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Building the Greatest Custom Social Network Platform — Internal and Customer Priorities

Hello everyone,

We’ve been spending time this past week talking and emailing with a number of you. We greatly appreciate those of you who reached out to us and everyone’s willingness to spend time providing feedback. It is clear our development and customer community cares about SocialEngine.

Jason and I have a motto we’ve always lived by and that is if we ask for feedback, we better be prepared to do something with it. So here we go with the transparency.

After having discussions with our development and customer service team, and diving into the current business model to review allocation of time/resources we believe these are the immediate, prioritized issues to tackle:

Customer Need: Setting up a Bug Tracker/Forum

Reasoning: It’s our first customer priority because this has been consistent feedback from the conversations we’ve been having, in addition to comments posted on the blog. A bug tracker/forum is a much more efficient way to handle this form of communication than through support tickets. So this also helps our top internal priority of stemming customer support tickets (see below). Straight from the blog comments: setup a bug reporting system, so we can submit bugs and improvement suggestions for it. Often we have a situation when there is a bug in SE core that’s already fixed. So all we need is a proper way to submit the patch to be included in the next release.

Ideation for Bug Tracker/Forum: We are currently looking into bug tracking software. It’s a tug of war right now because we like nice design and we have a need for speed. So if anyone has suggestions about a platform with a great UI/UX don’t be shy to recommend it. We’re thinking about leveraging Redmine.

Internal Need: Stem the flow of support tickets. 

Reasoning: This is priority number one internally because it limits our ability to work on developing our products. Yes, we have a role in why these support tickets exist, but we also have the ability to get to the root of the problem (instead of reacting to the same problems over and over).

Situation: A majority of our dev tickets are for PHP, and while some of those are for legitimate bugs (Customer Need above), a majority stem from two issues. (1) Installs and (2) Performance.

Installs: Support tickets are coming from individuals who choose not to purchase the Install Service, and must later come to us seeking support (credit matthew). We even have support tickets for individuals trying to install the free trial versions — a total operational loss for us. We’re thinking of ways to fix that too.

Performance: Support requests around performance are typically related to the impact of 3rd party apps or poor hosting environments.

Ideation for Installs: For installs we will need to address this two-fold. Our process will address both current customers who have already downloaded PHP, and future PHP download customers. We are currently mulling a number of ideas on how to best address and roll out a new process.

Ideation for Performance: We are looking at ways we can provide 3rd party app certification, in addition to providing managed hosting services. We will have more to discuss about this at a later time, but don’t hesitate to give us your feedback. Many of the best ideas to date were given to us by the community, so keep it coming.

We’ll get more updates to you next week. Again, don’t hesitate to email either Jason, jason@socialengine.com or myself james@socialengine.com with any follow up ideas.

With appreciation,

James, Co-President and CEO

 

44 Comments

  1. skidpics
    Posted January 31, 2014 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

    Everything looks great and thank you very much for the open communication.

  2. vinienco
    Posted January 31, 2014 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

    excellent update, thank you !
    UPWW.US

  3. Aleksey Volkov
    Posted February 1, 2014 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    +1 for Redmine, great project managenent / bugtracker software (Ruby On Rails, open and free)
    Successfully using it for my SE4 PHP sites (as developer mostly)

    As for performance, SE4 need more cache configurations and supported backends (e.g. redis, PHP 5.5 opcache), more flexible static hosts / cdn support (it is very limited now)… for starters :) And dig into nginx+php-fpm configurations, they speed up any site very good 😉

  4. Ranjan Tripathy
    Posted February 2, 2014 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    Please include some of the recognized SE expert (popular 3rd party plugin providers)as moderator for bug/forum tracking system. May be lots of issue can be resolved from them before it can be triage to SE core team and core team can work on real issues.
    Plugin certification is a must have and may be you can maintain a page to include certified plugins.

  5. Amando
    Posted February 3, 2014 at 2:33 am | Permalink

    I recommend you to choose Atlassian platform for agile development (Jira, Bamboo, Confluence). It’s the best platform available and will help you to focus developing and follow a rapid release model instead the older that has proven to be a nightmare. I don’t work for Atlassian but I use all of their products for our developments.

  6. Rashyed
    Posted February 3, 2014 at 4:41 am | Permalink

    Thank you for this Informations.

  7. skidpics
    Posted February 3, 2014 at 6:03 am | Permalink

    I guess the next question would be.. When are we getting any kind of update for sePHP? It’s been a while. Have they not been working on anything to release?

  8. Posted February 3, 2014 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    There will be updates to PHP coming. We will be sharing our dev schedule for everyone to see what we are working on and what has been prioritized.

  9. Posted February 3, 2014 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the input Amando.

  10. Posted February 3, 2014 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    Love this idea Ranjan. Thanks for the input.

  11. Posted February 3, 2014 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    Thanks for taking the time weigh in Aleksey. Much appreciated.

