Dev Diary, February 21, 2014

Ah, the last breathes of winter… It’s getting warmer, so the life’s good, and that’s exactly the attitude that boosts our strive to get a few more ideas through to the next release. One such idea is the improvement of the Photos plugin – a real essential toy in the arsenal of any serious social site. Our goal here is to fix all the obvious bugs and add some exciting options to make users happier.

As you know, at present the plugin operates by means of either basic uploader, or through flash upload. And frankly, both are dated. The flash one cannot be customized in css/html, and requires an additional plugin in the browser. Sometimes this leads to unnecessary confusion, and that’s what we want to eliminate.

The solution – a photo uploader that uses native browser capabilities and doesn’t require additional browser extensions. Also, it’s easily customizable in css/html, maintains drag’n'drop interface, and allows quick editing at the very first step (rotate, hashtags, album name, etc.)

Photo1

 VIEW PHOTOS

One of the things we learned with the old system is that most users find comments under pictures inconvenient. When the page is scrolled down for more comments, the picture itself gets out of sight, and is basically “lost.”

An easy solution to prevent this is to move comments and description to the right side of the picture. That’s the trend across the industry anyway, and seems to be the right approach for us. Still, we are leaving the old system as an available option as well, so you can choose what’s working better for you.

Untitled-1

 PHOTO LIST

We’ve also decided to play with the visual presentation of the photo list, which was kind of boring (being strictly square and all). The addition of a Pinterest-like mode should spice things up a bit, don’t you think?

Untitled-2

SEARCH PHOTOS

There are no search options for photos in Oxwall right now, which isn’t handy, since users resort to tags when they are looking for something. We’ll change that by making it possible to search by descriptions, usernames and hash tags.

Capture4

So that’s the gist of things to come. But there’s even more interface stuff that we are tinkering with right now. Liking and varying privacy settings for different photo albums are on the plate too, and will be ready to be served with Oxwall 1.6.1, or soon thereafter.

Keep reading our Dev Diary guys, and learn what else keeps us busy.

Dev Diary, February 6, 2014

We know that as a rule our posts tend to be surprise announcements of releases, despite the fact that many community members are keen on learning what us, Oxwall guys, are actually up to in the times between updates. Well, recently we’ve come to think that it’s a pretty good idea to let you in on all the fun we have inside, namely, our work process and development progress. Ready? Here we go.

We understand that there are still many elements within Oxwall software that can be improved. Let’s take a look at one such area, which will likely make it to the next iteration – the functionality extension of user roles and account types.

The problem here is the lack of option for admins to assign an individual user role per individual account type during new member registration. At the moment all new site members get the same user role, unless admins set said roles manually, which significantly complicates their work on community-driven sites. Say, you have a literature-driven community with writers and readers. These roles are obviously different for members, as writers write posts, while readers can comment or grade them. Putting an option in place for admins to assign individual user roles during registration will make their lives much easier.

Now, there are also a couple of related issues with account types. The interface is somewhat difficult to grasp, and there is also the fact that one question can be assigned per one account type only. Both of these will be tackled, and in the result the interface will become significantly more user-friendly, while single profile questions will be allowed to be assigned per multiple account types simultaneously. Hopefully this gives you a bit of insight on the things that keep us occupied. There’s a lot of stuff we have to share with you, so keep reading our blog for more info on our adventures in development.

Love, Oxwall Team.

Moving forward

Hi all. With the successful release of Oxwall 1.6 we wanted to express our appreciation for your passion, assistance, valuable feedback, and patience. All we aim for is to give you the best product, while remaining committed to the constant improvement.

It is no secret to anyone that mobile is the future. Thus it’s quite satisfying for us to finally make the first all-important step in this direction, and give you the long-awaited mobile platform. This is just the beginning, with plenty of new features forthcoming, in addition to all kinds of mods for the already present ones.

