Key Features of BMG 3.0
- Pretty much everything that Soapblox does. The whole point of this redesign was to improve and increase BMG’s functionality, so we naturally didn’t want to lose what we’ve already got. To that end, we’ve ensured that critical features of Soapblox – user posts, recommended posts, promotion, nested comments, etc. – are replicated or enhanced on BMG 3.0. Adding the user post and promotion features to WordPress is, we believe, a major advance for WordPress that will be unique to BMG.
- The BMG Network. This is perhaps the most important innovation of BMG 3.0. As you know, Soapblox allows every user to bring up a collection of all content contributed by that user. Thus, all posts and comments by user xyz appear at www.bluemassgroup.com/user/xyz. On BMG 3.0, an essentially identical collection of content will be located at www.bluemassgroup.com/author/xyz.
That’s fine as far as it goes, but we wanted offer bloggers the option to have a site that looks and feels like their own blog, but that also allows their content to appear on BMG itself.
Hence, the BMG Network. Any BMG user will be able to create a personal blog at xyz.bluemassgroup.com – to do this, choose the “gimme a site” option when you are creating your new account. This site will of course contain all of xyz’s content, as described above. But BMG Network sites will go much further. A BMG Network site will be a fully-functional WordPress blog, with all of WordPress’s state-of-the-art features, not just an archive on BMG. Furthermore, xyz will be able to customize the site to a considerable degree. Logo, widgets, and some other features will be under xyz’s control, just as with any other WordPress blog – additional customization will be available to subscribers (more on that below). And xyz will still have the benefit of every post on xyz.bluemassgroup.com feeding through into the user post list on BMG itself, so that the editors can front-page the post on BMG. All BMG requires is a small ad to help defray the cost of offering this free service, and a small announcement that the site is part of the BMG Network.
We are hopeful that the BMG Network will help spur the growth of what is already an active progressive blogosphere in Massachusetts. User-generated content is the lifeblood of BMG, and we hope that the BMG Network will be a new and exciting way both to bring content written by new bloggers to BMG’s readers, and for BMG to direct traffic to other bloggers who are members of the network.
- Page 2. Right now, we have only two choices with user posts: promote them to the front page, or leave them in the “recent user posts” list on the sidebar, with perhaps a reader-supported bump to the “Recommended” list. We wanted a way to bring more attention to certain posts, but without front-paging them (which among other things pushes other front-page content down). We’ve designed “Page 2” to do that. When we move a post onto Page 2, it will be more prominent than other user posts, and a brief snippet of its content will appear on the front page. We think Page 2 will give BMG’s front page more of a newspaper-like feeling (without any of the declining circulation problems), and will also allow us to highlight more of the excellent user-generated content that makes BMG such an interesting place.
- Subscriptions. This feature is not part of the open beta test, but it will be ready to go soon. When it’s up and running, it will give you a way to support the ongoing operation and improvement of BMG via a modest financial contribution. In exchange, you will get an ad-free experience on BMG, as well as additional customization options for your own BMG Network site – you’ll be able to install your own theme, alter the layout, etc., so that it will really look like your own blog.
What Does This Mean For Me?
You’ve got questions. We’ve got (some) answers.
- Can I keep my user name? Basically, yes. We will migrate the entire database of BMG user names and associated email addresses to the new BMG 3.0 servers. Some minor modifications will have to be made – most notably, WordPress does not allow spaces in user names, so dashes have been added in some cases. If you are “Jane Smith” on BMG now, you’ll be “Jane-Smith” on BMG 3.0. (As noted above, we have not migrated user names for the open beta test.)
- What about my password? When we finish the open beta and officially launch BMG 3.0, all passwords will be reset to random, system-generated passwords. So the first time you want to sign onto the site, you’ll have to click “Login” and then click “Lost your password?” Once you’ve done that and logged in, you’ll be able to reset your password to whatever you’d like.
- Will my content be preserved? Yes. We are going to great lengths to migrate all the existing content of BMG onto the new platform. (Over 20,000 posts and a quarter of a million comments later, this is not a small task!) Inevitably, some formatting may be lost in the transition – in particular, previously-nested comments will remain in order but will no longer appear nested after the migration, so long comment threads may be a bit more difficult to follow.
- Will links to BMG posts still work? WordPress formats permalinks differently than Soapblox. We have tried to ensure that all links within BMG to other BMG posts are updated to reflect the new links. However, obviously we cannot change the format of other people’s links to us, so extant links to already-published BMG posts from the outside world will not point to the corresponding post on BMG 3.0. We are working on a partial solution to that problem.
- How do I write posts, and what happens when I do? Basically, the idea is the same. You log onto BMG or to your own BMG Network site; you enter the WordPress “Dashboard,” which is where you write and edit posts and control other features of the site; you write up your post (using WordPress’s state-of-the-art editor); and you publish it. The post will then appear in the “Recent User Posts” area on BMG (www.bluemassgroup.com), as well as on the front page of your own BMG Network site (xyz.bluemassgroup.com).
- I think this BMG Network thing sounds awesome, and I want my own site. How do I get one? For now, create a new account and choose “gimme a site.” When we launch, we will have a separate procedure for existing accounts who also want a BMG Network site.
- Why are you doing this? Isn’t Soapblox good enough? Soapblox was a major step forward when it came out some six years ago. But Soapblox was one person’s part-time project, and he was understandably not always able to keep up with the demands of maintaining and upgrading what became a very popular platform. As a result, many of Soapblox’s features are now somewhat outdated, and we do not see much likelihood that that’s going to change any time soon, nor do we see the new features that we want to introduce becoming available on Soapblox. And, because Soapblox is not open source, we are completely dependent on its proprietors for upgrades. We think it’s time to move, and we concluded for a variety of reasons that a customized WordPress platform was our best option.
- Was all of this work free? Um, no. 🙂 We hope that the new subscription feature, and perhaps other initiatives, along with our existing advertising campaigns, will help us defray the cost of this work. But don’t worry, both BMG itself and almost all of these new features will remain free.
OK, I’m r
eady! How do I beta test?
You can see the beta site at bmgdev.com. Everything should pretty much be working, with the exceptions noted above, so if something seems broken, by all means tell us!
If you have something to report – a bug, a question, a comment, whatever, no matter how small – please add it to our beta testing comment thread. We will be checking that thread frequently and working with our developer to resolve problems as they arise. Also, if you have a chance, please also email a report of your issue to bmgdev [at] gmail.com.
Thank you, and we hope you like what you see!