After 10 years, I'm done with IPS

Oldsmoboi

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Good to see some humour creeping into the conversation.
I refuse to believe that the quality of IPS hosted plugins is dramatically that much better.

Yes, it takes time to do that and you get a certain level of perception as to “all the addons are vetted” but unless you’re investing a full day to review even a modestly sized plugin, it’s simply not worth the time.

My company has this setup - we do managed hosting of platforms and because we manage the codebase we manage installing plugins. And we review every plugin that people add (in our world this is less crazy than it sounds), giving every plugin a red/amber/green rating. Red is no go, Amber is “we’ll install it but if it goes badly we will remove it without warning” and Green is “all good, have fun”.

The reviews are done by competent developers, spending a day per plugin, with a list of things to check for as known issues we know to look for... but security and performance problems still sneak by in spite of what the platform does itself and whatever reviewing goes on because this is legitimately a hard problem to solve.

At least 3, maybe more, of the plug-ins I use were kicked back to the Devs for fixes when they tried to get the new versions into the marketplace once they were being updated for 4.5.... so yeah, they were being reviewed. Ultimately, it delayed my upgrade to 4.5 because I was not making the move until all of the plug-ins I use were working in 4.5.
 

Pete

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Sure, I'm not saying that it's a complete rubber stamp exercise. I'm just saying that in my experience as part of a company with what was a 14-strong dev team (prior to a recent restructure), of people who all had years of experience in the platform the plugins were for, it really wasn't as reliable a barometer as you might imagine.

To the point that we're actually going to stop offering it as a mandatory requirement once we finish building out our new hosted environment, because it's just not worth the time and money (even though we're paid for doing it) to actually do it for the value it has been observed to produce.

Does that mean the whole thing is a waste? Not at all; we absolutely did catch security issues, as well as performance issues, but honestly... I just want to say that it is not a guarantee of anything in and of itself.
 

Chemical

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so yeah, they were being reviewed
Reviewed yes, but my comment relates to:
IPS reviews all uploads for quality
Which, in my experience they don't. But the thing is, I don't actually see application testing as IPS' job. How could it be. But the problem is, many devs don't see it as their job either, given I've lost count of the number of times I've installed plugins which fail on the second or third click of my post update testing.

Perhaps IPS should track and publish bug league tables and average time to fix them...
 

Pete

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Perhaps IPS should track and publish bug league tables and average time to fix them...

I see this as potentially being unfair to devs that publish big updates to existing plugins that then have minor bugs discovered; this happens all the time even in the best environments.

If you did bug league tables, you'd need to keep track of severity to keep it fair - and have someone who is a developer assess that severity, because I've lost count of the number of times I've seen "OMG this is unusable!" when it had a minor styling glitch versus their custom theme (and not in the default theme), or similar.

Personally I'm glad I don't work on forum software mods any more. Mind you, I'm also leaving behind the forum software I invested far too much time in. In some ways this thread mirrors my own experience except not IPS, and not for any of the reasons listed, but it was time. Hence my next forum community being IPS or XF (probably IPS, but no solid decisions made yet) based.
 

borbole

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The easiest way for you would be to buy directly from developers/designers, no one is forced to use the Marketplace.

The big difference between the MP and the XF Ressource Manager is, IPS reviews all uploads for quality and that costs time/money too.

XF does not, everybody can sell everything. Staff can't even control that files, because all sales are on external websites.

I don't even want to know how much money I spent on addons full of bugs over the years on XF.

That is correct. One knows that whenever they use a third party mod or theme downloaded from Ips 's Marketplace, they should not have to worry about the security or the quality of the downloaded mods.

That is not the case with xf. You would not believe how badly some of the mods being sold there are coded. Forum owners who buy/download uncontrolled mods there put their forum in great risk imho.

For ex, there is a 'well known' coder at xf, who even after using and coding for it for several years, still never learned to code properly. He adds all his queries on the controller files, rather then in the model files where they belong. Therefore causing major performance issues. I have had to fix several of his mods for a good client of mine. Now, if that same coder was coding for Ipb, none of his work would have been allowed there.

Not to mention all that Brivium drama as well several years ago.

You can not put a price to security and quaility. So paying the renewal fee, is more than worth it. As a fellow coder, I know how much work it takes to check all the custom mods and themes being submited to the Marketplace. And I will keep renewing my license at Ipb as long as I can afford to show my appreciation for their hard work and excellent product.
 

we_are_borg

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I know you aren’t asking me, but I'll share my opinion.

I have a hard time feeling IPS or XF has obligation to help customers who can't afford to renew, primarily because IPS and XF both have had very consistent pricing for many years now.

Nobody was tricked or "lured" in with some major sale and now finds themselves surprised with new pricing or license durations.

