XenForo 3rd Party Resources

Discussion in 'XenForo' started by The Sandman, Oct 13, 2017.

  1. The Sandman

    The Sandman Administrator

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    XenForo was developed with an eye toward extension by 3rd party add-ons. I can understand why this was done (it worked well for vBulletin, made up for the limited feature set in the early releases of XenForo) and it does have some significant advantages (less code bloat, add only the features you need for your forum, add customizations nobody else has).

    But there are disadvantages too:
    - Add-on quality is highly variable
    - Add-on pricing doesn’t always make sense
    - Support for add-ons often seems to falter over time
    - The best add-on developers are few, and usually overbooked
    - Add-ons can be buggy and/or conflict with other add-ons.
    - Etc.

    This isn’t a news flash... it’s all been discussed before.

    So, is there anything that can be done to improve the state of 3rd party add-ons, either by XenForo or someone else?
     
  2. Maddox

    Maddox Moderator

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    There needs to be some kind of quality control put in place. When an add-on acts up with someone else's add-on there is the inevitable conflict as to whose add-on is causing the problem, the outcome is, invariably, that the end user has to make a choice as to which add-on to keep and which one to drop.

    There are 'some' developers who go the extra mile and give instructions on what to do to suppress the conflict, but these are the exception and not the rule. This is the real drawback when something is reliant on third party input to redress the shortfall of stock features.

    No add-on should be made available, either free, but especially paid, until some kind of quality check is made. This would, of course, present a monumental challenge for whoever was assigned to oversee this quality control. The good thing is that it would encourage developers to ensure that their add-on played nice with other add-ons and it would bolster confidence in those paying out for something that may or may not work as described.

    I have no idea how this can be accomplished other than having someone with a stock install of XF and then use each add-on as it is presented and see what happens; as I mentioned, this would be a monumental task and even then when you add the human factor to the equation there is bound to be some that would slip through.

    The only other way would be to inform both parties to work out what is going wrong and give them a timescale in which to provide a solution or both add-ons would be removed from the RM.

    Tough one to call, other than make the most popular add-ons either official add-ons or core features - neither of which I can see happening.

    ;)
     
  3. we_are_borg

    we_are_borg Moderator

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    If something that needs to be done it should be an external source and not XF, the reason is that it should have been done long time ago. That said if you want to address the points you made you’ll need resources and time.

    Add-on quality; quality should be a priority for the developer and his customer, this begins with exelant documentation why and how. Second is to rate the developer this needs to be independend from XF to start with and it should not be a oneliner it should be constructive. Third is a sort of certificate that they can get that they know what they are doing and work for quality.

    Add-on pricing; nothing we can do about that but we can learn the developers of an add-on what is fair and use panels for feedback.

    Add-on support; documentation is key in this the better it is the less you’ll need to give support, maybe a system can be setup so that most questions can be outsourced.

    Add-on developers; we need more developers on all paid software, people that want to learn need to be guided by other developers. This is hard to do because it will mean that other developers has less time.

    Add-on conflicts; this can be addressed by making developers talk to one and other if it happens how can they solve it asap.

    Add-ons vs Core or Core vs Add-ons; in our case XF developers need to communicate more with us and add-on developers. This also prevents add-on developers from developing add-ons that will be core, by doing that the add-on developers have more time for other stuff.
     
  4. Alfa1

    Alfa1 Moderator

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    Actually I think that the XF team is missing out on a great opportunity. XenForo 2 is not out yet and the first addons have been released. It would be a monumental task to review all existing XF1 addons. But for new addons, especially XF2 addons there was/is a chance to start from 0.

    Once a developer gets their first addon rejected because of bad code practises, then that would stem or even stop the flow of low quality addons by that developer. It would be clear that its not worth the effort unless the developer would have to up his game. The audit would not just affect the addons reviewed, but would also cause developers to adjust their practises.

    XenForo has in my view a major quality problem with addons. In terms of coding practises its a jungle. The Resource area is full of problematic addons that should never be run on a medium to large board and IMHO should never have been allowed to be posted on xenforo.com For xenforo 2 I was hoping that it would be different, but unfortunately it is not.

    Not only does this hurt webmasters but it also reflects badly on developers who take pride in their work and deliver good quality and follow standards. A few rotten apples spoils the bunch.

    If you post a project on XenForo.com then suddenly you get a lot of responses from people who do not post and do not have an online portfolio. More often than not the conversation comes across as sketchy. In this regard xenforo.com is a jungle even more.

    I have lost upward of $5,000 on development because well known developers were not able to produce working code if they delivered at all. Some addons needed to be coded tree times over by different devs because the first 2 couldn't deliver. IMO this is really insane. I know I am far from the only admin who lost a lot on this. To many addons I bought, sponsored features for without a usable result.

    I do hope that the xenforo team can find ways to increase the standards and quality of the XF addon scene. IMO they should, because they hold themselves to high standards when it comes to coding. The XF Addon community should have better safeguards.

