Hey all, welcome back to our monthly product updates. This is a great month for the PeerBoard community and we're shipping not one, not two, but three large and exciting improvements in addition to a bunch of performance optimizations and bug fixes.
1. Space Subscriptions 📮
💡 Note: this feature is in the early stages of rollout, we're expanding the list of communities we enable it on and plan to finish in 1-2 weeks. You can already find and play with member-level controls for this feature in this community to see it live.
This is my personal favorite and a feature that's been long in the making. Finally you and your members don't have to receive ALL your community content in your digests and feeds. To somewhat hack around this limitation, we introduced two flags a while back - "show in feed" and "send in digest" on spaces, but this was a blanket solution that didn't account for member preferences. We have now reworked this and are introducing a new flag and more granular member-level settings.
It starts with a new admin-level flag on spaces that replaces these two legacy flags. This flag is called "Add New Members". If this flag is set on a space, a newly joined member will be automatically added to this space, subscribing to its content in your digest and seeing it in your feed. Otherwise, The Space's content will still be visible to the member, but only if they choose to access The Space directly, making these spaces optional to join.
For members who are already in your community, we default the state of their subscriptions to this new flag during our feature rollout. And the state of the flag itself is calculated based on the legacy flag states - if both were set as true, this space will have the new "Add New Members" flag as true as well. Otherwise, we don't want to violate your existing restrictions and so we won't subscribe members to such spaces.
You can also add members to your space manually with a new admin-level control on space pages. It allows you to search for a member and add them to the space and also shows if a member has already joined or if they don't have access due to privacy restrictions.
This is not meant to be the main way to add people to spaces, but this is a nice way to make sure your teammates or moderators are subscribed to critical spaces.
Of course, members themselves can also control their Space Subscriptions. There're two main ways to join/leave a space for them. One way is to open full list of spaces via a new "see all" link next to "My Spaces" in the right panel.
Another way is to open a space page and just join or leave from there.
This is just a first, albeit major, iteration of this feature. We do see this as a key piece in our subscription/notification logic (in addition to granular post and comment branch subscriptions). So we will keep improving it with time and would love to hear your feedback on our shiny new Join/Leave spaces functionality.
Q: Does it mean I don't need private spaces anymore?
A: Not really. In some cases it was reasonable to make spaces private as a way to make up for not being able to control subscriptions. We did it for our own WordPress, Shopify, etc top level spaces. In scenarios where you were only using private spaces to reduce noise from the community it now makes sense to remove the privacy restrictions. For all the other scenarios, we see it as highly complimentary. Now Spaces in PeerBoard will work more similarly to channels in Slack where you can leave them to unsubscribe. With privacy being a separate property, like with locked channels in Slack.
Q: What's the best way to promote these optional spaces?
A: We are thinking about creating a way to feature optional spaces in the feed, making sure members see them. Since otherwise the only way to find them now would be via a direct link or "see all" entry point. If you have any suggestions on specifics here, let us know! In the meantime, the easiest way is to just add links to the space pages to your welcome post if you want to highlight those.
Q: How about an API for that as well as Zapier support?
A: A dedicated subscribe-member-to-a-space API for optional spaces is coming in the next couple weeks! Our Zapier integrations are in line for a major upgrade too, including this new feature, and this is going to happen around September.
2. Commenting Widget 🗣️
This is another great new upgrade to PeerBoard functionality that we've been intending to release for a long time. As you may know, we already have our Feed Widget, although it is fairly simplistic and doesn't support any activities except for simple content browsing. It doesn't recognize member sessions and is just redirecting you to the community when necessary.
But we often hear from our partners that there needs to be a way to pull some of the community functionality out of the main community hub managed by us and into their website pages. There are many great cases for that, such as giving your members a way to comment on your blog posts, extending your course materials with discussions, or putting customer reviews below your commerce products. With the commenting widget, you can do all of that and more!
Here's how it looks. Notice that this is essentially a commenting block below our posts, but with extras and that can live on any website page now!
And what's really cool is that comment threads created via our widget also exist as community posts. They are created on the first comment posting and are published to a "Discussions" space by default, but you can also pick any space you want to host discussions from the commenting widget. All the member badges, mentions, subscription settings and other features still work the same way and replies to comments are still visible in our Notifications hub. In a way, external website pages become natural community pages! Here's an example of a post linked to a page from the screenshot above.
When creating a post on a first comment, we are using one of the admins as the author. We then try to fetch your OpenGraph data and using it as a snippet in post body. If the page is private, that won't work and we will just put a url there as a placeholder. Alternatively, you can customize the default Discussion post from the Widget Menu.
This new widget lives in a whole new admin panel section called Widgets. From there, you can customize the Space where new posts from the widget will live and also change post previews, pick the default Admin to use as an author and change some of the more nuanced configuration settings.
Also, you can use this widget from our SDK. There are some benefits to that, the key one being that you can pass your member session same way you would with the main community page. So for embedded scenarios you can automatically log members into your system even if they never visited the community page. If you want to give this a try see our full guide here!
Relatedly. To make sure people cannot put widgets for your community on their websites and generate content in your community without your approval, we had to implement a Domain Whitelist. This is a pre-requisite for using our Commenting Widget if you plan to put it on any domain other than the one that hosts your community. Our Feed Widget will start to require this as well starting some time in August, so make sure to whitelist your domains if you already use it on external websites.
3. Customizable Feed Layout 🖼️
Ok, but this is not all for July :)
"Why is your navigation panel is on the right?" "Why can't I have large image previews a-la Facebook?" "How do I get rid of image previews altogether?"
Are questions we've been asked more times than we can count. You asked, we heard, we delivered.
You now have a way to customize your community's layout. We added a whole new Customization -> Layout page where you can change these settings. This is mostly applicable to desktop since balanced and gallery layouts look very similar on mobile and our panel becomes a menu there.
Relatedly, you should have already seen our new customization wizard that guides you through some of the key ways to customize your feed including these new layout options.
4. Other Notable Improvements: Better Magic Links, Feed Performance, Large Scale Communities ⚙️
- We improved how our magic links work - we don't expire them on click right away anymore. This was causing trouble if you tried to open them from two devices or mis-clicked. Instead, we just shortened their lifetime and they now expire a few minutes after use. So you can always use it again, while also not risking that somebody will get access to the same link in the future. This should reduce to zero all these rare occurrences of your member reports not being able to use our magic links for validation.
- We heavily optimized our feed in Safari - and after that we were not able to reproduce any problems with performance on any other browsers either. This problem should be gone now and feed should be blazing fast again. If you still experience any performance issues, please let us know!
- We also did a crazy stress-test with 10,000 groups, 10,000 spaces and a ton of members. During this test we found a bunch of problems and optimized the product so it works great even for these large communities now. The Admin panel will still have a few limitations at this scale of community, but our partners at this size usually use APIs to manage groups and spaces anyway.
- We resolved some autoscolling issues.
- You should now be able to unblock members from the Members --> List menu.
- Resolved some issues with sending Invites.
- Resolved some UI issues in Thinkific so the header is no longer sticks to the top of the frame.
Have any questions or thoughts you'd like to share? Let us know in the comments below!
As always, Happy Community Building ❤️