[RC7] phpBB Digests

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MarkDHamill
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[RC7] phpBB Digests

Post by MarkDHamill » Sat Apr 26, 2008 8:02 pm

I've gotten a number of requests (some with monetary incentives) to port my popular digests mod for phpBB 2 to phpBB 3. I have always intended to, it was just a matter of when. My Smartfeed port is nearly done so I guess it is appropriate to get user concerns and requirements for phpBB3 Digests (its new name) before beginning work.

Of course "port" is used very loosely. Basically I will have to rewrite the application. However, now that I am nearly done with Smartfeed I know what the likely stumbling blocks are going to be, so I do expect I can reuse a lot of Smartfeed's code, particularly on the user interface. Development may go more quickly than anticipated as I hope emailing HTML text is much improved with phpBB 3. In phpBB 2 I suffered for its inability to handle block template commands. In addition the emailer class could not send HTML. I hope those issues are fixed.

The digest mod is a venerable mod and nearly 5 years old. While popular my Smartfeed mod, released two years ago, turned out to be much more popular by a factor of at least 5, consequently I worked on it first. I don't think phpBB comes with a pseudo-cron facility, but maybe someone can tell me I am wrong. Needing to integrate the digest with a cron utility was too big a hurdle for many people.

Anyhow, if you have questions, concerns or feature requests bring them up. I will probably begin development in the next few weeks. Smartfeed took about six months to get to a point where it looks like it will be released. I expect about the same for phpBB Digests, particularly since I have to puzzle through adding an administrator control panel interface, probably a daunting thing. I will depend on a lot of testers to put it through its paces because I have learned I cannot begin to test in all the myriad environments out there. I am hoping some of the many testers for the phpBB 2 version are still around and will volunteer, although new faces will be welcome.
Last edited by MarkDHamill on Wed Nov 18, 2009 8:49 pm, edited 10 times in total.
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bonelifer
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Re: [DEV] phpBB Digests

Post by bonelifer » Sat Apr 26, 2008 9:18 pm

Of course it does have a pseudo cron.

At the bottom of "overall_footer.html":
<!-- IF not S_IS_BOT -->{RUN_CRON_TASK}<!-- ENDIF -->

The php file is in the root folder: cron.php

You need to add your own CASE statement to the current ones. You'd want to add something similar but more complex than the one for the mail queue:
case 'queue':
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Re: [DEV] phpBB Digests

Post by MarkDHamill » Sat Apr 26, 2008 10:43 pm

That is useful information I probably would have missed. Thanks for sharing.
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Re: [DEV] Email Digests

Post by EphesiansSix » Wed Apr 30, 2008 12:50 pm

phpBB3 has a much-improved subscriptions section included in the profile, so I'd love to see the immediate, daily, and weekly notification options seamlessly integrated into that one section; a "subscriptions dashboard" essentially. :)

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Re: [DEV] Email Digests

Post by rlindquist » Fri May 02, 2008 5:44 pm

Yes it would be great if this mod was intergrated in a way that simply enhanced the existing real time subscriptions feature. Sooner the better, we run an internal staff forum where most employees are not all that proficient in setting up and managing a large number of subscriptions and to have a subscription summary of posts based on daily or weekly options would be far less annoying and less time consuming than having to manage a new email everytime something new is posted.
Look forward to it!

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Re: [DEV] Email Digests

Post by MarkDHamill » Fri May 02, 2008 7:19 pm

So essentially I would build an interface and new set of controls on top of the subscriptions feature? Is that what you are asking?

I thought subscriptions worked the same way as watched topics under phpBB2 and just send emails upon new topics being posted. I don't want to change this feature, but offer an extension, and I don't see how to do this using existing subscriptions.
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bonelifer
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Re: [DEV] Email Digests

Post by bonelifer » Sun May 04, 2008 5:40 am

I'm thinking they are asking for something like they do in vB. I've included a picture(click on picture for larger version):
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Re: [DEV] Email Digests

Post by ChrissySkyking » Sun May 04, 2008 3:11 pm

Hi Mark,

I've been using your Digests mod pretty much since you created it. I'd be happy to be a beta tester for you.

Thanks for taking the time to do this!

Chris D.

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Re: [DEV] Email Digests

Post by LPogo » Mon May 05, 2008 5:04 pm

Good Luck, my site team is expecting this a lot.

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Re: [DEV] Email Digests

Post by urednik » Mon May 12, 2008 7:59 pm

I'm also waiting for your mod.
In your latest digest mod I miss function, notify one day before event.
Maybe this will be in cooperation with Calendar mod. ( http://www.phpbb.com/community/viewtopi ... 0&t=666195 )

This will be very helpful for all which have site for notify members about events.

I also miss better settings for when somebody wont be notified.
This setting must be done in firs subscription, admin must set defoult values...

Else good luck. I'm not coder so there will be no help from my site...

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Re: [DEV] Email Digests

Post by MarkDHamill » Fri Jun 13, 2008 7:09 pm

I still haven't begun development as my Smartfeed mod for phpBB 3 is taking longer than expected.