    The Woltlab team checks all addons in their resources section. I don't see why XF cannot do the same. The benefit of this would be really significant. It would save admin from using such problematic addons and would have a positive impact on xenforo as a reliable platform.
     
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  5. doubt

    doubt Tazmanian

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    Yes, there is, but it would increase the price of those add-ons.
     
  6. Digital Doctor

    Digital Doctor Tazmanian

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    This is the poor ecosystem setup by Xenforo Ltd.
    Their risk adverse approach guarantees zero innovation in the addon sphere.
    IPS wouldn't be making those mistakes - and doesnt.
     
  7. doubt

    doubt Tazmanian

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    Because they don't have the resources.
     
  8. Alfa1

    Alfa1 Moderator

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    If they choose to then that can be resolved fairly quickly by adding a part timer.
     
  9. doubt

    doubt Tazmanian

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    That would cost $$$
    Who would do it free of charge?
     
  10. Alfa1

    Alfa1 Moderator

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    Of course man hours cost money. XenForo LTD is a commercial entity.
     
  11. The Sandman

    The Sandman Administrator

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    Mike and Kier started out with the current system for some reason - it seems like they're trying to avoid most if not all responsibility for the add-ons and add-on devs while taking full advantage of having a large collection of available code available right on their site for extending the functionality of the core code - almost as if they were providing the add-ons... until there's a problem.

    This is quite different from vBorg, where the site was owned (though not necessarily controlled) by 3rd parties and the add-ons and discussions were at arms length from the official vBulletin site.

    Regardless of their original intention, as the years have passed and forums have grown and become heavily laden with add-ons, many coded using questionable practices (to quote Alfa1), many no longer being supported, and many causing conflicts and errors... I believe Chris said just the other day that the majority of support tickets end up being add-on issues.

    The truth is, add-on use often has two costs - the price you pay for the add-on and support, as well as a hidden cost - in both time and money, in tracking down errors and incompatibilities when things go wrong. It might well be worth it to pay more up front for less troublesome add-ons.
     
  12. doubt

    doubt Tazmanian

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    What to do with the free add-ons?
    #1 Charge for them.
    #2 Cease to exist on the XF site.
     
  13. Alfa1

    Alfa1 Moderator

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    Woltlab doesn't charge for it because it really doesn't cost them much time to do. They don't need extra resources. It increases their brand reputation and enhances their ecosystem. They have repeatedly stated something along those lines on TAZ.

    Mind that a good developer doesn't need to read a lot of code to recognize bad coding practises, spaghetti, sloppiness and hacks or that the developer doesn't know what he is doing. There is no need for full audits or any kind of quality guarantee. Just introduce a minimum standard of what is acceptable.
     
  14. we_are_borg

    we_are_borg Moderator

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    With Apple you need to pay before you can publish an app but this has effect on their store people buy faster on Apple then on Android. Also because the apps are checked you get better qaulity. So i presume this would be the same as Woltlab because they check qaulity the users would be happier. People need to understand their is more then one way to make money, direct and indirect. Direct is easy you sell license and renewals and other stuff. Indirect is harder but if you have qaulity add-ons people gain trust in your company so you gain more licenses sales and renewals etc. So if XF this would do i think they could beneffit from this.
     
  15. Brad

    Brad Charter Member

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    The problem is allowing people to sell add-ons directly through the site. It killed innovation, code sharing, and lots of add-ons are sold now with less features when compared to their early vBulletin/UBB counterparts. This was my main fear about allowing paid add-ons on vB.org and I fought against it until the very end. If someone is going to go into the business of selling add-ons I feel they should have to set-up their own site, support forum, and deal with the orders themselves.

    A quality assurance team is never going to happen. It's too much work to troll through all that code, it puts up a barrier to entry for new people just starting out, and it's just too hard to enforce. Plus, it's not needed if the community is helping each other anyway. In this age of crowd funding we've lost something very important; people doing things simply to learn and for the love of it.
     
  16. Maddox

    Maddox Moderator

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    Here, here - there is too much emphasis on personal gain no matter who gets stepped on; as BradBrad said there was a time when people were more than happy to help each other without any expectation of reward and we all benefited from offering a helping hand. I see some developers charging for a few lines of code that would have otherwise been given for free - everyone wants a bite of the apple nowadays and that apple is getting smaller with some people taking bigger bites and leaving very little for anyone else.

    ;)
     
  17. radu81

    radu81 Fan

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    Good point!
    That's why I still use free software, these things still exists on free forum scripts.

    On SMF every free add-on needs to be approved, could take weeks or months, but they check every add-on
     
  18. tony45

    tony45 Participant

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    And they also check updates?. Some apps Im using in ipb are 2 years old, each one of them had 5, 10, 15 updates. It looks really hard to control all of them
     
  19. radu81

    radu81 Fan

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    To be honest I don't know about updates
     
  20. Pete

    Pete Flavours of Forums Forever

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    Updates are not checked. But the filtering that goes on does keep a lot of stuff out, possibly more than is healthy.

    The lack of vetting of updates undermines the vetting of initial submission.
     
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