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Push Notifications, Mobile App, and Development

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  • phreakphreak Vanilla*APP (White Label) & Vanilla*Skins Shop MVP
    edited November 2016

    @R_J: You are granted Hero score for the implementation of Pushbullet. Looking into it currently.

    • VanillaAPP | iOS & Android App for Vanilla - White label app for Vanilla Forums OS
    • VanillaSkins | Plugins, Themes, Graphics and Custom Development for Vanilla
  • R_JR_J Ex-Fanboy Munich Moderator

    Oh yes, I remember! Please give feedback if it is working. If I remember correct it should be complete, but it is absolutely untested...


  • phreakphreak Vanilla*APP (White Label) & Vanilla*Skins Shop MVP
    edited November 2016

    For those interested in a custom Vanilla App. Please write me.

    We've been working several months now on a native and robust App with a heavily extended custom API, Facebook Messenger like Chat for Vanilla Conversations, Image Upload, sliding galleries in Posts, Yaga integration, support for Vanillicons, Signatures, Mentions, Emoji-Support, etc.

    Instead of a pagination we use a horizontal slider (green) under the navigation bar (blue) where users are able to jump to any post number in 1 second.



    • VanillaAPP | iOS & Android App for Vanilla - White label app for Vanilla Forums OS
    • VanillaSkins | Plugins, Themes, Graphics and Custom Development for Vanilla
    SwennetAaronWebsteyK17Linc
  • Facebook is indeed wiping out forums everywhere. Its their notification mechanism. Its why they beat MySpace. People need to wake up to this.

    I run one large Vanilla Forum but having a push notification that really works is all it would take to get me to move... and guess what? I may have found it.

    There is a bunch of development in the wordpress space (along with bbPress) being done around this now.

    Here is a solution that looks like it works right now for bbPress.
    All I have to do is migrate Vanilla to bbPress running on a Wordpress site and I can have nice push notifications to peoples browsers, and use another plugin for mobile.

    https://wordpress.org/plugins/roost-for-bloggers/installation/

    I hope Vanilla wakes up in time before the 800lb facebook gorilla kills it. Lots of my forums are slowly dying because of facebook groups growth.

    Facebook groups are not nearly as functional, but it doesnt matter because the facebook notification mechanism keeps everyone engaged all the time, always sucking them back in. We need that more than ANYTHING for our forums.

    Ill be moving to bbPress with push notification soon unless I find a vanilla solution that works right now.

    bbPress also gives me free integration into wordspace which turns my forum into its own social network, with user accounts, user galleries, etc + the push notifications = huge win

    Linc
  • R_JR_J Ex-Fanboy Munich Moderator

    @R_J said:
    I've created a plugin that adds push notifications through Pushbullet to Vanilla. I haven't finished it, but it should be a good start for anyone trying to add another push option to Vanilla.

    This plugin requires Vanilla 2.3! It is based on an event that isn't available in 2.2

    @R_J said:
    Oh yes, I remember! Please give feedback if it is working. If I remember correct it should be complete, but it is absolutely untested...

    I don't know Roost, but I guess it is similar to PushBullet, although I guess PushBullet has many more features
    You can test my plugin and give feedback


    hgtonight
  • @jackjitsu said:
    Facebook is indeed wiping out forums everywhere. Its their notification mechanism. Its why they beat MySpace. People need to wake up to this.
    ...
    I hope Vanilla wakes up in time before the 800lb facebook gorilla kills it. Lots of my forums are slowly dying because of facebook groups growth.

    Facebook groups are not nearly as functional, but it doesnt matter because the facebook notification mechanism keeps everyone engaged all the time, always sucking them back in. We need that more than ANYTHING for our forums.

    THIS IS WHAT I'VE BEEN SAYING. Thank you.

    Also, thanks for drawing some attention to WordPress/BBPress. I have the ability to "reboot" our forum right now, so I'm waiting to pull the trigger until I know I have something that can complete with FB.

  • AaronWebsteyAaronWebstey Headband Afficionado Cole Harbour, NS ✭✭✭

    I'm in the middle of a live Vanilla vs FB Groups experiment right now. In November, our club (it's a triathlon club if you're curious, but that's probably irrelevant) merged with another club of similar size (each about 100 members). Our club used VF for all team communication last year, and theirs used a FB group. At signup time, everybody was asked to join both communities, as the FB group would be used for anything requiring immediate notifications ("I'm in city X at coffee shop y, any other members around?") and the VF private team area would be used for longer-form conversations to help our large group of remotely-located people get to know each other.

    After an initial flurry of activity on the forum (our traffic jumped by about 30% for about 4 to 6 weeks), it's begun to all come crashing down. We're now down 30% from our initial traffic numbers. Yeah, we're at about 60% of our pre-facebook-merge numbers, and we have twice as many people in the club.

