Improved community membership management with Zoho Discussions: Introducing Subscriptions

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One of the challenges of running an online community is who you invite or let in to participate.

 


While some communities are “open”, some other communities, as a result of their nature, tend to be a bit more vigilant about who can come in and read/post. 


Zoho Discussions has for long supported membership and provides fine-grained control over who can access and participate in a conversation, but today we are building on that and making it a bit easier.




We built a nifty feature that simplifies life for community admins:

membership requests

.


 


Membership requests allow visitors to apply for memberships that the community admin would then evaluate and grant. If adopted for your community, this subscription feature in Zoho Discussions will help you know your users better and also help reduce spam. This is also ideal for open communities where you would like to know your users better before you allow them in to participate. This feature also integrates well with the existing moderation options, by 

enabling you to provide subscribers a higher level of access to specific areas of your community. For example: you could allow everyone to come and read the posts, but then only allow posting to people who have been screened. Or you could allow read/post grants in certain forums, but access to other forums to only the users you choose.






So how do you go about setting one up? All you need to do is toggle a switch in your Portal settings. (you can read this in detail

here

)


Once you do that, users visiting your community will see a prompt in the portal specific login page (which you can

customize

too). If your portal is open for guest access, a guest will see a prominent widget prompting for subscription.


You can view all subscription requests in the moderation panel and approve them one by one or in a single shot. 

Now you can make your user community spam free and more engaging! We invite you to try 

Zoho Discussions

today and let us know how we can help at support@zohodiscussions.com.

Zoho Calendar Steps Out of Beta

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At Zoho, we have several applications that need/have calendaring functionality. Some of these apps include Zoho Mail, CRM, Projects, Planner, Meeting etc. To consolidate all calendars, we launched Zoho Calendar in beta last year. The goal for this separate application was two fold. One, it has to be one of the best calendar applications in the market and Two, it has to integrate/replace other calendars apps within the Zoho suite.

Today, Zoho Calendar is stepping out of beta and we believe it is mature enough to be considered one of the best Calendaring apps in the market. Zoho Calendar’s latest update comes with an extensive set of features for business use. 



Let’s look at some of these new features.




Multiple Calendars


Users can manage multiple calendars in Zoho Calendar. Events created for each calendar are color coded. Apart from multiple personal calendars, you can also subscribe to external calendars, again color coded.




Calendar Sharing


You can now privately share your Calendars with other members with a Zoho account. There are several options for sharing your calendar. There are two options for sharing your calendar in read-only mode and two options for read-write mode. In Read-only mode, you can share your calendar with other users where they can just view only Free/Busy times while the second option provides all your event details with others.


We also offer two options in Read-Write mode. One option lets other users edit your existing events while the second option lets other users create/edit events on your calendar. This option basically gives complete control of your calendar to another user. This will be useful when you have your assistant managing the calendar for you.




To share your Calendar, go to Settings > My Calendars  and choose the ‘Share’ option. You just need to provide the email address of the person you want to share your calendar with.

Subscribing to Calendars


There are couple of options to import events to Zoho Calendar. One option is to import all your events in a single shot using ‘Import by file’ or ‘Import by URL’. The second option is to subscribe to an external Calendar. Importing is a one time event while subscription updates your calendar regularly. In this version, we now added both options. 


We also have options to subscribe to external and internal calendars. By Internal Calendar, we mean, calendars from other Zoho Applications. You can now subscribe to Zoho Projects & Zoho CRM Calendars. To do this, go to Settings > Subscribe to and select the Calendars you want to subscribe to. In case of Zoho Projects, if you are part of multiple projects, you can even subscribe to a specific project.


You can subscribe to any external calendar, in ICAL format, by providing the URL. This updates your events couple of times a day.




You can also subscribe to your Friend’s public calendars using their email address. We also have built-in calendars for holidays which you can subscribe to. We plan to expand this built-in calendar list as we move forward.


Subscriptions are not just one way coming into Zoho Calendar. You can also take your calendar events outside Zoho by enabling private address for your calendars (under My CalendarsShare) and subscribe to your Zoho Calendar in other external Calendar clients like iPhone.


Embedding Zoho Calendar


Want to embed your calendar on your blog? No problem. Option to embed your calendar in external sites is a new feature in this update. Obviously, your calendar has to be public to do this. We have ten different templates to choose from and you can also customize the options for the embed. 


To choose the templates for embedding your calendar, go to Settings > My Calendars > Details option. 


Natural Language Processing

It is important for a Calendaring app to make the input easy. So we added NLP support. In the ‘Smart Add’ section of Zoho Calendar, you can type in something like ‘Meeting with customer on Friday at 3pm’, Zoho Calendar will create the event for you on Fri at 3PM.


Agenda View


If you want to look at all your events in a grid view instead of a Calendar view, we now have that option. You’ll notice a new ‘Agenda’ tab on the top where we list all your events as a list. 


Additional Features


These were just a few features. This major update includes several other goodies like the option to sort your calendars in settings page, option to clear your calendar etc. Zoho Calendar is also available on mobile devices like iPhone/Android @ http://mobile.zoho.com. A plug-in for Outlook is also available to synchronize events. We also have an Open Social gadget that lets you embed it in external apps like Gmail, iGoogle.


We hope you are as excited as we are. We will keep improving the app and will focus on integrating this app into other Zoho Applications. This Calendar application will become the default Calendar in apps like CRM, Projects and more. Meanwhile, as always, your feedback will be very much appreciated.