On Tuesday (17th of April 2012), we organised and attended the latest UK SilverStripe meetup, which saw over 20 eager SilverStripe evangelists turn out to discuss the future of the popular open source platform.
This time around, we decided to go with a slightly different format for the event – a panel discussion, consisting of SilverStripers Aram Balakjian (SSBits and Aab Web), Josh Holloway (Better Brief), Richard Johnson (GPMD) and Will Morgan (Better Brief).
The overall intention of the event was to identify how SilverStripe can evolve moving forward and how it can become more popular with different demographics (beginner-level developers and marketing-lead users etc).
Here are the notes that I took at the event (edited by panellists Aram Balakjian and Josh Holloway):
SilverStripe is a great platform that covers a large set of use cases. While Joomla and particularly Wordpress are primarily targeted at the end user and the developer wanting click-click-done style implementation, SilverStripe is targeted at developers and agencies who are willing to get their PHP hands dirty in order to provide their clients with a truly bespoke solution.
The ease of use of the SilverStripe admin system was also commonly mentioned as a key benefit of using the CMS.
SilverStripe is a flexible platform and although does not have the module count of some of the larger systems, instead allows you to develop your own modules and functionality more easily.
Therefore SilverStripe should be promoted to developers as a great platform for their clients. SilverStripe would benefit from a lot more evangelists (turning up to the right events and generally promoting it), clearer more complete documentation and coverage online.
SilverStripe can be sold as a platform that has a really user-friendly back-end system, Drupal is too complicated for clients. SilverStripe should have the publicity and the profile too be sold to potential clients – as an agency we should be able to show why SilverStripe is the ideal platform, all documents that sell the platform should be open-source.
Because the CMS shares it’s name with SilverStripe the company, it has a slightly odd position that creates uncertainty when it comes to contributing.
Ingo is keen to push things into the community, however it’s difficult to know when SilverStripe’s developers are speaking as programmers or product managers.
People should be writing lots and lots of module to help grow the community, we’ve got to start somewhere and there’s not too much out there at the moment.
Are there any ideas for commercialising SilverStripe themes and plugins like Magento?
Having a revenue option for developers would give them more of an incentive to build the modules.
There aren’t enough developers to make a lot of modules worthwhile and generate money.
If the functionality and coding was more freely available more people would pay for modules. We need to get other developers excited about SilverStripe and then they can make things into modules.
SilverStripe are looking to change the module repository on the website – its currently ‘unusable’. There’s also no quality control, very few of the modules have extensive information and images.
There is a discussion on the SilverStripe developer forum at the moment around making a modules.silverstripe.org area and open-source it.
How much time is given to open-source development within SilverStripe? 10% is allocated to developing the platform.
SilverStripe need to relinquish more control and give that to the community – they’re not giving it enough time at the moment.
Developers are often going to GitHub rather than the module area for modules due to the lack of usability.
We want to move away from the responsibility being with SilverStripe which is currently a limitation. SilverStripe can have a way to verify modules, however the process needs to be quicker and maybe vetted by the community.
Having a rating system and adding comments would help to build the module area.
Another great feature for SilverStripe would be an auto-install and update feature. To have this feature, you would need more processes with modules to say what they’re compatible with.
How has Wordpress structured the process of updating the CMS and modules.
One of the biggest problems with SilverStripe is that there’s no revenue stream for it – it’s not like Wordpress where they make money from the .wordpress.com sites.
A tool that enables webmasters to sell their modules would be a good resource.
The incentive of revenue would also mean that the modules cost – which may prevent new developers from using SilverStripe. Why buy from SilverStripe when you can get them for free for Drupal and Joomla.
A paid version of SilverStripe would mean the best features are in the premium version – that’s the perception. People want to steer clear of paid systems or paid modules.
There’s a big dependency on SilverStripe 3.0 – as 2.4 is not very nice.
The sitetree is being pulled back into the newer version now.
SilverStripe has very small company focus – there’s around 30 people in the company and they’ve grown very quickly. SilverStripe are still working on a trial and error basis with the community – they’re still working out how the company works with the community.
SilverStripe is operate in a very strange way – they’re heavily relying on the community and people stepping up. They need some people to step up and really building SilverStripe with them.
SilverStripe lacks the structure that WP and Drupal have – people need to help develop SilverStripe in their own time. We need to use the interested people to create some structure – they’re waiting for a response.
The benefits of SilverStripe 3.0 need to be sold – it needs to be pushed on their website.
It’s hard to see what’s going to happen with SS3.0 – they’re trying to improve the UX, but they’re not necessarily going the right way.
Squiz is very similar to SilverStripe – they were originally open-source and now they’re closed source and they don’t embrace the community. They’re working on £1m+ implementations. Squiz Matrix is open source.
What would everyone like from the community?
- More modules
- What you put in is what you get out – people need to contribute
- Developers can get a lot of credit for contributing
- SilverStripe need to focus on introduction to new developers – they need to ensure that they’re helping people at the start
- Documentation isn’t there at the moment
- Questions are being left unanswered in the forum
SilverStripe’s learning curve does keep out ‘low-level users’ – Wordpress forums are full of amateur-level questions and some of the plugins are poorly built.
Drupal and Joomla’s code base isn’t up to the level of SilverStripe.
There should be guides for people leaving Wordpress – these people could become strong SilverStripe developers.
Developers and popularity are the building blocks of a CMS.
Awards & accreditations etc:
SilverStripe powers a host of big-name sites, such as the BBC, Debenhams Finance, NHS, Greggs, Activision, SCC, Devon County Council, Shell NZ, Talk Talk, Westfield and the NZ government.
SilverStripe needs to be sold to clients with a list of large names that use the CMS.
SilverStripe is aimed at presenting information rather than being interactive.
Moving forward as a community, we're now looking to introduce a new SilverStripe UK community website, organise a SilverStripe hack day and generally promote the many benefits of building websites using SilverStripe.
You can also read Josh Holloway's blog post about the event here.
If you have anything to add to this post, please do so in the comments below - we'd love to hear your thoughts!