    There are other factors at play - it's a public forum, so traffic is affected by more than just what the club does - but it's pretty clear that people are gravitating toward FB. The conversations are harder to follow, and I personally find it to be not nearly as compelling a medium - but as everyone else is saying, I think push notifications are the real killer.

    Now, you could make the case that push notifications will turn VF into just another dopamine-fueled, "OMG WHEN WILL SOMEONE LIKE MY POST", pissing-contest that is all other current social media - and that for the good of our communities, we should avoid that like the plague. However, I did briefly implement/enable a chrome plugin to show VF notifications and/or unread counts on a browser icon, and it was hugely popular and didn't seem to have any ill effect (I had to shut it down, as I didn't put any thought into scaling/efficiency and it was hard on our tiny shared server at the time).

    I think there's an excellent case to be made for app-like features such as push notifications, without tainting the forum-flavoured experience. I was attracted to VF because it had the most modern and usable user experience (and still does, until Discourse gets old enough to be trusted with the key to the liquor cabinet). Our main competitor (orders of magnitude larger than us) is shrinking as well.

    Like a flashy new neon sign outside your favourite old dive bar, push notifications could help attract a new crowd of people inside, where they will be pleasantly surprised to find that the internet forum is still a relevant and important social medium.

    hgtonightLincphreakjackjitsu
  • hgtonighthgtonight ∞ · New Moderator

    @AaronWebstey said:
    However, I did briefly implement/enable a chrome plugin to show VF notifications and/or unread counts on a browser icon, and it was hugely popular and didn't seem to have any ill effect (I had to shut it down, as I didn't put any thought into scaling/efficiency and it was hard on our tiny shared server at the time).

    As a slightly tangential aside, my vf-notifier addon for Firefox can't be used anymore because all addons have to be signed now and I never got around to setting that process up. What kind of increased server load were you looking at?

    Search first

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  • LincLinc Former Staff Detroit Admin
    edited January 2017

    As someone who has blocked all Facebook push notifications but still finds the service compelling, I still put more weight on "good notifications, grouped clearly" than I do the mechanism of pushing them.

    AaronWebstey
  • AaronWebsteyAaronWebstey Headband Afficionado Cole Harbour, NS ✭✭✭

    @hgtonight I don't remember the exact numbers, but I think I had maybe a dozen people using the plugin and it pushed us from the 'OK' area to 'too many CPUs' or whatever weird notation the crummy shared host used. Also, it was the 'unread count' notifier that was the problem, and I suspect one like yours that just shows the VF notifications would do much better. My guess is that on a decent server, with a decent polling interval (mine was every minute, which is probably unnecessarily low), it wouldn't be an issue. But that's just a gut feeling. Hm, might be interesting to revisit that plugin esp now that the API is in the stable version.

    @Linc I also don't get push notifications from FB (or Twitter, or anything other than my sparsely-used email in fact), but I'd bet dollars to donuts that we're in a very small minority of social media users. I do agree with the 'grouped clearly' bit though - I've often wished that VF notifications could be grouped better. I.e., instead of seeing 3 consecutive notifications that say 'X mentioned you in blah', 'Y mentioned you in blah', 'Z mentioned you in blah', you'd see 'X and 2 others mentioned you in blah' (again with the ripping off of FB, but they do a lot of stuff right).

    Anyway, I'm not blaming the software or FB for the demise of our forum. I've been a bit slack with promotion and participation. Don't mean to sound ungrateful, and I certainly have contributed far less than my fair share of time/code.

  • R_JR_J Ex-Fanboy Munich Moderator

    I am far from assuming that push notifications or any other technical Facebook feature is the reason why Facebook dries out communities. Without a doubt it draws user attention and therefore engagement if there is an app on your mobile which makes your mobile blink and make noises periodically.

    The laziness of you and me is what makes Facebook more successful than dedicated communities. If I can contact a friend via mail, messenger, Facebook or a forum, I would use what I am using right now and what I am using to also contact my relatives and other friends. Even if a good amount of them is in your community, some will not. ANd what if I like to share something that I have seen? I share it with people on your community and people that are not in your community. Instead of creating a discussion in a forum and posting it to my Facebook wall, I will do what reaches more people I know. Laziness...

    It's hard to find use cases where a community needs to have a good forum. If you have something like that, most probably a forum full of specialists, Facebook has no chance. There are a lot of coding communities out there, but I never have seen even a link to a meaningful PHP article on Facebook, not even a link to a PHP group (although I bet there is one where they share xkcd comics and such things all day long). And I doubt that sites like StackOverflow really need push notifications to not loose their visitors to Facebook.

