My post on the Elgg developers closing components of their community site certainly drew plenty of attention. The flurry of comments has become somewhat overwhelming. While my original intent was to report some facts and perhaps spur a little discussion on the state of Elgg. It evolved into what I considered a largely measured, temperate deliberation before somewhat of a descent into something less. I have a number of thoughts on various matters brought up in the comments.
Groups and Comments
I understand that the developers were tired of some of the attacks and accusations from members of the Elgg Community. I feel that totally shutting down these resources was somewhat draconian. A lot of people spent many hours creating information about various aspects of running and customizing Elgg. This information is valuable and is no longer available to those who wish to use Elgg. This hurts everyone’s ability to work with the software. It also makes individuals question the reliability and safety of using the developers’ venues as a repository of what they have done–be it code, documentation, or any other knowledge. The same goes for deleting plugins from the Elgg Google groups.
I respectfully petition the Curverider team to restore this knowledgebase so that such a body is not lost. I believe it would be of benefit to all including the developers. It would restore needed information, and hopefully faith in the community. Perhaps it could be done in a manner that disables further comments, but allows access to what has been done.
Documentation and Support
I have been running this blog for just over a year now. After a short period of time, I noticed that most of my hits were related to Elgg, even though I had not written much about it. At the time, I realized that Elgg was on the cusp of a major revision and my work with Elgg remained on the backburner. Looking at the searches revealed a thirst for information about Elgg. Surely this was not being quenched if they were delivered to my blog so often.
With the pending release of Elgg 1.0, I began to write about Elgg enthusiastically and the search engine referrals jumped. Again, looking through the terms revealed a real need for information.
While there are aspects of the documentation that are well laid out, there are clearly needs that are not being met as evidenced by a number of phenomena. First, there were the aforementioned search engine referrals. Additionally, as stated in many of the comments, the repeated requests for the same information inform us that either the information does not exist, or is too difficult to find. Granted, there will always be those that will plop their questions before the community without a reasonable effort to find it themselves. It also points to the possibility that this software is currently beyond the abilities of some potential users.
I believe that Elgg would be well served by a more comprehensive knowledgebase that meets the needs of a wider audience including users, administrators, and developers. I acknowledge that the Curverider team has been diligent, but the task is herculean. They need to trust a somewhat broader group of people to help with this. If even a limited number of people were allowed to contribute to the wiki, it would ease their burden in terms of documentation and support.
Beyond that, I think that a discussion forum set up with appropriate categories has proven to be an effective means of support with many software products over many years. It would be a quick and easy way to augment support, and communication.
I understand the desire for the Elgg developers to use Elgg as a means of support. That being said, I think Elgg could be structured to do so. Defragmenting discussions by detaching them from groups and giving immediate access to a set of universally relevant discussions would be a great step. Work a central page in Pages as a starting point as a variant of a wiki.
I stated and Kevin Jardine concurred that Elgg was not intended for “every Tom, Dick, and Harry with a $5 shared server account.” Kevin asserted that Elgg, for the time being, should be left to php developers.
I am not a real coder. Some may think I should step aside. I believe it is more about attitude than expertise. I am perfectly willing to grapple with my problems myself. I might post questions. Sometimes they are answered, sometimes not. That’s my problem, not anybody else’s. Nobody owes me anything. Eventually the fog lifts and I am able to work through solutions when a key piece to the puzzle falls into place. This is just how I learn. I have been able to make themes and a few simple plugins using this approach. I am not going to wait for someone else to take care of my needs.
While we can parse words and quotations from the Elgg sites regarding the intended audience, the perceptions are what they are. People have the impression that they can easily create their own social network using Elgg. This will only get worse as GoDaddy and perhaps other have prematurely implemented push button installation. While a sign of success by some measures (and was lauded by some), we will now face an onslaught of support request by people that may not even be able to use ftp.
Team Elgg’s presence
The developers or others with credentials need to maintain a presence in their support communities. I have participated in and have run many online communities over the years. I have been a participant in online communities for nearly 15 years, I have moderated for five years and have administered for three. If you walk away from a community, it will drift. Do this in the early formation of a community and it can be a disaster.
I have had periods of time in which I could not give hands on attention to a given community. I kept the communities functional by have a trusted group of people that felt empowered to guide the community in limited ways and contact me when they felt it was necessary. I understand the ambivalence toward yielding control to others, but I believe it is necessary to avoid the problems recently face the Elgg community now.
I am ambivalent about setting up alternative resources. I am disturbed by the disappearance of information in the sanctioned sites. I know individuals that are grappling with projects in progress that are having difficulties because needed content has disappeared. I realize the developers have concerns about fragmenting the community, but needs are not being met, nor will they be met on Google groups. There will be continual attempts to set up alternatives until the needs are met. Many posts in this blog have served as such because I believe in Elgg—not because I want to fragment the community.
I have more to add in the future, but I thought I’d like to get this out today. To the Curverider team, I want to extend my thanks for what you have done. I apologize for anything I may have done that may have offended, but please hear me as I want the project to succeed (and for you to make a living). To my readers, I appreciate your comments, but let’s keep it thoughtful and civil.
Comments are now closed.