APG vNext 5.5 - Offical Tapatalk + improved post management

What's new in 5.5?

Since the release of 5.0, our focus has been to make integration easier with relevant 3rd party services. In 5.1, we introduced Akismet, a powerful automated spam filtering engine, as well as improved capability to call 3rd party API's for integrated user management.
 
And for this new 5.5 release, we worked with Tapatalk to create an official plugin that brings native mobile app experience to your members. We implemented nearly all features available in the Tapatalk app to make it as useful as possible.
 
Plus, this plugin was carefully designed to not introduce any stability or performance issue to your server. It's pretty lightweight - lighter than our built-in jQuery Mobile web app in terms of computing power / memory needed to render a screen on a mobile device.
 
All in all, we're proud to say that we're the first and only .NET forum that has official support from Tapatalk .
 
For all fixes and improvements included in this version, please see the following for details:

Fixes , Improvements & Additions

  1. New Features and Software Behavior Changes:
    1. Tapatalk Integration - cross platform, native app experience for your members
    2. Single post view - you can show any individual post in a thread without loading the entire thread or the tree structure, using this syntax: ~/viewpost/{post ID}
    3. Ability to branch off a new thread from any post, without splitting the thread using the parent-child or chronological relationship
    4. Ability to move a post to a different thread
    5. Ability to specify the new thread title when splitting a thread or branching off a new thread on the management interface
  2. Enhancements:
    1. New mechanism to prevent unstyled page or broken javascript
    2. Code optimization for better memory usage
    3. Preventing Membership Provider error to crash a page
    4. Can search for members based on Screen Name
    5. Can send PM to other members using their Screen Name
    6. Periodic software license validation not required anymore
  3. Bug Fixes:
    1. Guest account can be added to user group or as private user for a forum
    2. Rating stars doesn't show properly in browsers
    3. Error occurs after closing the popup PM editor, if the PM is not saved in the Sent folder
    4. RSS feed item and channel URL format error
    5. Error occurs after deleting a gallery that has a child gallery
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Tapatalk Available Now - the First and Only .NET forum with official support!

I'm happy to announce that beginning version 5.5, we'll be bundling an official Tapatalk plugin with the software package.
 
What this means is you can offer a native mobile app experience to your members, with no additional charge, as soon as you have the plugin installed on your forum.
 
A bit about Tapatalk
 
Tapatalk is the only cross platform (iOS, Android, Windows Phone) mobile app designed to enhance the user experience for internet forums on mobile devices.
 
Users can download the app on their phone and begin browsing your forum within minutes.
 
The benefits of Tapatalk-APG vNext integration are numerous...
  1. The experience is more responsive for the end user and the load is lighter on the server (compared to browser based app)
  2. The official Tapatalk app is free and available on all brands of mobile phones and tablets
  3. You will have increased visibility and targeted traffic - other forum users will be able to find you via the Tapatalk network on their mobile devices
  4. This is an official plugin made by Tapatalk and us -> so it's written and tested by Tapatalk's engineers and myself to ensure that it not only works, but also works very well
  5. The Tapatalk app has native support for Google Analytics, which makes tracking user interactions a breeze!

Plugin installation is very easy too, as it's written as an HTTP Handler (the main plugin) + an HTTP Module (Smart Banner) - meaning you just drop the plugin dlls to the forum's bin folder and add 2 lines of code into the forum's web.config file, and you're done .
 
With Smart Banner, you don't even have to tell your members about Tapatalk availability. As long as your members visit your forum from a supported mobile device, they will be automatically notified of the Tapatalk integration.
 
I've installed the plugin on this support forum, so if you're interested you can test it now. Here's how:
  1. Go to your app store, search for Tapatalk and download and install the app on your phone / tablet.
  2. Even if you already have Tapatalk installed, make sure you search and download Tapatalk again as the plugin doesn't work with earlier versions of the app (like the Tapatalk HD)
  3. Open the Tapatalk app, and search for "ASPPlayground". You'll find our support forum.
  4. You can then browse as a guest, or log in using your forum's login / password
The official plugin and version 5.5 will be available in about a week. For now, give it a try on this support forum and see how good the mobile experience can be .

A few final words on the plugin - you do not have to install it if you don't want to. This Tapatalk plugin is offered as an option, not a mandatory component. You can continue to use our jQuery Mobile based web app for your forum, but I do recommend you give Tapatalk a try.
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Changing Community Homepage

Beginning v4.4, you can switch between 3 different presentation styles for your home page right from the AdminCP.
 
It is possible with earlier versions, but it requires you to edit a configuration file with Notepad, upload it to the server, and manually restart the AppDomain.

Step by Step Instructions

Step 1. Modify the Routing Configuration File

This step tells ASP.NET's routing engine which file to serve when people browse to ~/ or ~/default.aspx
 
First, go to AdminCP -> System Related Options -> Config Editor
 

 
To change the route, you need to edit the <File></File> in the 2 red rectangles. Do not change the content in the <URL> tags.
 
