Extensions Review ...

14 years 1 month ago #10301 by nant
I just read the following review made by SludgeMeister on extensions.joomla.org ( here ).

The review states:

This is really a great component. It adds much needed functionality to Joomla sites, but there are certainly some pretty major and obvious drawbacks.

The pace of development CB has is not good. Its been near enough 6 months since it was released, 11k+ members on their site and not any significant updates in this time. There are little to no "official" Plugins/Addons released by CB, most of which are 3rd party and only 1 of these has been "officially" certified by CB ( Which makes me feel very safe when I install them! ). There is an update coming shortly, but as far as I can tell its mainly a stability release.

The support for CB is poor. Check out Joomlapolis and note that many of the threads go unanswered by any official CB staff. I can appreciate that they run a "paid" support service, which gives you access to the Community Builder Manual...but a massive amount of questions go simply ignored on their forums (I have started numerous threads myself and they have gone ignored). It seems the more "technical" the question the quicker its answered...Simple things get overlooked and get passed by.

You will lose quite alot of "choice" you have for components and modules when you install CB. Many Modules don't work with it...Numerous Components and Bridges the same. This is to be expected of course, but I didn't quite realise how much "choice" I would lose when I installed this.

Anyway, it IS a good component...But honestly, if you have a genuinely large Joomla community and are somebody who needs to develop at a good pace "with" your Community, I'd think carefully before installing this.


Since I don't want to hijack the review section of the extensions site, I am posting my comments here ...
  • CB RC2 was release in November 2005 5 months ago. The first release of CB (beta 1) was release August 2004 (mambojoe.com site) - over 1,5 years ago.
  • Official plugins are either released by the CB core team or have been reviewed by the core tem. At this time there is only one official plugin release and 2 more in testing
  • Official support is poor - I agree. Unfortunately most of the questions and threads that remain unanswered are basic joomla questions. The CB core team has to prioritise its little free time in order to work on core releases and plugins. My intention is to get more people involved. Unfortunately, most people get what they need and leave without trying to help others. The newbie section was meant to be supported by other community members (see description of forum area) - unfortunately this has not been 100% successfull.
  • It is stated by the reviewer that you loose quite alot of choice when installing CB. This is totally false! All components and modules that are compatible with Joomla without hacking - are 100% compatible with CB. On the other-hand components and bridges that are based on Joomla login hacks are of course questionable (see SMF bridge).
  • CB is Joomla future proof - the CB team has been working with the Joomla core team and I believe that CB is the only (?) component on the extensions site that Joomla 1.5 compatible.

  • Also we do not have a paid support service - we just have a paid documentation service meant as a means to gather some expense money - we treat all community members the same when it comes to support issues (granted the support is far from good).

I really wish we were all rich and independent and could work for free on CB 100% of our time - we are not :(

Post edited by: nant, at: 2006/04/15 08:33
14 years 1 month ago #10309 by Notexa
Hmm, rather harsh review. I can't help but get the feeling that the reviewer installed CB, ran into some problems and couldn't get an answer here. That's why this review is more something like a rant than anything else.

As an innocent bystander but a rather intense user of CB I'll go deeper into the points brought up by the reviewer (note, long text ahead, I hope interesting for the core developpers, and maybe for some others).

Support may not be topnotch, but it's a spare time effort of the core developpers. On the joomla site there are a lot of people besides the core developpers who give support. Unfortunattely this isn't the case here, I always see the same 5 people (big kuddos to you guys !). But isn't this a problem almost all non-commercial (and even commercial) components have ?

That more technical questions get answered instead of "newbie" questions is rather normal if you don't have an active support community (I mean users besides the developpers who give support). As a developper you can't answer everything and still get time to do some development. Also a lot of people don't read the manuals. Regular users could come to the rescue here by pointing these "newbies" in the right direction (manual, topic, ...). This happens, but unfortunattely not enough.

Just a thought: maybe think of some sort of system that would reward active users by giving them access to 1 or 2 "special" components, or maybe something else. This could increase the number of people giving support to other users.

Pace of development: this is the same for every non-commercial component, module, ... At least we're sure that CB keeps on getting developped: good team with a clear vision for future developments (k, maybe a little over the top ;) ). A lot of modules and components are developped once and not supported at all. Even with commercial components it's sometimes hard to get support (enough proof of this on the joomla.org forum).
Personally I rather have 1 release each year that has lot's of new features and code optimizations then 1 release every week that's buggy as hell.

Certification of 3p plugins. This might be something that could be changed in the future ? When you only have 1 to 3 certified plugins it simply isn't worth it to mention this seperatly. Some people (like the reviewer) can get the impression that the other plugins aren't any good (since not certified). I think you have to choose here: or you make a clear certification path (document with guidelines and best practices) and take time to certify the plugins that are put up for certification, or you simply abbandon the certified idea and put all plugins in the same directory.

The upcoming release being a stability release. I guess the reviewer hasn't read the forum thouroughly, else he would have seen that a lot of new and exciting features are incorporated in the new version (to mention just one: guestbook).

Modules and other things that don't work with it. This depends on how you look at it. I think the reviewer means that the modules aren't easily integrated with CB. But I can't think of another community component that can do this. Almost all modules will hapilly run alongside CB, and if you're a little code savvy you can integrate almost everything in CB.

In conclusion, I think that if you have a large community you CAN'T go without CB (ask lennox with his nighcity site :) ).
There are things that could be improved, but hey, even the pope isn't perfect.

