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Moving forward with Composr

ocPortal has been relaunched as Composr CMS, which is now in beta. ocPortal 9 will be superseded by Composr 10.

Head over to compo.sr for our new site, and to our migration roadmap. Existing ocPortal member accounts have been mirrored.


ocPortal Tutorial: ocPortal member system

Written by Chris Graham, ocProducts
Members are key to most participative or eCommerce websites. If you are using ocPortal's own forum, OCF , then you will also be using ocPortal's own member system. If you are using a third-party forum, you will be using the member system from that, and you will need to consult its own documentation.

This tutorial explains aspects of the OCF member system.


After installation

During installing ocPortal, there will be two user-names provided by default:
  • admin (or whatever you changed it to during installation)
  • test

The test username is intended for testing permissions for non-administrators, which is a very important task, as it is easy to make mistakes during configuration. There is a 'su' feature that allows an administrator to become any user by typing in their username (and not needing to type in their password, or logout): this is a perfect way to use the 'test' username. Access the 'su' feature from the footer or by putting &keep_su=<username> onto the end of the URL.

Joining

There are a number of ways a member might join an OCF website. Note that on non-OCF websites it is the responsibility of the third-party forum to handle the joining (aka registration) process.

Regular mechanism

Thumbnail: Joining an ocPortal powered site

Joining an ocPortal powered site

Users that were not created during installation will need to join your site before they may login, and by default, to actually access most of the website. This is made very easy, with join links placed in various positions, such as (by default) the front page, and the forum-view.

To join, users will have to agree to your rules, which are actually the same as those defined in your ':rules' Comcode page. In other words, to edit your rules, you need to edit this page. Once the rules are agreed to, they get a form to fill in with various details; for information on how to require additional details at joining, see the 'Advanced ocPortal member system' tutorial.

The form includes, if enabled in the configuration, a security image (CAPTCHA ) that they must enter a numeric code from. There is also an audio equivalent to the image. Users with special needs might have difficulty with CAPTCHA: therefore you may, on occasion, need to add a member manually from the Admin Zone, and give them the details personally. The purpose of CAPTCHA is to prevent 'bots' (computer programs usually designed to wreak some form of havoc) from joining your site and abusing it.

Thumbnail: The login block (which turns into a 'personal stats' block after logging in)

The login block (which turns into a 'personal stats' block after logging in)

Thumbnail: The detailed logging in page

The detailed logging in page

There are a number of constraints on how fields may be filled in, and some of these are configurable from the main Admin Zone Configuration. For example, special characters are not allowed in user-names, and by default, any e-mail address may only be used for one account.

Once the form is filled in successfully, an e-mail will be sent to the given e-mail address containing a link to activate the account (assuming this option has not been disabled). The purpose of this is to ensure that they are giving a real working e-mail address, and hence are contactable. If the e-mail never arrives for any joining user, the most likely situation is a fault with e-mail sending on the server: it is essential that ocPortal is connected to a working e-mail server, either by directly residing on it, or by setting up SMTP settings in the main Admin Zone Configuration (see the Understanding and configuring e-mail tutorial). Joining users must be patient for a few minutes, as e-mails can sometimes take a while to arrive.

Once the account is activated, the user may log in from numerous areas, including the login block available on most zones, the forums, and the full login page.

If a member has forgotten their password, there is a link to have it reset available from the full login page (available by clicking 'more' in the login block); this will send an e-mail to the address of the account that provides a link that when clicked, causes ocPortal to send out a new password by e-mail. This reset sequence is designed to reduce the risk of abuse.

Recommendation and Invites

The recommendation module performs two functions:
  1. General recommendation, sending out e-mails from people recommending your website
  2. Invites, if joining is restricted

General recommendation is very straight-forward. ocPortal provides the ability to upload contact lists, from various e-mail software, so you can recommend to many people at once. Members may customise the message sent out when their recommendation is made.

You can enable "Invites" in the configuration (the "Invites enabled" option) if you do not want members to be able to join in the usual way, and instead only allow them to join if they receive an invitation from an existing member.
This process works as follows:
  • An existing member goes to the 'recommend' module to refer another member to the website (make sure you put a link to this somewhere on your menus so they can find it).
  • That member will choose to make the recommendation as an invite.
  • That member will put in the e-mail address of the person being invited.
  • ocPortal will send out an invitation e-mail.
  • The person being invited will be given a link to join and instructed to input the e-mail address they were invited to.
  • Assuming the person inputted the invited e-mail address, the invite will be successful.

Pre-joining members

Thumbnail: Adding members manually in the Admin Zone

Adding members manually in the Admin Zone

In some rare situations, it is useful for the staff to be able to add members to the site themselves, without having to log out, join the normal way, and then log back in as staff.
An interface is provided to add a new member to the site, with support for detailing the full set of profile options, including ones not available normally during joining, and ones not available for members to set themselves.

