The Future of Serendipity

Random stuff about serendipity. Discussion, Questions, Paraphernalia.
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garvinhicking
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The Future of Serendipity

Post by garvinhicking » Sat Aug 02, 2008 9:10 am

When I started working on Serendipity about 5 years ago, this happened mainly because of a personal itch to scratch: I wanted to see my personal blogging and CMS-needs fulfilled on my own page.

Since then, development of Serendipity was mostly caused by my personal thoughts of usable features, and of course the wishes of this community. In my oppinion, this has worked out quite well, the features of the past years have been received well by you.

Despite of that, this also means that Serendipity does not have a clear Feature-Agenda.

The differentiation of Serendipity against other blog engines is quite important to me. Serendipity cannot and willnot be a WordPress-Clone, but fills its own user base: A lean base system with strong expandibility, secure and bugfree code basis and workflows/usage methods close to the user. A 'bottom-up' development process is my favouriteed variant, as a Developer I would never want to push features into the product, that have not been mentioned by users (=non-developers).

For the next Serendipity 1.4 version I am still missing a few new useful functions, which is why I would like to ask the community, which things you currently miss most, or in which places see strong indicators to put work into. Because this is, where I would like to improve things.

Please write down your wishes and ideas for the future of Serendipity. This entry has also been posted in the Serendipity Forums, where it can be easily commented.

Best regards,
Garvin
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simb
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Feature wishlist

Post by simb » Sat Aug 02, 2008 2:53 pm

Hi Garv,

I love s9y and will be happy to use it also in the future.
:D

Anyway, here is my personal feature wishlist:
    workflow steps in the system, like draft, to publish, scheduled (inkl. pinging on publishing time), published
    more AJAX eg. for the Image Gallery Plugin
    snipshot-Integration as I always recieve server errors with big pictures and saving in between is anoying


But you are right, no really big feature is missing in my opinion.

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Post by Xanthouos » Sat Aug 02, 2008 3:32 pm

Firstly, thank you Garvin for the personal touch and quick response to those in need, including myself. I think the personal touch in any development project has a huge impact on it's success! Way to go Garv!

The first thing that comes to mind would be better/easier multi-lingual integration. Particularly for static pages. Perhaps I need to play with it some more, but I haven't found it very straightforward.

...my $0.02 :)
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Post by abdussamad » Sat Aug 02, 2008 3:42 pm

Here's what I think the project needs:

Better admin panel ui. You don't like wordpress but you gotta love the admin panel UI of wp. Maybe we need a HCI expert to make something like that.

Fix for this bug in the wysiwyg editor:

http://board.s9y.org/viewtopic.php?t=92 ... pt+wysiwyg

This bug means that you can't depend on the wysiwyg editor because when you try to save the entry you get an error that the "document is not well formed". So basically you can loose your entire post if you haven't saved it before!

Now I understand that this editor is a 3rd party product that is no longer in development. So maybe its time to switch to some other editor as the s9y default wysiwyg?

Unrelated to the software but does impact how new users view the project - a better design for the s9y.org site.

Better documentation. Some of the basic user documentation mentions things like the "authoring suite" and "viewing statistics" - stuff that is not even there in the latest version of s9y. It all needs updating.

To summarize I suggest the next few releases should be about fixing bugs and improving the ui rather than adding new features.

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Post by carl_galloway » Sat Aug 02, 2008 4:59 pm

Garvin you've done a fantastic job of keeping the project alive while the rest of us have come along and then left again, well done.

One of the things I tend to use Serendipity for is CMS rather than blog, and I'd like to see the static pages completely internalized, just like WP does, even allowing comments on them but keep them completely out of the blog structure. Also, the static pages plugin has become way too complex compared to regular posts, all those settings can make static pages really hard to learn for newbies.

With the mulitlingual plugin and posts, I'd love to see these show up in the 'edit entries' page without having to first go into the default language and then change the language. I know this might be a lot of work but it would help make s9y into more of a multilingual cms instead of just a blog.

