Talks with Telligent

I had some interesting talks with a couple guys from Telligent, recently.  Among things, we talked about Community Server and how I thought it could be a better product.  These were my top 3 points that I brought up:

Themes suck.  It pisses me off to the point of not upgrading, the fact that I have to redo my custom theme every time I upgrade.  Thankfully, they’re aware of this and are tackling it for version 3.0.  Their goal is to redesign the themes so that future upgrades of the CS core do not break old themes.

It would be really nice if there was a set of unit tests that a user could run on Community Server.  Take this site for instance… it started as a .Text install with nGallery.  Those programs where merged into Community Server and that framework has been updated a few times.  I know certain things are broken with the site (trackbacks, getting emails for new comments, picture stats, etc).  I would like to have a set of unit tests (like the tests) so that I can run through the site after an upgrade and verify that everything is working properly.

Image gallery needs some love… it amazes me that they still do not have support for multiple file uploads.  To support uploading a zip file containing multiple images would be trivial.  To write an active-x plugin would be a little more difficult.  Having support for both would be nice for the time being while they try to figure out the ultimate way.  Alas, I feel this is one area where the roots w/ Microsoft show.  People spend hours talking about the ultimate approach and actually doing nothing, when they could implement something, that just works, today and perfect it at a later point if needed.  Incremental updates are just as valuable as large releases.  But from our talks, it seems that the CS team has sort of given up on galleries anyway.  It sounded like they would rather add support for the major image hosting sites (ie. Flickr) than fix their implementation.  We’ll see where the future leads though…. I personally would be happy using flickr, as long as I could save and transfer all of my existing images.

I didn’t talk with them about these next points, but I feel that I should make them regardless…

Take a simple thing as saving a rough draft with the blog post editor.  Microsoft would do something like, forcing you to post the article and checking a checkbox to keep it private.  Google and others would do something like adding a “save draft” button (with optional ctrl-s keyboard shortcut).  Additionally, the non-MS companies would add a drafts folder so that you can quickly see which posts are still in draft form.  While both would technically do the same thing, the “save draft” (think gmail) is so much more user friendly.  I don’t have to think about it…

It would be cool if Community Server had a missing updates feature.  By that I mean an admin page that queries a feed at Telligent and determines which updates are needed to make the site current.  To just simply list the updates, each updates severity level, provide a link to a page describing what the update is, and provide a link to download the update.  To make it more powerful, if more than one update is required, roll them into one single update that applies each one in the correct order.  That way, only one download and install would be necessary.  Obviously making it somewhat smart would be preferred.  If CS 3.0 update came out, but you were missing some updates for CS 2.x, it would provide both as options.