Proposals/More flexible use of profile information

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This is a proposal for a more flexible use of profile information on profile pages and across Mahara for post Mahara 1.4. For an updated and more doable version without having to re-engineer Mahara, please look at proposal 2.


The profile page is the "window" of a user on Mahara. It is visible to every Mahara user. If the site admin allows, it can also be made public for everybody to see on the Internet.

Not being able to have more settings available for the profile page can be problematic for large Mahara installations where a wide range of users are registered that are grouped into institutions. These institutions may have differing needs.

Furthermore, with students and teachers using social networking sites for their private communication and online engagement, they expect more flexibility of their Mahara profile.

Mahara is used in both institutional and non-institutional settings. Thus, it should allow for full flexibility for installations where users can register for free and for less flexibility when it is used in educational settings to allow for a school's regulations.

Institutions could look into the Walled Garden feature, but that can be too restrictive for some. In New Zealand, schools can use for their portfolio works. There, they do want to collaborate across schools, but at the same time provide a safe and comfortable place for their students that is appropriate for their age group.

Example context

Oaktree Primary School and Pinecrest Senior High share one Mahara installation with a number of other primary, middle and secondary schools. The decision to have a cross-school Mahara installation was made so that teachers and students from different schools can collaborate in groups and also view each other's portfolios / project pages.

The schools decided against going with the walled garden plugin because they want to be able to collaborate across schools. However, they do want to have some of the functionality to make certain information, esp. on profile pages, only available to their own school.

Visibility of online users

This has nothing to do with the profile page, but a related item in regard to making only certain information available to other users, is the "Online Users" sidebar. The institution admins will be able to choose whether they want to show this sidebar, only users from their institution or all users across Mahara. The number of users shown in the sidebar will be limited to 10 and an additional page will be created where the rest can be shown that were logged in during the last 10 minutes.

Oaktree Primary School wants to display only the first name of their students to every Mahara user that is not part of their institution. Kids' profile photos as well as contact information are also not shown.

online_users_sideblock (1).png

Institution admin settings

The institution admin at Oaktree can decide which information to make visible to everybody outside the Oaktree institution on Mahara. If the last name is locked for viewing only by Oaktree members, it will not appear in full anywhere on Mahara when a page or profile is viewed by anybody outside that institution. This does not only apply to the profile but also to portfolio pages and participations in groups.

The settings in the mockup below are new to allow institution admins to select which information from Mahara users can make public to logged-in users.

Users can always make more personal information accessible via text boxes. They would only not be allowed to select certain information from the one that is stored in Mahara.


Profile page

When a user is created on Mahara, her profile page contains the following elements:

  • Name, e.g. Trish Patterson's Profile
  • About me: Introduction
  • Pages, e.g. Trish Patterson's Pages
  • Groups, e.g. Trish Patterson's Groups
  • Friends, e.g. Trish Patterson's Friends
  • Wall, e.g. Trish Patterson's Wall

Editing "About me"

Users on Mahara will have only one profile page and depending on who views it, certain information will be visible. Depending on their institution's settings, they can make certain selections in the "About Me" blcok.

There will be contextual help available to explain why certain checkboxes can't be selected.


Viewing a profile page

The personal information that a Mahara user sees on a profile page depends on

  • which information the institution admin allows
  • which information the user eventually makes available
  • the relationship between the users (friends, members of the same institution, no relationship)

The following mockups show the same profile page viewed by different users on Mahara.

Logged-in users

Users who are not part of the institution as the person whose profile they are viewing and with whom they are not friends, only see a limited amount of personal information in a profile when the institution disallowed to display the last name, profile picture and contact information.

They can still send this person a message, request friendship or receive more information on the institution.


Note: The institution is linked on the profile page because in version 1.5 Mahara will have an additional institution page available where general information about an institution is displayed. Institution admins (and staff) can be contacted from that page.

Institution members

Members of the same institution see the full name of fellow members and also the profile picture.

profile_page_institution (1).png


Friends see the most information about a user. In the mockup below, Trish only allows her friends to see her contact information though theoretically she could allow other institution members to see that. However, she chose only to display it to her friends.

profile_page_friend (1).png

User view

The user can, of course, see all the information about herself.

profile_page_user (1).png

Staff and admin settings

These profile settings apply to regular users of Mahara. Staff and admin can always have more detailed information displayed no matter the standard profile institution settings for normal users.

A Mahara user can always make this information available to others by including it in a text box if she wishes to do so.

Special cases

  • If a Mahara user is a member of two or more institutions, the most restrictive settings are applied.
  • Institution and site admins always see the full name of a user on Mahara.