APC Action Applications - Home Page

Frequently Asked Questions v2


Answers for: New to Action Apps

0. What are ActionApps?
1. What's the benefit of Content Pooling?
2. Who can I create a Content Pool with?
3. How do I get ActionApps?
4. What specific ActionApps are available?
5. Where do I go for user support?
6. Is there a manual available?
7. Is my information protected?
8. Can the APC ActionApps work in my language?
9. Do I need special computer qualifications to use the APC ActionApps?
10. Can the APC ActionApps infect my computer with viruses?
11. Who will read my information?
12. How can my APC network help me use APC ActionApps?
13. Are APC ActionApps open source?
14. Alerts/Mailman Integration
15. How does ActionApps compare with PHPNUKE, Zope, and other content management systems.
16. How do I create a Reader Mamagement logout function?
17. How to create a simple email alert module
18. What is Content Pooling?
19. What can ActionApps do for my organization?
20. What are real world examples of organizations using ActionApps?
21. How much do ActionApps cost?
22. If I am a developer, how can I contribute?

ActionApps are publishing tools that plug into websites. With ActionApps, publishing news and information online is as easy as filling in online forms. Their unique Content Pooling technology enables organizations to exchange articles between their sites. For more details, see About ActionApps .

There are two general kinds of benefits:

  1. Content - Pooling can give you access to a fresh stream of content for your site (in the form of your partners' articles); and
  2. Publicity - Pooling can help you get your own content out to new audiences (whenever you partners reprint your articles).
You can create a content pool with any number of partner sites. All of your partners must be subscribing to ActionApps with the same APC provider. ActionApps are offered as site plug-in services by individual members of the Association for Progressive Communications (APC). The APC itself does not offer ActionApps services directly. To find an APC provider near you, go to Get ActionApps Different APC providers offer different services based on the ActionApps platform. In general, most APC providers can offer a solution for publishing events, news, action alerts, press releases, contact lists, and similar articles/listings. For specifics, ask your APC provider. Only the service provider providing your ActionApps can support the service. This is likely to be an APC member. The APC itself cannot directly support individual ActionApps users. Yes, there is. It is currently available in English and will shortly be available in Spanish. Visit our downloads section to get your own copy to print out, or read it online. The information you post on the WWW using AA is equally secure as it is without it. Permissions of the users of ActionApps are individually defined, and unless you give your password out, or you choose a too trivial password that is easy to guess, your items are only available (for republishing) to those whom you deliberately share them with. Yes. It is the responsibility of your local APC service provider to create local language versions of the applications. The software is specifically designed to flexible language management. No. You can handle every aspect of the work by using a Web browser (Netscape or Internet Explorer), and simply copy and paste (or type) text. When setting or changing the layout of your application, an html (Web editor) expert is needed, but your APC provider can give you the necessary assistance.

No. ActionApps use only HTML (web) files, which cannot contain viruses. If an item in somebody’s application contains a link to a downloadable file (word document, excel sheet, image or sound files, etc.), those files my be infected just as any other file of those kinds, which are downloadable from any sorts of Websites.

Your information is posted on an Internet Web site, where any Internet user can read it who learns about its address (unless you use ActionApps for internal purposes in a Web site, where readers access is password protected). The advantage of using ActionApps is that posted only once, your information can become available on several Websites and can get more publicity.

APC members in general, provide the following assistance in using ActionApps. This assistance can include: Yes, the ActionApps are licensed under the GNU General Public License. This means you can install the software for free on your own server. It also means you can make modifications or upgrades. These modifications can either be submitted for integration back into the main Action Application code or released as separate modules. Either way, modifications to the ActionApps must be released for public use under the GPL.

From Mitra (mitra[at]earth.path.net):

I am using alerts/mailman integration, - its one of the most painful AA admin procedures, basically you have to create an alert that goes to a mailman group. Here are the steps (note that I've SIMPLIFIED it, removing sub-steps).

This presumes you have:

  1. In the slice you want to send mail from:
  2. Create Alerts Slice and change settings as follows
  3. Go to mailman, create a mailing list - set yourself (a human) as the owner, set to moderate new subscribers
  4. Go to your Reader Management slice (see note)
  5. Now try and add an item to your slice,

Note that in practice you can only have ONE functioning reader management slice in an entire AA installation since it has email unique - apparently there are historical reasons for this, but it is unclear if there are current reasons.

This is essentially an admin nightmare, do anything even slightly wrong and the mail won't go through, and its very hard to debug.

I believe this could and should be dramatically simplified, we don't have the development resources to build our own mailing list manager in competition to all mailman's functions, better would be to allow an Alerts View to send mail direct to a mailing address - typically the email address of the mailman list.

