[wp-hackers] Ideas Forum (Voting)

Mike Schinkel mikeschinkel at newclarity.net
Thu Dec 31 00:07:47 UTC 2009

On Dec 30, 2009, at 3:42 PM, Lloyd Budd wrote:
> Your message comes across to me as aggressive and accusatory. Saying
> "respectively so" does not make it respectively so. Possibly, I'm
> misreading your missives.

No more aggressive and accusatory than your reply to me.  I was stating my case, no need to read malice into my arguments.

>> Let me add to this:
>> -- A lot more people are becoming familiar with how User Voice works than will ever be familiar with how WordPress' Ideas work. There is significant benefit to leveraging that which more people are familiar with[1].
> Currently, I think User Voice is a great tool for open source projects
> getting started. Established ones should always try to reach for open
> source solutions.

I'd agree, assuming there were any good open source solutions.  AFAIK, there are not.  I just looked to verify and there really is only a Rails version called OpenMind[1]. (Do we really want to host & maintain a Rails app?)  There are others that are free too[2] but none others are open source that I could find on first 3 pages of Google.

> What do you feel is special/innovative about the user voice
> experience? In my experience it seems consistent with already
> established patterns.

It's up now, working, free to use and maintained by a group who but 100% of their time into making it work better. And a lot of companies are using it.

Jeremiah Owyang who I generally respect recommends considering it too[3].

> I don't think it would take much work to make
> http://wordpress.org/extend/ideas/ fit the bill.

Yep, that's how all projects look at the outset, especially ones where elaborate UI is required. Then when the project gets on it's feet things start to look different.

But more importantly, based on Janeforshort's blog post[4] there are over 50 significant new features that have been requested and are being considered for Wordpress. Which of these should new features should we decide to put on hold while we take the time to improve Wordpress' idea forum?

-- Easy blog menu management
-- dynamic image resize/crop
-- media upload UI redesign (begun in 2.9 but postponed for implementation due to technical issues)
-- photo albums
-- custom content type UI and API
-- supercharging queries (cross-taxonomies)
-- categories/tags for pages
-- auto-taxonomy UI
-- custom fields UI (possibly to be registered by themes or plugins for something to be displayed)
-- settings UI redesign
-- improve the upgrade process (inc. distros for specific use types)
-- SVN awareness
-- canonical plugins and a UI for displaying them
-- plugin page redesign
-- themes UI redesign
-- comments UI touchup
-- decouple language updates and files
-- new default theme
-- choose your own start page
-- caps lock detection
-- accessibility admin theme
-- mobile admin theme
-- synching custom fields > taxonomies
-- exif refresh
-- role management simplification
-- credits page in app
-- default custom types (microblog, galleries, asides)
-- admin bar
-- front end comment moderation
-- front end posting (a la P2)
-- better importers
-- widget installer
-- importer installer
-- more inline documentation
-- built-in "Welcome to WordPress" guide for 1st time admin use/checklist (set settings, add profiles, set up comment options, dashboard modules, add widgets, pick a theme, etc) with ability to dismiss as you move through 
-- better help tab
-- more template tags
-- better zone selector
-- new code editor
-- XSL for RSS feeds (pretty feeds)
-- bulk user creation (lazy load importer?)
-- below post widgets
-- image importing
-- HTML validation
-- customizable comment form
-- Twitter and Flickr importers
-- WordPress capitalization catcher
-- configurable QuickPress configurable (add categories)
-- more dashboard modules
-- easy linking to internal content when writing new content in editor
-- audit of error messages and updating them to be clearer revisions for custom fields and taxonomies... 

Probably the best argument for *not* doing an ideas forum in-house is to consider Geoffrey Moore's Core vs. Context analysis[5]:

When processes no longer result in marketplace differentiation, they go from being core to context, but all too many continue to consume the bulk of an enterprise’s resources. Building on the material in his most recent best seller, Living on the Fault Line, Moore explains how the resulting decline in revenues and margins can be overcome through aggressive resource reallocation and human capital renewal.

