Social Networking for Civil Society

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User Instructions

If you just need a quick overview you can check out our crash course.

We are continuously adding new features and try to keep this manual up-to-date. Please bear with us if we lag behind!

The basic components

Before we explain the various function, we need to start with the very basics. The entire system rests upon three interacting categories of items - users, groups, and resources - which we will explain first.


Users are the basic actors on and they usually correspond to real-world persons. Users can connect to other users, either person-to-person or in groups.


Groups are formed around activities, problems and needs. This is the place where users meet like-minded people, join forces and exchange experiences. Groups can exist around unsolved problems or for a concrete action plan, for a global concern or for a local issue in a real-world neighborhood.

One of the key features of groups is the group chat. Groups can also subscribe to resources.


Users and groups need information resources for their activities. These can be laws, office hours, instructional videos, reports on best practice, locations of clinics, or anything else.

Possible types of resources are:

event (with a date)1)
organization or instiution (possibly existing in the real world)
document (for example a law or a report; it can include some formatting and images)
video (YouTube or Vimeo)
live video (Bambuser)
audio (Soundcloud)
other (just a short description with an external link)

Users and groups can subscribe to resources so that it will be easier to access them. You can also see what a user or group is up to by checking their subscribed resources.

Tip: You can see the meaning of icons if you hold the mouse pointer above them: A tooltip will appear with a short explanation.


Facebook Sign-Up and Sign-In

If your administrator has enabled it, you can user your Facebook account to sign up. The first time you use this button, you have to confirm that you grant the permission to obtain your email address.2) will try to get your first and last name, your current location and your portrait (avatar).

In future you simply use the same button to sign in.

Signing up

If you want to use beyond browsing public items, you need to sign up as a user.

Upon registration, you choose a username that will be displayed on the platform. The registration needs to be confirmed through a link that is sent to your email address.3)

New users will then have the opportunity to enter their personal details. These information will be visible on your profile, helping others to learn more about your background. Some of the information will be used for filtering. Most of these details are optional - you can choose reveal only a part of your information or to remain entirely anonymous.

  • Name, Surname, Phone: optional details that can help to identify and contact the user
  • Email: mandatory; every change of the email address needs to be confirmed through a confirmation message to the previous address. If the previous address is not accessible, then the change can only be made by a moderator.
  • Visibility: The user can choose to be visible a) to everyone, including people who view the web-site without being signed in; b) only to people who are signed in; or c) only to friends. See below for more details.
  • Language: The user can choose a primary language. This doesn't affect which other languages can be used or seen but it will help others to find out how to communicate with you.
  • Description: Brief information about your background or motivation.
  • Avatar: A portrait. After uploading an image, you will need to select a part that will be cropped and resized as icons.
  • Tags: Personal interests or topics that the user is concerned with. Tags play an important role in finding like-minded people.
  • Location: Here the user can save his or her own geographical location. This is relevant for location-specific search.

Signing in

You can sign in with your username and password. If you forgot your password, you can request a link to your email address to change it.

The home screen

When you enter the platform you will first see the home screen. The information presented here a different, depending on whether you are signed in or you just came here as a guest.

Viewed by guests

Visitors who are not signed in will see a general overview and top items of users, groups and resources. As guests they will naturally only see items that have the visibility “world”.

On the home screen you find general information about the platform and you can change the language of the user interface.

Viewed after signing in

As soon as you have signed in, this overview is replaced by personalized information about.

  • My Connections: Your friends, groups where you are a member, and resources that you are subscribed to. A symbol with a key marks those groups and resources that you have created or where you are a moderator:
  • My Recommendations: A list of users, groups and resources that could be interesting for you. This list is generated by searching searching for your language and your tags. If you have your own location set, will also try to search first in your neighborhood (in a smaller and then in a larger radius) and, if not enough found, disregard your location. You don't see items that you are already connected to.
  • My Activity: See what has happened in your groups and your resources, sorted by time. If you check “Include all new users, groups and resources that you are allowed to view.” you can make sure not to miss anything new. “My Activity” is also available from the menu on the top right.
  • My Events: Find here an overview of events that you have subscribed to. Displayed are also system-wide events.

The administrator can add further tabs.

Hovering the mouse over the name of users, you see when they last have been seen online. If they are online right now, you see a green dot.

In the top right corner you will also find a link to your inbox where you find messages from other users and system messages (e.g. when somebody has accepted your friendship request). An indicator shows you whether you have unread messages:

List screen

Through the top menu you can go to a list of users, groups or resources. These screens are all structured in a similar way: In the left column you see a list of all items of the chosen category. This list can be filtered. The filter button on the right side indicates whether it is active or not.

If you click on an item in this list, you obtain a brief overview: a description and the connections of the selected item:

  • For a selected user, you see the groups that this user is a member of and the resources that the users has subscribed to.
  • For a selected group, you see the users who are members and the group resources.
  • For a selected resource, you see the users and the groups that have subscribed to it.

