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Introducing Search Improvements

15 Oct

Search has long been one of the most popular and powerful features of PBworks.  Our search engine allows you to search through your entire network, including the text within the files you upload.  You also have the opportunity to “facet” your search results (for example, you can filter the search results so that they only show files where you uploaded the most recent version).  The goal is to make it as easy as possible to find what you’re looking for.

Given the strength of our search engine, we’ve discovered that the way to make it even better is to eliminate the need to even complete a search.

While we’ve long had an autocomplete feature, which brings up potential matches as you type in our search box, it was a simple autocomplete, which provided a single list of potential matches.  You can see an example of a simple autocomplete at Google–just type in “What should I do” and Google will quickly offer you options like “What should I do with my life” and “What should I do tonight” (Answer: Invite more users to your PBworks network).

We’ve now launched a greatly improved autocomplete that takes into account the nature of the content you store in PBworks.  As you type into the search box, PBworks brings up a miniature search results page, with the results categorized by the “type” of object that matches.  The basic object types in PBworks are: Files, Pages, Folders, Tasks, Task Lists, Workspaces, Collections, Users, and Reports.  You can always complete the search, which will bring up a lot more results (the autocomplete only finds up to five *exact* matches per object type).

If you know in advance that you’re looking for a particular object type, for example, a file, you can click the dropdown next to the search box and filter the autocomplete to a single object type.  PBworks will return a full list of exact matches (or at least as many as will fit on your screen), and if you want to see all the matches, you can still complete the search and the resulting search results page will automatically be filtered by type.

As your PBworks network fills with content and documents, search becomes more and more critical.  With the latest improvements, PBworks now offers the best search engine in the market, allowing you to find whatever your looking for more quickly and easily.

These search improvements are a free enhancement, and have automatically been activated for all our business customers and freemium networks.

Introducing Workspace Summaries (and wiki page previews)

15 Jan

People use workspaces in many different ways–to manage projects, as an intranet, as a knowledgebase–and in each case, someone who wanted to develop a full understanding of what was happening on the workspace needed to look in a couple of different places.

The FrontPage, which is the default place to start, offers a great place to post messages and high-level information, but requires someone to keep it up to date.  Files provides a high-level view of all the uploaded files and wiki pages, but is a largely static picture.  Perhaps the most universal starting point is the Activity stream, but a stark list of recent changes doesn’t offer leaders and managers a way to provide context for all those actions.

That’s why we’ve created the Workspace Summary for our business products, which combines these different points of view into a single sweeping summary view of a workspace.  The Workspace Summary is a new initial screen for each workspace that includes the following:

  • Branding banner: A customizable graphic that runs the width of the screen, which you can use for branding and visual appeal
  • Workspace title and description: These used to appear only in settings, and on the Workspaces tab of your network; now they appear on the summary to provide the high-level description of your workspace
  • Links: You can specify key URLs, either to link to important parts of the workspace or to the external web
  • Recent activity: We’ve broken down your recent activity to recent uploads (file activity), recent pages and edits (wiki activity), and recent comments (comments on both files and pages).  And unlike the activity stream, this recent activity is graphical, taking advantage of the Gallery view of files that we recently developed
  • Workspace users: List key users like admins or guests, or simply provide the workspace roster on the initial screen

In addition to these features, you can also choose to include your existing FrontPage and/or Sidebar, so you can continue to leverage the content you’ve already developed.  The FrontPage is included by default, while the Sidebar is not.

The Workspace Summary is configurable, which means you can pick-and-choose which elements to show or hide on a workspace by workspace basis.  For example, the recent uploads section is probably essential for an asset repository, but the workspace users column is not.

If you’re an avid PBworks user, Workspace Summaries will let you make your workspaces even more valuable, especially for members of your team who need to come up to speed quickly.

If your team hasn’t yet adopted PBworks as an integral part of their workflow, Workspace Summaries are a great reason to re-introduce them to your network, they will help individual team members engage with the product.

