New feature - auto follow up of posts

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tellmethis
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New feature - auto follow up of posts

Post by tellmethis »

Not having received any feedback from this topic:
tellmethis wrote:I've had a look around the various forums and failed to find anything on this, but surely it's come up before.

What I'd like to be able to do within my forum is create a new post, and at the time of creating that post, be able to nominate a date/time on which phpBB emails me, or pops up, a reminder that I need to revisit that post.

Example. Let's say I post the name and number of, say, a customer who needs to be contacted within 3 days. I want to make sure that within 3 days that customer is indeed contacted. Rather than go to a separate calendar and create a separate follow up note, it'd be nice if I could nominate a date and time within phpBB when I'm posting, such that phpBB issues me a reminder to revisit the issue on the specified date/time.

I'm not sure if this feature already exists within a MOD, or whether it's more aligned with feature requests within phpBB itself, or whether it's a subject that's been thrashed our before, but I'd be grateful if somebody could point me in the right direction.
I'm assuming no such feature or MOD exists, and therefore propose it as a useful feature of a future release of phpBB.
Last edited by tellmethis on Wed Feb 29, 2012 3:07 am, edited 1 time in total.

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brunoais
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Re: New feature - auto follow of posts

Post by brunoais »

My answer is: No.
A feature like this does not deserve to be implemented in phpbb.
This is the kind of thing that should be implemented as an extension/MOD and not something for the core.

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Re: New feature - auto follow of posts

Post by Oleg »

I wish I could do this on .com support forums all the time. Frequently I see a support topic and I want to come back to it in a day and reply if none of the support team members replied. Right now this is essentially impossible. I was adding topics to bookmarks for a bit but checking bookmarks is way too cumbersome to be useful for this workflow.

tellmethis
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Re: New feature - auto follow of posts

Post by tellmethis »

Hopefully your vote Oleg is louder than brunoais' vote :D.

I respect your view brunoais, but i don't understand the use of the word 'deserve'. Do you mean that you don't see it as part of the core function of what forum software should have to do?

I'm no developer, but I imagine that part of the consideration of whether to include a feature is the potential degradation to performance of the application, versus the benefit. I have no clue about potential impact on performance, I guess that would also be influenced by the grunt of the machine on which phpBB is installed, but I can think of all kinds of reasons why a core reminder function would be of immense benefit. Just about everything we do is surrounded by date and time considerations. The need to use an external calendar or alarm to remind you to come back to a topic is a massive inefficiency.

Again with the caveat that I know nothing of software code and making it obvious that I don't, would such a feature not just be a matter of capitalising on existing code? As in phpBB already draws on date/time functionality, so would it not be as simple as a user, by way of nominating a date and time within a post, effectively instructing phpBB to auto create a standard post or email alert in the future? That post or alert being "don't forget to go back to post xxxx on this date".

I know just about every user of our forum setup would be ecstatic with a simple in-house reminder function.

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AmigoJack
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Re: New feature - auto follow of posts

Post by AmigoJack »

I see the discrepancy: subscribing to the topic is not very helpful, as there won't be any notification if nobody replies to it. You also can't order the subscriptions by topic replies. I also understand brunoais, as this is somehow a specific usage of a board software as ticket system or event manager.

The least invasive feature might be a new list to be managed, which could be called "reminder": like subscribing to a topic or bookmarking it you could add it to your reminder list along with a distance (to be chosen from a fixed list), i.e. "24h", "48h", "72h"... The notification itself is the most complex part: the board would need to compile a notification (e-mail or XMPP message) for each user containing all topics which trespass the threshold. Once. After that: what should happen? Should the topics be removed from your reminder list?

It throws up many questions...

tellmethis
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Re: New feature - auto follow of posts

Post by tellmethis »

AmigoJack wrote:After that: what should happen? Should the topics be removed from your reminder list?
I guess it all depends how sophisticated such a feature is made. For instance, should a user have the ability to stipulate which users or group of users receive a reminder; repeat reminders (every Wednesday, monthly on 28th, 3rd Tuesday of each month); should a user be prodded with another reminder if that user fails to revisit the post within a predetermined time frame.

Without wanting to scare off those opposed to such a feature, I'd be delighted with even the most basic reminder option, which would solve the gross inefficiency of having to rely on an external application altogether to achieve an arguably routine action involved with most processes.

By most basic, I have in mind the ability to select a date and time, even just a date if time selection was difficult, at the time of creating a post. Just a simple reminder to come back to this post at a predetermined future date so that it doesn't slip through the cracks. Though I think the ability to edit that reminder date up, at least up until the date it arrives, would be essential.