Post edited by: Notexa, at: 2006/04/14 19:44

[url=http://www.notexa.be/[/url]
14 years 1 month ago #10321 by mikko
Answering technical questions rather than newbie questions is explained really well in this pretty widely cited essay: www.catb.org/~esr/faqs/smart-questions.html

(the essay is really worth reading)

Then what comes to the releases, I cannot keep but wondering why there is not a public CVS.

-Mikko
14 years 1 month ago #10329 by Syrinx
Nant,

I'd just like to thank you and the rest of the CB team for your time and efforts on this great component!

While I am not quite an expert Joomla/CB user, I will do what I can to help those who post questions here on the Joomlapolis forums.

Btw when is the member's profile photo gallery plugin going to be released ;)
14 years 1 month ago #10340 by MadNights
Nick, I think that you are too apologetic. I'm sure the team gets bombarded with many personal requests as well (I for one am guilty).

It's a great component, and it wouldn't have received the great reviews that it has so far, if many people didn't think so.

Personally, I spend a lot of time reviewing the forums, and a lot of the answers are there, but how many times can you answer the same question 20 times? If they aren't in the forums, then the almighty google has indexed the answer somewhere. As a newbie to PHP and Joomla, and for someone with absolute no formal programming training, I have taken the time to understand and at least try to research the issues. If anyone else in my situation does, they will understand how the software works.

Granted, the support isn't great, but the answers are there.

I think I have finally figured out a rudimentary solution the the plugin that we discussed, Nick, but we'll see:)

People must realize what they are buying into, when they use open source code. Maybe a solution is to certify certain programmers that know the code very well, and are willing to work for a certain fee for various plug-ins, etc. I'm sure that there are numerous people out therewho could take on a position like that. When a software project gets large enough, all sorts of Developers will focus on it. As an important part of the Joomla Framework, I think CB will be there soon, as Social Networking sites, are growing exponentially theses days (Who remembers Six Degrees back in the 80's - they were just ahead of their time).

In the meantime, I know that there are numerous people who have a basic understanding, who could help out a bit more in the forums (myself included). The biggest thing of all, however, is that when I do log into the forums, you see the same question asked 20 times in 20 places, or something that is answered in the documentation.

Not to say that I am briliant or anything, but I do take the time to search through the resources for an answer before I ask a question. I'll admit, I don't understand the API at all (well a little bit, but not for what I want to do), but when I finally do, I'll be releasing a terrific plugin for the community.

My background is in monetizing websites, and I see tremendous potential with CB. Everyone that is looking for a Myspace overnight, is probaly in the wrong place. You need to realize where the project is right now, read the feature lists, and compare and contrast. Even then, you can build it and they will not come.

For the record, I would be interested in knowing the largest communities so far, using CB. Number of signups, and number of daily users. My guess is that it may be Trail, but watch out! I still have 50,000 users to switchover. With regards to the upcoming realease, yes, it's a stability release, but it will also work with the upcoming Joomla release. When the platform that a product is based on is constantly evolving, you are doing extremely well to keep up with it. How many componets will get broken when Joomla 1.5 comes out, not CB! I think people who are critical about the componet need to ask themselves several questions: 1) Have I done everything that I can to resolve the issue? - and asking a question in the forums every time you need help is not the answer. Try searching through the forums and reading. There is a great deal of information available. Try the documentation. Think of it as an open book test back in school. 2) Instead of saying I need this, or this is critical, why not see who else has similar needs and pool together resources to get it done. My guess is we all want the same features. We all want to be competitive with some of the top social networks.

Joomlapolis is in itself a community, which is my understanding behind the name (as explained by Nant). Let's pull together and help each other solve their problems. Don't get me wrong, there are some great examples of this happening! Everyone has time restrictions and needs. Think about your sites, and how many questions don't get answered, or emails get returned. I'm guilty to some extent, and we have 60 people worldwide. It's a learning situation for everyone, especially as the Platform is changing. Although the answers are there if you searched, maybe they can be organized a little better. Maybe a knowledge base is needed. Like when you forgot you password on yahoo, and you click help and it searches through the base for the right answer.

Maybe the answer is to "certify" people, and assign them to specific functions of the forum for Q & A.

Personally, I would do something like something like Google Answers or Yahoo Answers, where each person pays a nominal amount, and people bid on the answer to the question. That's the best way to guarantee that peopl get the support that they want on Cimmunity Builder. Go to the Q & A section, post your question, get an answer. Can someone please tell me how to integrate that into Community Builder? I would like a tab in everyone's profile that show the questions asked, or answered? I didn't search through the forums, but I am sure the answer is not there. Actually I'm almost positive it isn't. That would be a great component, however. If you've read this far, the idea is yours for the taking.
14 years 1 month ago #10341 by nant
mikko wrote:

Answering technical questions rather than newbie questions is explained really well in this pretty widely cited essay: www.catb.org/~esr/faqs/smart-questions.html

(the essay is really worth reading)

Then what comes to the releases, I cannot keep but wondering why there is not a public CVS.

-Mikko


Excellent essay!
I think it should be mandatory reading for all question posters and newbies!

Thanks Mikko for sharing this with us.

Without wanting to favour any part of the essay I like this quote:

What we are, unapologetically, is hostile to people who seem to be unwilling to think or to do their own homework before asking questions. People like that are time sinks — they take without giving back, and they waste time we could have spent on another question more interesting and another person more worthy of an answer.


B)
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