The New Features of BITC Connect

I thought I'd run through some of the new (and existing) features of BITC Connect.

Note: for convenience I tend to talk about groups in the system, when I mean Business Connectors, Projects, and Organisations.

  • Locations & Google Maps. All groups (Business Connectors, Projects, and Organisations) and Events now have new Location properties. The Location fields allow you to set a specific or general location for these items, for example, you could enter a specific postcode, or just the name of the nearest town. Location information is useful in helping people search and find local resources. We've also added a mini-Google Map to the group proflle pages that will display resouces within the vacinity of the group, you just need to set the group's location to activate. 

    When editing a group or an event, look for the > Location section, click on this to expand, then enter an appropriate address. Remember, it doesn't need to be house specific, just enter the town or postcode area (first part of a postcode) to set a general location. 

    Much of the content on the system includes Location information, not just groups and events. You can set details on Discussions, Pages, and indeed your own profile so that people can use location when searching for information. 

  • Events. We've introduced a basic event planner that allows you to mark a future date range with a description and location. Other users can comment in a similar way to replying to Discussion posts. The events appear on the group's Activity Wall when created and the day before the start date as a reminder. 
  • Badges. We've introduced an automatic way for users to be awarded badges based on group membership. Each group can now be assigned one or two badges. The group's members, either directly or indirectly (more of that later) automatically inherit the badge and it is shown on their profile. We think this will be useful to show affilliations, for example:

    A national seconding business creates an Organisation group on the system and adds a badge using the company logo. Regional divisions also create new Organisation groups and using the group membership feature join the national group. Regional employees of the organisation join the regional division groups. Because the regional groups are members of the national group, these users automatically become members of the national group. In addition, the users are automatically assigned the national group's badge. Other users can see this badge when they view the user's profile and therefore can immediately see their affilliation to the national organisation. 

  • Group Memberships. There are now three ways to link groups with other groups: Join to become a member (denotes you are part of the same organisation), Work Together to allow two organisations to share Discussions and Pages, and Follow to be informed of a group's activity. The Join and Work Together actions must always be authorised by the receiving group's managers; Follow does not require any moderation. 

    Join - should only be used when a group is a member of the same organisation. It will automatically allow all of its members to become members of the host group, and its group members, and their group members, and so on, so should be used with care. As a general rule of thumb, Projects, which would typically be used to connect more than one organisation together in some endeavour, should not be made members of Business Connectors or Organisations. 

    Work Together - should be used to allow Organisations and Business Connectors to collaborate. It allows the groups to gain access to each other's Discussions and Pages but is limited to each groups immediate members, i.e. group memberships are not included. This provides some control over which members are included. 

    Follow - this is simply to allow one group to subscribe to Activity Wall messages from another group. 

  • Social Media Sharing. At the foot of every page there are now a number of buttons to share the page on social media websites, such as Twitter, Facebook, Linked In and Google+. You can use these to share something interesting with a wider audience, but make sure that the page is publically accessible otherwise external users will simply receive an access denied error message. 
  • Moderation. In preparation for a more open system with users from all walks of life, not just Business in the Community and the Business Connector programme, we have introduced a Moderation feature. Simply put, items of content posted to the website can be flagged for review by managers. If you find some information that you feel is not appropriate then click the 'report as inappropriate' link. For Activity Wall posts you can click the exclamation mark button. Don't worry, if this is done by mistake it is easy to undo by following onscreen unstructions. Content marked as such will be notified to group administrators and site support for review. They may decide that the content is OK lifting the flag, they may edit the content, or in drastic situations it may also be removed. 
  • Youtube Videos. You can now share Youtube videos in Discussions and Pages. In Youtube click the Share button for a video and copy the Short URL. When this is pasted into a Discussion or Page it will automatically be displayed as an embedded Youtube video when viewed.
  • Mark as Private. You can now mark Discussions and Pages as private. Items that are marked in this way are only accessible to group or site administrators. We find the feature is useful for allowing users have more control over how information is shared, for example allowing the posting of private diaries, blogs or contact information. However, it is also useful in supporting workflows where you would like to spend time working on a post across multiple sessions; you can now save as private, and come back to the work to complete at another time, before removing the private flag to publish. Indeed, this post used this feature, allowing me to work on its content across a number of days and on different computers. 
  • Lock Discussion. The Lock feature allows you to freeze a Discussion topic and prevent any further comments. It provides adminstrators with more control over discussions, or blogs, allowing them to ring-fence a post. 
  • Mentions. When you post new content either as an Activity Wall post, Discussion topic, or Page you can refer to users and groups using a special shorthand notation. The approach lets the system know that you are referring to a specific person or group, this means it can do two things: 1) the mention links directly to the subject allowing people to click through to view their page, and 2) the subject gets a note on their Activity Wall informing them of the mention, and allowing them to click through to the source. 

    To use mentions look for the Handle reference on users and group profile pages. 

    Unfortunately we've noticed a problem with the Mention feature in that it doesn't appear to like user names that include a period (i.e. full stop). As many of you have usernames that include a period that this somewhat reduces the availability of this feature. However, it will be still possible to refer to groups, which includes Business Connectors. We have lodged this issue with the developers and expect to see it resolved in a future release. In the meantime the workaround is to use square brackets around the person's name, e.g. @[ed.seymour] 


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