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Using Communities

Communities are an area for people with a common skill or interest to join together and share information, meet, and discuss. Community subjects can range from an area of focus at work, for example, sales communities or customer communities, to interest groups, such as the environmental community or the runners community. Typically communities are open and public, although they can be private or moderated. Communities can often be a gateway to access experts in an area, pose questions, or organize regular meetings.

Finding and Joining Communities of Interest

One of the first actions you might take in Lotus Connections is finding Communities that you are interested in joining. Going to the main Communities page is one way to find out what you should join. On this page (see Figure 6.11), you can view the names of the communities, their descriptions, how many members they have, who the last person to update them was and when, and see the tags used to describe the community.

Figure 6.11

Figure 6.11 A list of all communities

You can view the most recently updated communities in this view. You can also view the most popular communities (which typically have the most members and most activity) using the link on the left-hand side. You can also view the communities alphabetically. Below those links is a tag cloud that allows you to browse based on the most commonly used tags in communities. In the figure we can see that Programs is a popular tag. Clicking on a tag will filter the list based on the keyword selected and even update the tag cloud to show related tags. From this page, you can also view your own communities in the My Communities tab or use the search in the upper-right corner to find communities based on a keyword.

After you find a community you are interested in, select that community. In the upper-right corner of the Communities home page, you can click a button to join the Community. If you are already a member (see Figure 6.12), you will see a button that says Leave Community. If the community is totally open, you can join immediately and will appear in the membership list right away. If the community is moderated, your request to join will be accepted or denied by the owner of the community. If the community is completely private, you will not have seen it in the list to begin with, and only owners can add you to private communities. If you decide that you no longer want to be part of a community, you can leave by clicking the Leave Community button that replaced the join button you saw earlier.

Figure 6.12

Figure 6.12 The Communities home page

Members, Forum, Bookmarks, Feeds, and Mail

When you join a community, you are added to the membership list. The full list is available when you click the Members link in the left-hand navigation area. In this view, the owner(s) of the community will appear toward the top, and the rest of the members will appear in alphabetical order. To post information into the community, you need to be a member.

A discussion forum is included to allow members of the community to post topics and hold a discussion on that topic area. The most recent topics are shown on the Communities home page, and clicking on Forum in the left-hand navigation takes you to the full list of topics. Clicking on any topic shows you the discussion thread. Discussions can include rich text, embedded images, or links (see Figure 6.13). You can pin topics and delete messages as a community owner, and you can also subscribe to threads of interest as a member.

Figure 6.13

Figure 6.13 A community discussion forum

Bookmarks can also be added to a community by members. When browsing a page on the web that you think would be relevant to your community, you can use a browser extension that will capture the URL and title for the page, and allow you to add tags and post into a select community. More about this tool is available in the section "Posting a Bookmark." You can also add bookmarks directly from the bookmark page in the community. Simply click Bookmarks in the left-hand navigation, and you will see an Add Bookmark button in the list. Here you can add the URL, name, description, and tags. In either bookmarking option, you also have the choice of adding the bookmark to the important bookmarks section. This area is shown in the right-hand column of the community as highlighted web resources for quick access.

Another resource you can share in a community is a feed. You can add RSS or Atom feeds to a community and use the embedded feed reader to view the content of the feed. This is a great way to allow the community members to share blogs, news, or sources the community can stay on top of. To add a feed, first go to the feeds section by clicking Feeds in the left-hand navigation area. Click on the button Add Feed to add the link to the feed, a title, a description, and tags. Then, to view the content of the feed, click the Show Details link on the feed, and you will see the most recent entries. You can expand the entries to show the entry content, including images and video if embedded.

In addition to the feed reader view, the communities produce feeds as well. You can subscribe to changes in all types of content (forum, bookmarks, membership, and more) and monitor your favorite communities in your own feed reader, as each of these community views produces a standard Atom feed.

You can also send email to an entire community. Simply click the Mail Community button in the upper-right corner and a form will appear in which you can compose a rich text email to send. You also have the option of sending the mail from your mail client. All members of the community will receive an email with the community name in the subject line.

New Services for Communities—Files, Wikis, Activities, and Blogs

With Lotus Connections 2.5, you can enable any of the Connections services to be used in your Community. Community members can share and coordinate tasks using Activities, publish their thoughts and promote conversations in Blogs, share and post files, and collaboratively author in a wiki. It's easy to enable new features in the Community. If you are an owner of a Community, you will see a Customize button in the upper-right corner. Simply click that button to expand the widget palette available for selecting new components to add to the Community. Third-party widgets can be added as well and enabled for community use. In Figure 6.14, you can see all the widgets available for the community to leverage, and by clicking on one of those widgets, you can add it to your page.

Figure 6.14

Figure 6.14 Customize a Community

Files is an example of a widget that can be added to the Community and leveraged by the members. When you add the Files widget, the Community then has the capability to upload new files and download files. The widget shows the list of recent files uploaded into the Community. Clicking on a filename brings up details of the file, as shown in Figure 6.15.

Figure 6.15

Figure 6.15 Community Files widget

To learn more about how the Activities, Blogs, and Wikis components work in the Community, refer to the sections of this chapter that describe those capabilities.

Further customization can be accomplished in the community. You can move widgets around on the page by dragging them (click and hold on title bar of the widget). You can also change the theme of the Community by clicking Edit in the upper-right corner and selecting the option at the bottom to change the theme. Custom themes can be added by administrators for use by community managers as well.

Creating a Community and Privacy Options

It is very easy for Lotus Connections users to create a community. From the All Communities view, you can simply click the Start a Community button, and a form will appear (see Figure 6.16). All that is required is a community name and a privacy level. As the owner, you should select the community privacy relevant to your needs. The first option offered means anyone can view the information in the community and can join it. In order to post content, they need to join. The second option means you will be notified when a new member requests to join, and you will have the ability to accept or reject them. Anyone with access to a community can view the content added in these first two options. The third option is a completely private community in which no one can view the content or the community itself unless a community owner specifically adds them to the community. Private communities do not appear in the All Communities listing; to see them you must look at the My Communities list. They are identified as private with a key icon, and moderated communities are identified with a star icon.

Figure 6.16

Figure 6.16 Create a community

After you select a privacy option, you can immediately add members to the community. You can add them in as the role of member or owner from here as well. Typeahead will make it easy for you to find people based on their name. Next, you can add a rich text description of the community and upload an image for identifying your community. Finally, you can add tags for the community. If third-party applications have been enabled by your administrator (for example, Lotus Quickr), those options will appear as optional tools you can add.

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