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Dave Baker

Monitoring new topics and comments using the Activity tab

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Yesterday I improved (I think) the way the menu under the "Activity" tab works, by renaming some of the existing menu items and adding a few more.

Unless you're using a mobile browser, Activity is a tab that's on the dark blue horizontal navigation bar that appears below the fairly large "BenefitsLink Message Boards" heading that's at the top of all pages. It's between the Portal tab and a tab labeled "Forums (Message Boards)".

(On a mobile browser, the Activity tab instead will show up as a button when you click on the "hamburger" menu icon that appears when the viewing screen is such a small size.)

The term "activity" is a bit ambiguous because it was intended by the maker of the software to encompass "activities" other than the posting of a new topic and the posting of a comment to an existing topic. But those two things are all we mean by the term activity.

Clicking on the Activity tab is just one of various ways to learn about new topics or new comments.

Some people will prefer the much simpler Portal tab, which is a straightforward list of recently added topics and also conveniently shows the first few lines of the text of each topic. (Click on the title of any topic in that list to view the full text of the topic and any comments to the topic.)

Other people will prefer the Forums (Message Boards) tab, which is a big-picture overview of all of the message boards, which lists the name of each message board and provides various stats. But for Keeping Up with the Kardashians every day or two in terms of monitoring the site for new topics of interest or new comments to existing topics of interest, your better choice is probably the Activity tab or the Portal tab.

Here are the items on the drop-down menu items under the Activity tab:

* All Activity

* Activity Streams

* Topics & Comments

* Topics & Comments: Unread

* Topics & Comments: Unread (Abbrev.)

* Topics I've Commented On

* Topics I Started

* Topics/Forums/Members I'm Following

* Search

Here are details about each menu item.

All Activity -- produces a list of all topics and comments, most recently added topics and comments appearing first. This is the "fire hose."

Topics & Comments -- is the same as "All Activity" except the resulting page also shows a set of buttons on a bar that enables you to tweak the list. (More about that later in this post.)

Topics & CommentsUnread -- is the same as "Topics & Comments" except it doesn't list topics or comments you've "read" -- when you click on an item in the list, the software notices that, and considers you to have "read" it.

Each item in the "Topics & Comments: Unread" list is either a recently added topic or a recently added comment to an existing topic. The title of each item is the title of a topic -- either because the topic is new, or the comment is about the topic. When several comments have been added to a particular topic, you'll see the title of that topic appearing several times in the list.

Too confusing? Read on.

Topics & Comments: Unread (Abbrev.) -- is the same as "Topics & Comments: Unread" except that no topic is listed more than once, even if several comments have been posted recently to the particular topic.

That's the last in a logical (I hope) progress of detail -- a "firehose-to-water-fountain" spectrum.

(Maybe "Portal" should follow "Topics & Comments: Unread (Abbrev.)" because that's basically what the Portal tab shows, as a simpler-looking page.)

Topics I've Commented On -- This menu item is a list of the topics onto which you've ever posted a comment.

Topics I Started -- This menu item is a list of the topics you have started (i.e. when you went to the "Forums (Message Boards)" view, clicked on the name of the appropriate forum in which to post your question, and then clicked on a Start New Topic button).

Topics/Forums/Members I'm Following -- is a list of the various kinds of content -- i.e. a particular topic, a particular forum (a.k.a. message board), or a particular member -- which/whom you've chosen to "follow" by having already clicked on the "Follow" button on the page that shows that topic, or the page that shows a list of topics in a particular forum (message board), or the profile page of a particular member.

You might have noticed that I haven't mentioned Activity Streams, which is the second item on the menu. I put it towards the top of the menu so that you can quickly navigate to any "custom stream" you've created. Their names will appear in a drop-down menu when you click on the Activity Streams menu item.

What is a "custom stream"? Basically you would want to make one if you're not quite happy with one or more of the menu items described above.

To make a custom stream, click on any of the menu items (except All Activity) that comes closest to viewing the list you you want, then click on one or more of the buttons on a bar that will appear on the resulting page, and then save that modified view by specifying a name. It will be available to you to use in the future by selecting it on the drop-down menu you'll see when you click on the Activity Streams menu item.

For complete details and an example of a custom stream, please see a different topic (click to view).

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