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Silverstripe after 3 weeks: decision point reached: do I drop it or do I continue? (documentation!)


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julian

Community Member, 17 Posts

21 March 2007 at 6:46pm

Edited: 21/03/2007 6:48pm

Hi all,

firstly I need to say what I'm trying to do with SS is 'not just your plain old unauthenticated CMS site'. For this, SS I firmly believe is the best there is. What I'm doing is more complex -- lots of forms, authenticated access, complex business object relationships.

After following tutes 1 to 4 I was so impressed with SS. It's a slick system clearly designed by people both with a deep understanding of the 'ajax web' and CMS needs. Silverstripe's best features are:

- it's so easy to build complex data models: that is, customised business objects such as in my project concepts such as Museum, Exhibition, Artwork, etc and it manage all the mySQL stuff intelligently, including subclassing and relations! Wow.
- the admin gui is slick and makes light work of managing content; history and 'just enough workflow' works

HOWEVER the lack of any reasonable documentation at this level seriously impacts project progress again and again. After initial progress I've ground almost to snails' pace because although the system is well designed, it's a large code base and I'm having to essentially step through code line by line to find out how stuff works.

For example, I spent an entire saturday trying to figure out how to do many to many relationships. (I documented this in the forums). I've started also documenting my understanding in other areas (like how Director works) but it's not been my top priority.

And as for how forms work, I stumbled on what I can only call plain whacky basic policy of not being able to render individually id'd form elements (you can iterate through all fields, and all actions, but this makes it nigh impossible to interleave them). This is all customisable of course; I'd extend __get somewhere to do some clever lookups so the template could do this, but it was another half day of fumbling in the dark to understand this.

I'm at a point where I may have to dump SS now and go to Ruby on Rails, as I've been running a project in parallel using RoR and the progress that guy has made has been simply astonishing. RoR is truly high productivity -- but you don't get all the rich CMS stuff SS provides out of the box. (That said, we're looking at an extranet-style situation where clients manage their own content, and I tremble at the thought of customising SS's admin gui to impose admin gui privs like this...)

As per this site's recommendation I mailed tim@silverstripe about 2 weeks ago asking for some professional services support but no response.

I can understand where SS came from, and that this doco situation will likely be significantly different in a year or so. But the combination of:

- about 6 people in TOTAL in the world knowing SS well
- erratic response times on queries
- nonexistent documentation for the majority of the core concepts

... is looking like just too much tech risk for my project.

Help! Any ideas welcome.

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Tim

Core Development Team, 201 Posts

21 March 2007 at 8:34pm

Hi Julian,

Thanks for your points here, regarding your email to me - I had responded to this within about two hours of you sending it. I've just resent my response so please recheck your email :-)

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pouderStream

Community Member, 33 Posts

22 March 2007 at 5:48am

I must agree with julian here. Docs are essential for any framework. I think that instead of making tutorials u should put some general how-suff-works out. When that is out, the tutorials will come out of nowhere ;)

It is the same with me.I had to find some time to write pool module, since I can't just take a look somewhere and write it. Currently I don't have that amount of time like julian does.I'm still a student and the progress would be faster if things would be doc. better.

Tnx to julian for effort (and all other of course)

And don't take my writing for bad.I know u have bussines to do.I would like to help, but give as starting points not final solutions (don't get me wrong, I apritiate them like u can't imagine how!)

Cheers!

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Sam

Administrator, 685 Posts

22 March 2007 at 11:11am

Thanks for your feedback, Julian.

I can appreciate that the current documentation doesn't serve the needs of a deeper level project. However, improving the quality of the documentation takes a lot of resources.

We're going to focus on improving the documentation over the coming months, with a goal of having things to a "good standard" by the time the summer of code starts in June. However, we're unlikely to be able to get you the required documentation in time to support a project happening right now.

That said, your feedback on SilverStripe has been really helpful and it would be good to keep in touch.

On a specific note: could you provide a list of the most painful documentation-holes that you discovered, so we know where to begin?

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Decisive Flow

Community Member, 73 Posts

22 March 2007 at 12:26pm

I understand the frustrations of a lack of documentation, especially when you're used to far more well established open source projects. But I consider myself to have been one of the first to have used the open source Silverstripe and it's amazing how far the documentation and forums have come already in a few short months. We just got another of our team pretty much up to speed in a day and although we're not doing major, major stuff we have managed to make solid, dynamic websites that do EXACTLY what we want. Looking forward to seeing it progress even more and hope you guys stick around the community, it looks like you could be very valuable additions

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Tim

Core Development Team, 201 Posts

22 March 2007 at 1:09pm

Edited: 22/03/2007 1:09pm

An idea we've just discussed around the office, which may provide a bridge to some of the deeper documentation would be to have a regular (weekly), web cast (of some sort), which we'll host, and it can be an opportunity to ask questions directly with the core developers.

Do you guys thinks this would be useful?

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pouderStream

Community Member, 33 Posts

23 March 2007 at 12:33am

It would be a huge step in doc making. U could break web casts in topics (witch we could vote topic or something..). That would drive us to kind of documentation witch we'll provide based on our understanding and experiences on our projects. Something like 'julian' has done already.

I'm in for it...

Oh, natalie: It doesn't mean that we are going away, just that we could contribute more faster. At least from my point of view.