Excited and full of energy, we are moving on with our other development plans. Check out our Roadmap. It’s gonna be cool, so make sure to stay tuned! Once again, thank you!

Oxwall 1.6 released

Today is January 8, and somehow this date is important… Oh yeah, today Oxwall 1.6 is getting unleashed into the wild.

Oxwall 1.6 is available for download immediately. All details about this release can be found here.

Important: If you are running Oxwall of any previous version, you are encouraged to wait until the auto-update prompt appears in your admin area. Before you attempt it, make sure to:

  • Back up your website. Seriously, folks, better safe than sorry;
  • Install all available plugin updates right after the platform update completes;
  • Install a theme update right after the platform update completes.

If you don’t want to perform the update yourself, our friends from Skalfa can do it for you. Also, check other companies specializing in Oxwall support.

Everybody, have fun!

Emil & the Oxwall team.

Happy New Year: Ten Coolest Plugins of 2013

Happy coming New Year, dear friends! We here at Oxwall Foundation are excited about the coming year and the opportunities ahead. 2014 is going to be a year of big announcements! As we are wrapping up 2013, let us take a look at the list of 10 interesting plugins developed this year. 1. USER HINT This free plugin gives you a visual hint for user’s profile. Has a very flexible configuration page with live preview and lot of customization options. Screenshot from 2013-12-25 11:20:00   2. GOOGLE MAPS LOCATION Today users prefer seeing to reading. Visuals are always loved. This plugin displays the location information added by users to their profiles. Great tool for travel or international communities. Screenshot from 2013-12-25 11:21:45  

3. MYTAGS

Here is one of the most long-awaited Oxwall plugins — user tagging! Today “@” user tagging functionality is not only Twitter’s feature, it is adopted by Facebook and Instagram as well.  Every website aiming to keep up with tech updates should have this very necessary feature. Screenshot from 2013-12-27 11:31:33   4. COOL CKEDITOR Oxwall editor with a very wide editing abilities, includes MSN Smiley Pack to give more emotion to your words. Screenshot from 2013-12-25 11:27:00   5. CATALOG This plugin allows creation of any type of catalog with custom searchable fields, prices, photos and google maps. Screenshot from 2013-12-18 15:25:26   6. PHOTO TAGS It’s a necessary plugin for social networking site owners. It allows instant tagging of users or objects on photos. Screenshot from 2013-12-18 15:40:59   7.  INSTANT CHAT WITH VIDEO SUPPORT Better see a real smile of your friend than a sign of smile, right? Made for easier communication real-time video chat. Screenshot from 2013-12-25 11:31:19   8. COMPOSE MESSAGE + GROUPS AND EVENTS MASS MAILING Make composing and sending a message to multiple users at once possible to your users. Great to use when inviting to events. Screenshot from 2013-12-18 16:21:04   9.  PHOTO VIEWER LIKE FACEBOOK, G+ Photo viewer plugin which inherits versatility and friendly interface of Facebook and Google Plus’s photo viewer. Screenshot from 2013-12-25 11:33:06    10. LOGIN AS USER Plugin allows site administrator and site moderators to login with other users credentials with just one click. This allows to edit profile details, read internal messages, customize profile an so on. Screenshot from 2013-12-25 11:36:43

Oxwall 1.6 goes live January 8, beta today

Oxwall community is a patient bunch; That’s a hard fact, which we really appreciate, and have something to show you in return. Oxwall 1.6 has finally taken shape for a beta release, and I’m glad to give you a sneak peek of what our team has built.

New Theme: München

Per our tradition, we highlight every major release with a brand new theme. This time it’s a shoutout to the fine town of München:

Munchen

Theme Auto-update

One important thing to note is that now themes can also be auto-updated, just like plugins. It will definitely make life easier for designers and all users.

Social Share Plugin

We decided to make our own integrated social sharing solution that third party plugins may also utilize. It doesn’t place sharing buttons on every page, instead locating them exactly where you need – right near the content in question.