I'd also like to somehow see a switch in the config screen that configure s9y as blog, or blog and static page site, or just static page site, and then whichever option is selected would change the way menus, navbars etc work.

Speaking of navbars, it would be great if theme navbars could be integrated into s9y instead of stuck in themes. I think a lot of users get frustrated because they want a navbar (for categories, or static pages, or most popular blog posts etc) and themes only let them hard code their links. Changing this so that they can select in the admin area if they have a navbar or not and what goes into it would be great.

In the config screen I'd love to have an extra box within the permalink section that allows us to select a folder beneath s9y that doesn't get included by s9y in it's permalink structure. For example if s9y is in the root folder (it's so good that a lot of people automatically put it there), but if you then want to add a forum, or gallery script etc you have to manually upload a separate htaccess to the sub-folder but being able to tell s9y to ignore that folder would be great.

I'd also like more options with permalinks, again sorry to raise WP, but it would be great if there were more options for permalinks when turning on mod_rewrite

Exporting entries. Is there any way this could also be used to export multilingual entries/static pages? Can we use this to backup our database like you can on WP?

Hope you like these suggestions, Carl

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Post by JPhilip » Sat Aug 02, 2008 7:26 pm

Hi,

Thanks a lot for all the work.

Unless I missed it, if you use a static page as front page, there is not way to have a link to the blog in the Navigation side bar plugin. (I could get gallery, contact, profile but not blog. This would be nice to have.

I agree with the admin UI being hard to manage, mostly because some of the functionality is in plugins and some is not and you have to know where the feature is located to go and admin it.
This is great for the system admin to add features, but hard for a regular editor who does not know how the system works.
It would be nice to have also a more functional interface. For example, a DHTML tree menu based on functinality like UI, Content..., some knid of shortcuts to installed features.
More simply, there could be more admin shorcuts in the side bar plugins, for example under the navigation list, there would be an admin icon when you are logged in as editor or admin. This shorcut would take you to a page combining the navigation plugin admin and the static pages admin as right now, you have to go to both places to change say the title and the content of the navigation bar.

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Post by TKS » Sun Aug 03, 2008 4:37 am

Hey Garvin,

Thanks for s9y! I recommend it over WP ALL THE TIME and even created a Virtual Appliance (VMWare Image) of it for others to use.

This aside, one thing I think could benefit s9y greatly is to have more details on plugins so people know what they are installing. Perhaps have a small synopsis in the plugin box and a larger hover text or expansion of the box when hovering. I find that I don't know what a plugin is for when I am browsing spartacus and have overlooked some good plugins because of it.

Changing the Admin panel around a bit would be pretty sweet. I think it should take up 100% of screen real estate (full horizontal) just because it can.

For collaborative blogs, I'd like to see the ability to have version control on each post. That way I can see revisions that my editors make and rollback or forward depending on what version I like.

I really like all of Carl_Galloway's ideas that he posted above.

I used to help you with documentation back during the .8 timeframe. I'd like to do that again (I'm a technical writer in my professional career). So I'd like to help setup a "community" effort to document what needs to done as well as features that need documentation.

I'm sure I'll think of more and when I do, I will definitely post them.

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Post by garvinhicking » Sun Aug 03, 2008 2:10 pm

Hi Everybody!

Wow, I love the feedback here. It's hard for me to reply to every single one and keep the overview, so I try to put everything into a single post.

Also, I've created some kind of "todo-list" here:

http://www.s9y.org/238.html

I've added and grouped your suggestions here (as well as the german ones), and hope to have not forgot anything.


@simb: I like the workflow idea. The snipshot thing looks nice, however I'm personally not a fan of using the browser for image editing. But I sure wouldn't mind if anybody wanted to implement this :)

@Xanthuous: Multilingual plugin sure needs some polishing. I believe multilingual static pages (one for each language) should already be possible.

