Refreshing Our Outlook: An Update
It’s been years since Boardgamecafe.net first put up our community site. That was way back towards the end of 2005. Admittedly efforts to keep our portal site up-to-date has been patchy at best. Sigh.
One of the questions posed by Hiew in his interview with me (read full interview article here) was when am I going to get our BGC front page updated. tsk tsk.
“When are you going to update the front page of boardgamecafe.net? 😀 Or are you going to redirect the front page to your blog page? Or webstore page?”
LOL. I did reply something to the effect of saying we’ll get that done by the end of last year.
Well, it’s a month late but anyway we are now ready to roll out our new “look” and more importantly a coherent social media infrastructure that links everything together and helps us drive our social media strategy moving forward.
First to get off the press was an upgraded webstore. We are still using the same webstore engine but have upgraded to their latest version which gave us more options in terms of skinning the webstore (ie look-n-feel in layman term) and a much improved Customer Service module that’ll be key to enable us to implement the various goodies we’ve lined up for you all such as Birthday Promos, Special Vouchers, Customer Loyalty Points, Order History, Affiliate Tracking, etc
There are still some areas we are testing & setting up on the webstore so I won’t say it’s 100%-ready but the product inquiry and shopping cart sections are ready. We’ll have more updates on the Customer Service module (below) in due course.
As an activity-driven community, a blog is a key element of our communication plan. Our blog is based on the WordPress engine and we’ve made some simple revamp to get it up-to-date with the rest of the updates we were making to our overall Web Identity.
A Featured slider section now let us highlight certain blog entries, while the more streamlined style allows us to organize our session reports (sessrep) and other boardgaming related articles for easier reading.
The biggest effort is reserved for the migration of our old community site’s content to the new platform (which is powered by Invision’s IPB community system). The IPB system is almost a mirror-duplicate of our old Community Server system (from Teligent) and comes complete with portal, forum, blog, photo gallery and file download modules.
Some of our must-have requirements, which I’m happy to say have all been met by IPB:
- Able to migrate our previous contents from the Community Server system
- Aggregration of blog entries (allowing us to pull in feeds from multiple blogs)
- Rich forum functionality (on par with what was provided by the previous Teligent forum)
- Has built-in mechanism to reduce spam registration (the old forum was infested with spam-bot registration!)
- Two-way integration with Facebook; one is to pull in feeds from our BGC Facebook page, and second is to allow sharing of community contents via Facebook and other social media channels
- Single sign-on option especially with Facebook
- Flexible role-based access security permission
- Is a commercial product and comes with proper tech support (as a business entity ourselves, we support paid services/products)
The migration from the old forum is not without it’s issue. We realized the old forum kept the members’ password in encrypted form in the database – which is actually a very good implementation – however without access to the encryption routine, we were unable to decrypt the passwords. As such, the passwords were copied into the new community database but in it’s encrypted form and as such won’t work when you try to log in to the new community site.
No big deal though.. A simple click on the “I’ve forgotten my password” link will allow you to reset your password for this new portal. Our apology for not getting this part done properly. Wish we could have. 😛
Note: On the other hand, this helps to reassure you that even BGC Admins do not have access to your password. 🙂
Everyone is EVERYONE now
One of the annoying aspect of the old forum was the inability to filter spam-bot registration. They came in droves and eventually our member count reached 9,000+. LOL how I wished we really DO have that many boardgamers. Bots!!!
Anyhow since I was not able to sieve thru the 9,000+ member list to properly filter the spammers, I decided to migrate everyone into an EVERYONE group. I then set this group to auto-promote it’s members once they made an active post in the new forum.
Thought this is a workable work-around for this issue.
Some of those known members have already been assigned to the proper user groups but the majority are not.
If you found yourself under the “Everyone” group in the new forum, pls send me an email or shout here in this thread and I’ll reassign you to the proper User Group immediately.
SPAMMERS Go Away!
Part of the must-haves for this new forum would obviously be a mean to prevent or at least reduce the number of such spam-bots. Captcha is an obvious solution. Or so we thought.
The IPB member registration has Captcha enabled and after a week or so, we were still getting those “spam” registrations! Most of them were auto-banned by the system (filtering based on domain and IPs) but they were still a nuisance.
Apparently the spammers now hire low-cost workers from eastern european countries to bypass Captcha. Well, Captcha was meant to differentiate between a robot and human registration.. which it does very well but it can’t differentiate between a genuine user and spammer, both of whom are humans! Haiz.
Btw, if you’d registered and found your username is banned; that might have been the auto-banning being a bit over-vigilant. Send us an email and we’ll be able to set you right.
The good thing is that IPB developers are always right on top of current events, and have built-in a Question method in which forum administrators can set up a question to ask during registrations in which it’s target members would know the answer but a spammer wouldn’t.
Members in our community are broadly gathered into four groups – Registered Users, BGC Members, BGC Evangelists and BGC Inner Circles. There’s also the temporary “Everyone” group mentioned earlier in this article.
Registered Users are the default member group for new joiners, and once they have made a purchase from Boardgamecafe.net, they’ll be upgraded to the BGC Members group.
BGC Members will have slightly more access to the forums, plus we plan to have special promos that are sent to BGC Members only. 😛
I’ll write more about the Evangelists and Inner Circle groups in future but they are the close supporters of BGC who work with us to develop the local boardgaming landscape.
To read more about Member Groups, click here.
Logging in using your Facebook Profile
Another key feature we looked for in a new forum system is the ability to allow our members to do single sign-on using their existing Facebook credentials.
I’ve already written a topic on how you can connect your BGC username with your Facebook profile. This will then enable you not just to do single sign-on but to synchronize your Facebook updates/status with the forum here. Click here to read the Facebook Connect article.
Lastly, to those who dig model here’s the conceptual diagram for our Web Model. Start a discussion here if you wish to ask me questions about this conceptual diagram.
I’ll also hope to share more about our social media strategies for Boardgamecafe.net, and how we measure them with regards to the top three business targets of 1) increasing income, 2) reducing costs, and 3) improving customer satisfaction. 🙂
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