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 Passions in Poetry

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New Forum Features

We all know that Passionate Forums are unique, unlike anything else on the Internet. Well, now the software that drives the forums is going to be just as unique.

That software, from Infopop Corporation, is known as the Ultimate Bulletin Board (UBB) and has proven itself to be one of the most popular systems on the Internet. There are a lot of reasons for the popularity, but one of them has always been the availability of source code. That simply means that we can customize it to fit our special needs.

And that's what this is all about. The UBB software driving the Passionate Forums has undergone a few changes in this most recent incarnation. Like the people of Passions, like the spirit that pervades the Forums, it is unique.

I hope you like the changes.

 

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Bug Swatter Forum Programmers are notoriously bad at testing their own software. If we thought about a possibility, we already put it in the code. If we didn't think about it, we didn't test for it either. So I've opened up a new forum for reporting those one or two things that slipped by me.

New Status Descriptions The old forum software allowed only two Member standings: New Member or Member. The new software will have a few more:

  • New Member (less than 10 posts)
  • Junior Member (less than 50 posts)
  • Member (less than 500 posts)
  • Senior Member (less than 2,000 posts)
  • Member Emeritus (and I know it's a misnomer, but it sounds good)

I want to emphasize that all Members are Members, and the new codes aren't meant to stratify Passions. But a lot of the new features below are pretty resource intensive, and it makes sense to limit some of them to those that have been here and shown they intend to stay.

Photos In addition to the new standings, there's going to be a few more items also listed in that area where you're used to seeing author's name and Membership status. Such as photos. In the "Edit Profile" screen, you'll have the option to upload a photo to Ceres and have it displayed with your poetry. Now, we'll all be able to see a human face behind those words! With the photo will also be the number of posts made, the date you joined Passions, and in a few cases what I'm calling a Staff Description (right now, that will be for the Newsletter staff).

Web Sites Also in the Edit Profile screen, you'll find a new button for creating your own web page on Passions. Some of you may have seen the old "Roll Call" at our old forums - this concept just carries that a step farther. Your web page can be customized in a lot of different ways, and can include photos, descriptions of your life and interests, your favorite links - just about anything you want so your friends at Passions can know you better as a real person. (this feature is still a dream in progress)

Your Profile There are several other new fields in the "Edit Profile" screen, in addition those two listed above. I've tried to keep them to a minimum (and even considered taking out some of the old ones), because the new Web pages will largely take the place of personal information stored in the profile. As just one example, there are now fields for the month and date of your birth. In the near future we'll have a page where you can see the names of everyone with a birthday in the current and upcoming months - just so we all have the opportunity to say Happy Birthday to a friend.

Post Icons All of the posts will now include additional icons (beyond the Profile, Email, and Edit ones current). If you have a home page listed in your profile, there will be a Home icon that links to your web site. If you have a web page at Passions, there'll also be a link to that. There will be a familiar little flower there for those of you who have ICQ numbers in your profile, and yea, it'll even change colors to indicate if you're on-line or not. Those of us poor souls that don't have ICQ can click it and send you a message over the ICQ line. Finally (and I'm especially excited about this one), there's going to be an icon that allows you to automatically submit the poem you just posted to the main Passions site.

Poem Icons Not enough new icons for you? Well, I've saved the best for last. In the poetry forums (not the discussion or other forums), you'll find some new User Icons above the poem. One will format the poem for better printing, without all the graphics and colors. One will allow the reader to send the poem directly to a friend through email, with a personal message attached. Finally, the third icon will allow the reader to create a Greeting Card web page, using the poem as the central theme, and mail the URL to a friend.

Note that these new features will have an impact on a few other things. The title of your topic post, for example, becomes the title of your poem for these new features - so you don't want to add a lot of extra information. In looking at our past posts, I noticed that most people are using parenthesis when they want to add a message to their topic title. That's a good way to do it, and will still work - because the new software will strip any parenthetical messages. It will also strip the "Edit by" messages when present, and "try" to strip the Signature lines. The idea, of course, is that if the poetry is going to be mailed to people we want to keep it clean and presentable.

Also of note, we all want proper credit for our work. All of the above routines will, of course, include your copyright on the poem. But sometimes we don't want that copyright to be in our Username. So the "Edit Profile" section now includes a field where you enter your real name (or any portion of it). If you use that field, all copyrights will be established in that name, rather than your screen name.

Mood Icons Sorry, but I just don't know what else to call them. You probably never even noticed before, but to the left of date and time on each post there's always been this teeny tiny icon to indicate this was a post. Like, duh? Seems like we can make a little better use of that space. So, now, you get to pick the icon when you post a New Topic or Reply to one. There are about 80 icons available, enough I hope to indicate everyone's mood when they post. The posting forms show only a handful of those available, but there's also a Quick View popup for the others. What's a Quick View? Well, since you asked…

Quick View Windows It seems like Help is never there when you need it! All of the postings screens (New Topic, Reply, and Edit) will now have what I call "Quick View" popups available (if you have Javascript enabled). These are smaller windows that popup over your main screen. Those available currently include one for the Mood Icons mentioned above, one for all the Smilies you can use, one for HTML help, UBB Code help, and one to show which images are on the server and can be easily included in your messages. If there are any additional popups you'd like to see added, just drop me a line in the new "Bug Swatter" forum.