@abdussamad: Of course you are right, the admin UI could look more polished. However, I like the general idea that the UI is easy and not so bloated and layered. So we definitely would need some help of solid designers here. The WYWSIWYG-Editor is a problem. s9y is BSD licensed, so we cannot use TinyMCE or FCKEdit, since their license doesn't allow it. We can only include them as a plugin, not in the s9y main distro.. However, those "Document not well formed" errors seem to not come from the editor itself, but from your Firefox Extension (SessionStore?) The other things about bad properties of course is a shortcoming in current htmlarea.
As for documentation: I wrote the german book, and I would love to see it translated to english. But that would mean the book first needs to sell more in germany. :-( I've spent a year on the documentation, and I can't find the motivation to do it all over again in english (because I would not be allowed to ues the german translation for a free online documentation)
Personally, I still really like the s9y.org design. ;)

@carl: I am not a friend of putting plugin code into the core. The core should stay lean. Not everyone wants to use s9y as a CMS, and the staticpage plugin would seriously bloat the core.
I like the idea to improve the layout of the staticpage plugin, I think it can be put into sections that I'll try to work on.
I also really believe that navbars need to go into the template's config screen, not the s9y core itself. Navbars are hugely template dependant, and bulletproof points out a nice way to add navigation items, IMHO.
As for the permalinks: Have you tried the new rewrite rule in s9y 1.4? This should prevent subfolders with existing files to redirect to the s9y page. Apart from that, disabling rewrite on certain folders definitely needs a .htaccess in each of those folders. If s9y were to write that, you would always need to use 777 (or similar) on every folder, which I dislike. Better to put that via FTP, IMHO.
Can you elaborate on "more options for permalinks"?
As for the export: Dumping/backing up the database is still the best way to go, because a general export would always need the correlating import, and that's always a lot of work with very little benefit.

@JPhilip: Have you thought about adding links to the index.tpl template yourself (navigation bars like in bulletproof) or using a HTML nugget plugin in the sidebar?
I like the shortcut way to configure/edit plugins, this should be easy to insert.

@TKS: Have you looked into the 'versioning' plugin? Even though it's more a work-in-progress version, it allows you to store and revert revisions.

Regards,
Garvin
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Post by TKS » Sun Aug 03, 2008 5:12 pm

Garvin,

Never tried that. Looks like it is precisely what I need.

That should be built into core and be a toggle setting IMHO. Autosave and versioning are things that should be standards for publishing. I've found that I've lost a lot of posts before because of a malformed document (due to my use of WYSIWYG editor).

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Post by TKS » Sun Aug 03, 2008 7:22 pm

Just thought of a couple of other features I feel would be great.


I think the opportunity to have a 'news' item displayed in a header at the VERY top of the page (for maintenance announcements or other announcements) would be beneficial.

Having the ability to upload a favicon would be fantastic too...because most people don't know how to do it...and linking it with a favicon generator out there would be a nice touch.

Gravatar/Favatar support should be installed by default.


Themes...the ones that don't work with recent versions or lack CSS for recent code should be flushed out or ported up. If people are using older versions of s9y, they should upgrade...plain and simple. Just dont' support older versions. I found many themes just don't look right with the most recent version of s9y or they don't support the plugins I have installed. Those should be retired or upgraded.

I think the ping feature of s9y needs work. I've added in many things manually but the address changes faster than anything I've ever seen. So, I suggest putting the entries in an xml file that resides on spartacus and having any ping locations that s9y users use be brought in for pinging each time. Then users can select which locations they would like to ping. it would provide a great base function...and you could still provide the ability to add your own localized ones.

Having timed entries would be cool as well. This would give you the ability to have one post run from say...Tomorrow August 4, 2008 until say August 11, 2008. This would give people the opportunity to perhaps have blog series posts...for example, back when I first started blogging, I had a series of posts all dealing with the same subject that had the same introduction (3 paragraphs). It would have been nice to be able to take those three paragraphs and put them in a timed post and run them throughout the series...or something like that. Having timed control over when something starts publishing and ends publishing would be a pretty cool feature.