You also see whether you have a connection to this item (friendship, membership or subscription) and you can perform general actions. If this item belongs to you (if you view your own profile or if you are the owner or a moderator of a group or resource), you can also edit it.

Detail screen

By clicking on the name of an item in the overview or on the home screen, you will be taken to the details of that item. Here you can see some further details: the tags, the location (if applicable) and the owner.

In the case of resources you will be able to obtain the full information, read the document, watch the films and play the audio files.

As member (of a group) or subscriber (of a resource) you will be able to see and use the group chat or post a comment on the resource.

Group chat

The group chat is one of the main features of a group where members can talk about the topics and issues that this group is concerned with.

The chat reloads itself when ever something new has been posted, or you can deactivate this function and reload it only manually. Message can contain some basic formatting, including emoticons ( =) 8-) ) and links.

If you click on the reply button of a message, the beginning of that message will be quoted in the editor window, together with its author's name and the time. After posting your reply, this quoted text will help you to identify the message that you have replied to: Hover your mouse over it to highlight the original message, and click to scroll down to it.4)

Creating and editing items

Groups and resources are created by moderators and by users who are already registered for a certain period of time. This “probation period” helps to prevent spamming or other issues by making sure that users have a clean record before they create anything. If they, however, are found to misuse their freedom and violate the rules, this privilege can be revoked again by moderators. In any case you are always allowed to edit your own profile.

If you have these “creation rights” you will see below the menus for groups and resources the submenu to create new items. The screen to create new items looks very similar to the one where you edit exiting items, the main difference being that you create items in two steps:

  1. In the first step you enter the name and a short description. When creating a group, you can upload an image that then needs to be cropped and scaled. When creating a resource, you choose from the various types of resources and enter then the information (e.g. a text, a link or the id of a video)
  2. In the second step you can choose a location from a map (if the item has a geographical location) and add tags that best describe the focus of the group or the topics covered by the resource.


Maps are only displayed if a location has been saved. In many cases groups or resources don't have a geographical location. Users' locations show only what they have chosen to save in their profiles. These are not their real locations. The item's position is displayed as a red marker.

If your browser asks you for the permission to retrieve your location, it will only be used to display it on the map as a blue marker. This position is only as accurate as Google manages to determine it.

If both the item's position and your current position are available, the map will try to adjust its zoom so that both are visible. Below the map you find buttons to move the map to each marker, and right of them you find further buttons to zoom in and out at these particular locations.

The text field enables you to search for a place. In some cases it is sufficient to give a town (“New York”), in others you will have to give more details, like adding the country (“Odessa, USA” or “Odessa, Ukraine”).

Using tags to describe items

Tags represent interests, topics or issues. They therefore tell you what a user or group is concerned with or what a resource is about. All items can be searched by their tags through the filter.

When you edit your profile or create groups or resources, you should therefore choose your tags carefully. Only by using the right tags you will be found by the like-minded people.

Tags are organized in two levels: parent and child tags. This makes it possible that an item can be tagged precisely with a particular topic, while it still can be found by searching the more comprehensive tag on the parent level.


  • Human Rights
    • Freedom from torture
    • Freedom of speech
    • Freedom of movement
    • Women's righst
    • Children's rights
  • Environment
    • Waste management
    • Alternative energy

Tags are created by the administrator. If users need additional tags, they may request them through the available user support channels.

Finding relevant items by filtering

Filters form a core part of's concept. Filters help you to narrow down the entire list of users, groups and resources to that what is relevant for you and your activities. Open the filter with the button on the upper right side of the list views.

By applying a filter, the list on the screen will be reduced to items that match these filters. Items can be filtered by their name, by tags, by language, by location, or, in case of resources, by resource type. The default is that each of the filter criteria reduces the group of items that passes the filter. You can, however, also connect the filters by “OR” and find items that match one criteria or the other.

The filter opens in an overlay above the screen. Apart from the usual use by selecting the criteria one-by-one, you can also press “similar to me” to set the filter according to your own preference in your profile and find users, groups and resources that are close to your own interests and in your geographical proximity.

Don't forget to clear the filters after your search is done - otherwise you might wonder why some items in the lists are missing. A different visual appearance will help you to see whether the filter is on or off without having to open the filter window:

Filtering by tags

Tags are organized on different levels. Filtering by a parent tag will also find all items for its child tags. A tag labeled “Human Rights” would, for instance, find also items with the tags “Freedom of Speech” and “Children's Rights”. This way you can do a broad search for general terms or focus on specific topics.

Filtering by location

The location filter is applied in two steps: First, you set the center of your search by clicking on the map. Second, you set the search radius around that centre by clicking a second time. You will now see two pins on the map - one for the center and another one for the radius. Both markers can be moved around.

If you want to remove the markers, click the “clear” button . The map on the filter screen also offers the possibility to search for a place.

