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The evolution of CTA Featured Threads & Portal. What's next?

Discussion in 'Resource and Add-on Discussions' started by Brogan, Nov 20, 2014.

  1. Brogan

    Brogan XenForo Moderator Staff Member

    It is almost one year since what is now known as CTA Featured Threads & Portal was released.

    For those of you who don't know what it is or does, see the resource here: https://xenforo.com/community/resources/cta-featured-threads-portal.2599/

    It has come a long way from a simple block on the forum index back in December 2013 to what it is today: https://xenforo.com/community/resources/cta-featured-threads-portal.2599/history

    This add-on is different from other portals in the sense that it was never originally intended to be one.
    The original purpose of it was to simply feature specific threads (hence the name) on the forum index, but over time it has evolved into a fairly complex, robust, and comprehensive add-on, with portal functionality included.
    See here http://support.cliptheapex.com/ and here http://cliptheapex.com/ for live examples.
    (More here https://xenforo.com/community/threads/cta-featured-threads-portal-paid.64261/#post-678212)

    This thread is to gather ideas and suggestions from existing and potential new customers as to what features and functionality you think can be improved or added.
    Doing it as a separate thread helps to keep it all in one place, rather than scattered throughout the main resource thread.

    Various bits of code will have to be rewritten for XenForo 2 anyway, so I could take the opportunity to refine existing features or add new ones at the same time.

    I have read comments in various places about how it doesn't quite cut it as a portal; so what does it currently lack?
    What aspects of the featured threads functionality could be changed, enhanced, or improved?
    What limitations are there which make it unsuitable for you to use as a home page? Or even the original intended use?

    I do still have some things on the short list which I am undecided on but I'm not going to say what they are (just yet).
    I would rather read everyone's comments, suggestions, and ideas.

    Before you post though, please take the time to check out the current functionality which is explained in detail in the resource and updates; the bullet pointed feature summary has links to the various updates for more information on each one.
    Feel free to register on the support site and test the manual and automatic featuring.

    I am not guaranteeing that anything discussed in this thread will be implemented, changed, or added, I just want to get some feedback and see what it is people are looking for in a portal, as well as the other functionality which currently exists.
    rafass, IPF, wickedstangs and 10 others like this.
  2. Martok

    Martok Well-Known Member

    Personally I am very happy with this add-on as it is. It works very well and has given me the portal solution that I didn't expect after dumping another add-on (I bought this when it was just featured threads blocks on the forum page). No doubt there will be the odd thing here and there that I will think of but there's nothing burning at the moment. I'll probably be inspired by suggestions made by others.

    One suggestion that I would make is that, if this is to be developed further, that it becomes like some other add-ons and there is an annual renewal cost. Although this may not be popular with some people, I think it's only fair to recompense an author for continuing to develop and support a high quality add-on. I'd also expect to pay in full, or at least some upgrade cost, for a version that works with XenForo 2.0 as that would require a major re-write.
    IPF, wickedstangs, Lisa and 1 other person like this.
  3. rainmotorsports

    rainmotorsports Well-Known Member

    Brogan, without having used the product my biggest issue with any of the other portal addons is this. None of them seem to offer the block system as it existed in vB Advanced or XenPorta. Your product appears to me to be suitable for the vast majority of sites looking for news and content on the front page. Which is great but if it doesn't allow easy creation of HTML and php blocks to be arranged for static and semi static content it doesn't work for say a gaming community. Once again I haven't gotten to use yours.

    Xenporta fell short of vB Advanced for us in the vB Advanced made it easy to make quick HTML blocks with a rich editor. I write my own php blocks and have little to no interest in the ones that come with the product I am buying.

    The only other thing and this is probably of the least interest to you or your customers. But my customer prefers an old school 3 column layout. Which is rarely available and for responsive hard to get right. I am using jQuery to move the left column to the bottom on mobile. Once IE9 dies a horrible death then us designers can use CSS flexbox layouts to do the same thing.
    Frode789 and Harelin like this.
  4. Brogan

    Brogan XenForo Moderator Staff Member

    I haven't used vB Advanced so I'm not familiar with it.
    Were the blocks literally blank templates which you added your custom code to, similar to the ad_* templates in XenForo? Or something more?
  5. rainmotorsports

    rainmotorsports Well-Known Member

    I don't actually know. XenPortas premade HTML blocks had a plain editor in the block options. But then stored the results as a template. I was not that familiar with development for forums at the time.

