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Setting up and using discussion forums

You can add a discussion forum to your Wild Apricot site so that members can post messages and reply to other messages. Adding a forum provides your members a place to congregate, collaborate, and discuss ideas.

Discussion forums – like other site content – are inserted as gadgets, in this case, a discussion forum gadget. You cannot add a discussion forum gadget – or any other singular gadget – to a page template or system page, or to a page containing another singular gadget.

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You can embed a Wild Apricot discussion forum on another website using widgets.

You can also insert a forum summary gadget to display a summary of the activity in your discussion forums, and a forum updates gadget to display a list of the most recent forum updates.

Setting up a discussion forum

To add a discussion forum to a page on your site:

  1. Go to Site pages (under the Website menu) and create or begin editing the site page where you want the discussion forum to appear.
  2. Click the Gadgets icon to display the list of available gadgets.
  3. Drag the discussion forum gadget from the list, and drop it where you want it to appear on the page. You can insert it into a section within a layout, or above or below a layout.



    When a layout cell or placeholder is empty, a Drop gadget or layout here prompt will be displayed. When you drag a gadget over an empty layout cell or placeholder, it turns green, indicating that you can drop the gadget there. When you drag a gadget above or below a layout, a prompt will appear indicating that you can drop the gadget before or after the layout.
  4. After you have dropped the gadget in the desired location, hover your pointer over it and click the Settings icon.

  5. From the gadget settings panel on the left, choose the desired settings for your discussion forum. You can choose the forum name, enter a description, pick a category, and decide what kind of visitors can read, respond to, and post forum topics. For more information, see Adjusting discussion forum settings (below).
  6. Click Save to save the changes to the page.

For instructions on restricting access to the page, see Page access and visibility.

Adjusting discussion forum settings

Now that you have added a discussion forum gadget to a site page, you can adjust the discussion forum gadget settings to control the appearance of the page and the ability of visitors to read, respond to, and post forum topics.

Gadget settings appear in a panel on the left side (which can be hidden to maximize the page design area). To display the settings panel, you position your pointer over the gadget – while editing a site page – then click the gadget's Settings icon.

The following discussion forum gadget settings are available.

Forum name

The name used to identify the forum within the settings for the forum updates gadget and forum summary gadget.

User picture field

If you want to display a picture above the member's name in forum messages, you can select a picture field from your contact or membership database. You might, for example, allow members to chose avatars to represent their online identity.

If member pictures are enabled, the member's picture will be displayed in their forum posts unless the picture field is restricted under their privacy settings.

Forum description

You can provide a brief description that will appear for the forum on the forum summary gadget, and optionally, on this gadget as well.

Show on this page

You can control whether the forum description appear on this gadget as well as the forum summary gadget.

Category

If you have multiple forum pages, you can assign each one to a category. The categories are used to group forums on a forum summary page. To create a new category, click Add new, then type the category name in the field below.

Access permissions

For each type of visitors, you can control whether they can view, comment on, or post forum topics. You can set access permissions separately for public visitors and for each membership level. For public visitors and each membership level, you can choose from the following permission settings:

  • – No access: Cannot read forum topics.
  • – Read: Can read topics, but cannot reply or create new topics.
  • – Read, comment: Can read topics and reply to them, but cannot create new topics.
  • – Read, comment, create topics: Can read topics, reply to them, and post new topics.
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Public visitors (non-members) can never create new topics. Administrators in admin view can always view, reply to, create, modify, and delete topics. In public view, administrators are subject to the same restrictions as others at the same membership level.

Margins

The amount of space – in pixels – that appears outside the gadget. You can set top, bottom, left, and right margins separately.

Advanced options

For designers and developers familiar with HTML and CSS, the following advanced settings are available:

Setting

Description

HTML ID

A unique identifier by which the gadget can be referenced within custom CSS or JavaScript code. The identifier is automatically generated but can be replaced with a more readable or memorable one (e.g. MyDiscussionForumGadget).

CSS class

The name of a CSS class defined on the CSS customization screen.

Inline style

CSS code to control the behavior or appearance of the gadget. For example, you could enter width: 250px; to control the gadget width.

Enabling anti-spam settings

To prevent automated software – known as spambots – from bombarding your forum with spam posts, you can enable Wild Apricot's anti-spam Captcha feature. With Captcha enabled, visitors to your forum would have to enter a set of characters – proving them to be a person rather than a program – before being able to submit a forum topic or reply.

To enable Captcha for forum posts, go to Settings, and click Anti-spam settings (Captcha) under Security. On the screen that appears, click the checkbox beside Forum topic/reply then click Save changes.

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Some spambots can use OCR technology to bypass Captchas, so you might consider restricting forum replies to logged in members. If you continue to receive a lot of spam, contact us and we'll try to identify and (at least temporarily) block the spammer's IP address.

Modifying the forum topic system page

You can customize the forum page that appears when visitors create, view, or reply to forum topics by modifying the Forum topic system page.

To customize the forum topic system page, follow these steps:

  1. Hover over the Website menu and select the System pages option.
  2. Within the system page list, select Forum topic.
  3. Click the Edit button.