I'm not sure how, but I think search can be made better and more relevant. I've deleted the standard quicksearch in my blog and integrated google site search.

Plugins really need an overhaul...the recent comments and entries plugin could use some love. The historical plugin is broken (just found that out). In all, I think we might need a couple of plugin managers named. I wish I coded in php, I'd be all about helping out. Anyone want to teach me? :)

I came up with this stuff after taking a detailed look at what I fought with when I first started blogging. I don't use a majority of plugins because if I enabled them on my front page, the default look wouldn't be that great. i realize I could go and theme them up...but in the past I didn't know how...and now that I do know how, I just haven't had the time. If giving these plugins a better look and feel is something that someone that knows basic CSS can do...I volunteer to help.

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Post by JPhilip » Sun Aug 03, 2008 7:35 pm

@JPhilip: Have you thought about adding links to the index.tpl template yourself (navigation bars like in bulletproof) or using a HTML nugget plugin in the sidebar?
I like the shortcut way to configure/edit plugins, this should be easy to insert.


I am not sure I explained good about the blog page:
In the static pages admin, on the tab 'Other plugins', you can select the plugins that will appear in the navigation.
Here it would be nice if we could also include the blog page in the navigation when the frontpage is not the blog.
It would be nice too if we could assign a permalink to the blog page here, like: /blog.html[/quote]

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Post by garvinhicking » Sun Aug 03, 2008 7:51 pm

Hi TKS!

Read my posting as for integrating things of plugins into the core. I do not think versioning is a plugin that should be delivered by default. All blogs I use do not need this functionality. I think it really bloats the code - have a look at Wordpress, it uses this by default and people now need to use a plugin to disable versioning. :-)

The autosave plugin is a bit wacky. Also I dislike the use of heavy javascript for this...and I don't know any other method to make it properly work. I simply save my entries as drafts every few minutes...

I think the opportunity to have a 'news' item displayed in a header at the VERY top of the page (for maintenance announcements or other announcements) would be beneficial.


You can use sticky entries or the HTML Page Nugget plugin for this.


Having the ability to upload a favicon would be fantastic too...because most people don't know how to do it...and linking it with a favicon generator out there would be a nice touch.


Templates like bulletproof have this, it's a template matter actually.

Themes...the ones that don't work with recent versions or lack CSS for recent code should be flushed out or ported up. If people are using older versions of s9y, they should upgrade...plain and simple. Just dont' support older versions.


NO WAY! This would fundamentally ruin everything I have worked for on the past. Serendipity is all about compatibility.

Period.

I found many themes just don't look right with the most recent version of s9y or they don't support the plugins I have installed. Those should be retired or upgraded.


Some templates are simply not crafted too well, but still have a decent look. I am not aware of any themes that do not work with current Serendipity. Please point those out that do, and I can have a look at each one of them.

I think the ping feature of s9y needs work. I've added in many things manually but the address changes faster than anything I've ever seen. So, I suggest putting the entries in an xml file that resides on spartacus and having any ping locations that s9y users use be brought in for pinging each time. Then users can select which locations they would like to ping. it would provide a great base function...and you could still provide the ability to add your own localized ones.


Who would maintain those ping services? I wouldn't want to have that maintenance overhead. IMHO it's a user's task to sort out the ping services he wants to use.

Having timed entries would be cool as well.


You can pre-date entries in Serendipity since version 0.2 :-)

And you can use the "outdate entry" plugin to unpublish those entries, if you want.

I'm not sure how, but I think search can be made better and more relevant. I've deleted the standard quicksearch in my blog and integrated google site search.


Yeah, google search is much more complex. We can never top that.

Plugins really need an overhaul...the recent comments and entries plugin could use some love.


Please be more specific, I think they are adorable as they are. :)

The historical plugin is broken (just found that out).