The most common situations where it is convenient to pre-join a member are:
  • if you want to add a member to the site before directing them to it, so that you don't have to make them go through the process themselves, or so that you can properly control or quickly set all their details, such as username and usergroup.
  • if you want to add a member to the site before directing them to it, so that you can assign things to them before they reach the site (such as points).
  • if the member encountered a problem during the joining process, possibly due to a difficulty with the image confirmation code (some Internet service providers do not properly assign IP addresses to users that are stable for any significant length of time, such as AOL: this can cause problems with the storage and later retrieval/processing of the image confirmation code)

An interface is provided to add a new member to the site, with support for detailing the full set of profile options, including ones not available normally during joining, and ones not available for members to set themselves.

The most common situations where it is convenient to pre-join a member are:
  • if you want to add a member to the site before directing them to it, so that you don't have to make them go through the process themselves, or so that you can properly control or quickly set all their details, such as username and usergroup.
  • if you want to add a member to the site before directing them to it, so that you can assign things to them before they reach the site (such as points).
  • if the member encountered a problem during the joining process, possibly due to a difficulty with the image confirmation code (some Internet service providers do not properly assign IP addresses to users that are stable for any significant length of time, such as AOL: this can cause problems with the storage and later retrieval/processing of the image confirmation code)

Other kinds of membership

ocPortal can also support automatic member joining via LDAP and http-auth. For more information on these mechanisms see the links at the bottom of this page.

Profiles

Thumbnail: The member directory, where profiles may be accessed from

The member directory, where profiles may be accessed from

In ocPortal, the term 'profile' is used almost as a synonym for 'account'. Each member has a profile, which stores the settings for their account. There are countless areas in ocPortal that link to view a member profile, generally where a user-name is displayed in some form of context (for example, as the user who made a shout-box comment).

An alternative way to view a member profile is to select/search using the member directory.

Member profiles contain information on the member, including:
  • Statistics: Posts, Points, last submission time, and most active forum
  • Their time
  • Their on-line status
  • Custom profile fields
  • Their IP address when they joined (only viewable by those with permission)
  • Their date of birth
  • Whether they are banned
  • Their join date
  • Their primary usergroup
  • The most recent web browser they have used (only viewable by those with permission)

Thumbnail: Viewing a member profile

Viewing a member profile

Member profiles contain many links to other ocPortal pages that relate to that member, with additional links presented to staff and the member themselves. As ocPortal can be a very user-centric system, there are a lot of links presented here and this makes member profile pages a very convenient convergence of features.
Links include:
  • Member blog and blog archive, if they have a blog
  • Personal galleries the member has
  • E-mailing them, if they allow it
  • Points profile
  • Starting a Private Topic
  • Author profile
  • Authored/submitted search
  • Warning creation
  • Post history
  • Investigation
  • Account
  • Personal Calendar view
  • Edit links for account features
  • ocWorld profile, if the ocWorld addon is installed and they have used it

Member observation

Thumbnail: Viewing the list of on-line members

Viewing the list of on-line members

There is a link to view the current 'Users On-line' on forum pages (at the bottom). There is also a block you can use, 'side_users_online' that shows:
  • a list of on-line users
  • how many guests are on-line
  • the newest member
  • member birthdays

Member birthdays are also shown on forum-view screens. Note that birthdays for members who have chosen to reveal their age will include the display of their age.

The Account

To edit a member's account, go to their profile, and go to the 'Edit' tab. There are various sub-tabs for controlling member settings.

Edit profile

Profile settings, mainly custom profile fields, may be edited on the edit profile sub-tab.

Edit settings

Thumbnail: Editing your/a member profile

Editing your/a member profile

The 'edit settings' sub-tab allows you to edit most details associated with an account, including options and what would literally be called 'profile'.
Staff see much more to edit than ordinary members, including all the hidden custom fields that ocPortal uses to keep track of point and staff details.

When editing the default accounts, you will need to specify e-mail addresses before it will allow you to complete the edit. The reason for this is that e-mail addresses are basically required for all accounts, but could not be provided by the installer.

Interesting editable fields for profiles include:
  • changing the account password. If the password fields are left blank, the password is not changed
  • changing primary usergroup. Obviously the member can not do this themselves
  • (un)validating the account. There is an option for staff to require in the 'Forum options' of the main Admin Zone Configuration to set new members as non-validated upon joining, so as to require staff validation before they may login; this can be used to perform this validation, or reverse it
  • banning of the member. Note that ocPortal will not let you ban yourself, for obvious reasons

Edit photo

Thumbnail: Editing your/a member photo

Editing your/a member photo

Members may choose a photo of themselves (or staff can) for display in their profile.

There is a permission to specify whether members may view the photos of other members, as there is an obvious 'stalking'/'paedophile' issue that must be considered for forums with young members.

