Let me start by saying I have enjoyed reading this post a lot ! Great stuff in there, this is exactly the kind of input I need to push the MODx marketing effort to the next level
The way I am wired I am an enthusiastic person and I have some talent at playing evangelist, and some marketing training but it’s not my primary field.
Therefore it’s very interresting for me to get a fresh and professionnal look at positionning and marketing MODx. Plus, I am at my best when I have someone to debate about ideas with. Especially those who challenge me into clarifying my arguments
Now let’s comment on your excellent post...
Quote from: identity at Nov 03, 2006, 04:03 AM
A way to view files/documents in multiple ways would be great, but I’d be cautious about totally discarding hierarchial ordering... this is just a natural and organized way for most people to view and relate to things.
I couldn’t agree more, and Jason has made it clear that we’ll get "best of both worlds" with what he calls Contexts (now that is a concept I feel will help me differientiate MODx in due time. And I am not even talking of how it spruces up my imagination for creating websites
). No worries there
Quote from: identity
Reality, regardless of what you are selling, developing, providing, etc., is that the "best" doesn’t always win out. One may succeed in creating the best product around, that has every feature you could ever want, implemented in the very best way possible, and still be beat out by a product half as worthy. In the end, it isn’t about features, and in some ways, it isn’t about benefits, it’s about delivering solutions.... and the initial solution is how to tap into those features to reap the benefits.
Now that’s so very true ! I have seen it time and again, be it about products or even... people. Best doesn’t always win out.
It sure is not about features in itself. I’d add it’s not about having more features than the competition. But it *is* about the ability to provide "features that fits" the client’s need. How does one achieve this ? It depends how standard the client’s need is. Most of the time, the client’s need will be composite : part met by existing solutions, the rest by either tweaking existing solutions or specific development of new solutions.
The "standard" needs
can be adressed by existing code. I think everyone will agree that being able to expand features is directly related to the availability of extensions for a given web application. In a year, MODx has known a constant growth and we now have a lot to work with, a look at the repository will show not only that there are quite a bunch of material to work with, and that those are regularly enhanced/improved.
Which brings me to the "in-between" standard and custom needs
, where MODx has an edge over the competition. I would say one of the great strength of MODx extensions is that they follow the same principle behind the application itself, e.g they are easily templatable and most of the time as flexible as the system they expand (offering quite a bunch of parameters and options). I mean look at Ditto or eForm or countless other extensions, not only are they completely templatable (which is a designer’s dream) but parameters make them really versatile tools which can fit client’s need without touching code really.
The "custom" needs
require writing some code. Here is where MODx also has a competitive advantage, since it’s really a framework built on top of core CMS features (and as Susan said
, "the goal of the core team is to flip that on its head, and make MODx a CMS built on top of a core framework". I am no developper but I sure think having an API and dbAPI to work with certainly makes development not only easier but quicker (and now that is benefit for the developper *and* client, which translates into cost effectiveness and I guess easier code maintenance).
I agree with you benefits is not what will make a client happy. At times, as people building websites we all feel a little misunderstood (at least I know I do) : taking the additionnal steps to build a semantically sound website, to respect web standards, to fine tune all the small details which make surfing a more enjoyable experience... this is all great but even when you break all this into a neat list of benefits like better SEO, cross browser compatibility, evolutivity and access to handheld devices... etc, clients are not that appreciative of the extra skill and time put into our craft. Still, there is one benefit which has their ears : money. Building websites quicker means cheaper and that, they get. I think it’s one of MODx direct benefit for customized websites.
You’ve said it, it’s "about delivering solutions".
Most clients don’t care what’s "inside the black box" but only by what they see :
1. how much does it cost (to build, maintain and upddate) ?
2. how reliable and fast is support ?
3. how fast is it delivered ?
4. how does it rank in search engine ?
5. how sexy does it look ?
6. how easy is it to use to get the content updated ?
7. how easy is it to expand ?
8. how easy is it to plug into other web apps ?
You asked : "the initial solution is how to tap into those features to reap the benefits"
There is undoubtedly a few things we could do to make things even more effective, but right now I find MODx to be easy to pitch at client and it works.
Now you’re talking about delivering.
What exactly in the process of delivering a MODx powered website would you like to improve ? And before improving anything, how would you describe the steps of delivering ?
Quote from: identity
MODx is at a very interesting point in time.... lots of development at the core level, and the secondary level (snippets, modules, etc.). Excitement is shared by many about the future, and the present. The team wants to present the next greatest thing, and many posts talk about 1.0, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Of course, if the team had more resources, time, could spend less time dealing with the same questions over and over again in the forums, 1.0 might come sooner. And because this is in such a development stage, documentation can be hit or miss... in some ways documantation is excellent and I commend the efforts so far. But part of that reality isn’t about what MODx is going to do for anyone tomorrow, it is what MODx can do for you today.
As Ryan said, this has been debated time and again.
Could the team spend less time dealing with recurring questions ? Sure. Is documentation the answer. Partly. I think something we’re missing right now is a FAQ. I know I have built a FAQ on the french forum and it has helped, but a forum is hardly a convenient tool to build it.
We have said time and again that MODx was not intended for the less savvy... but even setting this appart, you have to take into consideration that MODx is evolving much faster than any of its cousin CMS. Documentation, or FAQs, are thus moving grounds and would need constant rebuilding. 0.9.5 is a jump from 0.9.2.1 but this will be even more true of the next release.
It all comes down to managing resources. Right now, the forum is the most efficient way to help people learn MODx. If you were there @Textpattern at the very beginning, the same debate took place a lot ! I was among the people building TextBook (the wiki documentation for txp), and at first it was just like the current MODx wiki. About the wiki : I think it’s a great tool to *build* the documentation. This does not mean we can not then publish the doc in other forms, like a PDF. But we’re not there yet.