Mark Surman wrote a good comparison

If you realy think you need a logout, you have to create a special directory
  and Logout page under the restricted area of your website. I've set up a little
example here http://marek.greennet.org.uk/protect/http://marek.greennet.org.uk/protect/">http://marek.greennet.org.uk/protect/>

type jason:jason and you get in. Than you can click on logout ant it will
  take you to the logout page. The trick is that the page is under the same realm,
  so in fact you relogin as user "logout" with password "logout"


The .htaccess file for the /protect/logout area looks like this


AuthType Basic

  AuthName "Authenticate yourself"

    AuthUserFile /home/httpd/htdocs/marek.gn.apc.org/protect/logout/.htpw

    Require user logout

The /home/httpd/htdocs/marek.gn.apc.org/protect/logout/.htpw contains only
  user logout (the file was created using htpasswd), and only this user is allowed

This a tutorial for creating a simple alert module and subscription form, similar to the Sandbox subscription demo at http://actionapps.org/reader_mngmt/sandbox_subscribe.shtml. The alert is for all new items in a slice and the subscription require s only email address and sending frequency inputs, no password or selection of slices in this version. Subscribers can update their alert settings (e.g. change email address, modify frequency, and unsubscribe) by clicking on a unique link at the bottom of each alert they recieve.

The tutorial assumes you are already comfrotable creating and administrating slices and designing views in ActionApps.

Step 1: Create a Reader Management Slice

First you must have a Reader Management slice to store subscriber information. If you already hace a Reader slice, then you can skip this step, but keep in mind the Reader slice used in this example is called "My Readers".

  1. AA > New Slice: Create a new slice from the “Reader Management Minimal” template with the name “My Readers”
  2. Set “Allow anonymous posting” to “Active”
  3. Set “Allow anonymous editing” to “Authorized by a password field”

You now have a Readers slice called "My Readers" that will store each alert subscriber as one item. It also possible to add more fields to store additional data about your subscribers, but that's another tutorial (coming soon).

Next we need to select what items subscribers can be alerted to.

Step 2: Create a Selection of Items to be “Alerted”

An alert modules requires selections from slices. A selection is a condition on an alerts view of a slice. It's a bit confusing but will make more sense once we go through the complete alert module production process.

In this case, we have selected to alert users about new items from the important slice called “My Slice”.

In My Slice, create a new view, type “Alerts Selection Set”. Set field vaules as:

    Alerts Selection Set: “My Slice alert views”

    Group by selections (ignore for now)

    Alerts Selection 1 Description: “All My Slice Items”

    conds[] (ignore for now)

    Alerts Selection 2 Description and conds[] (ignore for now)

    Fulltext URL: (URL of fulltext view use for _#HDLN_URL)

    Fill the rest of the fields as a simple listing view, probably similar to your index view.

    Click Update

You now have an alerts selection called “All My Slice Items”. Once you are more comfortable with alerts, you can add more selections that use conds[] to allow users to filter in only certain types of items, but that's another tutorial (coming soon).

Step 3: Create an Alerts Module

Next step is to create an alerts module that will send your newly created alert selection.

  1. AA > Create New > Alert, settings:
  2. Selections > Insert “All My Slice Items” from the menu (notice there are also shortcut links at the bottom for quick access to the slices with alerts and editing the alert views).
  3. Click on Reader management, Synchronization with Reader Management Slice, change to “My Readers“ (the page will refresh)
  4. Click on 'Add or refresh fields' at the bottom. A message “2 field(s) added” appears.

Your alert module now contains alert selection "All My Slice Items" and My Readers slice contains two new input fields: “How Often” and “Selections”. You can goto the My Readers fields admin page to see these new fields. If they don't show up, go back to alert module > Reader Management and click on ‘Add or refresh fields’.

More selections can be added later. Everytime you add a section you will need to go back to your alert module > Reader management and click on ‘Add or refresh fields’.

You can now test your alert module by subcribing yourself using: My Readers > Add New Item: input your email address, check "email confirmed", set "How Often" to "instant" and check "Selections: All My Slice Items"

Then go to My Slice and add a new item. You should shortly there after receive an emal from the alert module announcing the new addition. You will notice the alert module messages use ECN related text by default. You can customize your welcome and alert messages at any time (see Step 5). But first let's set-up some public subscription forms...

Step 4: Create a Subscribe Form (and Related Pages)

To allow users to subscribe to your alerts, you will need to create a form using ‘Anonymous Form Wizard’. You should also have an OK page that tells users to check their inbox for an email confirmation and a another page with an anonymous form for updating subscription settings. Thus you will need to create three files, e.g.:

http://mysite.com/myalerts/subscribe.shtml - Invitation to subscribe using anonymous form.

http://mysite.com/myalerts/subscribe_ok.shtml - A notice telling users to "Check your inbox for an email confirmation".

http://mysite.com/myalerts/update.shtml - A subscrition settings update page using anonymous form, accessed only from a link within alert messages generated using _#COLLFORM alias (set in Alerts Admin - Settings: form URL.

