckoning the gentlefolk of the kingdom to once again take heed unto its modified rule and pronounce it good.
Thusly do they wish to revise the definitions within the Rule:
Change the definition of operator to encompass situations in which the information is collected in the interest of, as a representative of, or for the benefit of, the operator. (This is targeted directly at third party ad services or plug-ins that may collect personal information on a child-directed website.)
Define as an operator of a child-directed website any website or online service who knows or has reason to know that it is collecting personal information through a child-directed site or service. (This doesn't require proactive age screening by third party services, but does bring in COPPA if there is "reason to know.")
Change the definition of personal information to include screen or user name where it acts as an identifier that permits direct contact with a person online.
Combine the sub-definitions of personal information in proposed paragraphs (g) and (h) covering persistent identifiers, and to broaden the definition of support for internal operations. (This is intended to allow things like IP address collection and cookies for the purpose of personalization and preferences, while still controlling collection for behavioral targeting or other purposes.)
Thou shalt reply with comments to the FTC by September 10, 2012, if thou wishest to be heard.
Today the jargon patrol is tackling another acronym that gets tossed around quite a bit---SLA, or service level agreement. Here's the Wikipedia definition:
A service-level agreement (SLA) is a part of a service contract where the level of service is formally defined.
In the world of Enterprise software as a service, an SLA is an agreed-to performance metric that includes some penalties if the metric is not met. In plain English, "if our service is unusable for x percent of time in a given time period, we'll give you a refund."
After all, if you're buying Enterprise software, it's critical to your mission, right?
Ideally, all hosted applications would have 100% uptime, but that's not reality. In reality, the magical "five nines" or 99.999% uptime is the gold standard. Therefore, many Enterprise contracts will offer a tiered approach, with financial penalties tied to each tier.
Usually, the penalty means credits back on the next month's service invoice.
It happens to everyone. You wake up one morning, and get all excited because you have a TON of comments on your blog, or a TON of new posts in your forum. You go to check them out, and boom. It's those fake Louis Vuitton hawking fools, spamming all over your site.
Today's quick tip video will give you just one key tool in the battle against link spam. It's called a moderation rule, and it can be very effective in keeping the evil spammers at bay.
After all, the sites you link to are an indicator (to the search engines) of the quality of your site. If you just throw up your hands and let them through, it will degrade the search ranking of your own site.
Here's how to create a moderation rule in Hoop.la:
Open your Admin Control Panel and click Manage Content>>Moderation Rules.
Click "add new rule." You'll see a popup--
You probably want to uncheck "original posts" but leave comments/replies.
Under Special Condition, you can choose "with attachment," "contain certain words," or "by a specific person." For purposes of catching link spammers, choose "contain certain words."
Once you choose that option, a text box will appear. Type "http" in the box (without the quotation marks). Click Add Rule.
Your popup should look like this--
Now, any time someone tries to post a comment or reply that contains a link, it will be placed into the moderation queue, where you can review it and either delete it or publish it (in case it's legitimate).
This is just one way to stem the tide of link spam, but it can make your life as a community manager much easier!
COPPA is the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, enacted in 1998 in order to restrict the collection and use of data collected from children 13 and under.
We posted an update here almost one year ago, noting that COPPA was still under review after a series of comments and roundtables. Final comments were due under an extension as of December 23, 2011.
Now, almost two years since the original review period started, H.R. 1895, the Do Not Track Kids Act is still sitting around in the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade. Bottom line for those who are subject to COPPA (commercial websites with a kid-targeted audience), keep the status quo, but be prepared for changes.
One big proposed change is the increase the age from 13 to 15. Another key change is to include IP addresses as part of the definition of "personally identifiable information." And finally, the Bill introduces the concept of an "eraser button," which would theoretically be built into every website, social network, and platform across the web, allowing users to delete their own data at will, at any time (this idea is included in the adult privacy legislation currently working its way through Congress as well).
Of note, HR 1895 doesn't define (or redefine) "verifiable consent," something which was highlighted in the roundtable discussions. When COPPA was originally enacted, digital signature technology was still in its infancy, and there has been much discussion of whether using credit card or social security number verification would be stronger. This is still a regulatory area to watch.
As technologists, we are keeping a close eye as privacy legislation develops, and we'll always ensure that our platforms facilitate COPPA compliance efforts for our clients who are subject to it.
I've included a brief video below, a peek into how Congress is thinking about the issue of children's online privacy. It will certainly be interesting to see how the regulations evolve to deal with the fast pace of technology evolution.
Remember that scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark when the bad guy brandishes an impressively frightening knife, and Indy whips out his pistol and shoots him? Yeah, when you design your community, be sure you align your "weapon" with the mission at hand.
Your online community's purpose should be tightly integrated with the rest of the organization's Web strategy. For example, if you are a corporation whose primary reason for being online is e-comerce, ensure that your online community provides opportunities to discuss and purchase your products. If you are a high-end design firm whose primary purpose online is to showcase the company portfolio and designers, you may want to showcase your design skills by customizing the online community.
Something to think about when choosing a community technology is whether it will easily integrate with the rest of your existing Web site. Find out whether you can share membership login information, pull chunks of information from the community onto other Web pages, or completely customize the interface. Each of these things adds to the seamless experience your visitors deserve.
Simply put, your online community should not be "just another goodie" on your Web site.
Most successful organizations have financial goals and a clearly defined business mission. Your investment in online community should be a contributor to that bottom line. However, you'll never know whether it is or not if you aren't setting up expectations from the very outset. Arm yourself with knowledge of how the corporate financial goals are set, as well as the Web strategy financial goals, and create financial goals for your online community.
Your community technology should also assist you in evaluating its financial return. Look for an application that will allow you to track vital statistics, such as member activity and growth in member registrations. If you plan to charge a fee for membership in your online community, you'll need technology that will allow you to differentiate between paid and unpaid members (for example, you could have public forums accessible to all and private forums accessible only to paid members). If your typical revenue online is derived from advertising, start thinking of creative ways to integrate ads within the online community. Some community technology will allow you to go far beyond the generic banner ad, allowing you to feed smaller, more targeted ad information directly within the community interface.
The bottom line is that if your online community is going to be either a revenue-generating or cost-savings asset, you need to configure it that way from the very beginning. Every step you take in setting up the community should reflect your financial goals.
And never, EVER forget that Indiana Jones is thinking the same way.