    World is evolving and even if I am sad to see forums not being able to compete in all ways with Facebook, we must honestly say that there are forums out there which do not need to exist - they could easily be replaced with any other social network.
    I once had a forum with a 100+ members, but when Facebook became popular it died at once - there was no additional benefit. "Discussions" seldom had more than 1 page and comments seldom more than a handful of sentences. There was no need for more words. If I had offered an app with push notifications, it wouldn't have changed anything at all.

    I would say that a forum can only compete against Facebook, WhatsApp groups, etc. if your users have a need to discuss. And because the character of a discussion, they are polling for comments, that's why I don't think it is a deal breaker if there are no push notifications.

    But anyway, push notifications are coming to your browser: https://www.w3.org/TR/push-api/


    AaronWebsteyGalynaCh
  • It took me 5 seconds to find PHP programming groups on facebook with 7K-10K members on them.

    Same with some other technical areas im involved in, and im a member in several.

    WHY? Push notifications. When cool stuff happens on those groups it ends up in my CORE facebook feed. Everything is consolidated.

    Facebook groups SUCK compared to a full blown forum like Vanilla, but it doesnt matter because facebook has a notification mechanism I REALLY LIKE, and lower entry barriers to sharing.

    I can snap a picture using my phone and insta-post it, or send it in a message, or share it with a particular group. Low low low entry sharing barriers + notifications > forum functionality.

    Forum software providers better wake up or their days are numbered.

    They need push notifications and smartphone apps that work really really well which you can white label for forum owners.

    OR... a generic smart phone app that kicks butt, and allows you to search for forums of interest, make it trivial to join them and subscribe to their feeds. A social network around all forum owners.

    This model actually works. Check out NextDoor app and think about why its successful. Its a facebook for your neighborhood. It works because it keeps me engaged with smartphone/email notifications. Its a social network. Without the smartphone app it would never get my attention. Another website I have to check on?!?!??! Yeah... no... im busy. But it constantly gives me summaries of WHATS NEW on my smart phone. Works!

    AaronWebstey
  • I'm wondering: I have to agree it seems Facebook is the main competitor to forums in terms of attention.
    I hate using Facebook for discussion, but the engagement is just superb.

    Do you guys think it would solve things to allow users to transfer all their vanilla notifications to Facebook?

    This is the code right now I use to test out sending notifications (cacert.pem from here: https://curl.haxx.se/docs/caextract.html).

    (You have to add Facebook Canvas as a platform to the Facebook app you use for SSO before you can send notifications. As "Secure Canvas URL" you can choose "https://[your forum]/plugin/redirect/", which can be loaded from Facebook's iframe and automatically breaks out of it.)

    Is this a good idea? Any problems you guys can foresee?
    Obviously it's going to be an opt-in feature, seeing as people might get annoyed by notification spam if they didn't ask for it.

    @R_J: Thanks for the pushbullet plugin! Going to try it out!


  • phreakphreak Vanilla*APP (White Label) & Vanilla*Skins Shop MVP
    edited January 2017

    I think we all face some unavoidable developments regarding user generated communities in the last years.

    Registrations and early user retention is declining, while actually social communities became more and more popular. Like mentioned above by @RJ I think: It's the lazyness AND the possibility to reach out everywhere. Social networks make you feel connected to the world, you can go everywhere from there AND the ruleset is everywhere the same. Almost every functionality and group works very similar, so is posting, liking, whatever. Forums which develop high quality user generated content are usually more complex. I run forums with pregnant mums writing 1000 words in a post sometimes. Give me that on Facebook. That is a quality and I advertise it.

    Forum are walled gardens (nowadays). Ok so you have now this forums, their internal rules are different, most of them look shitty on desktop and even worse on smartphones too. How should a nowadays 16 year old, who is mostly using apps for content consumption (as he has the time to do so), join a forum that shows topics from 2009 in the last category at the bottom in a bad mobile design? What for us is a historical library on our city trip to Rome, for them is "an internet forum". 7-20 years back most of us here had no other choice than to connect over topics of interest in forums. Generation Gap hello?!

    80%+ of my target group is mobile which means, we have to be ready for that. With all love, but the physical keyboard will be put to grave in 5 years OR the next Apple MacBook Pro will do it. ;) No web based forum i know is able to transfer the modern paradigms of messaging, sending stickers and so on to the mobile use. If you are not running a community with scientists than this is a disadvantage in comparison to popular social networks. "Mobile First" and many other paradigms are not taken seriously by many community makers and that's a very weak spot of web based forums.