For this, we have the bug report section, please post your findings there. Then we can work on these smaller issues which iMHO do not fit in this thread about a more global future of serendipity... Thanks for pointing out details though, they are as important as anything else - but we have existing support and tracking possibilites for this already here, so if everybody uses them, I take care of those reports daily. Since about 5 years. :)

JPhilip: Ah, okay. Yes, the plugin could be improved with this, I've added it to the list. I'll look into a custom permalink thing as well.

Regards,
Garvin
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A few remarks from the new user

Post by Mekk » Sun Aug 03, 2008 8:44 pm

I am a new serendipity user (and, in general, new blogger - although long-time webmaster), so my attitude may be somewhat specific. Nevertheless, a few things I'd love to see in serendipity.

1) Sensible version control

While there is some version control plugin, it is close to useless. No way to see what has changed, no way to add notes, etc.

It would be nice to have version-control similar to - say - what most wiki engines support. Automatically built edits history for every page, with ability to get visual comparison between any releases, etc.

It should work for static pages and entries.

2) Name and save plugin configurations

Picking, laying out, and configuring plugins is quite a lot of work. And it is easy to mess it.

It would be nice if I could name and save the current plugin configuration, so I could:
- try a few configs switching between them (and, say, measuring effects on visitors)
- revert if I made mistakes,
- check what exactly I changed comparing to the previous layout.

The same applies for templates.

3) Staged plugin reconfiguration

Just like I can draft an article, it could make sense to let me *draft* new plugin layout, to test it (within my current session) before accepting for public use.

4) Standardize and fine-tune plugin placement criteria

Some plugins have - very useful - placement options (only entries, only index, both). But some do not.

It would be nice if this option was universally available for all plugins, implemented universally and configured on the plugin layout screen.

Also, it would be nice if it could be tuned in more detail. In particular:
- add "static pages" as separate channel
- let me "activate plugin only for category X" (plugin is active when I view article belonging to given category, or index of this category, otherwise it is not run)

5) Customize trackbacks text

Mentioned somewhere else. Current trackbacks happen to end on the first word of a sentence, for example

6) Encourage plugin descriptions and screenshots

Meta-task. Encourage plugin authors somehow to improve plugin descriptions (so it is clear what exactly plugin does) and maybe encourage creating screenshots illustrating plugin features.

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Post by abdussamad » Mon Aug 04, 2008 5:08 am

garvinhicking wrote:
@abdussamad: Of course you are right, the admin UI could look more polished. However, I like the general idea that the UI is easy and not so bloated and layered. So we definitely would need some help of solid designers here.


I suggest a competition like the one for the default theme. I understand the admin area is now smartified? A competition will encourage people like carl, dan and others to create a more user friendly design for the admin suite. I might give it a try too.

The WYWSIWYG-Editor is a problem. s9y is BSD licensed, so we cannot use TinyMCE or FCKEdit, since their license doesn't allow it. We can only include them as a plugin, not in the s9y main distro.. However, those "Document not well formed" errors seem to not come from the editor itself, but from your Firefox Extension (SessionStore?)


Session restore is now a part of the Firefox core. I am using ff3 btw. Just to make sure I created a new profile that did not include any add ons or settings from my existing FF profile. I still got the same error on saving. I also tried using mozilla seamonkey browser and I get the same result.

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Post by abdussamad » Mon Aug 04, 2008 5:30 am

garvinhicking wrote:As for documentation: I wrote the german book, and I would love to see it translated to english. But that would mean the book first needs to sell more in germany. :-( I've spent a year on the documentation, and I can't find the motivation to do it all over again in english (because I would not be allowed to ues the german translation for a free online documentation)
Personally, I still really like the s9y.org design. ;)


About the documentation, lets take it step by step. I would love to help. If you like I can update the basic user docs like how to post entries and stuff. I can also do guides on how to make or customize a template. More technical docs will require your knowledge and so I won't mess with those.

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