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The growing issue of over simplification.

edited February 2011 in Vanilla 2.0 - 2.2
I wanted to start this discussion and test the waters out a little. I enjoy vanilla's approach to a simplistic Core install with plugin's as an option. But im seeing a common issue that ive experienced in other projects taking a similar approach that from my past experience needs to be addressed properly before it turns into a burden for our users and developers. I like to refer to it as over simplification. Where everything that is nothing is considered a plugin ultimately resulting in a large amount of plugins that users need and use. One way around this, is to have these plugins enabled by default. Which solves the problem temporarily, but when the numbers of plugins included in core continue to grow the support and updates for these plugins slow down because its created more work for a feature users have come to think of as a "Core feature".

The inclusion of a plugin being added to the project, how they are selected, why plugins are enabled by default should be documented and up for debate. Some plugins in my opinion need to make the move to being included in core as a feature and not a plugin. For example, i currently have 24 plugins installed, 11 enabled. I would like to see some statics of what the average amount of plugins installed is, how many enabled, what percentage of users are using the plugins included by default, and what the community thinks is a suitable number.


  • ShadowdareShadowdare π Moderator
    I agree with your analysis. This reminds me of how PunBB and FluxBB is over simplified as well. They say that PMs can't be added to the core and only as a mod because users should use emails instead.

    Add Pages to Vanilla with the Basic Pages app | Publish articles with the Articles app

  • I totally agree here.
    And you used the right word.
    Some plugins must be clearly moved into core (I mean Tagging, Gravatar and Voting, Maintance and Geisha Highlighter) with ability to disable visual part of them at any time.

    Having so many plugins also have impact on performance, both on server and user side.
    Loading 8-10 CSS files and 10 JS files is not good idea, especially if user just moved from search engine on from the link and do not have any cache working.

    For server side - we have some dirty hacks for Gravatar to substitute Avatar photo URL insted of hard writing it in time of each Profile change. Same goes for any html formatting plugins working on the fly today.

    Tagging being real catching feature of Vanilla is still plugin and speaking of Tagging Enchanced, of quite bad quality, with errors in code.

    Plugins also have bad habit of adding JS files to Controller and using them on all views for this controller. I think that Controller must be improved, so plugin could specify exact views and extra arguments that are required to include this JS or CSS file.

    May be we need special fork for owners of medium and large sites, introducing some performance related changes and moving some functionality into the core.
  • edited February 2011
    I think Vanilla should have on it core/default :

    1. Role title/User title... better if there is Badge or Stars too.
    2. Thread Rating
    3. Who Is Online
    4. Quotes and [code] tag for technicaly community.
    5. Bad Words Filter

    Please dont be too simple... You forget standard feature in common forums software.

  • 1. Role title/User title... better if there is Badge or Stars too. (so some kind of ranks system, look at the profile page and the roles you see there)

    2. Thread Rating (Voting plugin? What do you think the 0 and the up / down button besides a thread mean)

    3. Who Is Online (Yes or No, are we a forum or a CMS?)

    4. Quotes and [code] tag for technicaly community. (Yes, but it's already possible (hidden feature)

    5. Bad Words Filter (There is a plugin for it, but yes, should be with core by default)

    Please dont be too simple... You forget standard feature in common forums software.You are absolutely right. There's 1 problem. The common forums got too bloated with features, so there must be some choices made somewhere down the line...

  • Again, it is bad fallance that minimim is right.
    Yes, current approach in Vanilla is certainly much better than many others.
    But.. Some parts much be moved to core.


    I think that you wrongly interpreted almost all points made by @n4is3n.
    We really do not have working roles (only half baked plugins that do not work) with rules how they are assigned. And all else also.
  • edited February 2011
    Thanks UnderDog

    No no... i mean,

    1. user title, in every post... not only at profile. Stars rank or badges would be better. So we know, "who" or "what".

    2. Thread rating by default, not plugin.

    3. "Who is online" is default feature in common forum software... not portal CMS as you say. Usually at bottom of forum.

