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Author Topic: Simple Machines Forum Organization in Chaos  (Read 7309 times)

mouser

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Simple Machines Forum Organization in Chaos
« on: February 10, 2010, 12:42:58 PM »
Since the start of DonationCoder in 2005, we have always used and been happy with the free "Simple Machines" (SMF) forum software.  Like all software it has its pros and cons, but it's always worked well for us.

Recently it seems that the SimpleMachines organization has been thrown into some chaos and infighting among founders,owners, developers, users, etc... I don't really have a good grasp of what's going on, only that everyone seems pretty broken up and distressed about it.

Some links:

Screenshot - 2_10_2010 , 12_41_08 PM_thumb.png

I don't think there is any real impact on DC at this point, and I don't have a position on these issues since I don't know all of the facts (yet).

Anyone have any thoughts?

rgdot

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Re: Simple Machines Forum Organization in Chaos
« Reply #1 on: February 10, 2010, 01:24:36 PM »
Sad to hear, always wondered why v.2 is stuck at some private or public beta phase. Hope it is resolved.

Projects should either be real open source with a team and public repository of sorts or just proprietary. In my opinion 'visible' source ones like vBulletin succeed because they were early options and provide constant support, otherwise fully open source or the opposite.

housetier

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Re: Simple Machines Forum Organization in Chaos
« Reply #2 on: February 10, 2010, 03:10:50 PM »
If they don't get their act together this year we should start looking for different forum software. Only when we have found an acceptable alternative should we switch.

I'd love to stick to smf though; but only if the community gets their issues sorted.

wraith808

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Re: Simple Machines Forum Organization in Chaos
« Reply #3 on: February 10, 2010, 03:25:44 PM »
What I don't understand is, why does what happens with SMF affect the communities that use it directly enough to switch?

mouser

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Re: Simple Machines Forum Organization in Chaos
« Reply #4 on: February 10, 2010, 03:34:59 PM »
I don't think it does -- except to the extent that there are benefits from using software that has active developers improving it and fixing bugs and providing support.

wraith808

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Re: Simple Machines Forum Organization in Chaos
« Reply #5 on: February 10, 2010, 03:40:40 PM »
That part is very true.  I was just wondering if I was missing anything.  Everywhere I look in regards to this subject, there's a lot of doom and gloom- but SMF hasn't had a major release in a while, and has stagnated, truthfully.  It's just rock solid, and dead easy- especially when integrated with tinyportal, so I like not having a moving target.

mouser

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Re: Simple Machines Forum Organization in Chaos
« Reply #6 on: February 10, 2010, 03:46:29 PM »
Quote
It's just rock solid, and dead easy

Yeah i pretty much agree with you there.. so no panic or rush to leave it on my part.

JavaJones

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Re: Simple Machines Forum Organization in Chaos
« Reply #7 on: February 10, 2010, 05:06:16 PM »
From what I could gather, they made some mistakes early on in the organizational structure by moving to an LLC with a single person running it, and that person is now holding their power over everyone (though apparently with the "best of intentions"). The history I read (from one of the original devs) indicated that the person they chose was great back then *but* had no managerial or other related experience, and it sounds like they just picked her because she was able and willing to apply herself to the managerial tasks, while everyone else just wanted to code. That's my take anyway.

I suspect then that as things went down the road, the lack of real experience and the focus from everyone else on other areas aside management (who wants to be a manager?) meant that this person was able to dig deeper and deeper holes through poor decisions, with little or no oversight or argument, until it was too late. Now they're having to negotiate with this person just to get control of the SMF org back.

From the sound of it the original devs actually intended SMF to be, if not open source, at least something close to it, run by a non-profit, controlled by no one but the community, or at least by a group. So the actual outcome as we have it now is really a far cry from what was originally intended, and this goes a long way to explaining the weird nature of the SMF "free but don't touch our source code" approach which in other cases usually results in at least faster product development (since that generally means dev is being done by a more dedicated, perhaps commercial team, being supported by other products or something).

Anyway, I've been waiting a long time for SMF 2.0, I think it has a lot of meaningful, useful upgrades. But I now understand why it has been so long delayed, and it's very sad. Basically it sounds like one person's arrogance and control issues slowly spiraled good intentions and hard work from others into a stand-still. Granted this is probably a one-sided view, but there hasn't really been a very compelling alternative view posted by anybody, so either they have other reason to be silent (legal?), or there is no better version. :D

Long story short I hope this works out to SMF being more open and the original devs getting back control, with long-term leadership by a group and working under a non-profit system. If not, I may have to migrate a coupla sites within the next year or so...