  12. Ryan Olson
    Posted February 3, 2014 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    skidpics – I want to state I had one AMAZING call with room214 last week. Not only are they on board with the rest of us, they have some ideas that blow my mind. While I would expect it will take 30-45 days to see any “updates” to SE PHP, it will be well worth the wait. They have their own developers looking at the code as we speak so we need to give them time to look over it and get caught up with the rest of us and the pain we all feel

    I Strongly suggest emailing James or Jason every suggestion, comment, thought, bad nightmare you have had with SE PHP. I know some of the things I shared with them they never knew about and without us loud winded users they wont be able to fix the problems we paid NOT to have.

    Ryan

  13. Posted February 3, 2014 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

    I guess everybody has forgotten the API

  14. Meister G
    Posted February 4, 2014 at 12:41 am | Permalink

    I’d really like to have SE PHP to have a native responsive design’

  15. skidpics
    Posted February 4, 2014 at 5:51 am | Permalink

    I sometimes feel upgrades get files ‘lost in translation’, In order to create a clean copy, with your actual site content, I would love to see a detailed instruction post on how to do this correctly. Clean install, copy public content, copy Database and add your current plugins. Is there anything I am missing?

  16. Posted February 4, 2014 at 6:16 am | Permalink

    Hey Micheal, we’ve had a few people contact us directly about the API, you’re the first to comment on the blog though.

  17. Posted February 4, 2014 at 6:16 am | Permalink

    We agree. We’ll be discussing when and how to get this done.

  18. Ryan Olson
    Posted February 4, 2014 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    Aleksey – As another user of SE PHP I have to ask… what is it you need help with when it comes to nginx/php5-fpm and CDN support. I have a TONNE of experience with it (I actually run a 6 node web cluster with nginx). I also use EdgeCast for my CDN.

    If you would like some help with anything I am more than happy to help you out as best as I can.

  19. Ryan Olson
    Posted February 4, 2014 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    James, As I am responding to things here what would be great is a FORMAL community for SE PHP license holders. Something with say “Users” “PowerUsers” “Official Developers” “Room214 Staff” – as we all know there are sites out there that offer this but they are not “official” or “legal” in their true purpose. Using the example below of php5-fpm/Nginx I have an amazing configuration I created for SE PHP with Google PageSpeed optimization that has given my site some AMAZING performance that I would be happy to share if I had a place that was moderated by Room214

  20. Ryan Olson
    Posted February 4, 2014 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    I think we all just either a) gave up on the API or b) wanted to give Room214 time to get their feet wet, but I will +1 this as well!

  21. Jdouk
    Posted February 4, 2014 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

    Ryan I would like to take you up on your offer for some help that’s been haunting me for the last two years. You can reach me at admin@modeldesire.com

  22. Jdouk
    Posted February 4, 2014 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

    Thank you James this has been a long waiting and frustrating period for all of us. I have a small community of 5k member but can’t seem to get it right. Highly awaiting for the help os SE and others like Ryan to finally get is together.

  23. Ryan Olson
    Posted February 6, 2014 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    I replied to you via email – let me know if you didn’t get it. You can also reach me at ryan.olson@fmnetworks.net

  24. thatmtnman
    Posted February 6, 2014 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

    we proposed an Apple Store type of facility with the previous ownership team., The idea being that Social Engine would set and test code standards for any plugins to get a listing in the store. SE would take a cut for its efforts. It makes perfect sense, which is most likely why they didn’t do it, it could generate a ton of revenue all through the eco system and it could save a lot of community owners a lot of angst. How hard is is?

  25. Jazzman
    Posted February 6, 2014 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

    Want to bring SocialEngine PHP to the 21st century? Make a version based on Zend 2, at least for the core. Zend 2 is years, ahead of Zend 1 as far as performance and flexibility and programming is much simpler (yes, I’m getting my hands dirty with it).

    I know some may say that we already have too many developers using Zend 1 and the transition may be difficult, there may be a learning curve, etc. That may be true but a Zend 2 version can offer a whole other world of opportunities, for you and for developers willing to move with the times (think app development, API development, jQuery, OAuth, faster database querying [Doctrine], and much more). So give it a thought or two.

  26. James McMahon
    Posted February 7, 2014 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    +1 YES!
    We need a community that we can exchange ideas on.

  27. James McMahon
    Posted February 7, 2014 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    I’d like to see security become focused on. Simple measures such as SSL for sign in for our users as well as a general guide on security best practices from a configuration perspective would be great too.

    IMO SSL sign in should come as standard with SE PHP with the ability to turn it on/off via admin panel. SSL is unbreakable by any means of course, but as a community owners I feel it is important to make cursory efforts to secure our member’s credentials and, frankly protect them from themselves a little.

  28. James McMahon
    Posted February 7, 2014 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    I’ve had a good experience with Litespeed and APC for caching. Of course if you have 6 web nodes then litespeed would add to your cost!!

  29. James McMahon
    Posted February 7, 2014 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    How about a script and or service that could be used to benchmark (potential) performance of SE PHP on a given server config?

