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E-Mail: Event Handling

Sending email on certain events in OpenACS/.LRN is done very haphazardly. This needs to be rewritten so there is a simple way to figure out when an email will be sent, and allow proper handling of user preferences, administrative parameters, and customization.

There are cases where the system (OpenACS or .LRN) needs to send out email, for example, when a new user joins, requests a password reset, or is added to a subsite or .LRN community.

Right now there isn't any system-wide way to mange this email. In some cases, the administrator is notified an email will be sent and is given the option to edit the email before it is sent, but there is no one way this is done.  There are several pages that call  ns_sendmail explicitly, or acs_mail_lite::send explicitly. There are more places this happens in .LRN. Unfortunately there is also a "magic" place where email is sent that is totally unexpected. Inside the dotlrn_community::membership_approve procedure, there is a call to dotlrn_community::send_member_email, which will send an email to the user when the membership is approved, if 1) a parameter is set and 2) an administrator has created and enabled an email message to be sent.

 In addition there is a email sent using the "spam" package in dotlrn/www/admin/users-add-to-community where a dotlrn sitewide administrator can add users to a community, and the users are automatically emailed. In this case the administrator is not notified that an email is sent, or given an opportunity to customize or suppress the email. This causes problems when an administrator attempts to fix a problem by adding a user to a community automatically, and the user is sent a confusing message.

The dotlrn package allows for a custom email to get written by the community admin for each community, but the admin is not allowed to choose if the email is sent when an individual member is added. It is either on or off, always sent, or never sent.

dotlrn-ecommerce extends this by adding several more events for application submission, approval, rejection, etc. And admin can edit these emails on a sitewide or per community basis. In most cases the email is automatically sent, in one o r two cases the admin can edit the email, but not suppress it.

This leads to unwanted email. Often an admin must manually add or remove someone from a subsite or community or otherwise handle a problem. This can lead to welcome emails being sent at the wrong time, confusing the users. 

 A system wide solution would allow packages to create events where email is sent by the system (besides subscribed notifications). This solution would provide an includable interface for creating and editing a default email message for the events. It would also provide an interface to notify an admin that an email will be sent, giving options to suppress the email or edit the content of the email before sending it.

 The beginnings of this feature exist in the dotlrn_member_emails table, dotlrn_community::send_member_email procedure, and the dotlrn-ecommerce package which has a few pages that replicate this interface, but probably needs more generalization to allow working with subsites as well as dotlrn communities. There is also the reusable include for editing the default emails under dotlrn/lib/member-email

This proposal would provide a comprehensive solution for handling system level email events, allowing admins to know when an email is sent, and provide a consistent user interface to manage the emails.



You could achieve this in a general way by using the acs-lang interface at least for the subject and body. For each object_id you would create a new message key, e.g. acs-translations.welcome_email_subject_${object_id} and acs-translations.welcome_email_body_${object_id}. If you have multiple emails per community / subsite, you would rename them to acs-translations.confirmation_email_subject_${object_id} aso. A general interface would then be provided to look for all language key combinations of acs-translations.email_xxx, allowing you to edit the messages for all communities and subsites. If you want to edit them for only one, then you can look for all who have the same object_id. 

A default message would be given with acs-translations.email_subject_welcome, which the mail sending could default to in case no specific language key exists for the community / object_id. Furthermore, acs-translations.welcome_email_help message key is present describing what this email is about. A package like dotlrn would register the three default e-mail keys to start off with this and then the email-handling package can do the rest (e.g. with email-handler::send -to_party_ids -from_addr -email_type "welcome" -object_id).

This approach has the major advantage that you have internationalization by default.

Alternatively you could mimic the message handling done by contacts which allows you to have multiple message types, e.g. email, which you can fill in with default values, which has it's own I18N by having a locale stored in the DB table. But if you ask me, the acs-translations idea sounds better to me :). Though, you can obviously do this with your own tables as well, but you would loose on the nice features acs-lang has to offer.


 Files that currently could trigger email

add_user calls add_user_to_community

add_user_to_community calls membership_approve (if applicable). membership_approve calls send_member_email unconditionaly

so any call to add_user or add_user_to_community could result in a call to send_member_email





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