The Universal Hub manual

Universal Hub is built atop a really powerful, really flexible "content management system" that lets you do all sorts of interesting things. Here's a manual to help you get the most out of the site. Have a question not answered here? Drop us a line - or add a comment to the relevant manual page (since if you have a particular question, others might have it as well).

E-mail notification of replies to specific discussions

I've turned on some new software that will let users with Universal Hub accounts get e-mail notification when somebody posts a comment in specific discussions - hopefully without bombarding people who didn't sign up for them this time.

If you're logged in, you'll now notice a "Subscribe to: This post" link at the end of every post. To get notifications for that discussion, click the link and you'll be asked how often you want to get notices (immediately after somebody else replies, or bunched together every X hours).

If you post a lot yourself, you might get tired of clicking that link all the time. Instead, click on My Acct at the top of any page, then Edit. Scroll to the very bottom and check "Autosubscribe," which will sign you up for notification for any discussion you either start or participate in.

How do I get an RSS feed for specific topics or neighborhoods?

Go to the Custom Feeds page, where you'll find a listing of neighborhoods and topics for which we have feeds.

If you click on any of those feeds, you'll get a URL which you can then use in an RSS aggregator.

You can also combine individual feeds into one big custom feed (say you want to know what's going on in both Roslindale and Jamaica Plain).

Building that sort of feed is a bit hairier:

Scroll your mouse over a neighborhood or topic.

Write down the first number you see for its feed. For example, in

write down "37." Repeat the process for all the feeds you want to combine. When done, combine them into a single URL with plus signs, like this:

Note the /0/feed at the end! Now paste that URL into your RSS aggregator, and voila, a custom RSS feed (in that case, you would get the latest postings for Cambridge, Fenway and Watertown).

How do I post news?

The first step is to register for an account or log in. Once you do that, you'll see a "Post!" link in the blue toolbar at the top of the page.

Select Article and type or paste in your news. Be sure to select or type in as many keywords as are relevant to the post (these will put a link to your article on relevant Universal Hub index pages and in RSS feeds). When done, hit Submit. Your post will go into a queue. An editor will take a look and, if it's of broad interest, will add it to the home page.

Login requirement for comments now enabled

The whys and hows in handy FAQ format:

Three main reasons: In some discussions, there were too many people using the default "anon" as a "name," leading to confusion. As UH has gained more participants, we've picked up more nasty hit-and-run trolls. And we've picked up a new breed of spammers who took advantage of the anonymous posting ability to craft comments that manage to evade the site spam filters (mainly by limiting the number of links in their posts to one or two).

How do I register?
Go to the registration page and fill out the simple form (the toughest part is coming up with a Universal Hub user name). Hit Submit and look in your e-mail for a message from Universal Hub. Click on the link in the message, which will bring you to your new Universal Hub profile page, where you can set your own password. And that's it.

What do you do with my login information?
Your profile page will let you set a default so that you are automatically notified of any replies to your post. You can also "subscribe" to specific discussions (i.e., get e-mail notification when somebody posts there). You can decide, on your profile page, whether to let other users contact you (via a Universal Hub form; your actual e-mail address never appears, unless you type it into a post or comment yourself). Other than that, I don't rent or give out e-mail addresses. I do occasionally contact individual posters if I have a question about their posts.

Feh, I don't trust you to keep my info private.
That's your right. I've been doing online stuff in Boston for years and years, so I do have a reputation I'd like to protect, but if that isn't good enough, you can create an account at some Web e-mail host, use that to log in here, then delete that account (the danger there is that if you forget your password, there won't be any way to have a new one sent to you). I am working on enabling OpenID (I'll certainly post when that's available). If you happen to have a account, you can use that here.

Won't this new policy inhibit some discussions?
Quite possibly, and it's one of the reasons I dragged my feet for so long on requiring registration to comment on posts (the other involved some technical issues). But I think we've gotten to the point where the problems related to a completely open system (see the first answer) are beginning to outweigh the benefits. I could be wrong; I'll certainly be watching to see what happens and could reconsider requiring registration.

Any questions I didn't answer? Reply here or e-mail me.

Free tagging: 

Registered users: You can now get e-mail notifications (again) when somebody replies to your comments

Time was, UHub had a system for letting you get notified when somebody replied to your comments. Then, that just stopped, weeks, maybe months ago (I didn't notice until somebody asked me about it a few days ago, and I realized I'd somehow deleted the software that handled it).

E-mail notification's back on. I've set the default to "off" (don't want to send somebody e-mail they don't want!). There are a couple of ways to get it back on - and to be notified of posts in certain categories:

First, you need to register an account, and to be logged in with it.

Second, you can do nothing.

In that case, if there's a particular discussion that's going fast and furious and you want to be notified of new comments (you know: Turkey flies into a bicyclist crossing the Green Line tracks just as the mayor is about to dedicate a new skyscraper or something), every UHub post now has a "Subscribe" link at the bottom of the story. Click on that and you'll get notifications of all new replies for that post.

Alternately, if you just want to know when somebody replies to one of your comments (or articles if you post those), you can tell the site to alert you in e-mail - you can do the same thing if you want to be alerted of new posts for particular categories (for example, you could get an alert every time there's a new UHub post about Roslindale or development).

Click on My Account at the top of any page, then the Subscriptions tab and then Settings. Check the box next to "Auto-subscribe to comments." If you ever post an article here, also click on "Auto-subscribe to new content." The third choice is "Auto-subscribe to updated content," but you don't need to check that.

If you'd rather get a bunch of notifications in a single e-mail, rather than getting one for every single reply, check the box next to "Digest mode."

Under Preferences, you can decide when to get notified about replies - as soon as they come into the system, just once a day or something in between (Digest mode would be kind of useless if you pick ASAP for this, would be great for "once a day"). I'd strongly suggest you NOT check "On Updates," because otherwise, you could wind up getting zillions of e-mails when I update my posts (with no copy desk and a maniacal desire to post as quickly as possible, I update posts A LOT with grammatical and factual fixes).

Hit Save Settings and you're done.

To get e-mail notification of new posts in key topics, click Categories at the top of your Subscriptions page. Check off whichever topics you want, and hit Save. It'll use the same settings as above for determining when you'll receive your notifications. NOTE: There are some topics (bicycling and wildlife) that are not yet on the page. I'm working on that.

Finally, if you want to just turn off notifications altogether (you're going on vacation, for example, or you've gotten sick of UHub messages), your Subscription page has a Delivery of Notifications link. Click on it and you can turn all notifications off (or turn them back on again, for that matter).

Free tagging: 

Community journalism in theory and practice

Hey, kids, let's build an online book about how to do community journalism!