Edit signature

Thumbnail: Editing your/a member signature

Editing your/a member signature

Members may have a signature which is displayed beneath their forum posts. This is not a signature in terms of verifying identity, as it may be copied by other members: rather, it allows members to broadcast their identity and other details in a prominent position. Signatures often include things such as:
  • their name
  • a personal banner
  • quotes
  • a link to a personal website
  • background information on themselves

It is common for websites to impose restrictions and rules with regard to signatures, as long or complex can be an annoying distraction from the flow of reading forum posts, and a 'bandwidth hog'. Members may decide not to view other members' signatures by editing their profile to preclude their display.

Edit avatar

Thumbnail: Editing your/a member avatar

Editing your/a member avatar

In computer parlance, an avatar is a representation of self. On the Internet, this is almost always a square image showing a picture that is, preferably, unique to that person. Avatars are displayed on profile pages, and next to forum posts.

ocPortal provides two sets of default avatars for inartistic/uninspired members to choose from (or possibly, if they just love our default avatars!). However, members may also upload their own avatars, or link to an avatar elsewhere.

If there is a theme image with the name ocf_default_avatars/default then this will be used as the default avatar a member gets when the join, otherwise default avatars will be picked randomly.

Avatar size is limited by the maximum size determined by any of their usergroups. 80x80 pixels is the size ocPortal uses by default.

It is beyond the scope of this tutorial how to create avatars. However, avatars are images no different than the theme images in ocPortal (and the default avatars are theme images), so whatever applies to editing theme images also applies to avatars.

Our default avatars may not be appropriate for some sites, but they can be changed. This can be done using the theme image manager. To actual get rid of the existing default avatars, you will need to delete the files from your web-space using an FTP program, and then to clear the theme image cache using the ocPortal Website cleanup tools module in the Admin Zone.
To add new avatars, you need to add new theme images. You can add whole sets of avatar this way. The easiest way to add theme images in bulk is just to use FTP, uploading them to:
themes/default/images/ocf_default_avatars/<packname>
You can also do it using the Theme management tools, making sure the theme image names have a prefix of ocf_default_avatars/<packname>.

Edit title

Thumbnail: Editing your/a member title

Editing your/a member title

If members are in a usergroup with the 'May choose a custom title' permission, they may give themselves a personal title. This overrides the title of their primary usergroup for the member.

Titles are displayed alongside forum posts, in the section that is accessed by 'hovering over' their user-name.

Deleting a member

Thumbnail: The usergroup directory

The usergroup directory

If members are in a usergroup with the 'Delete own member account' permission, they may delete themselves. This is provided for those (arguably paranoid) members concerned about privacy or spam, who prefer not to leave old accounts around. You may choose to disallow permission because often members will quickly return after 'getting over' some 'event' that caused them to 'leave', and cause administrative trouble when they start demanding control over their old content, as well as their old points.

There is also an admin feature that allows you to delete 'lurkers' (the definition of lurker is up to you, as the feature is quite flexible). You can access this feature from the Admin Zone, Tools section, 'Delete Lurkers' icon.

If an admin account is deleted you may wish to add that account to the list of prohibited usernames to stop someone else re-registering the username.

Privacy

Privacy allows you to specify what custom profile fields will be visible to whom.

Usergroups

Thumbnail: Managing a usergroup

Managing a usergroup

Members exist in a primary usergroup, and may be placed in any number of secondary usergroups. Usergroups serve many purposes, including:
  • demonstrating rank
  • grouping members for common permission allocation
  • demonstrating involvement

'Applying' to usergroup leaders to join usergroups is supported, as well as point-based usergroup progression (rank).

Note that you cannot delete certain default usergroups that are used for system functions or as fail-safes.

Bookmarks

Thumbnail: The bookmarks popup

The bookmarks popup

Thumbnail: Managing bookmarks

Managing bookmarks

If members are logged in then they may bookmark pages of your website within the site itself. The icon to do this is at the bottom of every ocPortal page unless the 'bookmarks' addon has been installed, or it has been removed from GLOBAL_HTML_WRAP.tpl.

The bookmark feature is particularly useful for:
  • members who want to keep bookmarks for different websites separate
  • members who move between computers

Last visit dates

The forum shows the viewing user's last visit and the number of topics/posts since that last visit. Logging in/out triggers a new visit to count (also reopening the browser would).

It works as follows:
Essentially member profiles contain a last request date (in the database), which is maintained as you browse through the site. If you login, or open the browser, it copies that into a cookie that's value persists until you login again or reopen the browser. The cookie is the reference point which is used as the last visit date.

Concepts

profile
Member profiles define details, including options, relating to members
Account
The zone that a member manages and accesses settings and content related to themselves
avatar
A pictorial representation of self
usergroup
usergroups allow common representation of properties (especially permissions) relating to a group of users in similar situations.
CAPTCHA
A security image/sound consisting of numbers that a human must enter into a text box. It is designed to prevent bots from spamming your website.

See also