Hard to believe, but it's only been four months since my inaugural post here on the Magic Bookshelf. I've covered blogs, wikis, digital scrapbooks, tags, product ratings, and lots of other topics, and some great ideas have come back from you. The idea of this blog was to help our Community members learn how to take full advantage of our new site, and to share ideas on where we are heading with it, so it's very gratifying that, in those four short months, we've had over 17,000 separate people contribute posts and comments to the community.
For Those Who Like to Play...
We've been busily making lots of improvements to the Community section of the site in the past couple weeks, so I thought it would be a good time to go over some of the changes and some of the things we have in store. I'm actually going to have to go back and edit a few of my posts here on this blog to reflect a few of the changes, but I figured I would let you know now so that, if you're the type who likes to learn new things by playing around, you can get started right away.
First things first -- the new features. Very early last Monday morning, we implemented a new and very much improved version of the software that runs the Community section of our site. You may have noticed a few of the cosmetic changes from this update - the name of the 'Photo' section changed to 'Media', a section called 'Groups' was added, and the main 'Blogs' page looks a little different - but the important changes are ones you may not have noticed.
For example, it's now much easier anywhere in the Community to upload photos. The last system was a little clunky, but now you have the ability from almost anywhere to upload photos into posts directly from your computer. If you haven't visited the new Photo Galleries yet (now called 'Media'), you should definitely take a look. Not only are photos much easier to upload there, but there are many more features, including the ability to sort photos by criteria such as 'Most Recent', 'Most Popular', and 'Most Downloads'. My favorite new feature in the Galleries though, is the one-click upload button, which you just click to upload your own photo to the gallery in a matter of moments.
You're going to be seeing some interesting new things popping up on our blogs. We are at the stage now where we are adding new blogs on a regular basis (in addition to existing blogs, we hope to have at least four new ones for you within the next month - and the return of Cathy!), so it was important that our update keep up with the needs of this growing group of writers. With the new software, bloggers will have much more flexibility in terms of how their blogs look and how they can be viewed. Best of all, bloggers now have the ability to include widgets. You may or may not know what a widget is (this will be a topic of one of my next few posts), but I can assure you you're going to like what they bring to your reading experience. Our Avid Embroiderer Pat is already experimenting with them and I'm sure you'll see the results of her efforts shortly.
I'm also very excited about our new 'Groups' feature. I've been on a mini-holiday this past week (Chicago - my kind of town!), so I haven't had a chance to set this up properly yet, but I thought I'd just give a quick explanation here of what we want to do with this new section. The best example I can think of is our Central Florida embroidery group. Right now, there is a thread in the forums with almost 500 posts. This is a great example of a dynamic group that has really bonded in our Community, but it is starting to get a little hard to find particular details. For instance, if I remembered that someone in the thread had once mentioned a great sale going on at a local dealer, it would be quite difficult to find this information the way the thread is currently organized. What our new 'Groups' function will allow us to do is to create a stand-alone space for this type of group in which threads and posts can be organized the way they are in other forums. Groups can have their own blog, their own media galleries, and their own forums. So, whether it's central Florida embroiderers, West Coast Brother dealers, or Australian quilters, there will be an online home here for anyone who wants one!
In The Pipeline...
Finally, I wanted to let you know a few of the things we have in development for the site in general that you should be seeing shortly, all of which come from suggestions over the past little while from our Community through the blogs and forums. We have developed and are currently testing a 'Print This Page' feature through the site that will bring up a printable version of any page. We have also put some work into our Free Designs download engine that will now take you back to the page where you started the download, making downloading free designs a smoother experience. We have also added e-mail address recognition to our 'Forgot Your Password?' feature, so that if you don't remember your username, you can still get your password reminder using just your e-mail address. Finally, our wonderful developers have set up a great 'Found This Cheaper Somewhere Else?' feature, so that you can help us keep our prices super-competitive with what our competitors are doing. All of these features will be coming online very shortly, and I hope they'll further improve your experience of the site.
As always, I not only welcome but actively encourage your comments on how we can continue to create the Magic Bookshelf I originally described. In fact, if you have a moment, go back and read my original description, and let me know if you think we're getting close!