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.
 

Chris D

XenForo developer
Staff 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.
There is an element of trying to only fetch the relevant content records for use once, but there is a part that is user specific where content is filtered down to the content that only the receiving user can see. You can probably fetch some additional user specific stuff there if needed.

Are the emails generated on a per-user basis and therefore follow their access permissions to cover only areas they have access to?
Yes a user will only see content they have access to view.

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.
Mentioned a couple of times now but as long as your users have already opted-in to "Receive news and update emails" they will be in a "paused" state. If they visit the site then they will be unpaused.

You can email users via Communication > Email users who are opted into the email so you could send out an email blast to let them know about it:

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There is notice and promotion criteria for this too.
 

Hoffi

Well-known member
Mentioned a couple of times now but as long as your users have already opted-in to "Receive news and update emails" they will be in a "paused" state. If they visit the site then they will be unpaused.

You can email users via Communication > Email users who are opted into the email so you could send out an email blast to let them know about it:

View attachment 227456

Thats not what I meant. In germany all are very afraid of getting mails, so I like to have it off after upgrade.

Then create something with information about this feature with the possibility to turn this on. If this can't be done easy I will point to the settings, but it would be way easier to do this direct in a page or something like that.

I am afraid, it can't be turned on similar settinings germany, maybe in whole EU.

There is notice and promotion criteria for this too.

That was addd later, and will help to solve this. Thank you!
 

Kier

XenForo developer
Staff member
a user will only see content they have access to view.
... at the point in time at which the email is sent, obviously. If content is moved to a privileged area after the email is sent, it will not be accessible if links in the email are followed, as one would expect.
 

Mike

XenForo developer
Staff member
Then create something with information about this feature with the possibility to turn this on. If this can't be done easy I will point to the settings, but it would be way easier to do this direct in a page or something like that.
It mostly just sounds like you want a notice -- they're almost designed for pointing users to a feature like this. They can then dismiss it when they've either done it or if they choose not to.
 

Chris D

XenForo developer
Staff member
Thats not what I meant. In germany all are very afraid of getting mails, so I like to have it off after upgrade.

Then create something with information about this feature with the possibility to turn this on. If this can't be done easy I will point to the settings, but it would be way easier to do this direct in a page or something like that.

I am afraid, it can't be turned on similar settinings germany, maybe in whole EU.



That was addd later, and will help to solve this. Thank you!
Batch update users will help you if you'd prefer to have it disabled for all users.

You can turn it off for all users, even where it is enabled currently, using Batch update users:

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Though it's worth noting that if your users have already signed up to "Receive news and update emails" (unless you've changed the wording) then it's fairly clear that this kind of system could fall under that remit so the defaults seem reasonable to me.
 

sbj

Well-known member
One question, can we see what content will be sent out or preview it before we press the "send" button?
 

Chris D

XenForo developer
Staff member
One question, can we see what content will be sent out or preview it before we press the "send" button?
There is a "Send test email" button but there's no physical "Send" button to trigger this generally. The email is sent automatically to users who have opted in and the contents is automatically generated based on the settings and sections you have configured.
 

Chris D

XenForo developer
Staff member
We need the ability to re-email users awaiting confirmation as they may have registered and left.
Well, you can do that now via "Email users" if you wish to. Unlikely to make a difference though. Most people in that state either clearly aren't interested, gave you a fake email address or an otherwise incorrect email address.
 

Mr Lucky

Well-known member
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,

Does this then mean that there is an automatic way to designate the kind of content they are interested in. How does that work?
 

Chris D

XenForo developer
Staff member
It's just a reference to "Watch forum" and "Watch thread" where for engagement at the moment the user has to choose specifically what they want to watch.
 

Kirby

Well-known member
I am afraid, it can't be turned on similar settinings germany, maybe in whole EU.
Hmm, I am not a lawyer but I wouldn't loose too much sleep if this new features would be automatically enabled for existing users that opted in for Receive news and update emails.
Theoretically, you could have hand-craft marketing emails like those that are now automatically generated and sent them to users that opted in to receive news and update emails - this is exactly what this setting was made for.
 

Chris D

XenForo developer
Staff member
Hmm, I am not a lawyer but I wouldn't loose too much sleep if this new features would be automatically enabled for existing users that opted in for Receive news and update emails.
Theoretically, you could have hand-craft marketing emails like those that are now automatically generated and sent them to users that opted in to receive news and update emails - this is exactly what this setting was made for.
Exactly our thoughts. And even despite that you can opt out of those emails specifically if the user wishes anyway.
 

sbj

Well-known member
There is a "Send test email" button but there's no physical "Send" button to trigger this generally. The email is sent automatically to users who have opted in and the contents is automatically generated based on the settings and sections you have configured.
I see.

The sent content will be different every time as times passes. So, I can't check every week or so what exactly is sent to my users?

Maybe my settings are bad and it sends out garbage? Maybe I am not sure which settings and want to make some test runs? How do I do that without spamming them?
 
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Alpha1

Well-known member
This is a really nice feature andf I can't wait to see how addon developers will extend it..
There is an element of trying to only fetch the relevant content records for use once, but there is a part that is user specific where content is filtered down to the content that only the receiving user can see. You can probably fetch some additional user specific stuff there if needed.
For large forums there is the problem of sending out a digest with content that the user has no interest in or even dislikes. This results in unsubscribes and spam marking.

What @Kirby mentions is very valuable IME, because a personalized digest will contain content that is 100% relevant to what the member is interested in.

For example by sending the member content from forums that the member has liked, watched or posted content in.
 

Chris D

XenForo developer
Staff member
I see.

The sent content will be different every time as times passes. So, I can't check every week or so what exactly is send to my users?

Maybe my settings are bad and it sends out garbage? Maybe I am not sure with settings and want to make some test runs? How do I do that without spamming them?
How would you send out garbage? The email contains content defined by the sections that you configure. As in our example, this could be a list of threads from our Announcements forum, a list of threads from our HYS forum and a list of threads from all other forums. There are settings to control what the order is and some other filters.

Once you've changed the configuration of the email you can click on the "Send test email" button (on the same page where the activity summary is configured) and that will send a test email to your own email account, and that will give you an idea of roughly how the email will look.
 

Chris D

XenForo developer
Staff member
This is a really nice feature andf I can't wait to see how addon developers will extend it..

For large forums there is the problem of sending out a digest with content that the user has no interest in or even dislikes. This results in unsubscribes and spam marking.

What @Kirby mentions is very valuable IME, because a personalized digest will contain content that is 100% relevant to what the member is interested in.

For example by sending the member content from forums that the member has liked, watched or posted content in.
It would require custom development and the system as it stands is very much geared up for that so it should be possible. So you might want to have something whereby the user can express topics/forums they are interested in, or pull threads only from forums they watch etc.

Or there could be a more general concept of "Trending" content down the line so you can only include content that, algorithmically, the user is likely to be interested in.

But that's not really exactly what we're targeting with this, at least not by default. The user isn't required to explicitly do anything or make any decisions and I personally think that covers the majority of the use cases. It's more to entice people back who may have registered on a whim or for a specific reason and might think they're not really interested in what your forum has to offer until ... boom ... a couple of weeks later an email lands containing some new threads that actually they decide they are interested in and may start engaging with your forum more frequently.
 
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