- Oshyan

cmpm

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Re: Simple Machines Forum Organization in Chaos
« Reply #8 on: February 10, 2010, 06:34:10 PM »
The greed of one or a few with even a little power can halt real progress.
And 'non-profit' does not mean someone isn't making money.
To which the doers of the work deserve,
yet unfortunate that too much management will divide the capital.
I have no idea wtf they do or are doing, but money is involved.
More then anticipated I expect.
Which is a deception or perceived holding of power.

Dormouse

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Re: Simple Machines Forum Organization in Chaos
« Reply #9 on: February 10, 2010, 07:12:51 PM »
Reminds me of the SMF-Joomla Bridge saga.

Loved the concept of taking a salary just to improve the tax position

Yeah i pretty much agree with you there.. so no panic or rush to leave it on my part.

Transferring a big forum from one software to another isn't something easily rushed anyway.
Even deciding what to switch to is likely to take a lot of time.

Plenty of time to see how things go, but if it ever looks as if you might switch you'll need to start making provisional decisions and plans well ahead of the need. With a bit of luck though, there'll be a fair number of big forums who moved early and you can learn from their experiences (so long as you know who they are).

f0dder

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Re: Simple Machines Forum Organization in Chaos
« Reply #10 on: February 11, 2010, 03:28:42 AM »
The process of getting the databases converted isn't that much of a problem... but the end-users getting used to new forum software, and mouser having to recode the custom stuff... that's where the annoyances are.
- carpe noctem

JavaJones

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Re: Simple Machines Forum Organization in Chaos
« Reply #11 on: February 12, 2010, 06:43:12 PM »
Yes, exactly. Moving forum software, at least between the major competitors, is largely trivial. Converters exist in most cases that will transfer the majority of data, aside any custom stuff, like inline image code. And thereign lies the biggest challenge: duplicating the useful custom mods this forum has. In some cases they may not be necessary (e.g. if a different forum system already has a better search function then the current search mod might be obsolete, or inline image can be done in a different way already like with vBulletin where it's built-in). However I think there are enough customizations here that it would take some time and effort to get back to where we are now, particularly on the donation side of things.

Fortunately I do think most forum systems are similar enough that the majority of users would not feel too lost if we switched. But hopefully that won't be necessary, or will be far enough in the future to not worry too much about it now...

- Oshyan

mouser

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Re: Simple Machines Forum Organization in Chaos
« Reply #12 on: February 12, 2010, 06:46:23 PM »
Even in just moving the bare bones, I don't think it's nearly as trivial as you guys are suggesting for a large site like ours.. there are so many little things to get right, links between threads, the sheer # of subforums and different permissions, the different groups, etc.

JavaJones

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Re: Simple Machines Forum Organization in Chaos
« Reply #13 on: February 12, 2010, 08:12:00 PM »
Thread links would present a possible challenge, depending on how good the migrator is. Subforums are largely trivial, assuming the destination forum supports the same number of levels, etc. Permissions are another question, but as they're group-based, are relatively easy to recover/reset. But all in all it's certaily non-trivial to migrate a site like DC.

- Oshyan

f0dder

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Re: Simple Machines Forum Organization in Chaos
« Reply #14 on: February 12, 2010, 10:40:50 PM »
Even in just moving the bare bones, I don't think it's nearly as trivial as you guys are suggesting for a large site like ours.. there are so many little things to get right, links between threads, the sheer # of subforums and different permissions, the different groups, etc.
Not trivial, perhaps, but all those are things that can be automated. Might require modifying the base conversion scripts, but can be automated nonetheless. It's all the rest that's hard :)
- carpe noctem

app103

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Re: Simple Machines Forum Organization in Chaos
« Reply #15 on: February 26, 2010, 04:25:43 AM »
Migrating to another forum software poses another problem: broken external links from other sites to DC threads. Unless all the threads have the same URL or there is some database of where all the old URL's should be redirected to, there would be some big problems for DC, offsite.

And that isn't to be taken lightly.

f0dder

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Re: Simple Machines Forum Organization in Chaos
« Reply #16 on: February 26, 2010, 11:14:32 AM »
Migrating to another forum software poses another problem: broken external links from other sites to DC threads. Unless all the threads have the same URL or there is some database of where all the old URL's should be redirected to, there would be some big problems for DC, offsite.
Pretty good point, app!

