Friends invite friends - Viral Beta invitation-only Forum -- how to do it with Vanilla
I have been asked to start a new closed by-invitation-only forum and hoping Vanilla would be a good solution. The invitations are planned to come in two waves - the first one by the forum administrators to a select group of people we call the Initiators. In the second wave the Initiators are expected to promote the forum to their friends by distributing invite codes (we figured we will create a special role called Initiator).
In some ways the entire process we envision is somewhat similar to a viral Beta Test registration -- whomever has an unused registration code can join, without having to know their names in advance. A nice touch would be to be able to track upon registration who gave the invite code (the Initiator's ID), but this is a nice-to-have feature, not a requirement.
The forum concept requires that the entire process needs to be somewhat personal. The email invites has to come directly from the Initiators personal email addresses and the email itself should be a modified personalized version which we will give the Initiators along with the invite codes.
Let me give an example of how we envisioned the process: Let's say Joe is an Initiator. We hope to be able to send Joe a list of invitation codes that he can spread among his friends (one per friend). We don't know in advance who he will send it to, so we don't know the names or email addresses that will be associated with the invite codes. All we can do is give Joe the invite codes and an email template which he will personalize for his friends to give it a personal touch.
We find the standard profile Invite process inadequate -- it lacks the ability to email from the Initiators email address, and it doesn't offer an email template or an message input box flexible enough to accommodate a personal email approach.
We also looked at the Bulk Invite plugin. It has the advantages of not having to repeat the invites multiple times, it has an input message box where a relatively personalized message can be created, and it allows for invite codes. Alas, it won't work for us because the addressee is the Initiator who is already a forum member and you can't invite forum members...
Any ideas, advise would be appreciated.