    4 & 5. I'm happy you say that... Can't wait for next release, :)

    Sorry, my English is bad... I hope you understood what i mean.
  • aeryaery Gtricks Forum in 2.2 :) ✭✭✭
    I strongly agree for User ranks or badges. This would encourage other users too.

    Vanilla is sweet & support is great, to encourage volunteers, please donate.

  • renerene New
    edited February 2011
    I disagree. All of n4is3n's suggestions are not important to me or my users. My users don't care about roles, ratings or tagging. They just want a simple forum that they can understand.

    Each forum has a different user group with different requirements. So i think it's important to keep the core to it's bare necessities and leave the featurecreeping to the plugin developers. ;)
  • ShadowdareShadowdare π Moderator
    edited February 2011
    I once had a user who cared only about his rating. He wanted more stars and I said that's for other usergroups only and that he had to post more to gain more stars. Seems like he left because he didn't get his stars. User ranks aren't really important since you can go to the user's profile and see if they're a moderator or not and there is a flagging option as well.

    Add Pages to Vanilla with the Basic Pages app | Publish articles with the Articles app

  • Agree with aery... user rank will encourage user to be more active, not only come to ask, then after it disappeared.


    And your forum will be hard to be huge. Because of its limitations... ;-)
    3rd party developer is can not be fully trusted. I hate the words "Use at your own risk".
  • What if we:
    Make a package with the desired plugins, but you can of course disable the plugins if you don't want them in there?

    Or we make a package with plugins on top of the bare core?

    That package could then contain the necessary plugins like tagging, ranks and "who's online".
  • I think that we need separate fork oriented at larger forums and with necessary functionality in core (not plugins) and all possible optimizations also.
  • Forking IMO would make things worse, more work with two branches to support, different feature sets etc etc. Vanilla forums should work and be compelling to users of many needs. It Should be capable of supporting a small basic forum, or a large forum. Plugins solve this issue.

    I somewhat agree with you. And i prefer the stance that vanilla forums has taken in regards to simplicity. Its the process of core feature/plugin inclusion and the growing number of plugins needed to operate a basic forum that is bothersome. As others have pointed out there may be performance issues in coloration with the over simplification, and personally i find it to be a nuance.

    I think that statistics should play a large role in this process. If 80 percent of vanilla installs have "whos online" enabled, then this obviously needs to be a plugin included in core and possibly considered for the change to becoming a core feature.

    Another thought to throw into the mix. Applications. If one was to have two vanilla based apps installed, each with their own plugins, the number of plugins again is increasing. We are going to need a plugin to Maintain the mass amount of plugins ...

  • I don't see how this can be worse, as current state of development is aimed an minimim functionality small forums.
    Some features must be added for larges installations accroding to core developers, but we don't know that exactly.
  • i like having options
  • If I may be honest, most of the plugins that exist at the "addons" are plugins that are very standard. Addons such as "Who is online", "voting", "quotes", Is a standard feature that we usually meet in the other forum software, nothing special... But in vanilla, wow... Its Popular! ;-)

    Actually I hope that vanilla has plugins that much more functional (of course as options), to support a larger complex forum, not only for small community. Because I'm sure everyone wants their community to grow big. And encourage plugin developers to be more creative.
  • Genearally, as vanilla will be more functional an optimized for medium to alrge communities, we'll see much more serious plugins. As many of such communities can invest time and money for making features.
  • I am glad vanilla is a simple and easy to use forum software. It's just (once again) too simple. I think this site agree with me :

    Vanilla does not have to follow the trend of other forums out there. Some features are not very important (maybe) like :

    - signature
    - IM
    - complex profile layout
    - Top poster, etc...

    The things above are not necessary for the vanilla, because it is not really important (in my opinion).

