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Customizing the Active Social Journal

by Will Morgenweck on 04 Aug 2010 03:42 PM

I know I said my next blog post would be about the Journal API, but we need to cover a few more items first.  While this blog post isn't going to dive right into Journal API code samples, the information I will cover should be considered a prerequisite for anyone considering working with the Journal API.

Journal Types
The journal is made up of various types of content that is categorized by a Journal Type.  Each journal entry must be assigned a single Journal Type.  Active Social includes 19 journal types which are displayed in the Journal section of the Active Social control panel.  A journal type can be further defined by the Journal Mode.  Each journal entry will be displayed based upon the assigned journal type and current journal mode.  Some journal types may not be applicable to all journal modes.  For example, the Friends journal type would never be displayed in a group journal. The best part is that the Active Social control panel now takes care of all this for you. 

The Basics
Active Social 1.8 now makes it very easy for you to customize the templates for each journal type.  We have also setup customization very similar to our template structure.  This means you only change the templates you want and keep your changes during upgrades.  The new journal template editor makes customizations extremely quick and easy.  The Journal Type editor is accessed by clicking on any of the journal types in the list.  The image below is the journal type editor for a Note entry.  Since the Note journal type is a system type you won't be able to change the default properties at this time.  However, you do have the option to manage Access Control and Templates. 

Advanced - Working with Templates
Each journal type can have unique templates for each journal mode.  This gives you the ability to vary the content presentation based upon the context of the display.  Using notes for example.  When we display a note within a group journal we really only need to display the content along with the author.  However, when we display that same note in the Summary mode we want to display the author and group icon.  This allows us to improve overall usability by displaying the same content in the appropriate manner for the given context of the page.  This isn't anything new to Active Social, but since we are now allowing you to customize the templates and create new journal types, it's important to understand how everything works. 

Below is a screen capture for the journal type template editor with the Note profile template loaded.

As you can see in the image above, we have four templates available for the Note journal type.  In order to try and keep management simple, the list of templates will always be the same for system journal types.  The templates will always load the default templates until you make a change.  If you change a template you are essentially overriding the default template.  We will be adding some kind of indicator so that you can see if you are using a custom template or the default.  You also have the option to restore the default template if necessary.  We will also add a debug option to the Social View Settings for the Journal list.  This will be helpful in troubleshooting issues that may come up once you have modified a template. 

Keeping it simple and easy
Now that you can easily modify a template you obviously want to know what tokens you can use.  Instead of searching the forums or waiting for us to post a list, we have tried to make it a little easier.  The screen capture below is the right half of the editor which has a button to toggle a list of tokens.  The token list is customized based upon the journal type and journal mode.  This prevents confusion of trying to apply group specific tokens to a journal type that might only apply to profiles.  You can simply click on the token and it will be added to the template.

Access Control Overview
Access Control is a simple way to control API access and how the content is displayed.  I will go into more detail about access control in my next blog post, but here is what you will see.

Should you relax or get excited?
Active Social is used by a wide variety of customers.  I know we have some customers that aren't concerned about customizing the journal and might even be a little concerned about how this will impact them.  Everything in this post completely optional.  You never even have to touch the journal types if you don't have the need.  I believe that we have also developed these tools in a such a way that should you decide to make some changes and it doesn't work out, you can easily go back to the default.  The last thing we want to do is provide you with a tool that makes it easy for you to interrupt the operations of your site.   On the other hand, I know we have customers that are refreshing the site every 30 minutes waiting for the all clear from us to start incorporating journal functionality in their apps.    Our goal is to make sure you have all the documentation, features and code samples that you need so that you can get started immediately. 

Next blog post will cover access control and using the Journal API to submit content to existing journal types.  After that I will cover custom journal types and how they apply to the Journal API.

    2 Comments for Customizing the Active Social Journal

    Jeff Blanks
    Jeff Blanks
    04 Aug 2010 07:16 PM

    Very Very Nice! A BIG thanks to you and the team for listening to community and all the hard work that is being put in. AS is truely maturing at a pace I had never expected!
    Daniel Comp
    Daniel Comp
    01 Nov 2010 11:54 PM

    Same - well done!!
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