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ocPortal Tutorial: Feedback and user interaction

Written by Chris Graham, ocProducts
ocPortal allows you to create a highly interactive site if you desire, with numerous features for user feedback at your disposal.

Most major content in ocPortal can be:
  • commented upon
  • rated
  • given track-backs (this is defined and discussed in the 'Advanced news' tutorial)
These features are known together as the ocPortal 'feedback system'.


We recognise that many websites owners will not wish to allow users to affect the state of their website: because of this, commenting and rating may be enabled/disabled on a site-wide basis. They are, however, enabled by default. To disable the elements of the feedback, check-boxes are given in the 'User interaction' subsection of the 'Feature options' section of the main Admin Zone Configuration module.

In addition to site-wide control of feedback, feedback may also be enabled/disabled on a content entry level. For a piece of content to support rating, for example, that content must be configured for rating, and ocPortal must have rating enabled site-wide.

Feedback commenting is very similar to, and actually implemented as, a forum topic being attached to a piece of content, and displayed beneath it. To allow users to comment on ocPortal content, in addition to site-wide commenting any commenting for the content entry being enabled, the named comment forum must exist; the default comment forum name is 'Website comment topics', but this is configurable in the 'Feature options' section of the main Admin Zone Configuration module.


Thumbnail: This content page demonstrates rating and comments

This content page demonstrates rating and comments

The ocPortal rating system allows 'one rating per IP address'. Therefore, if a user gets a new IP address, they can rate again.

Our own forum does not allow poll voting by guests, and hence more serious rating/poll situations may be handled there.

There is a 'main_rating' block that you may use to allow any Comcode page to be rated (by placing the block on the page).

The comments block

There is an ocPortal block named 'main_comments' that allows any Comcode page to become a page with its own comments. This is a very useful feature, usable for purposes such as:
  • a guest-book (see the default 'guestbook' Comcode page)
  • documentation where users may make comments, adding to it, or directing staff to make improvements

Placing comment topics

By default, all comment topics all placed in the configured website comment topics forum.
However, you can use the OcCLE set_comment_forum command to set it so resources under specific content-types and categories have their comments into forums of your choice.

The feedback block

ocPortal also includes a feedback block, 'main_feedback', that allows you to have users leave messages that other users can't see. It works via a hidden comment topic, and is very useful as a way for staff to get private feedback without resorting to support tickets or e-mail.

The shout-box block

ocPortal includes a 'shout-box' block, which is essentially a little portion of your menu that can be used for members to place short messages. Like all blocks, the shout-box is of course optional. The shout-box is tied to a specified chat room, which by default, is the 'General Chat' chat-room.


Thumbnail: Initially there is no poll, so the poll block displays like this

Initially there is no poll, so the poll block displays like this

Polls are a popular feature, and often used for a number of purposes including:
  • to charge the atmosphere of an interactive website
  • to increase the feeling that the website is regularly updated, by changing polls
  • to gather feedback from those who are not likely to go to the efforts to write it down
  • to generally find answers to questions that may not be very important, but difficult to find the answer to without a poll

Thumbnail: Adding a poll

Adding a poll

Thumbnail: The poll block, once a poll is chosen

The poll block, once a poll is chosen

By default, the poll block is displayed on the front page (unless this was changed in the Setup Wizard), and set up to display whatever poll is currently selected from those that were added. On a fresh install, there is of course no poll yet, so a message about this is shown. When you add or edit a poll, you have the choice to select it as the current poll: the selection date is stored, and this allows ocPortal to display an archive of past polls.

Members can only vote once in a poll. Guests may only vote once. IP addresses as well as member IDs are used to see who has previously voted. If a user chooses to view poll results before voting, they forfeit their vote. Once ocPortal has decided a user cannot vote (again), that user will only see the results whenever they see that poll.

Any numbers of different polls may be shown on your website if you choose to select them using poll ID number as a block parameter, rather than relying on the standard selection mechanism (click the "Add Block" button when editing a Comcode page if you'd like help placing main_poll blocks).


The common title given to ocPortal systems for feedback that are available across different forms of content

See also