Given the orientation of the projet and what MODx will become, I think the biggest priority of the documentation, the one we should start with is further document the API and dbAPI. We have a decent editor’s and designer’s guide already which will no doubt be improved through the wiki’s contributor’s efforts.
Quote from: identity
(...) But much of the future, I feel, lies in how well MODx can help people get up and running, understanding, and putting MODx to work.
I don’t quite agree with that.
Right now, any decently skilled person (XHTML/CSS, understanding of dynamic pages) can learn MODx pretty fast without any additionnal resources being set up. It’s just a matter of digging into it, trying, asking question as you go along. I didn’t feel any difficulties learning MODx, and I am not even a php coder. I built my first MODx website just a few weeks after discovering it. Of course, I had an advantage coming fromm Textpattern which shares a similar templating logic, but nevertheless I wouldn’t say MODx is hard to learn.
Now, getting the most out of it is another story, given its capabilities ! I am often amazed by what others do with MODx... and I learn a lot too, since most people share
The tips and tricks section is full of gems !
To answer this, I’d say MODx future rather lies in giving us even more flexibility and power while not sacrificing on simplicity... I think that’s exactly what xPDO and 1.0 will take us. I understand the frustration of hearing about the "next best thing to come" but let’s be fair : MODx as it is has already much to offer, more in fact than any other PHP/MySQL based CMF around...
Quote from: identity
In the script world, no one is too impressed with what will be... I think we’ve all dealt with scripts that have been promising things for years. Not saying that is the case with MODx, but remember that it is perception, and as MODx grows and gains more attention, much of that perception will be quick and immediate, and quite possibly incorrect, but words spread quickly on perception regardless.
I really don’t think we have a problem as to how MODx is perceived. At least not from our intended audience which enjoys MODx and craves for the next releases ! Now newbies expecting a web 2.0 version of Joomla have it hard : my, you have to get under the hood ! To them it’s a new story and the huge gap between the "all in one" pre-packaged CMS predominant philosophy and the all-flexible with total control over output philosophy is somewhat to hard to jump. Thus the complaints about documentation, about the hard to grasp concepts... which to us web people (or at least to me) has not been a problem at all when we (or at least I) jumped in.
Quote from: identity
I’m still hoping that the wiki will help address some of this "up and running" issue by serving as a "final and up to date" repository of information. I’m sure many a newbie has already spent countless time reading through forum posts 7, 10, or 20 pages long on this or that, only to find by the end that 1/2 of the issues, hopefully, that had been brought up are now resolved... hoping that we can remember which are which, but still feel no closer to actually understanding how to implement something, and in some cases, may still be trying to figure out just exactly what it is for.
Are you talking about common tasks or more complex items there ?
One thing which comes to mind is it could be a matter of "brain wiring" so to speak. We all have different learning styles
. MODx perhaps require more of a right brain approach : e.g learning by doing, exploring, trying things out and learning as you go. The left brain approach is more like : please tell me what steps I have to follow to achieve this or that. Documentation is key for left brain dominant people. Of course we all use both part of our brain, and we need at least a bit of documentation to start with, but it might explain why people have different experiences learning MODx.
Quote from: identity
While it may seem like a bit of a waste to put more effor into documentation at this stage, I think it can pay off in the end. It will help more people get up and running faster, some of which may start creating their own solutions to add to the mix if they are capable, others may just help spread the gospel. It will also help free up the countless questions about how to simply implement this or that, which will hopefully free up everyone else to continue moving towards the future. In many cases, hopefully much of that documentation can simply be amended, updated, or otherwise for the future, rather than entirely scraped and pitched.
I really do think we already have reached (or we will soon) the critical mass necessary to second the team’s efforts. We always had core users, but they are more and more numerous and it shows : more extensions, more templates, more people answering request for help... as we say in french, "la mayonnaise a pris" !
On top of that, I don’t think we loose time answering questions. Questions are, in some cases, also opportunities for improvements...
I also find that answering questions forces you to improve the answer, up to the point where you feel you can write a clean tutorial about the question.
It does not mean documentation is not needed. Just that right now, at least for team members, efforts are best put elsewhere. We already have quite a bit of doc. Making it comprehensive would mean a huge effort which right now would not be the best of choices...
Quote from: identity
I think the team has done a great job, and I’m certainly not out to belittle the work or the effort. But I also look at how much time has been spent by myself and my impressions of others just in trying to figure some things out to get a better grasp on things. But mostly, I just want to raise the caution, as we all know, software is a constant "work in progress" and it is all to easy for the documentation aspect to be a perpetual "next release" since so much will be outdated anyway, that it never happens.
Hmmm, that’s a valid point.
But that’s assuming the improvements will be incremental, which, from what I know is not really the case : while MODx will keep its current philosophy, the code behind 1.0 is radical change, as it is totally rewritten. And this will also be true to a lesser extent of releases in between... it’s been suggested here and there, that the last releases of the 0.9.x branch will enjoy some fresh-new core code...
Quote from: identity
And coming full circle, the best apps will be those that provide the quickest and easiest solution, not necessarily those with the best features, and the first solution is understanding and implementation. I just don’t want to see MODx not receive the full grace of adoration and respect that I think it deserves... and will deserve.
I most definitely agree with you there, and don’t worry MODx will get the praise it deserves
In fact, I really do think MODx already provide one of the very best compromise between the speed and ease to build slightly to highly customized websites. Of course, there are some shortcomings like multi-language and user management, but for some projects it’s not that big of a problem.