We’re fans of the excellent ExpressionEngine here at The Nerdary. We use it in our work and for some of our extracurricular activities. Mark himself is the developer who launched a thousand ships (of famous add-ons in that community).
The company that created and runs ExpressionEngine, EllisLab is a small little remote-working company. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and talking with most of them through my own ExpressionEngine client work and the EECI conference. Great people, no doubt.
A couple weeks ago, I was at that aforementioned conference in Europe. The atmosphere was jovial; the community is a great, smart community. There was, however, a change in the air pressure when you brought up EllisLab in conversation.
Everyone was making jokes at the San Francisco conference about the delay of ExpressionEngine 2. This time, I encountered people whom were frustrated with the product, they were considering alternatives. I had numerous conversations with people about Django. It was surreal.
There are clearly some growing pains. Derek Jones, the CTO, wrote this blog post, stating ExpressionEngine is growing at ‘1000+ new members each day’. If you send any member of the EllisLab team an email with a question they will respond to you, personally, with as much information as they can give. So they’re not absent, just not present. Like a bored kid at a school assembly.
So I have some grievances with the way EllisLab handles things, and while Derek’s post is nice, I still feel it’s full of the same platitudes we’ve been hearing. Even though they’re growing, these are long running issues.
Here are my grievances directed at EllisLab:
You need to hire a full time designer. To clarify, if they’re a designer/developer hybrid that’s fine as long as their main focus is design. Brandon Kelly, an add-on developer, gave an excellent presentation about UX problems in ExpressionEngine 2. If you have ExpressionEngine 2 installed I can point out one example. Click on an accessory tab at the bottom of the control panel and watch it slide down. Now click on it again and watch it jump up with no slide. A good UX designer would see that as an issue.
It’s extremely frustrating to read this ‘Weâ€™re looking for a talented developer to add to our primary dev team’. The control panel needs a designer’s eye, not just a theme, especially for a CMS that is lauded by designers.
Unleash Flinger. It was announced that in May, Leslie Flinger would become the community relations manager. While Leslie has done a great job of corralling community information, she hasn’t given us much information from EllisLab. When I approached her and asked her about the future of EE, she stated that she didn’t know or didn’t have that information.
Giving Flinger freedom to release information will let her do what she’s great at and stop you from doing what you’re terrible at.
Stop licking your wounds over the EE2 release date fiasco. We get it. Nobody won. ExpressionEngine 2’s release caused a lot of internal and external strife. Stop being so defensive. The Apple silence strategy works when you release high quality, excellent products that surprise everyone. You released ExpressionEngine 2 beta. Start talking.
We need you to step up and communicate to us in a very public forum, about what you’re working on. Take a look at this. Cultured Code’s status page lets us know what’s coming without firm dates, but still shows movement and is updated at least weekly. So there is a reasonable way to let us know what you’re working on. Now just hire that designer to make it pretty. Time for a roadmap. Time to use modern communication.
Your showing at EECI 2010 in Europe was embarrassing. At EECI one (not all) of the following people should be there: Rick Ellis, Leslie Camacho, or Derek Jones.
Flinger is the community manager so she is a must as well, and a great must at that. It is absolutely preposterous that one of the, who I will now call big three, are not at a large near-official community conference like this. This isn’t a meet-up, this is a big deal. It’s an expensive, large event and one of you three need to be there. Always.
Otherwise you lost control of the conversation, and then I start talking to people about Django. You know what happens when I do that.
Step out of the cave, coders. Derek Allard was the most public figure on the development team. As a development platform, ExpressionEngine 2 no longer has a strong person from the development team championing the work publicly. Granted, Derek Allard was in radio silence for MojoMotor, but we need a leader to step up on the EllisLab development team.
Use the tools that the community use such as EE Insider, Twitter, Facebook, Devot:ee. Modern things, not forums (hating forums is a personal bias, I know many use them). Don’t just support them, participate in them.
EllisLab didn’t solve problems from EE1. In fact, EE2 didn’t solve anything and its been a year. Member templates are still stuck in some weird limbo when they should be html files. MojoMotor was nice, but a bitter pill to swallow at the wrong time. We also don’t know why they weren’t solved. Autosaving isn’t great.
Add committers to CodeIgniter. External forces allow open source software to grow. Having one strong leader, a benevolent dictator, is fine. Opening up a little, and sharing a little, can provide a lot of benefits for you.
Generally, this also means that someone works on the framework that powers your commercial product for free. We all benefit if we have a focused leader with a team not all under that leader’s employ. Yes, you can fork and you have taken pull requests, but adding an outside committer is a symbolic commitment to the growth of the framework.
Most of all, please don’t write more platitudes about how you’ve taken the community’s feedback and are considering different ways to approach a problem. We’ve heard the same line for years running now. There are so many ways for you to talk to us now it’s ridiculous. Employ them.
When you do great things like support EE Insider and Devot:ee, we applaud you. Those are nice things. What the community wants is more communication and a roadmap for ExpressionEngine 2.
It’s time, EL.