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Author: Manuel Lemos

Posted on:

Categories: New site features

Since 2002 the PHPClasses site has a feature that allows giving credit to friends of the site that bring more new users to the site.

This feature has been enhanced and now it is easier to lead more new users to the site and get even more recognition for that.

Read this article to learn how to take advantage of the new features and help making the site even better with the help of new contributors that you may bring to the site.

Learn also how to make other suggestions to improve the site further.




Contents

What is the Friends of the Site initiative?

What is new in the Friends of the Site initiative?

Future Enhancements

Conclusions

What is the Friends of the Site initiative?

Friends of the Site is an initiative to provide recognition to the users that contribute to the growth of the site community. It was launched in the early days of the site in 2002.

The principle behind this initiative is related to a fact that was observed in this site that for about every 300 new users that register to the site, one becomes a contributor and submits new packages.

This rate revealed to pretty steady over time. So the conclusion is that the more users are brought to the site, more new components are submitted and the site becomes more useful to more people.

The Friends of the Site initiative was started to encourage the current users in bringing more new users to the site. Basically it works by telling the users to share URLs of interesting pages of the site. They can share pages with using URLs that have slight changes relatively to the original page URLs to make it possible to determine which friends are leading which new users.

Since it was started,many thousands of users were brought to the site this way thanks to the participation of almost 400 friends of the site. This is great but in reality it only represents a small fraction of the new users that register to the site. Some of the new users are still led by unknown people but the vast majority found out the site using search engines.

All new users are very welcome regardless where they came from but it is not ideal for any site to depend solely on search engines. Search engines keep changing their Web page ranking algorithms as they are still trying to improve the way they determine which Web pages are more likely to provide what the users are looking for.

Since this is a site that is powered by the contributions of its community, It makes sense to rely more on the members of the community to help it grow for the general benefit of everybody that participates in it. So it is necessary to motivate more friends of the site to bring more users.

What is new in the Friends of the Site initiative?

The Friends of the Site initiative was enhanced in several ways to be more efficient. Here follows a description of the enhancements.

Better ways to build friend referral URLs

The way this site tracks referrals of new users by site friends works by providing alternative URLs for the site pages. The original form of referral URL consists in changing a little bit the domain of the site URL.

So a friend the site that wants to attract more users can share an URL that is the same as of any page except that instead of using the domain www.phpclasses.org, it will use an URL that includes the user name in the domain.

For instance, if you want to share a page with the URL:

http://www.phpclasses.org/package/12345-some-description

assuming that your account access name is bigfriend, just replace the www part of the domain by bigfriend.users, so the referral URL that you should use becomes:

http://bigfriend.users.phpclasses.org/package/12345-some-description

This method worked well and it is better than methods used by other referral programs, like for using cookies to track users. The problem is that when the user browser discards the cookies and the user bookmarks the URLs before registering, you do not loose the opportunity to be credited for the referral.

However, some people complained that the referral URL looks wierd as the domain no longer starts with www. Therefore, a new format of URL for tracking referrals was just made available. It consists in using the utm_campaign and utm_medium parameters in the referral URL.

These parameters are supported by Web site statistic tracking programs like Google Analytics. The site does not rely on Google Analytics to track the referrals but it is a good idea to use parameters adopted as standards for the purpose of tracking users.

So, as an alternative to the method of changing the domain, which is still supported, if you want to share a page with the URL:

http://www.phpclasses.org/package/12345-some-description

again assuming that your account access name is bigfriend, just set the utm_campaign parameter to bigfriend and utm_medium to users like this:

http://www.phpclasses.org/package/12345-some-description?utm_campaign=bigfriend&utm_medium=users

It is a bit longer URL but it looks more normal for most users.

Social Network Sharing buttons and widgets

Now that you have a couple of ways to format the site URLs to refer new users to the site, you may be realizing that it is a bit tedious to keep changing the URLs manually to be credited for the referrals. So now there are easier and straightforward ways to share URLs that contain your friend referral tracking information.

The easiest way to refer new friends to the site is to use the buttons that appear on most pages of the site which allow you to share the current page in social networks like Facebook, Google +1, Twitter, etc..