    The internets evolution made things more complicated. Radios became TVs, and Vinyl became CDs and back then it was simple PHP and webinstallers for CMSes and now i'm barely able to install Ruby on Rails or Symphony properly. ;) It's not gonna get easier if you are the person to set things up. And that is also the problem we are facing. Facebook has probably around 2.000 developers. I rent for my network of family sites and apps around 12-15 software tools (newsletters, transactional mailing, analysis, etc.), I need to support me to stay alive in the game.

    Privacy About 20-30% of people in my communities just don't want to talk about their topic under their clear name. They don't want their Facebook friends, family or total strangers to follow their questions and answers. They rather look for anonymity and also people of same interest they could probably meet. That's a huge opportunity I start to integrate into my user acquisition more and more. People are fed up with being a product of Mark. That could be a new narrative for community makers everywhere. We don't know yet how to play it, but we have to learn.

    To sum it up: It's only logical that user acquisition and retentions can only happen in an understandable user interface on the favorite device of a person. A good app can do that nowadays and sorry for biting, but has to steal visual concepts of Facebook and so. It's the only way to reach a very large and specific group of people and make use of the frequency of people searching for free apps in the app stores.

    This and other things lead me to the development of native apps for Vanilla aside the continuous development of the web forum. In the coming days i can give you more information on the thing I made called Vanilla APP. In about one or two weeks I should be able to provide a demo to those interested in white labeling it for his or her own community.

    And there is one last thing I would like to mention and that I see in many communities which are on decline. Often I see no proper community management, no ideas, no contests, no fun topics. I speak with brands and make product tests, get the companies to send me 50 pieces of something which i spread to the community and create a discussion about it, I make lotteries, make the users meet in real life on meetings, create a 5$ dollar cup with the community logo that every user receives once he or she reaches 5000 posts, whatever... many community makers should do something to make their community stand out from the low level of Facebook, stealing data, pushing massive advertising and so on.

    • VanillaAPP | iOS & Android App for Vanilla - White label app for Vanilla Forums OS
    • VanillaSkins | Plugins, Themes, Graphics and Custom Development for Vanilla
    AaronWebsteyR_Jsq-do
  • @AaronWebstey said:
    I.e., instead of seeing 3 consecutive notifications that say 'X mentioned you in blah', 'Y mentioned you in blah', 'Z mentioned you in blah', you'd see 'X and 2 others mentioned you in blah' (again with the ripping off of FB, but they do a lot of stuff right).

    Let's not forget, it wasn't always that way. FB has continued to evolve. We might as well learn from their mistakes :)

    AaronWebsteyGalynaCh
  • phreakphreak Vanilla*APP (White Label) & Vanilla*Skins Shop MVP

    I haven't updated this thread regarding my last post where I stated that we have an app for Vanilla in the making.

    The app is now out several months and running on 7 communities without any hickups. I experience great retention rates and one of the greatest things was that a community of around 500 users of another (custom made) forum solution app that was not supported any more by the developer just ran over into one of my Vanilla communities 5 weeks ago. Simply because on of the users was looking for another baby community app and dragged all the other users into my app for this board.

    Actually most of the users are now app users but as Vanillaforums works as the frontend, their discussions are feeding into Google search rankings and also the web version started to grow stronger in search engine rankings, driving more sign ups now from the web. I can just forward it: Get an app for your forum, control your niche even in the app store! The community apps besides Facebook and Co. are quiet poor and it's a channel for user acquisition on it's own. ;)

    If anyone is interested I can share my analytics statistics in a Skype call or similar, to explain better how I acquired a full new user base.

    Here is a link to the discussion thread about Vanilla APP:
    https://open.vanillaforums.com/discussion/33730/vanillaapp-a-native-app-for-vanillaforums

    And here the website with information about it:
    http://vanilla-app.com/

    • VanillaAPP | iOS & Android App for Vanilla - White label app for Vanilla Forums OS
    • VanillaSkins | Plugins, Themes, Graphics and Custom Development for Vanilla
    rbrahmsonLinc
  • LincLinc Former Staff Detroit Admin

    Nice work. I hope Vanilla 2.5 makes it easier to move this forward and grow it.

    phreak
  • phreakphreak Vanilla*APP (White Label) & Vanilla*Skins Shop MVP
    edited October 2017

    @Linc : Oh yes, we are eager to see the new API. During the process last year we opted to base functions which are not in the core on Kaspers API, some extensions to it and on some save database to app "bridges" through Node.js. Looking forward to the 2.5 release to simplify this.

    • VanillaAPP | iOS & Android App for Vanilla - White label app for Vanilla Forums OS
    • VanillaSkins | Plugins, Themes, Graphics and Custom Development for Vanilla
  • edited October 2017

    I will contribute with the free android app, in github, with push notifications, really is very simple since Vanilla is full responsive, and another more complex with siberiancms that is free,

    rbrahmson
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