Now, you can modify the system page in a number of ways. You can:

  • Change the page template from the page settings on the left.
  • Hover over the blue box – the system gadget that displays the actual forum topic – and click the Settings icon to display the settings for the system gadget.
  • Click the Gadget or Layout drop-downs to insert gadgets and layouts above or below the system gadget.

When you are finished modifying the forum topic system page, click the Save button.

Adding a forum summary

To display a summary of the activity in your forum pages, you can add a forum summary gadget to a page on your Wild Apricot site.

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You cannot add a forum summary gadget – or any other singular gadget – to a page template or system page, or to a page containing another singular gadget.

The forums are grouped within the summary by the categories you assigned to each forum in the discussion forum gadget settings. Forum names and descriptions are also derived from discussion forum gadget settings.

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You can embed a Wild Apricot forum summary on another website using widgets.

To add a forum summary to a site page, follow these steps:

  1. Go to Sites pages (under the Website menu) and create or begin editing the site page where you want the forum summary to appear.
  2. Click the Gadget icon to display the list of available gadgets.
  3. Drag the forum summary gadget from the list, and drop it where you want it to appear on the page. You can insert it into a section within a layout, or above or below a layout.
  4. After you have dropped the gadget in the desired location, hover your pointer over it and click the Settings icon.
  5. From the gadget settings panel on the left, choose the desired settings for your forum summary. For more information, see Adjusting forum summary settings (below).
  6. Click Save to save the changes to the page.

Adjusting forum summary settings

Now that you have added a forum summary gadget to a site page, you can adjust the forum summary gadget settings to control its appearance and content.

Gadget settings appear in a panel on the left side (which can be hidden to maximize the page design area). To display the settings panel, you position your pointer over the gadget – while editing a site page or a page template – then click the gadget's Settings icon.

The following forum summary gadget settings are available.

Forums to include

Choose the forums to be included in the forum summary. Forums are identified using the forum name you specified as part of the discussion forum gadget settings.

Gadget title

If you specify a gadget title, the title will appear specially formatted within the gadget. Depending on the gadget style you choose, the title may appear in a heading box.

Gadget style

The gadget style determines the physical appearance of the gadget. The style you choose will determine the color and format of the gadget title, the gadget content, and the gadget border. You can choose from theme-specific styles and styles that are common to all themes.

Margins

The amount of space – in pixels – that appears outside the gadget. You can set top, bottom, left, and right margins separately.

Advanced options

For designers and developers familiar with HTML and CSS, the following advanced settings are available:

Setting

Description

HTML ID

A unique identifier by which the gadget can be referenced within custom CSS or JavaScript code. The identifier is automatically generated but can be replaced with a more readable or memorable one (e.g. MyForumSummaryGadget).

CSS class

The name of a CSS class defined on the CSS customization screen.

Inline style

CSS code to control the behavior or appearance of the gadget. For example, you could enter width: 250px; to control the gadget width.

Adding a forum updates gadget

You can display a list of the most recent forum updates by adding a forum updates gadget to a page or page template on your Wild Apricot site.

Topics from multiple forums will be combined into a single list. Topics are displayed in chronological order, beginning with the most recent. Sticky topics are treated the same as other topics.

To add a forum updates gadget to a page or page template, follow these steps:

  1. Go to Sites pages (under the Website menu) and create or begin editing the site page or page template where you want the forum updates to appear.
  2. Click the Gadget icon to display the list of available gadgets.
  3. Drag the forum updates gadget from the list, and drop it where you want it to appear on the page. You can insert it into a section within a layout, or above or below a layout.
  4. After you have dropped the gadget in the desired location, hover your pointer over it and click the Settings icon.
  5. From the gadget settings panel on the left, choose the desired settings for your forum updates. For more information, see Adjusting forum updates settings (below).
  6. Click Save to save the changes to the page.

Adjusting forum updates settings

Now that you have added a forum updates gadget to a page or page template, you can adjust the forum summary gadget settings to control its appearance and content.

Gadget settings appear in a panel on the left side (which can be hidden to maximize the page design area). To display the settings panel, you position your pointer over the gadget – while editing a site page or a page template – then click the gadget's Settings icon.

The following forum summary gadget settings are available.

Show last n topics

Choose the number of recent forum updates that you want to display on the gadget.

Forums to include

Choose the forums to be included in the forum updates. Forums are identified using the forum name you specified as part of the discussion forum gadget settings.

Text to show when there are no topics

The text to be displayed when there are no forum updates to display.

Forums to include

Choose the forums to be included in the forum summary. Forums are identified using the forum name you specified as part of the discussion forum gadget settings.

Margins

The amount of space – in pixels – that appears outside the gadget. You can set top, bottom, left, and right margins separately.

Advanced options

For designers and developers familiar with HTML and CSS, the following advanced settings are available:

Setting

Description

HTML ID

A unique identifier by which the gadget can be referenced within custom CSS or JavaScript code. The identifier is automatically generated but can be replaced with a more readable or memorable one (e.g. MyForumUpdatesGadget).

CSS class

The name of a CSS class defined on the CSS customization screen.

