re: With the proper extensions (FORM, LINK, ???), would a member that is logged in be able to add an entry for a dog “Family Member” and then attach that to their family? (since we don’t want our dogs playing on the internet) or would that require creating a WP profile for the dog?
Sorry, but Form and Link do not support working with families. Right now this is for security reasons because if it were available any user could add any individual as a family member.
re: Can Directory be used to manage access to a set of member only pages of the site that will contain the directory as well as other non-public data? If not, do you have a recommendation for what plug-in works well in concert with Directory?
No, Connections does not manage site content access. You would need a membership plugin like Restrict Content Pro to manage site content access.
re: I have installed the Hobbies plug-in and looking at the code, it appears I could change the heading to “Interests” and change the
list to reflect the items that we record by member.
Sure, with some PHP code you could hook into a filter to add or remove items from the available hobby choices.
re: The first question, is there a way to query the “Hobby/Interest” data that would allow us to get a list of all those that have indicated an “interest” in a specific topic with my ultimate goal of being able to use that list with another plug-in (WP-Admin-Distribution List) to email notices regarding their area of interest.
Yes, it would be able to craft a custom query to get the data. Though, to get at this data efficiently I believe you will need at least MySQL 5.7.8 because that data is JSON encoded in the entry meta table. If MySQL 5.7.8 is not available to you, it is possible to get at this data using regex queries but the they will not be very performant which may not really be an issue for your use case.
re: The second question that I have; if I can use Hobby plug-in to achieve 3.a. above, is there a better way to modify the Hobbies plug-in descriptions?
How do you mean?
re: And, as always, is there a smarter way to implement an email distribution list based on Directory entries and selection of “Interests” such as custom fields? The goal here is to require as little reentry of data as possible and reuse the data that we already have.
Perhaps an easier way would be to use categories. Create a top level named “Interests” and you desired interest option as children categories. You can then export the data from Connections as a CSV file, open it in Excel to create “filtered” CSV files which can then be imported into you mailing list (many support bulk importing of CSV files).
Hope that helps!