Would probably be a good idea to have the new forum locate at, say, "/Forums/v2/". The old "/forum/" would then be a redirect to v2. If same thread + post ids could be used, the redirect would be pretty simple, otherwise you'd need a database mapping old thread+post ids to new ones.
- carpe noctem

mouser

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Re: Simple Machines Forum Organization in Chaos
« Reply #17 on: February 26, 2010, 11:37:50 AM »
Quote
Pretty good point, app!
that's a *very* good point, that i hadn't even thought of.. that could probably be solved by a remapping function we could write, as long as we plan for it at time of conversion.

zenzai

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Re: Simple Machines Forum Organization in Chaos
« Reply #18 on: March 08, 2010, 06:32:38 PM »

Well they've just released SMF2 RC3 today so maybe it's not as bad as it seems...


brahman

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Re: Simple Machines Forum Organization in Chaos
« Reply #19 on: March 09, 2010, 10:01:32 AM »
Some of you might remember me asking in this thread for forum software.

The result of my research was either SMF or MyBB.

I went for SMF v2RC2 and have no regrets according to the performance, looks, ease of use and administrative abilities.
 
I followed the SMF community quite closely due to this decision and quickly learned of the internal difficulties they are having.

At first it concerned me very much. However, the more I thought about it and the more I studied SMF itself and the people behind it, the more my fears calmed. Now, please mind you - this is not easy to admit, since I have a birthday coming up - I am probably older than most of you and have worked in responsible roles in NGOs for 35+ years. Therefore I have seen a lot of organizations in upheaval, sometimes one might even think that most NGOs are in a constant state of upheaval ;).

Definitely there will come some change to the current organisational structure of SMF - but that is not so bad, organisations need to reinvent themselves from time to time if they have been in a period of stagnation.

Agreed, SMF has been slow with upgrades, but that is also a good point. RC2 is just a release candidate, though has been performing flawlessly for me, no matter what I threw at it. So do you want to go through buggy releases or get good code? Good code takes time to test and write and retest.

So I did think of switching (to MyBB in case you want to know), but when I saw how vibrant the SMF community still is (much bigger than the MyBB community), and how much involved they are (if I have a problem I quickly get answers on their forum, and even if I do not mark my topic as solved, somebody will get back to me and ask if the matter really has been settled to my satisfaction), and how friendly and cooperative, I don't think this software will die a quick death. And even if it does eventually die, I have the strong belief that the community will pull together and develop a successor which you can install either over SMF or for which there will be better conversion software than presently (update: a project named Phoenix is already in the very early formative stages - competition is good and will bring out the best in everyone).

However, after my original thread and also after reading about the upheaval, I became very careful about installing mods. I think it is the mods that can/will give trouble when converting/upgrading as mouser pointed out in the thread referenced above.

The nice thing about SMF 2 is you hardly need any mods, because it is quite feature complete. But I think five times about installing a mod and really assess how many users would really NEED it for a quality forum experience.

Furthermore - to update you on the SMF situation - all people that were banned from the SMF community forum for their criticism have been reinstated and the different parties are again talking to each other via designated speakers and mediators. So progress is there (albeit slow) and I think what will come out will be for the good of the entire SMF community. And just reading some of the most recent posts there people are happy about the new RC3 - and everybody should update reasonably soon (when the mods have been updated to RC3, which is trivial in most instances) from RC2 to RC3, because some security issues (only affecting administrative access accounts - therefore they may not be regarded as serious) have been addressed.

BTW you can tell that SMF is there because the German Government is running a heavily moded SMF site on creating petitions for their federal assembly.

Finally let me give you one quote from a friend of SMF - Christian Land - who actually made the following comment in a thread that deals about switching forum software:
Quote
If you ask me, SMF's future looks better than ever before. Either the whole issues around it are solved or some kind of "fork" (or new project) will happen. In both cases "staying with SMF" is the best option.

My thanks go to SMF for this great free forum software they created and I wish them well and think they have proved that they deserve our loyalty.
Regards, Brahman
« Last Edit: March 09, 2010, 10:26:00 AM by brahman »

cranioscopical

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Re: Simple Machines Forum Organization in Chaos
« Reply #20 on: March 09, 2010, 10:14:38 AM »
Thanks for a concise POV, brahman!