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17 December 2009 at 11:32am Last edited: 17 December 2009 11:32am
Today I got a newsletter email SilverStripe talking up the end of year activities. One of the awesomest parts was from Sigurd himself asking for community feedback.
If there was one thing you'd love to see SilverStripe do differently next year, what would it be? We'd love to hear your thoughts. We'll keep this easyâ€”just reply to this email. We look forward to reading through the responses when we return to work.
I was impressed by this and thought I'd share my response in a public forum. Please share yours too!
Dalesaurus here. Its great to see SS reaching out like this to user and clients alike. A very refreshing approach to community outreach. I'd like to take you up on offering some thoughts for 2010.
Improving Community Tools
This is the theme of things I think need the most attention. Adoption of SS hits a certain wall to it due to documentation, developer community, and information management. It pains me to see newcomers so frustrated that they want to walk away when the underlying code is _SO SUPERIOR_ to the alternatives, they're fools to do so. Under this umbrella I present my suggestions in order of my perceived importance.
This was discussed on the dev-silverstripe list a few months ago, but the conversation died out. I believe that the issue need brought back to center stage, first thing 2010. The wiki has good information but the structure is lacking. DokuWiki is easy, but not ideal for complex data needs like versioned software. Tutorials aside, the terse and often outdated information hurts more than it helps. I think it needs to be separated into stuff from the Core Team and User Contributed sections, like Python.
-Search Search Search
Four separate, isolated software systems holding very important data (Trac, IRC, Wiki, Forums). Its a battle just figuring out WHERE to search for something you need. I know eating your own dogfood is good, but the Search Contexts built into the Forums module are not on the same level as a free google site search. It also doesn't behave like users familiar with other search engines are used to. Let the content get indexed and be free! I have deployed a Google Mini Search Appliance before, and for $3,000 USD it is _AMAZING_. It will let you have control over what people can and cannot see.
This is the primary area where new users poke their heads in. While it is pretty to look at, actually using it can be painful. I still maintain that your very own WillR has the patience of 28 saints.
1. No Code Syntax highlighting. This is extremely frustrating when attempting to provide support of a code-based product.
2. No inline embedding of attachments. Again, this is a code based product. Also deleting attachments doesn't work.
3. Spam Reporting, only available to the Original Poster. This is so puzzling, as a spammer isn't going to report themselves.
4. Layout. Can we get a little more width in here? The design is pretty but not conducive to viewing code.
5. Search. See above. No way to target a specific sub-forum, no tags to know which version a post affects, no advanced options.
6. Preview Post. Argh!
7. Manual formatting of BBCode. Double Argh!
8. Cookies! All your subscription emails create URLs to http://silverstripe.com but your cookies on login are set to whichever you used. So if I login at www.silverstripe.com I am logged out when I click a subscription link. You guys invented forceWWW() for a reason
There are many other small things that build up a big ball of usability issues. The bottom line is that there is no shame in using a more mature package here (Vanilla, phpbb, vBulletin).
I have a separate login for each; Trac, Wiki, and Forums. Have you considered a service like RPX ( https://rpxnow.com/ ), OpenID, or even something simpler like LDAP on the backend?
-Alternate Community Tools
I'm not selling anything, but I can tell you after several years of working with Atlassian software products ( http://www.atlassian.com ) kick serious ass on all the points I'm speaking to. JIRA, Confluence, and FishEye are FREE for open source projects and all the pieces integrate seamlessly. JIRA alone is a godsend over Trac and there are even good transition tools for it.
Please note that I'm not trying to outright critisize anyone or anything here. I really appreciate what you folks do and I owe a large part of my success in 2009 to the SilverStripe platform. I want to offer my suggestions to help the developer community grow stronger in the coming year.
17 December 2009 at 12:57pm
Nice post dalesaurus and good to see your thoughts. The documentation is high on our list of things todo, and even though conversation on the mailing list has died out this is just due to end of year madness. There is going to be an effort pretty earlier on in 2010 (at least on my behalf) to get the new wiki / docs infrastructure working.
