Developer Area/Specifications in Development/More flexible use of profile information proposal 2

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This feature was funded by the New Zealand Ministry of Education and implemented by Catalyst IT for Mahara 1.5

The proposal for a the more flexible use of the profile information would have a huge impact on the architecture and concept of Mahara and is far-reaching beyond the display of profile information. For example it would also impact how profile information is handled by searches, how it is displayed in other pages than the profile page. A number of exceptions would be necessary and access at least for profile information would have to be moved to the artifact level whereas the rest of the permissions is always dependent on pages. These changes can affect the speed of Mahara very much if just added.

It would not be possible to implement these changes incrementally and the entire structure of Mahara would be affected. A number of these changes would impact the speed of Mahara greatly.

A more pragmatic approach could be taken that works with existing technology and expands it without the need for re-engineering.

The following changes would allow for this:

  • The profile page can be made accessible like any other page.
  • Institutions will be added to the access list for pages and collections. A user's institution(s) appear in the shortcut list.
  • If a user is a member of an institution, his institution is chosen per default for access to the profile page. That setting cannot be taken away.
  • If a user is not a member of an institution, his profile is visible to logged-in users per default as at the moment.
  • In the CSV file upload and when adding a single new user, an institution admin can set the display name (field: preferredname) and then lock that field to disallow that it can be changed. That is an existing functionality. This allows the admin of a primary school, for example, to set the display name to the first name of the students and they cannot change it later on.
  • An institution admin can define the default settings for new users in the CSV upload and when adding a single user. These are a number of the settings found on an individual's settings page that an institution admin might want to set as defaults. This does not prevent users from changing these default settings at a later point to something else.
  • The display name can be changed by the user if that is allowed by the institution (existing functionality). If a user is a member of multiple institutions where one locks a field, he cannot change it in another. The least permissive settings are applied to all institutions as the user only has one profile.
  • Institution and site admins can always change their display name.
  • When a user clicks on the link of a user's profile, he only sees basic information about the user but not the entire profile if he does not have the rights, e.g. is not a member of the institution:
    • display name
    • membership in institution
    • send message
    • request friendship
  • A copy of the profile picture is put into the files area so that it can be used elsewhere in Mahara and not just in the profile information block.
  • The introduction does not have a pre-set text anymore. Currently, it displays the name of a user and this is not changed dynamically.
  • The username is not displayed to anybody (this needs a thorough check across Mahara).

Existing functionality

  • If a user does not have a display name, his name defaults to his real name.
  • Institution staff can always see the real name of an institution member.
  • Institution and site admins can always see and search for the real name.
  • A user can always be found by his display name (or also real name if the institution [and the user if allowed] permits that). When a user is found in the user search result, his display name and profile picture are shown. A profile picture does not have to be a photo of a user, but can be something else. Thus, children whose school does not want them to display their school photo for privacy reasons could choose another avatar and still be visually distinguished in discussion forums etc.