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ocPortal Tutorial: People in their roles

Written by Chris Graham, ocProducts
ocPortal is a huge product, and as a result, has a large number of concepts designed for various systems within it.

We have made things as clear and clean as they can be, but one area in particular where there can be confusion is the various terms that may be applied to 'people who visit the site'.

This short tutorial aims simply to clarify what all these terms to relate to, and hopefully you will understand why they are all necessary.

The terms

Term Meaning Reason the term is needed
Visitor A visitor is any person who visits the site, and used when no specific implication of identifying them is intended. This is a vague term used when nothing needs to be known about someone.
User A user is an identifiable visitor to your website. However they are not necessarily a member. To identify a user, their session ID or IP address must be used: both are temporary/transitory, and thus for some actions, being a member is required. By using this term, we imply the visitor has a purpose on the site, rather than just 'passing in the night'.
Member A member has an account (aka a profile), meaning they have specifically joined. Because they have an account, they have a member-id (a number) and a username. By using this term, we imply the user has joined and logged in, and thus is very distinguishable, via their member-id. It is always preferable for people to be logged-in members, for reliable association.
Guest A user who is not logged in. All guests share the same member-id: that of someone who is not a real member (usually '1', depending on the forum driver and database driver). By using this term, we imply a user is not logged in. For example, we reference that guests do not receive points: the reason being, there is no known account to associate the points to. Code might associate stuff with the guest account, but this should never be anything that needs to have a distinguished user (like a point transfer).
Author Authors create works that are on the website. They may not even be actual people, they could be legal entities. An author is specially defined, and optionally tied to a member (either automatic by the author name being equal to a username, or via manual configuration). The author may not even have visited the website. There is a distinction from merely a 'submitter', who has no special configured status: logically, just because someone submits content, does not mean they authored it.
Subscriber A subscriber to the newsletter. A subscriber receives newsletters, and does not even need to have ever visited the site if someone subscribed on their behalf and they validated the subscription. Subscription comes with a degree of public anonymity, compared to being a member.
Submitter A submitter is a user that has submitted some content. By using this term, we imply the association between the user, and the content, in terms of who submitted it. Saying 'submitter' is quicker than saying 'the user who submitted'.
(aka Webmaster)
Someone who is a super moderator or super administrator. If the staff filtered is enabled, they must also be chosen as staff.
Often the term is used loosely with the literal meaning of staff not really being intended – in such situations it is used to mean any user in usergroups with permissions that, by default, only staff have.
From a users point of view, staff is synonymous with 'authority figure', and sometimes this meaning is used.
This term is used to distinguish someone with authority from regular users.
Super moderator (often, simply 'mod') A special usergroup of second level staff, as dictated by the forum driver. By default, super moderators can do almost anything, and possibly elevate themselves to administrator via indirect methods.
With OCF , being a super moderator is simply a matter of being in the aptly named user usergroup, which is automatically assigned staff access and privileges.
This term is a specific term to identify second level staff.
Super administrator (often, simply 'admin') A special usergroup of first level staff. Administrators have full, literally undeniable, access.
Membership is defined by the forum driver (i.e. similar to above). For OCF, a member is a super administrator if they are in a usergroup that is marked as one.
This term is a specific term to identify first level staff.
Super member Super member is a vague term, that has no hard coded meaning. It is purely created as an abstraction to help allocate access permissions, especially to the 'Collaboration Zone' zone.
OCF has a default 'Super member' usergroup.
To distinguish privileged members from ordinary members, and to help allocate permissions.


Someone who visits the site in some vague sense
Someone who uses the site in a determinable way
Someone has is joined and logged in
Someone who is not joined or not logged in
Someone who authored something (not necessary a user)
Someone who has submitted something
Someone who is on the staff list, or generally has staff access (term is often used vaguelly as a conveniance, as permissions in reality are very configurable)
super moderator
Someone who has special staff-like access, but not full site control
super administrator
Someone who has full site control, and can't have it taken away as long as they are a super administrator
super member
Someone who in in a super member usergroup, which typically has Collaboration Zone access; a vague concept to avoid having to refer to the low-level permissions

See also