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When this venerable publisher of romance novels came to Raincity Studios, they arrived with a deep understanding of their customers and already had a vision of a participatory community in mind.

Harlequin worked in tandem with RCS to strategize, create and deploy a social community loaded with bells and whistles, from custom templates to activity notifications. The resulting community-oriented site allows participants to connect directly to authors and editors with chat sessions, share opinions with other members, and even create their own eHarlequin blog to publish their thoughts.

At the top of the wish list eHarlequin's "Community 2.0" was improved user profiles allowing visitors to self-identify themselves with photos, favorites, and lists of recent content posts. This feature required some tricky customization of the existing user module but resulted in a powerful tool to fuel online participation. With the tuning, besides the usual text and images, users can customize their interface colors and add links to other social networks (Facebook, Flickr, Shelfari etc.).

Members can also join group activities like book challenges, carry on threaded discussions in forums, and add friends to their personal network - all of which help keep the site active and compelling. The front page displays a featured member's profile offering an reward for active contributors. With plenty of RSS feeds ready to go, each person's experience can be a unique and as granular as desired.

The site works seamlessly with the existing eHarlequin catalog so visitors can sort books by categories, sub-genres or imprint - all from within the community context - plus the Drupal community user logins are fully integrated with their existing e-commerce application for easy purchasing from anywhere in the site.

To keep the conversations going, Raincity added in the shiny new "Activity Module" built by the mighty Lullabots. This allows Facebook-like notifications to monitor site happenings. We were pleased to test this excellent new module and even made a few tweaks to contribute back.