    But it's just a few features that should exist by DEFAULT,

    - thread rating (so we know how important/popular the thread).
    - user rank / stars / badges (we know what and who).
    - Quotes and code tags
    - Who is online

    I hope this can be a constructive suggestion for future release... :-)
  • Who is online can make performance hit for medium and large communities.

    Btw, many vBulletin guys use famous "10 minutes in the past" approach for guests, serving them only cached pages.
  • Once someone has decided to go with the "Who's online" approach, we'll figure out the performance issues and their solutions. We'll probably have caching by then, so that won't be a problem. And yes, it could be the "10 minutes in the past" approach.

    Personally, I like the extended profiles, making the forum more of a social place to go, but that's a personal opinion :-)
  • But they must be highly customisable :-)

    I think that main motto for Vanilla must be plug&play approach, and not simplicity only
  • we still have way to many plugins to operate a basic forum. I have 11 enabled plugins and thats just for one application. I have around 20 total plugins. Im at the point where i almost need a second page to display my plugins, thats bad. That and a plugin to manage my plugins actually appeals to me.. however wrong that is.

    what about the embed, debug, and statistics plugins. These are all plugins developed by the core dev team, and are not directly effecting the end users. These plugins could be incorporated into the core vanilla forums application and be removed as plugins. Yes, they could be disabled from the admin dashboard. But these look like they are going to be plugins included in cor anyways.

    I purpose a process to examine plugins on vanilla installs (not just for forums but for future applications also) With non identifying information which can be disabled in the admin dashboard we should look at how many plugins the user has installed, how many enabled, and what plugins. But at some point, someone has to make the decision as to how many plugins is appropriate. Then they have to determine what features should be included in core.

    is it fair for users operating a basic forum to have 10 plugins enabled?
    Also, when doing benchmarking for the application, server load tests, im assuming they are testing without all these plugins we use enabled. Which can be deceiving and not display any performance issues.
  • on second thought, im not sure of a solution for this issue. I recognize that different users have different needs. And that having everything as a plugin has its benefits. the plugins i want may not be the plugins you want. And when we start to include plugins into the core app we open the door for a bloated core app that has junk in it not everyone wants. Is this an issue? I think so, i just cant figure out a viable solution. Where are the core devs at ?
  • UnderDogUnderDog Moderator
    edited February 2011
    Some of the core devs are at a conference in ... Montreal?
    You're right about the choice between many plugins and making the script bloated or few plugins (10 is few in my eyes) and making the script too slim.

    I for myself have approx 30 plugins running and I haven't even downloaded / looked at all the other plugins.

    Let's see what @Mark has to say.
  • I think once a plugin install method from within the dashboard has been fully established, so single click download/installs, having more functionality in plugins will be a blessing rather than a curse.
  • @Mark, I don't think that everyone here wants something different.
    And some plugins really slow application down or add to amazing amount of JS and CSS files.
    But I generally agree that core developers must focus on improving core features.
    May be good compromise will be to allow much tighter integration between plugins and core source code.
    And also work on adding comments and writing documentation for developers.

    I just thing that voting and tagging are core features of Vanilla. :-)

  • LincLinc Vanilla's Bard (and Lead Developer) Detroit Vanilla Staff
    May be good compromise will be to allow much tighter integration between plugins and core source code.
    How in the world could it be tighter than being able to extend and override existing classes on the fly?
    And also work on adding comments and writing documentation for developers.
    We have been. So far I've reworked the inline doc for the entire Vanilla app, the Conversations app, and I'm currently working on the Dashboard app. Others are working on the docs here on If you care to help with the inline docs, you know how.
    I just thing that voting and tagging are core features of Vanilla. :-)
    I don't. :)

  • LincLinc Vanilla's Bard (and Lead Developer) Detroit Vanilla Staff
    edited February 2011
    is it fair for users operating a basic forum to have 10 plugins enabled?
    Why wouldn't it be? I don't see what problem you're identifying. Double-digit numbers of plugins installed makes you feel funny?
    Where are the core devs at ?
    Coding. :D
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