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Qt Centre turns four

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Happy New Year, everyone!

Four years ago Qt Centre was opened. A lot has changed since then - Nokia acquired Trolltech, Qt went LGPL and has become available to literally hundreds of millions of machines in the world.

Qt Centre has seen stable growth and some development as well. We have over 15k users worldwide with over 125,000 posts in more than 20,000 threads in the forum. A wiki was established, two programming contests were conducted and many prizes have been given away to people from various continents.

But the layout of Qt Centre didn't change much since the very beginning. Until today. In the day of our fourth birthday we present you a major update to both the internals and the externals of Qt Centre.

So, what has changed?
At the first sight you can notice the new graphics. Things should become more readable and more pleasant for your eyes. There are still some glitches with fonts and colors but we'll correct them soon.

The portal
Internally we got rid of Joomla that has been causing us a lot of trouble in the past (I don't say it's a bad piece of software, I only say I'm too narrow minded to use it properly) and replaced it with the recently released vBulletin Suite 4.0 (something I've been waiting for for the last two years). It let us integrate the forum with the rest of the site allowing us to have a single user base, search engine and coherent look&feel. We can now add new content easily and smoothly and we can also allow you to provide us with news, tutorials and all kinds of other articles. I'm hoping some of you will become regular authors and moderators here. To be able to post articles, you have to request membership in the "Article Editors" usergroup. You can do that from your user settings panel (or just follow the link). This action is required to prevent spammers from flooding our moderation queue.

The wiki
Me diving into vBulletin's PHP code (I haven't written a larger piece of PHP code for years) allowed us to integrate the wiki with the forum (and now portal) as well. The integration is currently experimental (hence the flashy-red banner when you push the "wiki" button in the navigation bar) but with a bit of free time and self-motivation I should be able to integrate more features quickly. For now there is no search nor editing of the integrated wiki so http://wiki.qtcentre.org remains the primary way of accessing wiki's content.

Blogs
If you are reading this then you already know there are blogging features integrated into the site. You can have your blog here as well (it can be your personal blog, a mini-site to promote software you are writing or any other goal you see fit) but you have to meet some conditions. You have to request membership in the "Bloggers" usergroup. If you are an experienced user with good reputation, you will surely be granted access to blogging facilities. But if you just joined the Community, you have to first prove yourself worthy (and by that I don't mean reaching some post count), i.e. by working on your reputation.

Social Networking, Community integration
One of goals of Qt Centre is to provide Qt users with opportunities to meet and interact with each other. We have already had some success in this field by attending Qt Developer Days during the last years and also by inviting chosen Qt Centre users to join us there (we hope we can repeat it this year). We also enable more and more social features of the website. At Qt Centre you can make friends, share photo experiences or create and join social groups (consider joining your national social group).

Since Qt went LGPL we have noticed an increased growth in the number of visitors and posts made on the forum (which is good). Unfortuately with that came a degradation of level of asked questions and also exodus of people answering them (which is a bad thing). To stimulate both the level of communication and the motivation of users we have enabled the so called reputation system. It's just a try but if it works, it will stay as a permanent solution. What is the reputation system about? Each user collects reputation points which are awarded by other users based on the quality of posts. Those points can be positive or negative. The higher reputation a user has, the more he can influence the reputation of others.

High reputation means more satisfaction with own Qt and programming skills. But there is also another, more practical, aspect. People with high reputation are awarded special rights on the website (i.e. access to blogs, more tools on the forum), badges on their profiles. If the mechanism works, we will also consider awarding people with less virtual prizes, such as gifts, tickets to Developer Days, etc. On the other hand if the reputation is low, certain rights can be temporarily revoked from a user (i.e. he'll only be able to post on the "Newbie" forum) until he gains some positive reputation points (i.e. by helping others). Another practical aspect is that if you have a low reputation, nobody will want to help you as you may be a misbehaving or ungrateful person. Everyone starts with the same reputation so chances are equal for everyone. We'll be monitoring how the system works and introducing bonuses and penalties accordingly. You can read more about the reputation system in the FAQ.

The forum
Last but not least... using the forum should be more pleasant now. We'll be introducing some sanity checks to prevent common incorrect situations (i.e. using wrong bbcode tags, inlining large amounts of code in posts, using 3rd party sites for attachments, multiposting) and suggest better approaches. The attachment system has been completely reworked in vBulletin and became more of a "media library" that allows you to group your attachments and reuse them in different situations.

The infamous issue with malformed source-code copied from the forum has also been resolved. Links to documentation from the source code should be working as well. There are also other numerous fixes and upgrades throughout the forums (and not only there) but I'll let you find them yourselves.

Feel free to leave a comment to this entry. Tell us if you like the changes or what bothers you. Also consider taking the (incomplete) tour around Qt Centre. Also expect more features to come soon.

Happy birthday, Community!

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