As for the forum issues, I think half of that is this SS theme, half issues with the module. I think the *biggest* issue I have with the module is the search engine. I refactored it a year or 2 ago for this but its still horrid. Code syntax / previewing I am less worried about but if you make enhancement tickets on open.ss (note code syntax highlighting is alright there and a couple others). If you
Thanks again dalesaurus for the feedback, always good to hear constructive ideas.
17 December 2009 at 4:18pm
Ask and you shall receive, St. Will. Tickets 4864 - 4869 have been submitted. Thanks for reading!
19 December 2009 at 6:37am
The things i would value the most is not fancy new functions, but improvements and fixes to known issues and existing functionality so we can have a perfect base.
I would like SS to be keep focus on core functionality - things that 95% of the developers will be using, let the rest be modules and/or up to the developer to extend.
Easy templating (This could be improved with Smarty - http://www.smarty.net (I actually never understood why SS does not use Smarty in a basic version, with the possibility to add plugins. It's well documented and feature rich)
Multilanguage - When having multiple languages, hirachical url's should have a prepend lang code setting or similar - www.mysite.dk/en/services/web
Newsletter - signup and templates (this seems a bit fragile or perhaps it's just missing documentation)
20 December 2009 at 2:44am
I second better documentation and better search (forum search seems to use OR instead of AND, wiki-search somehow ignores underscores and sees them as spaces and also seems to use OR instead of AND)
I have a couple of text files where I store code snippets I find in the forum and the wiki - even when I do not need them at that moment - because I am never sure if I will be able to find them again.
20 December 2009 at 10:17am
The forum search does have boolean search support so if you want AND use '+' between key words, if you want NOT use '-', otherwise it uses OR - http://dev.mysql.com/doc/refman/5.1/en/fulltext-boolean.html. Its not perfect but that does provide some better functionality. I'm looking into integrating with the sphinx search module for the forum which is a superior engine and should help out alot.
20 December 2009 at 5:29pm Last edited: 20 December 2009 5:31pm
First, thanks, SilverStripe. Great product, great job of doing something excellent with such an un-excellent language. And you folk all seem terribly grown up, civilized, and not at all fanatical. Especially Sigurd-the-marketing-guy, and especially when he's talking to government types. On the videos I've seen, anyway.
Documentation, main thing. All over the place. When I was first learning SilverStripe I spent hours editing various bits of the documentation. When I had a bigger project in mind, I checked with the company and was told I should wait, because there was soon to be a complete overhaul of the documentation and it just wasn't worth me doing any more edits. Yes, the book came out and it's 100% essential, but still. Also, I've not been following the dev list to know why, but I suddenly couldn't edit the Wiki anymore. Am I missing something? I've resorted to commenting on the documentation pages, but this feels too much like the PHP online manual, which is yuk (or "meh" as I believe others put it).
Talking of documentation, I think Arem over at http://www.ssbits.com/ has done a great thing. There's a lot of good content there. I hope he's involved in any future documentation efforts.
Forums, as per Dalesaurus.
I'd like to see the page commenting functionality removed from the core, out into a module (page-comments). I've built five sites with SilverStripe now and have never needed it. It's CMSMenu::remove_menu_item('CommentAdmin') everytime for me. I know you've already removed lots. Remove more, I reckon.
Modules. Make the list of modules on .org consistent. Downloading, SVN, etc. And naming conventions for the ZIP files and their top-level contents. Some sort of convention. I could propose something concrete, perhaps.
Themes. Better themes shown on .org. Make sure people can get the impression that it's easy to do gorgeous themes.
Maybe upgrade whatever server open.silverstripe.org is running on? Seems to runs so slowly so much of the time. Drives me nuts. Maybe that's just from the US though. Maybe you're always doing backups in your night, when it's my day.
Okay, that's all. I hope to be able to continue to contribute to the community over the coming year.
Happy Christmas/Chanukah/Yule and various other festivals involving crosses, lights, candles and stuff.
21 December 2009 at 8:33am
@Willr: thanks for the insight!
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