Interacting with groups, resources and other users

As user you can choose to get connected to other users, to groups and to resources. This is called friendship (users), membership (groups) or subscription (resources). These connections give you three main advantages:

  1. You have more possibilities to interact with connected items, e.g. sending messages, participating in group chats or commenting on resources.
  2. Connections are a way of bookmarking items for easier access later on.
  3. Connections can give you an idea of an user's interests, what a group is doing and who is interested in a particular resource.

Of course it also works the other way around: Other users will be able to see your connections5) and accordingly form their picture of you.

Friendship with users

You can ask any other user for friendship. The friendship will be effective once the request has been accepted, i.e. the friendship is mutual.

There are some things that friendship enables you to do:

  • You can view your friend's details regardless of his or her visibility settings.
  • You can send each other private messages.
  • She or he will be listed on your home screen for easier access.

Membership in groups

Likewise you can become a member of a group, which will have similar effects:

  • You can see the contents even if the group is closed.
  • You can use the group chat.
  • It will be listed on your home screen for easier access.

Joining a closed group

Closed groups enjoy special protection: There is no way to request membership. You can join a closed group only if you have the group key6), which is provided by the group owner.7)

Subscription to resources

If you subscribe to a resource you can enjoy the following advantages:

  • You can see the contents even if the resource is closed.
  • You can comment on that resource.
  • It will be listed on your home screen for easier access.

Group resources

Not only individuals can benefit from resources but also groups. Groups are therefore - just like users - able to subscribe to resources. The resource will then be listed among the group resources and members of that group will have full access to that resource. These subscriptions can only be made and canceled by the owners and moderators of that group.


Messages can be sent in three areas:

  1. as private messages between users, from a friend's detail page or from the general message page
  2. in a group chat
  3. as comment on a resource

There are some features that appear only at selected places where it makes sense:

  • Private messages can be moved to the trash or back to the inbox.
  • Private messages can be marked as read so that they are not counted for the unread message indicator. If you have unread messages, an additional “Unread” tab will appear.
  • Private and group messages can be filtered by sender - live on the screen or, with an additional press of “enter”, on the server.
  • You can reply to private messages, quoting a part of the message being replied to. The quote will later act as hint to the original message: Mouse-over highlights it, clicking moves there.8)
  • You can add links and images to your messages. It is possible to upload items of selected types (images, office documents) and keep them on your personal part of the server for repeated access. 9)
  • Moderators10) can permanently delete messages in group chats.
  • If a user is deactivated, his/her messages are replaced by a note about this fact.


Inside the messages you can use some referrers that will be converted into clickable links:

pattern meaning example
@text searches users with 'text' in their name @mary
@@text searches groups with 'text' in their name @@ict4d
@@@text searches resources with 'text' in their name @@@delhi
@number links to the user with ID 'number', displaying the name @12
@@number links to the group with ID 'number', displaying the name @@3
@@@number links to the resource with ID 'number', displaying the name @@@765
#text searches items with a tag 'text'; search starts at users @mary

The text cannot contain spaces, which need to be converted to “_”.

Controlling privacy through visibility

Privacy is managed consistently throughout the entire platform by setting their visibility. Each element of users, groups and resources can have their own visibility.

There are three types of visibility:

  1. World: This means that users and visitors can view this item, including the contents, even if they are not signed in.
  2. Registered: In this case people must be registered at this deployment and signed in. This information stays inside the community.
  3. Closed (Friend/Member/Subscriber): This is the most restricted option. Details can only be accessed by friends (in the case of users), members (of groups) and subscribers (of resources). In the case of groups, you are not able to join without a key. In the case of resources, you are not able to subscribe.

There are some important notes that you should be aware of:

  • What ever the visibility, your data can be accessed by moderators and administrators.11)
  • Chats in groups and comments on resources are always treated as having the visibility closed. Private messages of users can only be viewed by the sender and the recipient.

Reporting misuse

All items can be reported (click ) by users if they violate the rules, e.g. if they post spam or use inappropriate language or hate speech, or if an item has been created by mistake. Reports are processed by administrators and moderators who can send a warning to the users or owners via the private message system and who can eventually even deactivate the user, group or resource.

If users are found creating unconstructive groups or resources, they can merely be deprived of their right to create groups and resources, while they continue being able to log in and use their account.

1) In a future version we will add the possibility to receive reminders.
2) We need this so that we can send you notifications. will not be able to read your emails, to read any private information on Facebook or to do anything on Facebook on your behalf.
3) As a precaution to prevent spammers, the email and IP addresses will be checked against external databases.
4) Note: This works only if the original message is on the same screen.
5) unless your own visibility settings make you invisible
6) a URL containing a custom sequence
7) That key could, of course, be posted somewhere else.
8) Works only if the message is on the same page. The quote must be auto-inserted since it contains the reference.
9) These items are visible to everyone, so if you wish to keep them private, choose a file name that is difficult to guess.
10) deployment and group moderators, including also administrators and owners
11) Except for private messages, which, however, could be viewed by a system administrator or anyone who has access to the database or the hardware, such as the server.
manual/detailed_user_instructions.txt · Last modified: 2014/05/03 12:13 by Christoph