Happy New Year! We are ready to launch into 2019 with a bang and wanted to give you all a preview of what's coming this month...
1. Gatherings (Video Conferencing)
One of our biggest upgrades will be implementing Gatherings (video conferencing) into all groups by leveraging the API from a fellow open-source project called Jitsi. Jitsi is a collection of free and open-source multi-platform voice, video conferencing and instant messaging applications for the web platform, Windows, Linux, Mac OS X and Android. All of these platforms, both web and mobile, will also be supported by Minds.
This is an essential communication and collaboration tool and will also serve as the foundation for future live streaming projects. You can use the feed to live stream to YouTube, but we are currently boycotting Google so we plan on eventually building our own so we don't need to rely on them. The Gathering panel appears just above the group feed when opened, and you can still navigate the entire group while using the camera.
The video conferencing capabilities will include: Mobile Compatibility, Screen Share, Dial-In, Raise Hand, Mute, Kick Out, Toggle View, Speaker Stats and more.
2. Live Conversations and Comment Threads
We are upgrading the Conversations feature to be in-line with Gatherings for real-time commenting during video conferences. Additionally, the Conversations panel will now be ever-present (with the ability to hide) on the right panel when you are inside a group. This facilitates much more dynamic communication and should result in much higher utilization of the tool. Because Conversations leverage the same codebase as our Comments, there will be a number of upgrades that will apply to both features. These include sub-comment threads, live updating (votes, replies), friendly timestamps and a new design. Also, comment and tag notifications will bring you to the exact spot in the thread for easier and more sensible navigation.
3. Pinned Group Posts
This is a long-awaited and highly requested upgrade and is pretty self-explanatory, but now group owners and moderators will be able to pin up to three posts to the top of the group feed :)
4. Group Moderation Tools
We have refined the moderation tools to ensure that Groups can protect themselves from spam and trolling. Most importantly, we have improved the Member Search so that individual group members can be easily found and either invited to the group, banned from the group, or promoted to moderator/owner.
Here are the specific access controls for each level:
Member - Post content to feed or conversations, join gatherings, vote, comment, remind
Moderator - All member controls, plus ability to accept/reject posts to feed (if group is moderated), accept/reject requests to join (if group is closed), remove any unwanted users or content
Admin - All moderator controls, plus ability to edit group description, banner and avatar, appoint moderators and admins
Owner - All Admin controls plus ability to delete group
5. Group Notifications and Navigation
As you may have noticed, we recently had to remove our existing Group Notifications due to the extremely high volume of stale data that was being created on a daily basis. This was causing all user notifications to frequently lag or stall for hours so changes needed to be made. The new Group Notification system we have been working on is much more efficient by using markers to indicate recent activity. We are implementing a new Group navigation bar on the right-hand side for you to easily access your most frequented groups that have recent activity, which will be indicated with a blue dot. This navigation bar will be accessible from everywhere on the site which should encourage more group interaction due to easier accessibility.
6. New Group Layout
Lastly, the overall layout of Groups will be slightly modified for easier navigation. We have moved the location of the Video and Image galleries so that they are now toggles next to the Group Feed, as opposed to widgets that were taking up a lot of space. The Group avatar and description will also be moved so that they are in the center of the Group page, on top of the feed and galleries. As mentioned before, the Conversations feed has been moved to a side panel that can be toggled on or off for easier accessibility. All of these changes can also potentially be applied to channels in the future.
The above upgrades are scheduled to be released this month. Please note that this is the first iteration of many major upgrades, so there may be some areas with room for improvement. Many of these changes were technical challenges due to our existing infrastructure, but all of the new upgrades will be far more efficient and scalable. We are always open to constructive criticism, so please share any feedback or potential ways to make the system work even better by posting in the support group, or commenting on this post. Provide as much detail as possible so we can fully understand the feedback.
In direct response to community feedback, we are also currently putting a lot of focus on our hashtags, top feeds, user support and feed navigation. We hope to improve all of these features in Q1 and will provide more updates as they come.
Our plan is to release many more blogs such as this in an effort to provide information about upcoming changes prior to release (as has been frequently requested). Additionally, we are working on improving transparency into our development process so that we can make sure that we are staying aligned with the priorities of our users and better harness the energy of the open source community. More details about this coming soon!
As always, thank you for being a pioneer of the free and open Internet!
The Minds Team