Inline style

CSS code to control the behavior or appearance of the gadget. For example, you could enter width: 250px; to control the gadget width.

Using a forum page

When you visit a forum page, the options available to you may depend on whether you are a member, and if so, on your membership level.

Adding topics

If you are authorized to create new forum topic, a Create topic button will appear above and below the topic list. After clicking this button, you can enter the subject and the body of the new topic. You can use the content editor toolbar to format the body text, and add links and tables. Administrators in admin view can also add pictures, documents, and ArtText, or modify the underlying HTML. Once you are done composing the topic, click Create. The topic will now appear on the main forum page.

Normally, the topics you post will identify you using your first and last name. If member pictures are enabled, your picture will be displayed unless the picture field is restricted under your privacy settings. If you chose to hide your entire profile from others in your privacy settings – or if you are not a member – the topic will identify you as Anonymous. If you restricted access to both your first name and last name in your privacy settings, you will be identified as Anonymous member.

Replying to a topic

To reply to a topic, display the topic then click the Reply button.  After clicking this button, you can enter the body of your reply. You can use the content editor to format the text and add pictures, document, or links. Once you are done composing your reply, click Post.

To comment on a particular reply within a topic, click the Quote link above the reply. This will include in your message the text of the reply that you are commenting on. Once you are done composing your comment, click Post.

Modifying and deleting topics and replies

After you've posted a topic or reply, you can modify or delete it.

To modify a reply, display it then click the Edit link.

To modify a topic (change the title, for example), click Edit above the first message in the topic thread. You'll be able to change the topic title as well as your message.

To delete a reply, display it then click the Delete link. To delete an entire topic, including all replies, click Delete above the first message in the topic thread.

In public view, you can only modify or delete the topics or replies that you posted. In admin view, an administrator can modify or delete any topics or replies.

Creating forum stickies

On each forum page, topics are ordered by the date of the most recent message. If there is an important topic or announcement that you want everyone to see, you can make it "stick" to the top of the forum – appear ahead of all other topics.

You can make a topic sticky when you are creating or modifying it, but only from admin view. To do so, click the Stick topic to top of forum checkbox. You can also set a time limit after which the topic will no longer be sticky.

Within the list of forum topics, sticky topics are marked by a pushpin icon.

Subscribing to a forum

Members can subscribe to your forum, or to individual topics within the forum, so that they receive email notifications of updates. After receiving the notification, a member can visit the forum to view the new topics or replies.

Only members can subscribe themselves to a forum or forum topic – the subscription cannot be set up by an administrator. However, once the member has subscribed, either the member or an administrator can set the frequency of the email notifications.

Subscribing to the entire forum

To subscribe to the entire forum, a member visits the forum page and clicks the Subscribe to forum link above the topic list.

The member will subsequently receive email notifications of updates to any of the topics in the forum, with links to the new or updated topics.

To unsubscribe to a forum, the member clicks the Subscribed (Unsubscribe) link that appears in place of the Subscribe to forum link, or clicks the Unsubscribe link in the email.

Subscribing to a forum topic

To subscribe to just one topic in a forum, the member views the topic then clicks the Subscribe to topic link above the topic messages.

The member will subsequently receive email notifications of replies or updates to this forum topic alone, with the full text of the reply or update.

To unsubscribe to a forum topic, the member clicks the Subscribed (Unsubscribe) link that appears in place of the Subscribe to topic link, or clicks the Unsubscribe link in the email.

Frequency of email notifications

By default, email notifications of forum updates are sent on a daily basis. Either the member or an administrator can change the frequency of the email notifications from daily to weekly or immediately.

Daily forum notifications contains a summary of the previous day's updates. Weekly forum notifications are sent on Sunday night/Monday morning, and contain a summary of the previous week's updates. For more information on the timing of forum notifications, see Automatic emails schedule.

The forum date, time, and format shown to the public is also based on your organization's timezone and date/time format.

Changing forum subscription settings

Either the member or an administrator can change the member's forum subscription settings.

By members

To change their forum subscription settings, members:

  1. Go to their profile.
  2. Click the Email subscriptions link.

  3. Click the Edit profile button.
  4. In the Forum subscriptions section, members can unsubscribe their existing subscriptions and change the frequency of forum update notifications.



    To unsubscribe to a forum or forum topic, members uncheck the checkbox beside the forum or topic name.

    To change the frequency of the update notifications, members click the dropdown and choose one of the following options:

    Option

    Description

    Daily

    A summary of forum updates for each day is sent the following day.

    Weekly

    A summary of forum updates for each week is sent on Sunday night/Monday morning.

    Immediately

    Notifications are sent immediately after an update is made (though the actual delivery could be delayed a few minutes or longer depending on the email server load).

  5. Once finished making changes, the member clicks the Save button.

By administrators

To change forum subscriptions for a member, an administrator:

  1. Finds the member in the contact database and displays the member's details.
  2. Clicks the Email settings and log link.
  3. Clicks the Edit button beside Email preferences.

  4. The administrator can now unsubscribe the member's existing subscription and change the frequency of the forum update notifications.
  5. Once finished making changes, the administrator clicks Save.

 

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