The price is what the price was. No changes or surprises. If renewal affordability is an ongoing problem, the admin made the wrong choice in the first place.
I dont mind at all every opinion is welcome.

what people seem to forget at the moment is that for most websites revenue is down, our donations for example are a less then 2019, its not much but we need to remember this. That they did not increase the price in all the years thats great, but we are here and now in 2020 and i think a year people want to forget. Because many people lost there jobs or are basically not earning a income your streams dry up, ads are down and dont getbas much in as before, donations down etc. Now we get in a two way street you scratch my back and I scratch your back. Like i said above give discounts but take x away lets do the following for $210/year i get 12 months ticket support and 12 months download and spam protection so 3 services. Each services we value the same for simplicity so $210/3 = $70. So lets say i dont want spam protection instead of paying $210 i pay $160 why not 70 less well for IPS there need to be meat on the bone. You can even combine this but it does not make sense to limit downloads of the software. With this as company you help admins that have little and they can say yes i take this offer my site can use this or they wait until they can buy full price and service. This can benefit company and admins even better make statement for example for x years we did not increase price of the renewal price and now we pledge not to do so this and next year and hope for longer time.
 

haqzore

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Appreciate the insight, and you make great points.

I like the ideas and think there is some interesting potential in them. I know I'd love to save some cash while ignoring the soam service, for example.
 

we_are_borg

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Appreciate the insight, and you make great points.

I like the ideas and think there is some interesting potential in them. I know I'd love to save some cash while ignoring the soam service, for example.
Yes the spam service is something we do not use at the moment its been 6 months that the license was active in all that time we had one spammer. But take support only when a new version comes like 4.5 or later 4.6 for example i want one or two months of support not 12 months. Lets say i can instead of paying $210/year do it for $120 that means no spam service and 2 months support from start of renewal. But now you can also as company do the following. If i need support but can’t afford the renewal i can buy it per month or if i’m been overrun by spammers. This is lets say 2.5% more then buying it all at once but IPS needs to cover additional cost and have meat on the bone. So i talked $50 less for no spam service thats 50/12 = $4,15 a month, now i get overrun i buy 2 months of spam service thats 4,15x2=$8,30 but i need to pay 2.5% extra so i pay $8,50 or better $9. Early on IPS scratched my back but if i need them i need to scratch there back in return.

Most of us want to use the new software for there features or security updates the rest at the moment they do not need and can save money. For IPS its about new services that can be used and they can lower the cost of the software but in a way that they limit service a bit what is very fair in my eyes.
 

Chemical

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I see this as potentially being unfair to devs that publish big updates to existing plugins that then have minor bugs discovered; this happens all the time even in the best environments.

If you did bug league tables, you'd need to keep track of severity to keep it fair - and have someone who is a developer assess that severity, because I've lost count of the number of times I've seen "OMG this is unusable!" when it had a minor styling glitch versus their custom theme (and not in the default theme), or similar.
Yes agree. It was said a little tongue in cheek, but generally I would like to see more transparency across the board and a more structured way of dealing with issues. But I feel that boat has sailed.
Hence my next forum community being IPS or XF (probably IPS, but no solid decisions made yet) based.
It's a big decision. Pros and compromises with both I'd say.
 

Pete

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I spent a bit of time browsing the marketplace topics last night, was intrigued to find a lot of disgruntled people talking about things... like the one addon that was dumping text files into the site folder for debug. Whilst I totally understand, how this got through review I’ll never know. This seems like the sort of thing I’d honestly hope would be picked up (Though it was an update that added it, not the first version)

I don’t really care about addons much (especially as I was somewhat underwhelmed by the IPS marketplace, the theme situation is better) but whichever platform I pick, I need to not fall into the same trap I did with SMF where I ended up releasing 100 addons over a few years and getting so much hassle for it, because whatever addons I need I can write myself but theming is a different ball game.
 

Matt M

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I don't think its right to publish bug leaderboards and such, and to be clear our job in review isn't to audit the features to ensure they are completely bug free; we are primarily ensuring it won't throw total exception errors that completely break installations and to ensure that the code is making use of the framework.

We have invited our biggest contributors into our Slack channel so they can speak to us with more ease, and we in turn can communicate back to them.
 

Chemical

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I spent a bit of time browsing the marketplace topics last night, was intrigued to find a lot of disgruntled people talking about things... like the one addon that was dumping text files into the site folder for debug. Whilst I totally understand, how this got through review I’ll never know. This seems like the sort of thing I’d honestly hope would be picked up (Though it was an update that added it, not the first version)
It's a difficult one. I think this is more a reflection on some of the devs rather than IPS. I should imagine plugin review is a largely manual process and given the number of new files and updates that arrive in the marketplace on a regular basis, there must be times when pressure of numbers weighs heavily on the process.
(especially as I was somewhat underwhelmed by the IPS marketplace, the theme situation is better)
You see, I don't see themes in use on IPS or XF. They're skins as far as I can tell. I think core will need to change before we see a proper theming experience. By that I mean themes delivering a material ('scuse the pun) difference to the UX experience, not just different colours and different placements of regular template objects.
because whatever addons I need I can write myself
We make mods for our XF, IPS, Discourse and Azure installs, but we wouldn't release or share them with the 'community'. Just not worth the effort.