Make sure you set the file permission for ~/config/Route.config to "Write" so that you can edit the file from this interface.

 
If you want to use...
  • The News style home page: put ~/home.aspx inside both <File> tags (this is the default)
  • The Forum List: put ~/forums.aspx inside both <File> tags
  • The Blog: put ~/blogs.aspx inside both <File> tags
Save the edit, and the software will restart the AppDomain automatically.
 
You may need to restart the AppDomain manually, if you aren't running the software under Full Trust. The easiest way to do so is to slightly modify the web.config file (e.g. adding a space to the end), which triggers the AppDomain restart automatically.

 

Step 2. Change the Breadcrumb Link URLs

This step lets you set the breadcrumb URLs for a few key pages. It's important we make the changes to reflect our choice for home page.
 
Go to AdminCP -> Home, Forums, Menu & Breadcrumbs -> Homepage Selection & Breadcrumb
 

 
Use the dropdown to set your home page (reflect what you decided to use in Step 1), and modify the text boxes below. The software will give you suggestions on what to put in the text boxes once the dropdown selection is changed.
  • URL for Home can be either "~/" or "~/default.aspx"
  • URL for All Forums can be either "~/Forums" or "~/forums.aspx"
  • URL for Blog can be either "~/Blog" or "~/blog.aspx"
 
That's it.
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Landing Page Examples

The new Landing Pages feature available in the announcement section of the AdminCP allows you to create special pages outside the forum / blog system. It's useful when you want to create pages not usually found in a forum, such as:
  1. special lead capture page
  2. private content page
  3. About Us page
  4. Custom 404 page
  5. Special Thank you page after registration confirmation
  6. ... and many more
Basically you create a landing page just like an announcement, but in addition to deciding the place the announcement shows up (forum, gallery, registration form, etc.), you can specify a permalink for it so that it can show up on its own URL.
 
Landing pages also allow you to optimize for search engine. You can specify Page Title, Meta tags, and additional content in the <head> tag (like adding Google+ Authorship markup). In addition, you can use raw HTML and JavaScript, making it very versatile when you want to create pages with rich UI.

Enable Google Authorship step by step

In order to enable Google Authorship for your forum, you need perform the tasks below:
  1. Sign up a Google+ account using an email on your domain (in my case, aspplayground.net)
  2. Sign up to participate in Google Authorship and verify your email you use in step 1
  3. Add a special header link in your page's HTML source
Once you have done the above, whenever Google shows your pages on its SERP (search engine result page), it will present your pages like this:
 

Fundamentally changing the way you secure your forums

When you're trying to grow a community, you want to reduce the friction for new members to participate. So you open up the forum for new visitors to register and decide not to put anyone on the watchlist, so new people can start posting away once they confirm their emails.
 
You do this to drive up participation but at the cost of less control.
 
Soon you realize not only those who genuinely wanted to participate signed up... spammers and their employees signed up too. And you start fighting the endless battles against spammers I wrote in an earlier post.
 
The most common reaction against spammers is to put everyone new on the watch list - ie. their posts need manual approval until they've accumulated a certain amount of approved posts. Or you close up the forums and ask your moderators to approve each new post.
 
These workaround makes new members feel unwelcome, because you treat everyone as spammer and want them to prove their innocence.
 
New members can easily lose patience and leave because they often feel they have to wait too long to see their posts approved.
 
This is definitely not what you want to grow a community.

Make your new members feel welcome with Akismet


With an automated spam filter like Akismet in place for our new version 5.1, you no longer have to close up your forums to genuine participants. Akismet can determine in real-time if a post is spam so that the forum software can respond right away.
 
The result: New members feel accepted in real-time and spammers rejected in real-time, too.
 
And if you want, you can still place new members on the watch list, and have the Akismet plugin approve their new posts for you.
 
The plugin is smart as it doesn't interfere with your forum setup:
  1. It doesn't slow down the page load time due to the spam check submission to Akismet. Everything happens in the background (multi threading).
  2. It's transparent - it doesn't change the way your existing members use the forum, and it doesn't require new posts to be put on the watchlist in order to perform spam check. It affects Spammers only.
  3. It checks for edited posts too, but doesn't approve them automatically, if the author is on the watch list. Spammers could try tricking Akismet by posting and editing a post right away. In this edge case the software will notify your moderators to inspect the post.
  4. If someone is placed on the watchlist personally (you manually set the approval required flag for this account), our software will notify both Akismet and your moderators at the same time, and will not approve the post automatically.
  5. And if you want to test the reliability of Akismet detection before rolling it out, you can set to log Akismet results only, without any action afterwards (deleting / approving posts).

Your moderators and members will thank you

Moderators feel less overwhelmed because they no longer have to clean up spam. Your members feel more engaged because they no longer have to wade through spam posts to find real discussions.
 
Version 5.1 with Akismet integration is available for purchase now. If you own a license already, you can download the upgrade from our private forum.
 
Have a good day everyone!
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