support

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The Elgg support community’s access to content has gradually been restored after  large portions of the community site were closed or disabled apparently because of attacks on the core developers. The Elgg Google groups were unaffected other than becoming much busier.

Around the turn of the year, developer Dave Tosh created a group with the intent of discussing improvements to the Elgg community site for developers and end users. The most interesting discussion occurred in the Welcome post.. Subsequently, Dave Tosh has outlined changes to Elgg support:

We have decided to go for a top level elgg.org documentation area that is powered by Mediawiki. This is similar to many open source projects and therefore makes sense as developers are used to it.

At the moment, I am not sure how this is a change. Curverider has used MediaWiki as a vehicle for documentation since the release of Elgg 1.0. MediaWiki has been skinned to look and feel like the rest of the Elgg site which adds unity. Other than that there have been little. Community members still cannot change or add content to the wiki as I am accustomed to in other open source projects.

Groups have been refactored to improve the layout and highlight key groups. I think it is worth sticking with groups for discussion and where there are shortcomings, address them. We have restricted the creation of new groups, but existing groups are still active and owners can now decide if they want forums, page and files as all are optional.

These are positive changes. Highlighting important groups will draw users to where they need to go. It will also discourage the duplication of what is already present. Restricting group creation is also a good idea. This is very similar to how discussion forums operate—the administrator controls the organization of the site. Users generally cannot create a forum.

Integrated google search. We took our cue from WordPress on this one. Using Google search was the fastest way to get integrated search across the three open source tools we use on the elgg.org site (Mediawiki, Elgg and Trac).

The search function in Elgg has been a serious limitation. An integrated search using Google is a great help. I think it might even be better if it searched the Elgg Goggle Groups as well. I also look forward to seeing this as a plugin.

Plugin authors can now decide if they are going to allow comments on their plugins and shortly there will be basic version control which should help make it easier to follow plugin development.

This appears to have been implemented. Plugin authors can now choose to replace older versions when they upload newer versions. Again, this is a positive development. I wonder though, if some implementation could be created that allow users to keep older version available as they may be compatible with older versions of Elgg. [Edit: Cash Costello reports that this is the case.]

An open source project becomes a diverse community of developers and users with vastly different interests and needs. People have varying abilities and skills.  I believe that many constituents may be best served by employing a bottoms up model in which they can become active contributors to a knowledge base. Both FaceBook and WordPress allow individuals to create accounts and edit content on their MediaWiki documentation.

I appreciate Curverider’s moves to improve support for the Elgg community. We are all indebted to the developers (core and otherwise) for all their hard work in making Elgg what it is and sharing it with the world. An open repository for shared knowledge would would enhance Elgg’s success. I’ve enjoyed working with Elgg and look forward to working with it to put together a great K12 social networking platform.

I invite your thoughts on the matter.

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In the past few days, Curverider has reopened access to many features of their community site. Some functionality has been restored. Group owners have the option of turning their forums back on. It also appears that comments are now available for plugins and templates.

In addition, Dave Tosh has opened a discussion pertaining to the Elgg community asking for suggestions as to how best support Elgg. So far, the discussion has centered on software, but there is much more to managing a community

This is a positive step and helps build confidence in Elgg as a platform. I hope that the Curverider developers take to heart what has been said on this blog and ib subsequent comments.

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Today the Elgg Development team opened a new long sought after support site running on Elgg 1.0. The site is nicely customized, giving it a unique layout.

As if this alone was not enough to entice users, the Elgg Developers have included a handful of new plugins that users might find interesting:

  • Twitter Widget
  • Feed Reader
  • COPPA Compliance Plugin
  • Free Text Widget

Hopefully this also signals an impending advent of Elgg 1.1. Lurking about the SVN repository reveals that Elgg coder Marcus Povey has been busy at work committing several changes in recent days. His tweets have revealed success in solving some vexing problems with Elgg’s river.

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