Note: I’m writing this at nearly 5am. It’s been a long night of upgrading the site and I know there are some loose ends. The FAQ and blog will be updated in due course, and any bugs you find (there are always some) will be eventually squashed. Oh, and I deleted all your profile bios by accident, sorry about that! 😛
For occasions such as this JapanSoc overhaul, Deas from Rocking in Hakata has created this fantastic video logo for our favorite social bookmarking site. Watch, gasp, then download the high definition version for your own JapanSoc-related videos.
Who’s behind the new JapanSoc.com?
Before I give you a run-down of the new features, let me give a big, big thank you to Chris Gaunt of Nihongo Notes and J-Pop Japan. Chris just happens to be a multi-talented web developer, who completely rewrote the JapanSoc template. That’s no easy task when you consider a typical Social Web CMS template weighs in at over 60 files. I can’t thank Chris enough for the work he’s put into the site over the last month, and I’ll be using his services again in the near future. Chris does a lot of freelance work, particularly for WordPress and Ruby on Rails sites. He’s also a PHP wizard and can dazzle with CSS. Learn more about what Chris can do for your site on his LinkedIn profile.
The engine that powers JapanSoc is Social Web CMS, an open source project which I’ve become heavily involved this last year, developing over 20 modules and contributing to the SWCMS SVN. Together with Chris, we are quite a formidable team! 😀
16 All New Features!
1. The Design
This is what JapanSoc.com now looks like:
2. The JapanSoc Community News bar
3. Drop down categories and new ones, too!
I’ve split the categories into a few very generic groups, and using the drop-down “Suckerfish” menu makes it easy for us to add more categories, not to mention them being much more accessible than before.
4. Easy Submit button
When you click on the new submit button, a little drop-down box opens where you can directly add the url you want to submit.
5. Enhanced sidebar comments
Not only is there a little avatar next to each comment, when you hover the mouse over the comments in the sidebar, a tooltip shows you the name of the commentator and the title of the post the comment was made on. Very handy!
6. Avatars have gone Gravatar
I ran a poll recently to find out whether you preferred to use Gravatar or upload your own avatar. The response was clearly in favor of Gravatar, so we’ve dropped the uploading feature altogether. That’s a good thing because it saves you from faffing around with avatars, it saves me from fixing bad uploads, and it gives the site more flexibility in how avatars are used.
7. Nice4Rice or an umeboshi?
I used to have a website called “Nice4Rice” which I customized to allow readers to get a free backlink by “giving rice” to my reviews. It was a lot of fun and I miss that site a bit. Fortunately, I kept hold of the original Nice4Rice rice bowls and have used them in comment ratings!
If you like a comment or agree with it, give the author some rice! If it left a bad taste in your mouth, an umeboshi would be more appropriate. Of course, this is just cosmetic and three umeboshi will still bury a comment.
8. Filter comments to your friends
You’ll see in that image above a small link that reads “Show friends’ comments only”. If you click that, all comments from people not on your friends list will temporarily be hidden. You can view them individually by clicking the show/hide link, or just click the “Show all comments” link to view them all again.
9. Filter stories to your friends
Why limit it to comments? On the top menu bar, logged in users will see a new page called “Friends”. Clicking that will filter all the latest stories to show only those from your friends.
10. HTML in comments
BBCode has been an option for a while now on JapanSoc, but very few people used it. I’m not really surprised because we’re all so used to WordPress comments. With that in mind, we dropped BBCode (which has left a bit of mess) and now allow limited HTML tags in comments, just like WordPress. Smilies can still be used, and I’ve added a link to Ken’s Evoticon site which opens in a new tab so you can copy and paste so zany Japanese emoticons, too!
11. Subscribe to comments
This is one of my favorite new features. Instead of just allowing the story submitter to subscribe to replies, now anyone who comments has the choice of getting reply notifications sent to their email box.
12. The Social Bar
This is the big one! Far and away the most significant addition to JapanSoc is the social bar. When you log in, you’ll see the social bar glued to the foot of your window, showing your own user stats and links to your inbox, profile and settings.
13. Send a Quick Message
In the Social Bar is a Quick Message icon which gives you an instant messaging form so you can send out to your friends. Whenever you send a message, your friend will be notified by email (unless they turn off email notification), and if you get a message, the inbox icon will light up to indicate you have mail. How very convenient!
14. View other users in the Social Bar
The best thing about the Social Bar is that when you click on somebody’s username or avatar, anywhere on the site, their user info will be loaded into your Social Bar with a spot of Ajax so you don’t even leave the page.
Clicking the avatar or name here will take you to their main profile, but you can also use this bar to add or remove the user from your friends list, send them a message, visit their homepage, their Twitter page, look at their JapanSoc favorites, see if they are currently online, or return to your own Social Bar stats.
15. New-look Profiles
We’ve decided to drop the MySpace style profile and keep things simpler, but more focused on getting you connected with the viewer.
As you can see, your own sites and social network profiles get loads of attention, as do your friends and fans who will appear in your Social Bar with just one click! These are the icons Deas came up with, and there are others for Lang-8, LinkedIn and iKnow! too.
The Top Users box in the sidebar has been fun to watch over the last year, but what happens when everyone’s a Yokozuna? JapanSoc Sumo no longer ends at Yokozuna. When you get 15,000 points, you’ll be moved to the Oyakata box, a sumo stable of fame! Hat tip to Jordan for the suggestion.
That’s about all of the major changes, though there are many smaller ones, too! Remember, you have to be logged in to enjoy most of the new features, so if you haven’t registered yet, please do! Visit JapanSoc.com.
If you like, you can find me on Twitter at @nick_ramsay. I'd love to hear from you!