IMG_29112013

Mobile Browser Version

That’s right, Oxwall is now mobile-friendly. Yay! First of all, this is neither a responsive theme, nor a hack to “mobilize” content. This is a completely reimagined product for phone screens (that’s one of the main reason why it took so long to develop it), and it’s optimized for performance in major mobile browsers available today:

In this roll-out we are starting with basic features and several native plugins that show the direction for what Oxwall mobile browsing experience is going to be. We can’t wait to hand it over to the community. You can also expect other native and third party plugins to have their mobile executions ready soon.

Beta and Release

We are entering public beta stage, making Oxwall 1.6 Beta 1 available today.

  • If you are an approved beta-tester, join us at the Beta forum. We start accepting feedback immediately.
  • If you are a plugin developer / theme designer / translator, then you have work to do right now. We urge you to apply for beta-tester status and start making your goods 1.6-compatible.

On January 8, upon the completion of public beta period, the upgrade will be available for all the Oxwall websites out there, as always, right from the admin area.

Oxwall 1.6 is a huge milestone in the product lifecycle, since it finally opens up the new platform for plugins, namely mobile. In a sense, this is more important than anything we’ve done in the last couple of years. Now that mobile context is enabled, other developers can pick it up, and continue their work along with us. Let’s see how this turns out.

This has been a long and arduous year for us, finally bringing the team to the final stages of hard work during this holiday season. January 8 can’t get here soon enough.

Big and exciting things come to Oxwall, so stay tuned and we’ll surprise you. I promise.

Thank you for creating with us!
Emil & the entire Oxwall team.

Service provider interview: YouNet

We are starting our interview series with individuals and companies creating all kinds of products and solutions for Oxwall. The first in the spotlight is YouNet company. Here we go:


YouNet is a leading niche social network consulting company with more than 120 engineers. We offer full services for Oxwall including Consulting, Plugins, Templates and Customization. With more than 4 years of experience, having completed 400+ social projects, we are the best partner for your success.

Q: Please introduce yourself and tell us about your experience in web development.

A: Formed in 2008, we are a company dedicated to services on open source platforms for social networks. Over the years, we have developed many useful tools and solutions for social network development projects. We have completed more than 400 projects so far including governmental projects.

Q: What level of projects are you ready to tackle for the benefit of Oxwall users?

A: We provide full-cycle services starting from consulting, design, development and maintenance. Consulting is very important as it is the first step to build a successful project in terms of cost, schedule, and quality. During consultation, we synthesize our technical experience with our client business concepts to develop a feasible and successful social network.

Q: What sort of client-company communication model do you employ? Share the rules and regulations if you have any.

A: One of our strengths is the communication process with clients. We use Online Project Management Tracking System (Jira) in which clients can work/communicate with us as a leader of project so that they can monitor all activities/changes of the project with Agile Model. In addition, we also provide chat and phone for further communication when needed.

younet
Figure 1: YouNet Communication Process

Q: Do you see any particular shortcomings within Oxwall software that need immediate attention?

A: The first prominent shortcoming of Oxwall is that it does not provide rich options for Admin configuration, especially for layout customization; For instance, it seems that widget option to drag/drop is not supported in many pages, but only Homepage and Dashboard. The provided layout and functionality also introduce some uncommon designs, such as when users want to embed a YouTube video link in Feeds, they have to copy whole embed code instead of URL only, which may make users confused.

Q: Do you have any plans to develop and release purely Open Source products for Oxwall?

A: We plan to develop most popular plugins for Oxwall platform by the end of this year. With these plugins, we hope to bring the community a complete productivity suit to further advance their social network to the next level.

Q: Are you currently developing your own plugins and templates for Oxwall? What can we expect in the nearest future?

A: Yes, we are working on some plugins. We are going to have a dedicated team making templates and plugins for Oxwall as well. That is our commitment in supporting Oxwall community.


