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Moving forward with Composr

ocPortal has been relaunched as Composr CMS, which is now in beta. ocPortal 9 will be superseded by Composr 10.

Head over to compo.sr for our new site, and to our migration roadmap. Existing ocPortal member accounts have been mirrored.


v10 development FAQ

v10 development FAQ Hi all,

As you probably know, v10 is taking ages for us to get finished, and that we have given no release date yet. I will try and update people in this blog post and provide some recommendations.

This isn't a real FAQ, it's more like a series of answers to some question I think people would ask. Generally people have been surprisingly patient with us.

When will v10 be out?

We aren't giving a release date, because it would be purely artificial and we wouldn't necessarily be able to meet it. ocPortal/Composr has no direct funding, so developers have to do it as a result of other project work, or between tasks.

Surely that's not a good way to develop, with no direct funding?

It's not ideal, but it's always worked well before. It's typical of most Open Source CMS development, so it's generally the trade-off made for having true software freedom (liberation, not just not having a price). The difference this time is the huge scope of the complete relaunch. We may consider using crowdfunding for future releases so that we can get a direct budget for it, although I do have some hesitation for that too. I don't expect future releases to be as complex as this one, as we are resolving every little architectural mistake in the software made over a 10 year development history.

What is taking so long?

We have to try and balance the needs of paying customers, and the ocPortal community. Generally speaking though, if someone has put through work and possibly paid in advance for it, we have to treat those paying customers with a great deal of respect and consideration. We have had a serious back-log of work prior to us putting an official stop on starting up new paid projects, and a lot of the tasks assigned have branched out into multiple other tasks.

Additionally, as time goes on, web programming gets harder. Much harder. People expect far more from their websites than they used to, and expect things to be far simpler, use more technologies, and be really attractive. This means we can't just hire a programmer and put them on something, we typically have to go through 6 months of learning projects before they're ready for more complicated work. Plus, there is a massive shortage of skilled programmers nowadays. Summary: we can't just hire our way out of a work back-log.

Can you go faster?

Largely I am the bottleneck, because of a series of final tasks around complex ocPortal/Composr internals, and some business/design/technical things that cross-over and need integrating for our final Composr home-site. As I hardly get an evening off, let alone a weekend or vacations, I'm afraid there's no real way to get it done faster. If I delegate these things I'd take as long briefing and assessing as I would doing it myself.

I have had to change things around with how I work recently – I gave up caffeine, junk food, etc, because I kept crashing from it – I am now trying to finish everything off by staying within a calm and considered frame of mind. That's working well for me :).

You gotta delegate more Chris!

Yes, I absolutely do. Once all this is unravelled, I definitely intend to assign responsibilities to other people on my team from the start. Things have been complicated by the big economic problems the world is just now recovering from, which we were very exposed to – we had a decent sized team, then it went down to basically just me for a while, now we have a team larger than ever. It takes time for everything to recalibrate around that. We're not VC-funded – this means we don't have to screw any one over to make a big profit, but also explains our economic exposure, especially as most of our customers have typically been very small businesses.

How is development going?

I worked hard through last weekend and got the final parts of the v10 sitemap feature done. This was one of the last big architectural things that need doing. Most of the remaining work falls into these areas:
  • Final things relating to new content import/export mechanisms
  • Some remaining sponsored features
  • Merging in new features from a number of v9 sites that we have done for our customers
  • Finishing off the new compo.sr home-site
  • Getting some documentation stuff sorted out, including merging in community documentation from ocportal.com
  • A number of business things related to changes in how our support services and development workflows are managed (dry, but we are changing some stuff around with the Composr relaunch)
  • Going over lots of online services, working with partners, etc, to rename and relink to Composr instead of ocPortal

Is it just vapourware?

I am very aware people may think we are suffering from second system syndrome. There may be some truth to that, but not too much. Composr is not a rewrite, it is a very deep cleanup with lots of redesigning and new features. We have made the hard choices needed to get it done, mainly in investing in a larger development team to better manage our overall project work-load, and stopping taking on new projects until we are clear of the back-log. It's not a hobby, it's developed seriously and professionally, and we are committed to it.

Is there a road-map?

There isn't. I am planning to release a series of key dates once we get into beta (i.e. when everything is finished bar public testing). This will include things like when we recommend people upgrade, when ocPortal is no longer supported with new versions, and so on.

Where is the development source code?

Yeah, it's private right now, which isn't great. We were developing on github but we wanted to keep the Composr rename secret until we announced it, so it's currently in a private bitbucket repository. We need to correct this.

I can't wait, I need v10 because I don't understand v9

We have made a number of things simpler in v10, but I honestly would not market it as such a step-change that it will make everything easy. It is important to take the time to understand key technologies. I'd advise learning HTML and CSS really well, to the extent that you could make good static designs. I'd advise learning v9. You can start a site on v9, because it will be upgradable to v10. I won't pretend it will be completely painless, but you won't need to restart your work. You can write out proper development plans, or if appropriate, business plans. You can read books about how to plan out a site. There's a great deal you can do, so tieing everything to v10 is not necessary or wise in my opinion. v9 is still an amazing system. v10 will be even more amazing, but please only start forming plans around it when we actually assign a release date to it.

What's the silver-lining?

There's a big one. v10 keeps having more awesome things get piled into it. A lot of stuff from paid projects feeds back into it. Also, when we have v10 out this will continue through new versions, as we have significant ongoing work nowadays. So the future is very rosy.

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