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ocPortal Tutorial: The staff/member divide

Written by Chris Graham, ocProducts
When you run an ocPortal site, you do not merely create a website for people to visit. As an interactive, dynamic, system, ocPortal can provide different features for different users, and in particular, different features for staff than are available to ordinary members or visitors. Some of these features are specifically written to be for staff, some of these are a result of the privileges system, and some are the combination between the ability to create new categories/forums and control access to these using permissions. The term 'staff' is used loosely in this tutorial, to mean anyone with the necessary permission: by default, it is staff who have the mentioned permissions, but this may be altered.

Staff can use these features to distinguish themselves from ordinary users, and to collaborate together towards the operation of the website. This tutorial will cover a number of these features and how you might use them; some of these referenced features will be presented according to the OCF system but are also likely to be included in third-party forum solutions in some form.

Staff and the staff page

Thumbnail: The staff list

The staff list

Thumbnail: Viewing a staff member

Viewing a staff member

The staff page provides a page listing all the staff on the site. By default, staff are anyone who is a super-moderator or super-administrator (if the inbuilt forum system is being used then this means anyone who is a member of these usergroups), but if the staff filter is enabled, you can determine exactly who counts as staff. It is recommended that the staff filter is not enabled, because for the vast majority of sites, it only adds unnecessary complexity.

In a few places, being 'staff' gives certain hard-coded permissions: these are rare, however as usually permissions are given purely on the basis of usergroup membership. The main usefulness of the staff concept is simply presentational - staff are listed on the site staff page along with their details.

You can configure staff from the staff administration page. This is available from the Security section of the Admin Zone, under the 'Staff' icon. The staff administration page allows you to choose staff (if the staff filter is on) as well as configure their listed details. You may also configure their details by editing the corresponding custom profile fields from your forums profile editing screen.

By default, OCF is installed with a single staff member, 'admin'. It is recommended that this member be left as a general purpose 'site representative', not used solely by any single staff member. It is also useful as a fail-safe account, because as a super-administrator, 'admin' can access any part of your ocPortal-based site.

Private forums

Thumbnail: Now you see it...

Now you see it...

Thumbnail: Now you don't (because I logged out and hence lost my staff permissions)

Now you don't (because I logged out and hence lost my staff permissions)

A very effective feature in running a website, where there are multiple staff involved, are forum permissions. By using a forum where only members in staff usergroups may gain access, staff can collaborate on matters relating to the operation of the site. Many members may not realise it, but often staff forums of large sites are almost as busy as the publicly accessible forums.

OCF creates a default staff forum for you on installation.

Topic reporting

Thumbnail: A post needs a report / warning

A post needs a report / warning

Thumbnail: An offended member reports the post

An offended member reports the post

On busy forums, it is often impossible for staff to read every post that is made. Therefore there is a facility for members to report problem posts to the staff (with an additional reporter message), so that the staff can then perform any appropriate action on the post.

Once a post is reported, the reported is actually created as a topic in the default 'Reported posts' forum. This method is, at the time of writing, unique to ocPortal, and allows staff to collaborate together to decide how to deal with the problem, as well as allowing clarity so that all staff know how the issue was reported and dealt with. We have found it often to be the case that staff will report posts themselves, so that they can easily bring them (and possibly their related action) to the attention of other staff.
Thumbnail: The staff will see the report in the 'reported posts' forum

The staff will see the report in the 'reported posts' forum

Warning members

OCF provides a facility for warning members. This is just one example of a punitive measure that may be taken out against a member. For full details, see the 'Tools for punishment' section of the 'Policing a community site' tutorial.


When members use the OCF whisper feature to make inline-personal-posts, they are visible to moderators (which by default, equates to the same as staff, dependant on specific forum permissions). This has two consequences:
  1. moderators can tell when members abuse the feature
  2. moderators can use the feature to write in-topic messages to each other (and hence, all other moderators too, due to the ability for all the moderators to see them all). It may be necessary to reign back your staff if they use this feature too much and make sarcastic remarks: the unforeseen may become reality, with the target of the sarcasm becoming staff at a later date, and seeing such remarks.

See also