It is very important that  you are logged in the PHPClasses site when you click on those buttons. Otherwise the site has no way of knowing that it is you that is clicking on the buttons.

When you are logged in the site automatically alters the URLs passed to those social networks to include your referral parameters. So always make sure you are logged in the site when you click on the buttons Like, Send, +1, Tweet, etc..

Another easy way for you to share pages of the site with other people and be credited for new user referrals is to embed widgets that list links to interesting pages of the site.

You just need to put some HTML code with JavaScript tags. The JavaScript code displays a listing that is updated dynamically on every access. One of the the available types of widget lists the latest packages published in the site. Another list the latest book reviews.

The site provides means for you to pass parameters that allow you to customize the way the listing will look, so you can adjust it to match your site design.

This type of widgets was already supported since when the Friends of the site Initiative was launched. Take a look at the Friends of the Site page for more details on how to customize the available types of widgets.

New Friends of the Site Ranking

Friends that bring new users to the site deserve all the recognition that the site can give them. Therefore, since the beginning the site lists the top friends of the site that brought more new users since when this initiative started and also only in the last month.

These top friends charts are great but they are not enough because there are much more than 10 friends sending new users to the site. Therefore a new top friends of the site page was added to list all friends' names, their positions, how many users they sent. So now any friend of the site can see how is he doing.

Furthermore the site now also has separate pages to show rankings of friends in each country. Just click on the links of the countries of the world wide rankings and you can see the rankings of just the friends of those countries.

Friends Author Conversions Ranking

Bringing in more new users is great but it would be even better if any of those users would actually submit new interesting components to the site. Therefore a couple of separate new ranking pages were added to list friends that brought new users which became contributing authors.

One of the ranking pages is to list friends that led more new authors. This ranking shows how many users that submitted new classes were led by each friend.

The other ranking is similar but considers a different factor to rank each friend. Instead of ranking friends by the number of led authors, it ranks the friends by the total number of packages submitted by those packages.

Hopefully this will encourage more friends of the site to persuade more new users to submit more interesting packages.

Contributor Report progress and tips

All these rankings are fine but it is a known fact that not all of the current friends are following these announcements. So they will probably not be aware that that can get greater recognition for the new users they have been bring to the site.

Therefore, all the friends of the site are can receive a special report by e-mail telling them how they are doing in these rankings.

Actually this is the same report message that is sent once a week to all authors of the site to tell them how they are ranking among all authors. So if you are both an author and a friend of the site, you just receive one report message a week.

The message also contain tips on what you can do to improve your friends of the site ranking position. Every week you will receive a different set of tips, so you can try something new each week.

To make sure you will receive this report message, just go on the User Options page, click on the E-mail and Newsletters tab and check the option that says Reports about your participation.

You can also set the day of the week on which you will get these report e-mail messages. That is the same day defined in front of the Site content newsletters option.

Future Enhancements

These enhancements of the Friends of the site initiative were put in practice last week. I can see already the effects of the new possibilities. The increase of the number of new users led by friends is already being noticed despite this was not widely announced until now.

Many more enhancements are being considered but it will take a long time to develop all of them and I am not sure if they are all so appealing to all friends interested in this initiative. Therefore I have put up a survey to ask the interested users which enhancements they would like to see first.

In this survey you can give a priority value to each of the proposed enhancements. The priority goes from 1 to10, being 1 less urgent and 10 more urgent.

The last survey field lets you suggest any other enhancements to the Friends of the Site initiative that you may have. That field is not mandatory but your suggestions are very welcome.

Please go in the Friends of the Site Enhancements survey page and let me know what do you think would be more interesting to implement first.

Conclusions

The Friends of the Site initiative is yet another way to let everybody participate and be helpful to the PHP developers that benefit from this site.

There are many more things that can be done to make this site better for everybody that may or may not be related with this initiative.

Feel free to post a comment to this article telling if you like this initiative, other ideas that were not mentioned, as well other suggestions for improvements that you would like to be implemented soon in the site.


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