MS-Sportsman.com took a quantum leap today by upgrading its forum to include many new functions including video embedding, profile photos and inclusion of photos throughout threads.
“The forum is one of the most-popular parts of the Web site, and we wanted to update the system to increase the sense of community among the users,” MS-Sportsman.com’s Andy Crawford said.
Improvements are instantly noticeable to any user, with one of the most-visible changes being the addition of profile photos that appear on each post.
“Profile photos have become standard ways for online users to create an identity, and we wanted out users to have that same ability,” Crawford said. “Our hope is that users will feel more connected.”
Add or change your profile photo by logging in or register, and then clicking on “View My Profile” in the account information section in the upper left-hand corner of the page. Finally, click “Edit My Profile” and scroll to the add-photo box at the bottom of the page.
But taking the concept one step further, registered MS-Sportsman.com users have individual profile pages on which they can share biographical information.
“You can tell other users what makes you tick,” Crawford explained. “Are you a die-hard deer hunters? A crappie nut? A squirrel-shooting maniac? The profile page is where you can let people know how long you’ve hunted and fished, where you spend most of your time afield, what species you target and anything else that will help create an online persona.”
Creating your personal biographical profile is accomplished by logging in, clicking “View My Profile” and clicking “Edit My Profile” beneath your profile photo.
User profile pages can be accessed by other users simply clicking on profile photos or user aliases. And along with the biographical information, these pages provide a snapshot of activity for each user.
“We’re also working to incorporate a user directory to make it easier to locate individual users,” Crawford said.
Each profile page includes and “About Me” tab, which contains the user profile, below which is a quick snap-shot of that user’s latest posts, comments, photos and videos.
“You also can look at the most-recent 20 reports and classified ads, along with a gallery of photos posted to the MS-Sportsman.com forum by clicking on the appropriate tabs,” Crawford said.
Another major change is the ability for users to embed videos into both main posts and comments.
“Videos have become critical parts of the Internet experience,” Crawford said. “So users can now embed video from any online service such as YouTube that provides the appropriate coding.”
Also, photos can now be added to comments in a thread – making for much more dynamic conversations.
“You can track your hunting and fishing trips in a single thread, or you can now compare kills and catches with other users,” Crawford said. “You can even use the video embed feature as a tracking mechanism, shooting short vids on your cell phone and embedding them in a thread after uploading them to your favorite online video service.”
Threads also can be recommended to friends right from the site with a click of a button. Simply click the “Recommend” link, input the email address to which you want a link sent and click “Submit.” Now all your buddy has to do is click the link within the email and he’ll be taken right to the thread so he can peruse it and comment.
Html links now are clickable. As well.
“This makes it easy to point others to neat stories, videos and photos,” Crawford said. “Of course, the one caveat is that we continue to prohibit the mention or promotion of directly competing Web sites.”
There also are some administrative changes. One of these important upgrades allows threads to be locked.
“Sometimes a thread starts plowing over the same ground, and really loses any real value to the site or to other users,” Crawford said. “Other times, users bump threads that have lost steam to the top, giving other users a false impression that the topic is still hot.
“We can now lock those threads to keep forum conversations moving.”
Administrators also will now be able to post “stickies” that will remain at the top of individual forums.
“This will allow us to make policy statements, contest announcements and other important information prominently visible,” Crawford said.
Of course, this release is a public beta test, so users are asked to report any glitches they encounter by emailing the Webmaster or Crawford.
“Although we always do our best to sniff out any problems during pre-release testing, there are sometimes glitches that are only found when the full weight of MS-Sportsman.com traffic puts the new features through the ringer,” Crawford said. “Any problems will be addressed and resolved as soon as they are reported.”