If you’re using our freemium business product, you don’t have to do a thing; the summaries will just magically appear.  Because your existing wiki FrontPage will be configured to appear as part of the summary, you’ll still be able to see all the same information, plus all the new summary enhancements.  And if you want to configure a summary, just go to Settings > Advanced > Summary Tab.

If you’re one of our paying customers, you’ll be able to activate it for any of your workspaces from Settings > Advanced > Summary Tab.  If you decide that you want to turn them on for all your workspaces, contact our Support team or your account manager, and we’ll turn in on by default (you’ll still be able to toggle Summaries off on a workspace-by-workspace basis).

We’ve also released two other enhancements.

First, we’ve added wiki page previews to the Gallery View, folder contents plugin, and the “recent pages and edits” section of Workspace Summaries.  You’ve been able to see a preview of the files in those views; now you can also see a preview of any wiki pages in those files.  And of course, clicking on them will take you to the full page.

We’ve also improved the Workspaces list in User Profiles.  The old list let you see which workspaces a user had joined.  The new list incorporates the Workspace Cards we developed for the main Workspaces tab.  These cards, which appear upon mouseover, provide a quick overview of the workspace, along with a list of possible actions.

Thanks again for being a PBworks user!

30 Minute Maintenance Window, Midnight Pacific Time, Saturday May 19

16 May

On the morning of Saturday, May 19, PBworks will be down for maintenance from midnight to 12:30 AM Pacific Time (3 AM Eastern/7 AM UTC/8 AM BST).  During this time, the PBworks service will be offline; you won’t be able to log in, nor will you be able to access your site.

During these 30 minutes, we’ll be upgrading our infrastructure to better support our customers.  We’ve tried to select a time when as few people as possible will be impacted.  Once the maintenance is complete, you will be able to return to using the service as you normally do.

Thanks for being a PBworks user, and for your patience throughout this process.

Introducing Multi-value User Profile Fields

27 Dec

Thought we were done for the holidays?  Think again.  We’re still working away here at PBworks HQ.  Today’s new feature is the addition of multi-value user profile fields.

Our user profiles are an important part of PBworks; Network Administrators can add any fields necessary to allow the members of their organization to share their skills and find one another.  One drawback, however, has been that each profile field could only accept a single value.  If you created an “Office” profile field, each person had to choose whether they belonged to New York, Chicago, or San Francisco, even if they split time between more than one.

Today, we’re enabling multi-value user profile fields.  Now users can add multiple values to a single profile field, and this information will show up in search results.

Don’t worry; we’ll still support regular single-value profile fields; Network Administrators can choose whether or not to enable multi-value profile fields, and how they’re configured.

In the words of the classic advertising slogan, now you can select both “Tastes Great” and “Less Filling”!

Multi-value User Profile Fields are available on all business products, including Business Edition, Agency Hub, New Business Hub, and Legal Hub.

We’re Hiring Engineers!

25 Jul

We’re continuing to expand our engineering team, and have three open positions we need to fill.

As usual, you can read all about the perks of working at PBworks on our jobs page, including weekly massages, our own grand piano, and of course, working on a great product that’s used by millions of people every month.

The three open positions are:

Introducing the PBworks Twitter Widget

11 Apr

As the Internet evolves, PBworks evolves with it.  You can see this evolution at work in the plugins we include in the product.  For a long time, we’ve had two product-specific plugins: YouTube and Skype.  We’ve just added a third: Twitter.

In one sense, we don’t really need to add product-specific plugins.  We have generic plugins like the RSS plugin or the HTML/JavaScript plugin that make it possible to embed just about any widget you want.  But using these generic plugins requires fiddling around with long and complex-looking URLs and scripts.  Therefore, when a product becomes (a) ubiquitous and (b) is clearly here for the long haul, we look into adding a product-specific plugin.

By anyone’s measures, Twitter now clearly qualifies on both counts.

The new Twitter plugin makes it easy to embed either a Twitter feed or search results on a wiki page, with cool Twitter formatting and colors.  For all the details, check out the user manual.