  30. Meister G
    Posted February 11, 2014 at 1:14 am | Permalink

    I’m all for this, even if this could also mean a total overhaul of SE’s architecture and be built from the ground up. It’s about time! One way to survive is to constantly evolve – I mean just look how far FB has become. It has become a “social utility” than a social networking site.

    My take is put the best features of SE Cloud and SE PHP and make a new SE PHP v2 (Since SE4 = SE PHP v1) – add this with a mobile first responsive design, make an app framework around it as well so people can have an option to make their SE sites mobile app only – that would really be awesome.

  31. es7
    Posted February 19, 2014 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    I agree. In a long run ZF2 should be set as a goal. In about a year ZF1 won’t be supported according to official announcement http://framework.zend.com/about/faq/

  32. Andrea
    Posted February 20, 2014 at 3:42 am | Permalink

    My Site current version is SE 4.3.0p1 PHP extendedly customized on the core and several third
    party plug-in, my developers were discussing to bring more improvements on the
    layout and futures, from my side as project owner I suggested to wait first
    because I want to understand really how
    will move Social Engine , I was expecting more update after the January 31,
    2014 (maybe I am missing something)

    Any update
    (what improvement will bring) and date release for the new upgrade SE PHP 4.8?

    Kind
    regards,

    Andrea R.

  33. thatmtnman
    Posted February 21, 2014 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

    Has anyone got any information on when the next php update is going to take place? Its been months, and there are serious issues that remain usaddressed.

  34. Jasper
    Posted February 22, 2014 at 5:22 am | Permalink

    Add nofollow feature it’s a must for social networks! Beter spam protection and more features to entertain users.

    If you want socialengine to grow to one of biggest social networking scripts add a feature to allow share backlinks with other social engine members.

  35. FrancoB
    Posted February 25, 2014 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    Any news when you will be updating SE-PHP again? Been a long time since we had any updates!

  36. Eddie
    Posted February 26, 2014 at 2:28 am | Permalink

    Hi, On the subject of the hassle you get when users try a free trial why not host this ready set up your self? Then if they go for it either keep hosting if they want (I know there is mixed feeling about this, only suggesting as an option) or as part of your install service migrate their trial software to their own hosting if they have made mods. They can choose if the mods they made to their trial are of sufficient value to pay you to move it or just go down the usual route. I know hosting doesn’t come free, but if its a priority to reduce this hassle its a way forward.

  37. Posted February 27, 2014 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    Eddie, thanks for the recommendation.

  38. Posted February 27, 2014 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    Hey Franco. We are fully committed to supporting PHP. We’ve only had the product for the past 45 days now and are currently considering our approach to the next update. This is a significant strategic decision we are gladly pursuing.

  39. Posted February 27, 2014 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    Excellent feedback, I’ll pass along. Thanks Jasper.

  40. Posted February 27, 2014 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    Hi Andrea, we are having very strategic and poignant discussions about how we are going to go after the next the version release of SE PHP. I have to ask for your patience as we look build out the roadmap. Once we have it, we will share it.

  41. Posted February 27, 2014 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    Meister, we are looking into elements of this vision. Bringing the best of both platforms together for the new PHP version. Glad to see this is being thought of.

  42. Posted February 4, 2015 at 7:02 am | Permalink

    Hi Andrea, your point is well taken.

    Hopefully our v4.8.7 release was significant enough for an upgrade.

    For the PHP product roadmap, we’re moving as quickly as we can. We wanted v4.8.7 out. We are planning our approach to next releases and the major update which we will share.

  43. Andrea
    Posted June 23, 2015 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    Hello James,
    I am one of those quite that follow everything happen and make treasure out of it, sometimes ago we had a chat about the SE PHP Road-map, few SE update went through, now is 4.9 but we haven’t seen any official SE PHP Road map and 5 months has past (I apologies if is out and I missed) I think has one of SE believer that we deserve it.

    I am not a developer but I love the concept of SE and what you advertise (Every on can have his SN even without been a developer)
    Well I am site owner that invested in SE and I am glad and optimistic about, but we need to see faraway forward to be at the right place at the right moment.
    As site owner I would like to see some future especially regarding the admin panel, SE has not give a UI refresh for long time or place any additional tool for even longer. I believe would be really appreciated if site owner con give filtered admin right to admin panel so for example if we have a new developer or admin that we desire to administer just one section or plugin we don’t need to make him admin (were he/she has access to all console) if we hire someone to be in charge of the SEO and need to make some modification to the description we want to grant this person to do the job but not grant the person control over the rest and maybe is going the mess up with layout editor. so we should be able to grant admin access divide for section or plugin.
    this is one of the future I would like to see but if we would have a road-map would be everything easier for everyone.

    Kind regards,
    Andrea

  44. Posted June 23, 2015 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

    Hi Andrea,

    Thank you for following up on the SE PHP Roadmap. Yes it has taken much longer than expected. We do have 4.9 mapped out, plus prioritized features for future releases. We’ll be publishing that roadmap soon so you can see how are addressing the feature requests you’ve stated.

    Thanks for your patience. James

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