From [6]  Moore defines "Core" as:

Any activity which creates sustainable differentiation in the target market resulting in premium prices or increased volume. Core management seeks to dramatically outperform all competitors within the domain of core. (Note this use of the term is unrelated to either core competence, which describes differentiated capability, or core business, which describes categories accounting for a high percentage of overall revenues.)

I'd say for Wordpress that blogging and CMS functionality is "core."  Also from [6] Moore defines "Context" as:

Any activity which does not differentiate the company from the customers' viewpoint in the target market. Context management seeks to meet (but not exceed) appropriate accepted standards in as productive a manner as possible.

Doesn't development of a user ideas forum sound exactly like Moore's definition of "context" related to Wordpress? IOW, just set up UserVoice in an hour and be done with it, back working on the 50+ feature requests that are relevant to core.

> I don't see WordPress
> member value for not making the small investment in an open source
> solution.

Excepting the fact there isn't really a viable open source solution to use?

>> -- If you ever find that your dependence on an external, proprietary service you can always revert to what you had before, and the benefits can rack up in the interim.
> That's quite the pitch. Revert to what you had before and lose
> everything from the interim.
> Although, you can often export your data from proprietary systems, not
> always. You also almost always lose the meta data, and are crippled if
> you want to look for deeper insights, patterns, or need to do
> administration specific to your members or scale of use.

I knew that line of argument might be used to discredit that point. :)  First, I don't buy it when a developer says you loose data; if you can view it you can screen scrape it on a one-off conversion project if you really need it. 

But I'm really wondering if you see the irony in your argument against this proprietary solution? Basically by arguing not to use UserVoice because there would value created that we might not be able to capture if we ever wanted to move to an open source solution you are admitting there is value in using the 3rd party service. 

What that implies is you are arguing we should do without that value rather than have it and not be able to capture it if ever there were a reason to move.  That's not a convincing argument, at least not to me.

>> -- The (web) world is evolving to where people depend more and more on external proprietary services, i.e. [2]. Making decisions as if that were not happening is, respectfully speaking, not embracing the evolution of the web.
> That's not evolution, that is the status quo. It's a direct
> continuation of computing history which has largely been proprietary.

The pendulum swings continuously, that's not status quo.  

I ran a business selling commercial developer tools from 1994 to 2006.  In 1994 commercial developer tools enabled developers in ways that were wonderful and for which the existing open source community could not match.  

Around 2003 I  began to strongly believe in open source because I felt it was a truly a better way and thus wound down my involvement in selling commercial tools. That's not to say that open source killed commercial tools, it just relegated them to the part of the market where commercial tools still make sense. Note that many open source developers use(d) commercial tools to developer open source software, at least many did in the early days and still some do today.

Now in almost 2010 I see that SAAS is becoming a better way than developing software and maintaining the servers for every need one may have.  That doesn't mean open source will go away just that it will be relegated to where it makes most sense.  Note that most SAAS services are built on the back of open-source software.

And I think this is a trend people would do good to pay attention to.  It could well affect the future of Wordpress, though I have no idea how yet.  What's more I think that 5 years from now it will be viewed as foolish by most people to consider building their own infrastructure for *context* instead of just focusing on their *core* when they can easily find a SAAS solution for free that already does the context for them.  

Want to mark your calendar for Dec 30 2015 to revisit this debate?

> If there are other open source solutions out there that might be a
> good fit, let's evaluate them as well.

If you can find one, be my guest.

-Mike Schinkel
[1] http://openmind.sourceforge.net/default.html
[2] http://www.mahalo.com/answers/ecommerce/does-somebody-know-an-open-source-alternative-to-uservoice-or-getsatisfaction
[3] http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/2008/05/02/build-your-own-ideastorm-with-uservoice/
[4] http://wordpress.org/support/topic/345127?replies=142
[5] http://premierespeakers.com/geoffrey_moore/speech_topics#2
[6] http://www.dealingwithdarwin.com/theBook/darwinDictionary.php

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