Check out YouNet store profile and feel free to ask your own questions in comments bellow. We hope to have company representatives answer them.

CSV import for Oxwall

While Oxwall 1.6 development is humming along nicely, we never stop making other, less noticed but very useful things for the community. Earlier we released a CSV user data import plugin. Here it goes: http://www.oxwall.org/store/item/718

It does what it says — lets you import your user accounts from other databases to restart your community on Oxwall. It doesn’t import other content like blogs, photos, etc, but attempts to bring all critical user profile data into the new place.

People always asked for such a tool, so we tried to make it as useful and easy to use as possible. Feel free to try it out. This is version 1.0, so we are listening to your feedback, and of course, problem reports.

Thanks,
Emil
Oxwall team

Vote for Oxwall at 2013 Critic’s Choice CMS Awards

We are busy with Oxwall 1.6, we just gave developers enough material to be busy with, and now we have an idea what the rest of the community could do.

Oxwall has been nominated for the Critic’s Choice CMS Awards again this year. I’ll remind you that in 2012 Oxwall won People Choice award in the Best Social Network Solution category, thanks to you.

So, if you want to vote for Oxwall this year again, here’s how to do it:

  1. Go to Critic’s Choice CMS Awards homepage;
  2. Enter your name and email;
  3. In the Best Social Network Solution category (last on the form) choose Oxwall and submit.

It’s the fastest and easiest way to show your appreciation for our hard work, while we fight for your convenience. With Oxwall 1.6 we are aiming to repeat and exceed the impact of Oxwall 1.5 last year, so now you can do it, too.

Thank you,
Emil Sarnogoev & the Oxwall Foundation team

Oxwall plugin development examples + public repository

While the product team is deep in Oxwall 1.6, we have an idea of what third party developers could do in the meantime.

Oxwall plugin skeleton

Newbie in Oxwall development? We were thinking of you. Today we want to introduce probably the easiest and fastest way for you to start and get up to speed with the platform. Experienced Oxwall developer will also find it useful to complete and refine their knowledge.

Here goes Oxwall plugin skeleton. Its name speaks for itself — this plugin implements a carcass for real world plugins, demonstrating working examples of various pieces of Oxwall functionality. It tackles:

  • File structure
  • Developer Tools
  • plugin.xml
  • Routing
  • Localization
  • Forms
  • Database
  • File storage
  • Sending email
  • Notifications
  • Newsfeed
  • Floatbox
  • Widgets
  • Access Level
  • Profile Questions
  • Cron jobs
  • Ping
  • Plugin installation/activation

As you can see, the range of functionality is extensive. It should help you create plugins of any levels of complexity — all with the best practices from the Oxwall dev team. Benefits? Better compatibility, less inter-plugin conflicts, faster store review times, and ultimately, better user experience.

How to start:

  1. Download and install the plugin on a test setup (not on your live site!);
  2. Sign in as admin, open mysite.com/skeleton URL;
  3. Find what you are interested in, say Database;
  4. View how the example works, and find listed code files implementing the example. All of this Oxwall plugin sample code is self-explanatory. Non-intuitive situations are commented along right in the code.

Development for Oxwall can be easier and/or trickier than you think. See how we do it, do it with us, and create new plugins for the Oxwall Store!

Oxwall public repository

Apart from your own Oxwall plugins, this new knowledge can also have a good use. From now on, developers can submit patches to the stable branch, if they find bugs, inconsistencies, or optimization opportunities.

Repository URL: https://bitbucket.org/oxwall/public

So, developers, we are waiting for your contributions. Oh, and don’t forget about Oxwall coding standards while creating your patches and plugins.

As a real open source project, we are gradually opening up and stepping towards decentralization. So, we think it’s crucial to enhance and maintain communication with developers through code. Exciting times to be a part of Oxwall movement!

Thank you,
Emil
Oxwall Foundation team