    What happened was you went into the vB ACP and went to the blocks page. Hit the button to create a new block and it had 3 choices. HTML, PHP Callback and there was another one it might have been template. Selecting to create a new or edit an existing HTML block opened a page and you edited in a WYSIWYG editor which like redactor you can go and see the code as well. It makes it easy for the rest of the site staff to paste in say a tsviwer.com block or post up an announcement or some game tracker banners.

    The PHP callback blocks were more like xenforo and xenporta where you told it what file to call when loading the block and of course your code utilized templates in the forum software.

    I still have our vB site running if you ever want to look into it.
  6. Martok

    Martok Well-Known Member

    I'm not knocking any of your points as I'm sure they are valid for some sites. I just wanted to say that mine is a gaming community and it works for our needs. I know of a couple of other gaming sites that use it too. I think it's probably more a case of some sites have certain requirements that your suggestions would be valid. :)
  7. rainmotorsports

    rainmotorsports Well-Known Member

    Right. Our friends at the 47 Ronin Squad for example use XP in the fashion you would use CTA FT. They use the widget add-on to stick things in the sidebar. I have seen a couple of sites happy with this. Our people wanted what we had before. They are stubborn. The reason we switched to Xenforo is we needed custom development and I refused to continue on a dead platform.

    Brogan what I should say is the last thing the owners want to do is have to edit a block by going to the template. They would rather edit it from the block options. It should be stored as a template of course. Editing directly would also mean its per theme which in general is bad though that has its uses too!
  8. Brogan

    Brogan XenForo Moderator Staff Member

    I'm not sure what you mean by this.
    Templates are always style specific and edited in the ACP.

    Or are you proposing some sort of front end edit capability?
  9. TheBigK

    TheBigK Well-Known Member

    I've discussed this with you via conversation; but I'll add my suggestion again: I need a checkbox to change the layout of the featured thread to 'Article' like. This is one of the reasons we used XenPorta - it gives us the 'blog-like' feel; which is extremely important to us. Comments layout may or may not change. I can come up with a wireframe of the article layout if you decide on including this.

    Other than the article layout; I'd need -

    1. Full integration with Widget Framework (I have only tried this on my local machine).
    2. Multiple slider animation options

    The addon itself is quite awesome in its current state.
    Brent W, RobParker and 3rd AnGle like this.
  10. rainmotorsports

    rainmotorsports Well-Known Member

    In XP when u edit an HTML block and save it. It passes through the HTML validation callback in XP (its actually definable per block though) and then saved to the template. So when I install a new HTML block and edit it. Its almost like editing the master style for that template its saved on all styles. If the site owner edits one template on one theme because they are... Challenged... Then you do have the issue they added or changed something in one place not all.

    I am at work at the moment but when I get home I have no issue making a quick video. Its not front end though it could be. Its in the admin control panel. Both VBA and XP have a blocks page and a portal page. You edit delete and make blocks on one page and then u drag and drop on the portal page.
  11. Brogan

    Brogan XenForo Moderator Staff Member

    I have said it before but adding code to specifically support other third party add-ons creates a dependency.
    That can then potentially cause issues if one or the other is updated, causing something to break.

    As far as I am aware, it works fine with WF.

    That already exists - there is vertical, horizontal and fade.
    The slider is a third party library so there is very little I can do to add to that.
  12. 3rd AnGle

    3rd AnGle Well-Known Member

    My 0.02 cents

    1. Article/Blog layout option based on categories or forums.. (example: i have News forum... i would want article layout for all threads from this forum)
    2. BD Widget Framework Widgets: Users should be able to populate FT in the widgets and place anywhere they want. I believe this is what @rainmotorsports is suggesting. VBA and Xenporta follows this module/block approach so that they ca place the FT or any content anywhere they want in the page. Currently, CTA FT doesn't seem to have this. For example: if i want to use 7 FT on top, 7 Recent threads (using widgets from WF), and then another 5 FT from a different category and other widgets ...an so on...... This is what a portal means (to me)
      • XF Media gallery, Showcase and other popular addons also has widgets for BDWF... it allows us to place the particular content type in any page...
      • Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, i believe creating widgets for WF will be the fastest solution... to begin with.. of course, i'd love to see your own method of implementing widgets/modules/blocks later on.. coz you are very detailed in anything you do.
      • 2 Types of widget:
        • current layout of FT... wrapped in a widget
        • Thumbnail or Grid Layout
    Example Pics:

    3 widgets of FT...