To create the required anonymous form for the subscribe.shtml and update.shtml pages...

  1. Within My Readers > Slice Admin > fields: check Required for 'Email' and uncheck Required and Show for 'Password'.
  2. Slice Admin > Anonymous Form Wizard
  3. Copy the form HTML and paste into the file subscribe.shtml. Add some preable text and upload to the URL you specified.
  4. Upload subscribe_ok.shtml to specified URL.
  5. Paste the same form HTML in to update.shtml. In the <form> change the value of the two hidden fileds "err_url" and "ok_url" to the update.shtml URL. Upload.

You should now have a page for users to subscribe to the alert (e.g. origianl sandbox alert subscribe form) that when submitted correctly leads to the OK page saying "Check your inbox for an email confirmation". In the confirmation/welcome email there should be link with unique ID pointing to the the update.shtml URL. When visited, this page will confirm the email address and allow thye user to modify their subscription settings, inluding change their setting to "not subscribed".

You should test this subscritpion process, including updating subscription settings. Add some new items to My Slice and check that subscribers receive them as expeceted.

Make Forms Pretty

You may also want to simplify the anonymous form by hiding the selection check box and possibly the "how often" select box. To hide the selection checkbox, just change the input type from "checkbox" to "hidden", and remove the surrounding text. To hide the "how often" select box you need to create a hidden input with the name and one value pulled from the "how often" select box. The final cleaned up form could look like the sandbox alert subscribe form.

You may also want to similarily modify the update, see sandbox alert update form.

Step 5: Customize Your Alert Messages

If you haven't already, you will want to customize the alert welcome message (sent once upon subscription for email confirmation) and the alert message template.

Alert Welcome Message

Like any important text, you should probably use a word processor to write and check spelling of the message to sent. You can use HTML or plain text. You will want to include:

To update the test, go to you Alert Module > Settings and click edit icon beside welcome email select box. Both the subject and body processes aliases and {} commands.

Alert Message Template

The alert message template is edited the same as Welcome Message, except that _#FILTERS_ will be replace by the views of the new selections. You will want to include:

The views of selections can accessed through My Alerts Module > Selections > click on selection name. It is probably best to put the introduction to each slice's items within the top HTML for each slices Alerts Selection Set view. This is more important when there are multiple selection options within an alert module.


Filtering readers who are not yet confirmed

Change the design of the Item Manager in Slice Admin to show the alias _#MAILCONF. This alias shows “yes” or “no”. But it is created by the f_c function and the values in the database are 0 or 1. Thus give “0” and not “no” into the Search box.
Filtering readers receiving a selection: Add the Alerts Selections to Item Manager. Create an alias using the function f_h with the parameter , (comma). You will see the selection IDs prefixed by f. Now you understand why you should enter something like “f45” into the Search box.

Customize Result Messages

To customize result messages, (i.e.. confirmation, error or update messages at the top right of anonymous forms) use show_results.php3: Copy the script from doc/script/show_result.php3 to the same location where you created myalerts.shtml.
When creating anon form: Fill the URL of yours show_result.php3 and check the box “Use a PHP script ...”

Content Pooling lets you exchange articles with any number of partner sites. You can create a pool with any number of partners. With Pooling, you always retain complete control: you can withold any item from your pool; and you can reject any item made available to you. ActionApps empower anyone to publish online, saving you the money you'd normally spend on web specialists (or training). ActionApps also make your team more efficient—since the people who create your group's information can publish it online themselves. Finally, ActionApps' Content Pooling technology, by letting you trade articles with partner sites, helps you access new content (theirs) and new audiences (for yours). About ActionApps presents more about benefits, while Strategic Uses offers tips on adapting ActionApps to your own needs.

Web Networks' case studies can be viewed here

Also see our growing list of ActionApps examples Different APC providers offer different services based on ActionApps. So prices vary. For specifics, please ask your APC provider. If you are a developer and are interested in the ActionApps, we want your help. You can either offer to help our team directly or you can work on your own modules and release them under the GPL. Either way, you should check in with us on current developments and plans. Visit the ActionApps developer Website at http://www.sourceforge.net/apc-aa


This FAQ interface was developed by Jason at Commons.ca

APC: Internet and ICTs for social justice and development APC ActionApps is a free software content management system initiated by the Association for Progressive Communications (APC)
APC - Internet and ICTs for social justice and development