Re: bbPress v1’s eventual release
Yep, the idea of a minimal core engine with stable plugin hooks sounds the best way to me too, even as a non-developer.
Something I’m sure would help is a standard for plugins. I think too many people are put off when the core doesn’t have a function they want, but yippee; there’s a plugin! Then after many hours of frustration, ah crap; this fails too, and here we go with the forum questions again. It also makes the product look bad, even though the plugin developer may not be related to that product in any way.
A ‘bbPress Certified’ system would give users more confidence, and raise the bar for forum development as the outside world perceives it. I can see that plugin developers work hard to get things right for others, and every eventuality can’t be tested for of course. However, I also know from struggling very hard with different forum packages over the last 6 weeks that there really are no standards, and on a couple of systems people seem to have jumped on the plugin bandwagon because it’s fun and brings kudos. In one case, I found myself delving into posts from as far back as 2005 in an attempt to get something simple working. They have a massive forum, but it’s jam packed with ‘How can I make this work?!’ posts going back years. (bbPress is a gem by comparison, which is why I’m still here).
Non-programmers see a plugin on a ‘legitimate’ forum and naturally assume it’s going to work properly. Not everyone’s into hacking around, and some have no time or inclination to do so whatsoever, especially working people who want Open Source software but need it to just work out of the box. On the other side of a crucial plugin may sit a very competent programmer with great ideas, but it can just as easily be a school kid who’s learned a bit of php and doesn’t have the experience to make their ideas actually work. There’s no way of knowing, unless they post in an obviously off-putting way. The current user rating system looks good, but is quickly dismissed when two or three 5 star plugins fail.
Any standard takes time and effort in the background to assess the code others produce, though it sounds like that’s already being done anyway. I submitted a very simple plugin and wondered why it hadn’t appeared on the forum, and another member mentioned that it can take a while for it to be reviewed. If some checks were done for code readability, apparent competence, etc., as well as the checks already being done for maliciousness and obvious bugs, then you’ve got a working standard. If someone submits something your programmers can see is messily written, uses innapropriate function calls, etc., then they get a ‘Sorry, it doesn’t reach our standards’ email. Maybe a Certified bbPress Star System; 1 star – not rated; 2 stars – appears competent, or is excellent but has no admin panel; 3 stars excellent structure and use of core functions, and has admin panel, and so-on. No guarantees, but at least we’d know to go for 3 stars or more, or if you love to play, grab the 1 star and have fun improving it. Kudos for both developers! The user ratings could be left in as an extra, though casual, system.
It doesn’t really have to be any more labour intensive than at present, and if bbPress and associated systems want to be taken even more seriously in the working world, then standards for plugin development are essential.