I'm not certain what an XMPP message is, but I assume it's a popup style alert which would require a user be logged into forum. If so, that would require a user to be logged in at the time a reminder falls due, which could present a problem for an infrequent user. I don't know whether there's greater technical difficulty in generating an email message, but I'd be in favour of this because it doesn't assume the user will be logged in at the time the reminder is due. In other words, just the same as how forum notifications issue, except the trigger would be different, ie. a date/time trigger.

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DavidIQ
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Re: New feature - auto follow of posts

Post by DavidIQ »

Wouldn't this be the same as getting a daily/weekly digest of updates for each topic, much like vBulletin does?
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Pony99CA
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Re: New feature - auto follow of posts

Post by Pony99CA »

This seems like a step closer to adding a Calendar to phpBB, which I thought was a BAD idea. If "reminders" are thought of as events, though, maybe it could be put into the phpBB event system (whenever that goes in).

However, I fail to see why the OP can't just open a Task in Outlook (or some other To-Do List manager) and paste a link to the topic or post in that. Why does this function need to exist in phpBB at all? It seems similar to those people who put music/radio in their phpBB installations. If I want to listen to music while browsing the Web, I'll go to Pandora, Slacker, Windows Media Player or iTunes. I won't do this on some site that I just happen to be visiting at the time.

For Oleg's use, a To-Do list would also work, but a list of posts to check on (like Jack's suggestion) could also be useful (and more in keeping with a bulletin board). Maybe adding categories to bookmarks and allowing filtering on those categories would be a better way to go, though. We wouldn't need another list, just a new column in the bookmarks table.

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tellmethis
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Re: New feature - auto follow up of posts

Post by tellmethis »

DavidIQ wrote:Wouldn't this be the same as getting a daily/weekly digest of updates for each topic, much like vBulletin does?
Different outcomes, DavidIQ. As an example, let's say that on 19 February a fellow user asked me to attend to something, and I responded with "sure, I'll have that done for you by 18 March". Right then and there I had a few things on my plate, but I didn't want to disappoint, so just to make certain this didn't slip through the cracks, at the time I responded I set a reminder date of 15 March. A periodic digest is not going to achieve what I need.
Pony99CA wrote:However, I fail to see why the OP can't just open a Task in Outlook (or some other To-Do List manager) and paste a link to the topic or post in that. Why does this function need to exist in phpBB at all?
It's about efficiency - number of clicks and overall time taken. Whether I set a date and/or time within phpBB or a 3rd party reminder manager, the actual date/time nomination will take about the same effort. But if a 3rd party reminder manager is used, I also have to (i) potentially launch the 3rd party application in order to set up the reminder and (ii) manually create a nexus between the phpBB post and the 3rd party application - this could be as simple as copy & pasting the post's URL, but it's an extra step nonetheless.
Pony99CA wrote:This seems like a step closer to adding a Calendar to phpBB
I can see how a simple reminder feature could be viewed as a step in the direction of traditional calendar functionality, I guess both are about dates. I agree, I'd probably vote against forum software competing against widespread and sophisticated calendar software . But a simple in-house reminder function is mostly about efficiency, and efficiency is one of the objectives of having computers do our work.

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AmigoJack
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Re: New feature - auto follow up of posts

Post by AmigoJack »

tellmethis wrote:an XMPP message
That's what was formerly called Jabber - phpBB can contact you in two ways, see Notification method in your UCP.
tellmethis wrote:It's about efficiency
It's also about spam. phpBB's design is thought to generate as few e-mails as possible - what about members which became inactive and thus by time their e-mail- or XMPP-account gets invalid? Sending reminder notifications implies somone (still) wants those at all.
tellmethis wrote:I set a date and/or time
I was talking about time distances, not absolute times for a specific reason: members can live in various timezones, even having daylight saving or not. What is 8pm for you can be 04:00 for me, which already discourages the usage of the terms "today" and "yesterday". Absolute times would require each member to have its timezone set precisely - and we all know how many people are still confused by that.
tellmethis wrote:reminder function is mostly about efficiency
I disagree. Reminders require you to actually be able to get them: phpBB can send you an e-mail and/or a XMPP message - in both cases you either need to regularly check your e-mail-inbox (pull) or you have to be online with your messenger client (push). Reading a reminder which has triggered already 1h ago can already be way too late. Also reminders imply that you have still time left to actually act upon the reminder - if you put up reminders for everything the actual work is still not done. And if you're currently occupied on completing some task you most probably won't act on a reminder coming inbetween. I'd rather say reminders are helpers on managing priorities.

As an example: ticket systems can trigger notifications when certain tickets remain idle for a given amount of time. Again and again, not only after they've been created or reassigned to someone. However, by sending e-mails you only put all that information to your inbox. And your inbox is also read by you - the e-mails don't popup at the time they've been sent. So in the end your inbox is the very same what the ticket system should already provide: a list of tickets ordered by your choice of criteria. I wonder if your actual scenario could be satisfied in most cases with a feature phpBB already has: View unanswered posts.

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