Guest Email List and Utilities for Tracking Guests and Former Members



The latest software updates were produced in response to a request to support having a separate email list for staying in touch with guests who are not yet members. You can also use it to keep tabs on former members you hope will return someday. This is part of the the integration with the Mailman mailing list utility. The Guests/Former Members tracking screen has also been updated to allow you to add those individuals to the list.

In addition, I’ve made it easier to manage one routine administrative task: approving or deleting messages that have been held for moderation.

The options below will appear on your Toastmasters settings screen if you are running an independent website. If you have one of the free toastmost.org accounts, I have to manually set it up for you (in which case I’d ask you to consider making a donation to the cause).

Guest email list option on the settings screen.

Simplifying Mailman

Mailman is an open source Linux utility that has been around for years. Once you have recorded your password, the WordPress software will log into Mailman on your behalf to perform routine functions like adding the email addresses of new members to your members email list. The link to the Mailman administration page, along with the password, are also displayed on the dashboard in the section only visible to site managers (officers) and administrators.

This kind of mailing list allows you to write to a single address and have your message distributed to everyone on the list. It includes some basic unsubscribe functionality, and you as the list administrator can also add and drop list members.

As an alternative, the RSVPMaker plugin included as part of WordPress for Toastmasters, supports integration with the MailChimp marketing email service. However, forwarding a message via the Mailman email list is a lot quicker and easier than setting up a MailChimp campaign.

Before distributing a message, Mailman checks to make sure the message was sent by either a member of the list, an administrator, or another email account that has been specifically whitelisted as an approved address. If not, the message will be held for “moderation,” meaning a list administrator has to approve it. This is helpful for preventing spam, but it does add a certain amount of hassle and gives you another password to remember.

The Mailman user interface for that task is not the most user friendly.

Mailman pending messages user interface.

Now, when you get the notification about one of these pending messages you can approve it from within the Mailman Mailing List screen in WordPress (under the Users menu, next to Guests/Former Members).

Where to find the Mailman screen.

This screen also allows you to view who is currently on each of the 3 supported lists (members, officers, guests) and to add or unsubscribe list members.

Under the Pending Messages section, you will see the email addresses of any unauthorized members who have written to the list, along with the subject line of the message or messages they sent. For each email, you can choose to Always Approve messages (whitelist), Approve Once (just this time), or Blacklist the message. If you approved the message, it will be transmitted. If you choose Blacklist, the message will be deleted and any further messages from that address will be blocked.

You can also click on the message to read its content before deciding, although currently that does require you to log into Mailman directly. Often, it’s pretty obvious from the subject line and the email address, for example if a member is writing from a different email address than the one on the list or if a district officer is trying to write to your club.

The Mailman Mailing Lists screen in WordPress

Adding Email from RSVPs and Guests/Former Members List

The Guests/Former Members screen automatically tracks information about people who used to be club members (and users of the website) but aren’t anymore. You can also manually add information about guests and former members who you want to stay in touch with. You now have the option of checking off emails from the Guests/Former members list that should be added to your guest email list in Mailman.

If you use RSVPMaker to register guests online, you can also pull in the email addresses people who have visited but not joined your club from those registrations. This is relevant to the online club I helped found, Online Presenters, where we have people register to get the link to the video conference.

Here is a quick video demo of how that works.

Call for Developers: WordPress for Toastmasters on Github



The three components of the WordPress for Toastmasters software are now available on Github for the benefit of web developers and designers who would like to contribute code and ideas for improvement. 

RSVPMaker for Toastmasters on Github
Access to the RSVPMaker for Toastmasters source code.

The development of this software has been largely a one-man show to date, but having more eyes on the code will force me to clean up some of my own sloppy habits and bring more ideas into the process. I am new to doing collaboration through Github, but it is well known among open source developers. Even if you do not know how to fix or improve the code, you can post feature requests and ideas on the issues tab within one of the repositories.

Like WordPress, these extensions are written in PHP and JavaScript (often using the JQuery libraries), plus HTML and CSS. Where possible, I try to take advantage of native WordPress capabilities, for example by using the standard editor you would use for blog posts to edit agendas and agenda templates. The WordPress APIs are documented at https://developer.wordpress.org/reference/

Notes for Developers

Note that RSVPMaker is used for other purposes outside of Toastmasters for all sorts of scheduling and event registration tasks. Toastmasters-specific functionality needs to be packed primarily into RSVPMaker for Toastmasters. However, sometimes it’s necessary to retool the RSVPMaker code to make it more flexible, so we can do what we need to do in a Toastmasters context. Ideally, those improvements also make it more flexible and capable for other purposes. Read more about RSVPMaker at rsvpmaker.com.

RSVPMaker defines a custom post type for events, in addition to the native WordPress page and post types. RSVPMaker posts have additional metadata associated with them such as event date and whether RSVPs (registrations) are being collected, what information should be collected from each attendee, whether a price is to be charged by PayPal or Stripe. Those options are displayed in the editor and dictate the display and interactivity of the event post.

RSVPMaker also allows you to establish templates that can be used to generate multiple events with the same characteristics, such as multiple Toastmasters meetings with the same agenda.

For the member signup form and printable agenda, RSVPMaker for Toastmasters uses WordPress shortcodes, which are placeholders for interactive features. When WordPress displays a post, it checks for any shortcodes embedded in the content and invokes the functions they are link to.

Example:

[toastmaster role=”Speaker” count=”3″ agenda_note=”” time_allowed=”28″ padding_time=”1″ indent=”0″]

This is displayed differently in different contexts.

  • Anonymous user sees: names of people who have signed up to speak. Prompt at top of agenda inviting members to log in.
  • Logged in member sees: three speaker signup slots on a web form, with prompts to enter manual, project, title, and intro.
  • VP of Education editing the lineup sees: speaker signup form with a drop down list of all members who can be assigned to the speaking role.
  • Member printing the agenda sees: A printable view of the data recorded on the form, including member name, manual, project, and title.
  • Club leader restructuring the agenda sees: a visual placeholder for the code shown above, with instructions to click twice to display a popup editor. The popup editor makes it possible to edit the shortcode attributes visually, rather than with coding. This is constructed using JavaScript APIs to WordPress and the TinyMCE visual editor.

Those are a few concepts I thought it was important to explain up front, but I’m sure anyone who digs into the code will have more questions. Write me at david@wp4toastmasters.com