XF 2.2 Activity summary email

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So you've got people to register on your forum and they've made their initial contribution, but once they've done that, how do you keep those members engaged and coming back to your forum? It's an age-old problem. A user registers, they may participate for a while if you're lucky, and then it's really a toss-up as to whether they will stay and become a semi-permanent fixture of your forum, or you never see them again.

Of all the challenges facing forum owners, this one requires the most creative approaches. There are various existing features that are geared towards keeping your members engaged. They can receive alerts, push notifications or emails when content is posted in threads or forums they watch, or you can manually email members periodically to keep them updated with the latest goings-on at your forum. These approaches aren't always effective as they either require explicit action from the user to designate the kind of content in which they are interested, or they require manual intervention from you to create some sort of newsletter.

There must be a better way, right? Well of course there is, or this would be a really short and slightly pointless post.

Activity summary

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The "Activity summary" is an email, periodical receipt of which your members can opt into, which will give them an overview of what they have missed since their last visit to your forum.

A look at the configuration...

Firstly, of course you may switch the feature off entirely if you wish. Though we're not quite sure why you'd want to, as it's awesome.

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We then have three values with which we can control the timing and frequency of when emails should be sent. The defaults are reasonable for most cases and are for the most part self explanatory. By default, we stop sending the activity summary email if the user has been inactive for 6 months, users fitting those criteria are probably a lost cause, but you can override the default and continue sending email to these users indefinitely by setting the value to 0 days.

Registered forum members may opt themselves in or out of receiving the email from their Privacy or Preferences pages:

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Although the "Receive news and update emails" can be toggled independently of the new "Receive activity summary email", we only display the former on registration, but if checked then we will opt the user into the activity summary emails too.

Of course the user can unsubscribe at any time.

You don't know the power of the dark side

Dramatic and irrelevant quote aside, the real power of the system comes from how you can configure the contents of the activity summary email.

In fact, the activity summary isn't just a list of threads but is instead built up using content sections that you can finely configure. Out of the box, these sections are set up to fetch the latest content, but there are several additional filters to allow you to narrow down the content returned in the way you see fit.

For example, you could have a section return the most active threads based on reply count, or the most popular threads based on reaction score. This makes for a much more targeted approach than simply grabbing the latest items, and will be particularly useful for large and busy forums where it will be important to only return the best content from a sea of noise.

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From here you can add additional sections, delete existing sections or change the order that sections appear.

Let's look at how you can change the behaviour of "Latest threads" to only show the latest threads from a specific forum.

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What we've done now is changed the activity summary so that instead of showing the 5 most recent threads from any forum, instead it will show only 2 of the most recent threads from a specific forum.
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We can see those changes reflected in the email, but you can also add additional sections, even if you have previously used that type before. So we can click "Add activity summary section" and add yet another "Latest threads" section.

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This time we'll configure it to pull from the HYS forum. And then we can even add another which can pull from the "General" forum.
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Extensibility

Initially, we will be providing an "activity summary definition" for "Latest threads" and "Latest posts", but as you would expect from XenForo, the system is built with extensibility in mind, and there is plenty of scope for third party developers to build definitions for their own add-on content, allowing forum owners to expand the reach of their activity summaries. For our part, we will be extending support for other first-party XenForo content types as soon as possible.
 

Mendalla

Well-known member
What about "legacy" users (i.e. ones who already exist at the time this rolls out)? Will they be opted in or out based on their Receive News and Updates setting or default to something? I have a lot who drop in once in a blue moon who might come more often if they saw something interesting happening.
 

Mike

XenForo developer
Staff member
Will they be opted in or out based on their Receive News and Updates setting or default to something?
The default value is based on the existing setting.

However we currently have this set such that it would only apply to users that visit after upgrading (or importing for that scenario) as otherwise there are situations where it could create a sudden deluge of emails (or start sending a bunch of emails virtually immediately after upgrading or getting setup, potentially before the admin has the opportunity to configure the system for their needs).
 

Rudy

Well-known member
This is good--I thought of a third party solution but this will work well enough that we can tweak members every so often to gain some activity.

If this is used on an existing forum on existing accounts, are members automatically opted in the emails? Another forum I used to visit just switched to XF after being sold to one of those forum management companies, and right away I was bombarded with daily activity emails for content I wasn't even interested in. It annoyed me enough that I complained in their forum and haven't visited since. (I think it annoyed me more that the forum was sold to some faceless management company who cares only about monetizing everything they can.)

I bet some of the add-on developers here will come up with some great products to further fine tune these emails! For me, a "trending" email is most helpful, and I may want to have part of an email show only a list of links to some of the threads vs. quoting part of them.
 

Kirby

Well-known member
This is a nice feature :)

Question
Is the data provided by "activity summary definitions" aggregated once per activity summary run or (optionally) individually for each recipient?
If it was possible to have sections that would contain different data per use, we could build definitions that take user interest into account, eg. prefer threads from forums the user has participated in, content from users the recipient is following, etc.
 

Chris D

XenForo developer
Staff member
If this is used on an existing forum on existing accounts, are members automatically opted in the emails? Another forum I used to visit just switched to XF after being sold to one of those forum management companies, and right away I was bombarded with daily activity emails for content I wasn't even interested in. It annoyed me enough that I complained in their forum and haven't visited since. (I think it annoyed me more that the forum was sold to some faceless management company who cares only about monetizing everything they can.)
Mike answered this above. Essentially if a user has "Receive news and update emails" enabled then they will be opted-in, but in a "paused" state.

While in that state, you do not receive emails, but if you visit the forum again you become unpaused and will receive emails again if you become inactive.
 

bill78

Member
Another great feature :)

Are the emails generated on a per-user basis and therefore follow their access permissions to cover only areas they have access to?
 

Hoffi

Well-known member
Looks really good, thats sounds good.

What I really wanted to do, after Upgrade is some kind of "Hey, here you can turn this on..." with Explanaintion and direct the Setting. Maybe like the accept T&C Pages.
 

sbj

Well-known member
Great feature.
Only downside to this is we need to get transactional SMTP services for this to work or perhaps get a higher tier to not exceed the limit we have.
 
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