The Balladeer Button Hey, how many famous poets get a button named after them? What's it do? Well, I wish it wrote great poems and told wonderful stories like its namesake, but there are still limits to what a computer can do. 'Deer was the first of several to suggest what I think is going to be pretty handy. The Balladeer Button will, very simply, take you back to the last Forum Index you visited - even if that was page four or fourteen of the Forum Index. It's particularly useful if you've just replied to a poem on other than page one - 'cause your reply moved that poem to the front and your "Next" button just became useless. This feature will only work if you have cookies enabled.

Warning - if you typically work with multiple browser windows open, perhaps in multiple forums, the Balladeer Button may not do quite what you expect. Remember, it will always return you to the last forum index page you saw - not necessarily the last forum index in the current window. In other words, all of the Balladeer Buttons in all of the windows will point to the same place - the last forum index you saw.

Guidelines We now have written Guidelines for Passions. No big deal, and the general guidelines are really more philosophical than anything resembling rules. But we also have a few secondary levels of guidelines. Embedded directly in the New Topics form will be a short Guidelines paragraph - different for each of the forums. And these will include rules. Part of that short paragraph will also be a Quick View link to a more detailed description of the Forum rules.

New Topic Posts Besides the additions already noted (Mood Icons, Guidelines, QuickView, etc), there are a few changes not so obvious. For example, you can now use spaces to help format your poetry. Be aware, though, that because we use proportional fonts (an I is not the same width as a W), your spacing may not be exactly what you intended.

There is, however, also a new Preview button so you can see how your post is going to look before you post it. This should be particularly handy for using HTML and UBB codes to format your poetry. Please be patient when you use the new Preview button - it takes a while to reload and format everything.

Finally, you're also going to find a few drop-down prompts to help you format your poems. There's one for fonts, color, and alignment. These will set themselves to the default we typically use on the forums, so you can ignore them if you'd like. Or, you can use them to enhance your poetry where appropriate. The new formatting options will work for New Topics and for Replies. They are not available in the Editing screen - but the HTML they added to your message is. So you change that as needed. (We're going to systematically make sure everyone knows HTML before this is all over...)

Editing Posts You'll discover a few new prompts should you have the need to edit an original Topic (as opposed to editing a reply). One of those will the Subject line of the topic, which you can now change without bugging a Moderator. The other is the Email Notification checkbox, so you can turn it off (or on) if you change your mind about being notified when someone responds to a post.

Newbie Alert When a new Member makes their first post that post will be marked with a special, moving folder. That will alert everyone to welcome the new Member and let us know we have an addition to the family.

Email Notifications I already mentioned that you now have the ability, through the Edit screen, to change your mind about being notified when someone posts to one of your topics. I should also two other fairly minor changes. First, at the bottom of each thread (in the area that says "All times are ET," there will be a note to let everyone know the author has Notification turned on.

Second, there is a new prompt in the Profile screen called "Bad EMail" that will allow me to turn off Notifications for an individual. We have a ton of Members that registered before we started verifying email addresses, and they didn't always type their address correctly. When those Members request Notification the system can't find them. So their notification ends in my email box. I get several hundred a day. If you go into your Profile and find the Bad EMail prompted checked, it means I turned Notification off for you because I was receiving those bounced email messages. Please change your email address to a correct one and remove the check mark to again receive Notifications.

Cookies What used to be called "Preferences" is now called "Cookies" on the menu - 'cause that's what it really deals with. I hope to be adding an article soon on what cookies are and how they don't work. I even hope to get them to work a little more reliably. But while we're waiting for that, there's just a couple changes I wanted to mention.

First, let's talk about your Topic View. That's the one that says "show me the topics from the past 5 days" or whatever. All of our poetry forums are very busy, and many of our Member visit on a daily basis (sometimes hourly!). It makes your pages load quicker if you set your Topic View to "last day" or a similarly short period. But our discussion forums aren't so busy. One day, or even five days, simply won't work. Hence the new change: the poetry forums will continue to use your Topic View that you select in the Cookies option screen. But all the discussion forums will now default to "Show All Topics." We sure wouldn't want you to miss anything important!

Also, if you've ever wondered what cookies really looked like (and cookies Passions is setting for you), there's now a link in the Cookies screen to show you all of the cookies we're using in the software (your password, however, will just show asterisks). This should be a good problem-solving tool when all those cookies start to crumble on you...