    IPF, rafass, Frode789 and 2 others like this.
  13. RobParker

    RobParker Well-Known Member

    It was effectively your Addon + the widget framework.

    That would also be my main request, built in blocks/sidebar management. To be honest, that should be built into XF2.0 but if it isn't then having it as part of the portal would be my preference rather than having multiple addons.
  14. rainmotorsports

    rainmotorsports Well-Known Member

    To the previous points. I'm not suggesting adding support for another widget framework. This would make others happy. But I have no issues with making a widget or block twice to have it both on the portal and on another page. That's basically how it has to be done already so its not a problem.

    I guess you could say sites like TBGs use XenPorta or VBA as a framework. We don't use most of the stock features. If we don't like the built in recent threads block we can add our own. If a developer wants to distribute a front page block for a portal that ties into their own add-on they can. These are installed or exported through XML just like an add-on. The rest are static HTML blocks that of course can be dynamic if its a JavaScript paste in for reviewer or twitter or whatever.

    I think everyone who funded XP2 would have bought this instead if it had the same functionality. Personally if someone doesn't come out with something similar I am going to try and write one. But I'm waiting for XenForo 2.0 before I take on anything stupid.
  15. Digital Doctor

    Digital Doctor Well-Known Member

    https://theadminzone.com/threads/featured - this page looks quite portalish.

    A featured thread is a temporary designation of a thread. (say 6 threads)
    In a portal, things are more permanent.

    These seem like 2 different products.
  16. Brogan

    Brogan XenForo Moderator Staff Member

    The page is as permanent as the site owner wishes to make it.
  17. Digital Doctor

    Digital Doctor Well-Known Member

    if you add a new article to your portal a day, the portal will have over 700 articles in it after 2 years.
    CTA will be good with 700 articles ?

    8wayrun.com is a good portal.
    - is paginated.
    - has categories (http://8wayrun.com/articles/soulcalibur-ii/)
    - very Wordpress like.
    Walter and Enguerran A like this.
  18. Russ

    Russ Well-Known Member

    Thoughts off the top of my head...

    • I've seen custom fields be integrated into other add-ons such as the showcase/rm/gallery I think and I'm sure someone might be able to come up with some creative ways to use them in relation to featured threads(not entirely sure just thinking out loud)
    • Some included widgets would be cool, or even someone codes one which can: display one random featured thread, or a short list of all the featured threads with a limit on it
    • Categories could would be a welcomed addition
  19. Andy.N

    Andy.N Well-Known Member

    Can any type of content be featured on the portal, like a new RM entry?
    Digital Doctor likes this.
  20. tajhay

    tajhay Well-Known Member

    BD Widget support.

    I know Brogan's answer to this, but the Widget Framework is the most used and downloaded addon on this site for a reason - it is freaking amazing and totally transforms any xenforo forum. Lots of addons already provide widget renderers for the framework in their addons, for example :
    - Quick Thread Create
    - MicroQuiz
    - Top Poster of the month
    - Showcase
    - Survivor Tipping
    - Pickem
    - Sportsbook
    - FAQ manager
    - Who has visited in past X days/hours
    - Sonnb's Xen Gallery

    The thing is that widget renderers are SEPARATE from the actual addon, and call the templates from the addon for the data to be parsed.

    Think about this for a second...You could be able to assign 'categories' to Features threads, or even by nodes they are getting the data from. And then using the Widget Page be able to have multiple featured thread renders on the page to create a magazine/news site look with each renderer showing differently. i.e. some with icons, title and snippet. Others with just title and snippet, Others just titles.

    Possibilities are endless. Third Angle posted pretty much above.

    Fair enough if you dont want to do it, but atleast allow us to get our own hired devs to do the task. In the past you have rejected the very notion.

    I like FT addon, but believe it could be so much more. Currently it desperately needs the flexibility within the addon that it doesnt have.

    Hopefully the widget framework functionality becomes part of core, guess thats our only hope right now.
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2014

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