The good news is that I will be able to borrow a lot from the Smartfeed mod which will make development quicker.

I have discovered a poor man's way to do a digest using a combination of my Smartfeed mod and a RSS to Email service. With an RSS to Email service when the content of the feed changes, you get notified by email. You then look at the RSS feed. If this interests anyone I can post more details.
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Text Digests obsolete?

Post by MarkDHamill » Mon Jun 16, 2008 2:01 am

In the phpBB2 version of Digests, I supported pure text digests. No HTML at all. 5 years later, are text digests effectively obsolete? Should this feature be removed? Should I assume a rich HTML email client?
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Re: [DEV] Email Digests

Post by severdia » Mon Jun 16, 2008 6:51 am

Hi Mark,

Glad to hear you're moving forward on the Digests. I've just upgraded to phpBB3 and several users have commented on how they miss it. A few points to consider:

1) I don't think plain text emails are obsolete. One aspect to think about is the proliferation of mobile devices that people receive their email on and text is usually the preferred format due to bandwidth restraints. We in the US don't have 3G quite yet.

2) I thought the state that Digests was in for phpBB2 was great for my usage and a comparable admin interface is preferred in my opinion.

3) You might consider adding another tab to the User Control Panel for a user to manage their subscriptions instead of a single separate page like before. Instead of of a list of topics, you might have a list of forums and a checkbox next to each. Currently, to subscribe to each forum, you have to click the subscribe button at the bottom of each forum page. For boards that have 20, 30, 40+ forums, that's a pain. There might be a frequency dropdown for each so the user subscribe to a digest of some forums weekly and others monthly, etc.

4) If there's enough overlap with Smartfeed, does it make sense to make it all one mod? Maybe with a quirky new name like DigFeed? :)
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Re: [DEV] Email Digests

Post by jangil » Mon Jun 16, 2008 12:16 pm

MarkDHamill wrote:In the phpBB2 version of Digests, I supported pure text digests. No HTML at all. 5 years later, are text digests effectively obsolete? Should this feature be removed? Should I assume a rich HTML email client?
I hope you will keep the text feature. We have many posts on our forum. Wading through all the pictures and smilies in a long digest email can be very tiresome.

By the way, thank you for a great mod. We are actually sticking with phpbb2 until the phpbb3 version of this mod is available!
(No pressure or anything .. ) :D

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Re: [DEV] Email Digests

Post by MarkDHamill » Mon Jun 16, 2008 1:03 pm

Ron, you have some great suggestions. Smartfeed needed a separate interface because it also needed to work for guests. I wrote the Digest mod to be accessible only to registered users. I suppose that could change too, although I don't particularly want the overhead of maintaining a separate table of non-registered email addresses. In any event if ONLY registered users can get digests then it makes a lot of sense to put the interface into the User Control Panel. The downside is that it becomes hard to discover the digest feature. When it is on the main menu, it becomes hard to miss. It could perhaps be in both locations, with the main menu redirecting the the User Control Panel.

I also wonder if I need to rethink digest frequency. Under phpBB 2 is is either daily or weekly. I've had requests before to have it for shorter or longer time periods. Smartfeed allows a lot of flexibility from 15 minutes to no time limit, with the Administrator being able to set a policy limits time ranges, number of posts in a feed etc.

I have also been studying the cron feature in phpBB 3. It is not a real cron in that it run jobs at set times, although that will be a feature in phpBB 3.2 apparently. But it does allow jobs to get run when someone happens to access the board. For very low trafficked board a daily digest might not appear until days later when someone comes to the board. So I think the best thing is to have a ACP switch. For pseudo-cron only, administrators would have to live with the fact that digests may be delivered very late. For those who take the time to actually create a cron and run it from it, digests would arrive at a predictable time of day. I would need to keep track of when a user last was sent a digest.

For text digests, if they are to be supported I might want to rethink the implementation. Currently forum and topic names are delineated with lots of <<<<< and >>>>> characters. It might make sense to instead have something like:

Begin forum: x
Begin topic: y
End topic: y
End forum: y

Smartfeed also has a lot of flexibility sorting posts. I should probably extend it to the digests mod, putting posts in time sequence regardless of forum and topic, etc. Those not familiar with Smartfeed may want to look at its user interface for phpBB 3 and tell me what features they think would be valuable:

http://potomactavern.org/phpBB3/smartfeed_url.php

I suggest logging in to see additional controls, ID: Smartfeed Tester, password: smartfeed

I don't know much about wireless devices, but perhaps I should support wireless markup language or something.

As for merging Smartfeed and Digests, it may be possible, but may not be advisable. In theory since Smartfeed returns posts as XML, I could take advantage of XML Stylesheet technologies and push content through a stylesheet, rendering either text or HTML that way, as opposed to coding it. There are some problems. PHP support for XSLT is rather weak and presumably I would have to support the lowest common denominator. PHP 4.3.3 is the lowest version supported. I cannot assume that XSLT is installed so I would probably need a third party library to do the translation.

So many pathways, but the design really depends on what people need.
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