Network Upgrade Window, Jan 5th 8-10 PM Pacific

5 Jan

Tonight, we’ll be upgrading our datacenter’s network connection to improve overall performance.  We expect the service to be unavailable for up to 20 minutes, sometime between 8-10 PM Pacific on January 5th, (11 PM-1 AM Eastern; 4-6 AM GMT/UTC on January 6).

Many customers will find PBworks even faster than before, especially for users who have fast Internet connections and re performing large file uploads and downloads.

Network Maintenance Window, 12/29 8-9 PM Pacific

28 Dec

Network maintenance will be taking place the night of December 29.  We expect the service to be unavailable for up to 15 minutes, sometime between 8-9 PM Pacific (11 PM-12 AM Eastern; 4-5 AM GMT/UTC on December 30).

We apologize for any inconvenience.

Introducing PBworks Agency Edition

9 Nov

Here at PBworks, we’re focused on solving specific business problems for specific markets.  We believe that’s the best way to deliver value for our customers.  That’s why we’ve created specific products for educators, law firms, and CRM.  And that’s why we’ve just launched PBworks Agency Edition.

Over the past year, we’ve had the good fortune to work with some of the biggest names in the agency world, like Landor Associates and the BtoD Group (a part of WPP, the world’s largest advertising holding company).  As we’ve worked with them to integrate PBworks into their workflow, we’ve learned a lot about this fascinating market.

It turns out that agencies are inherently collaborative.  To get a TV commercial or print ad from idea to your living room takes an army of different people, ranging from creative directors to designers and copywriters (not to mention the client).  And historically, all this coordination was done via email and telephone.  If Mad Men were more like real life, Don would spend a lot more time herding cats…and the show would be a lot less interesting.

The industry is also undergoing some major changes that are increasing the need for collaboration.

Media fragmentation–adding digital, social, and mobile to print, TV, and radio–makes it nearly impossible for a single agency to handle all aspects of any major campaign.  As a result, cross-agency collaboration has quickly become one of *the* hot topics in the industry.

Globalization is driving a much greater need for online and asychronous tools.  Even if a major campaign gets kicked off at HQ, it needs to be localized across six continents by local offices–and no one wants to get up at 4 AM to call Hong Kong.

Rapid personnel turnover makes it ever more important to find ways to capture the knowledge of each agency’s people.  Unless their name is above the door, you can’t count on any particular person staying at their current agency.

Finally, innovation is the Holy Grail.  Consumers are jaded and cynical, and it takes bold new campaigns to break through that armor.  To get that innovation, agencies need to be able to tap the talents of their entire team via social collaboration.

We’ve taken these concerns into account, along with agency-specific needs like managing complex customer relationships, and sharing in-progress video in a more secure environment, and created PBworks Agency Edition.

Agency Edition is a beginning, not an end.  As we continue to work with our customers, we’ll continue to deliver innovative new features to meet their needs.

Here’s what other people had to say about the news:

Permissions Update: Bringing Writers Back Into the Fold(er)

21 Oct

For the last few years at PBworks, while building an amazing set of new technologies we’ve tried to stay true to four consistent set of tiers for access:

  • Readers cannot modify the content of a workspace in any way (though they can optionally be allowed to comment).
  • Writers can perform reversible / non-destructive operations that don’t affect workspace-wide settings or security.
  • Editors can modify and delete things on a workspace in an irreversible way but they cannot affect workspace-wide settings or security.
  • Admins can perform any operation on a workspace.

It’s become clear that when we rolled out folder manipulation that we left writers out of the party, so to speak, by not letting writers create folders. Some Administrators worked around this by making everyone Editors but were then worried about people accidentally deleting information. Madness. And since folder creation is a reversible and non-destructive operation, we realized that we ought to fix that to let writers better structure their contributions to a workspace.

So on October 26, 2010 we’ll be flipping the switch to allow writers to create folders. (It’s also my birthday that day!)

Check out our fabulous Permission Levels page for a refresher on exactly what each role can do.

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