What do you mean by:
but theming is a different ball game.
 

Chemical

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and to be clear our job in review isn't to audit the features to ensure they are completely bug free;
As I said earlier, I don't see how you could do that anyway, not unless you switch to providing sandboxed, heavily typed, narrow, easily tested interfaces to devs. Reminds me of an interesting discussion on coding and code testing approaches in last week's New Scientist. Well worth a look if you haven't seen it already.
We have invited our biggest contributors into our Slack channel so they can speak to us with more ease, and we in turn can communicate back to them.
That's great, but seems like a two sided triangle to me.
 

Pete

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I’ll type more later as I’m on iPad right now and I have a lot of thoughts on this broad subject from several perspectives, but “theming is a different ball game”... I’m a battle scarred veteran of coding and can write any mod I care to for pretty much any platform I care to (17 years PHP and counting), but can I make something *nice looking*? I can do functional, i could even do what is arguably “good UX”, but I’m no graphic designer so I either need to lean on someone who makes skins/themes/whatever (my current platforms at work all call them themes) or a graphic designer to make a pretty PSD for me to implement.
 

Oldsmoboi

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Reviewed yes, but my comment relates to:

Which, in my experience they don't. But the thing is, I don't actually see application testing as IPS' job. How could it be. But the problem is, many devs don't see it as their job either, given I've lost count of the number of times I've installed plugins which fail on the second or third click of my post update testing.

Perhaps IPS should track and publish bug league tables and average time to fix them...
In my view, this check for crashes is a relatively new thing. It wasn't until 4.5 and the marketplace integration that I saw the change.
 

Pete

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I don't think its right to publish bug leaderboards and such, and to be clear our job in review isn't to audit the features to ensure they are completely bug free; we are primarily ensuring it won't throw total exception errors that completely break installations and to ensure that the code is making use of the framework.

Would tend to agree. However, I think there's an important disconnect to be mentioned here between what you do/what you set out to do, versus what people think you do.

On the one hand, I know better than most that trying to verify a plugin is safe before use is something of a fool's errand, but there's a healthy contingent that seem to assume this vetting process is not just 'won't break an install' and 'doesn't have any bugs'. It might be worth trying to clarify what the expected scope of review is because it isn't clear - from the conversations around here, I'd assumed it was much deeper and closer to what our clients pay £800 for in terms of review, but what I saw on the community almost implied no checking was done.

It's a difficult one. I think this is more a reflection on some of the devs rather than IPS. I should imagine plugin review is a largely manual process and given the number of new files and updates that arrive in the marketplace on a regular basis, there must be times when pressure of numbers weighs heavily on the process.

It's definitely tough, but the question of liability comes into play. If IPS is selling them and presumably taking a cut, one must also assume IPS is taking some percentage of liability in the reviews - if a plugin wrecks a site, does the site owner have legal recourse to IPS? Such processes are complicated and important to hammer out and why I think more clarity is needed on 'the process'.

My battlefields have taken me to both ends of the spectrum where literally no ecosystem exists beyond a wiki page on the developer's website (one platform I help maintain installs of), to mostly-completely unvetted battleground (XF, though I understand from Chris D that egregiously bad developers will be removed if there are enough complaints), to review on first submission and not updates (SMF, Moodle), to sanity check on every update (IPS) to 'full and formal code review on every update you're going to deploy to production' (us), and I think there's merit to all of the above positions, but it comes down to how much risk the parties are assuming and more importantly what the expectations are if something goes bad.

You see, I don't see themes in use on IPS or XF. They're skins as far as I can tell. I think core will need to change before we see a proper theming experience. By that I mean themes delivering a material ('scuse the pun) difference to the UX experience, not just different colours and different placements of regular template objects.

That may be a poor choice of terminology on my part. I come from platforms where 'theming' is a complex and nebulous definition which can include replacements of templates or renderer components and where even a specific 'theme' can replace the templates and rendering pipeline for specific plugins on a per-plugin basis where appropriate.

In my brief look at the marketplace last night, I didn't get a strong sense that the skins/themes/styles/whatever you want to call them were markedly different in terms of structure and layout, which makes me suspect I need to consider writing addons to get to what I want to do, and then have the skin around them be styled. Can perfectly work with that.

We make mods for our XF, IPS, Discourse and Azure installs, but we wouldn't release or share them with the 'community'. Just not worth the effort.

Sure, and I think that's the realm I'm entering. On the one hand, that will be less drama, on the other there is a part of me that is saddened by it because part of how I learned was getting involved in writing mods and so on for various things over the years - and I'm still naively socialist enough to believe in open source. (I work on Moodle-related plugins and hosting for a day job and I go to the Moodle conferences as a presenter so...)

There is a part of me that wants to get in on the modding scene for whichever platform I go into, I spent a bit of time browsing and playing with demos already, but I'm still not entirely sold. I just think for what I have in mind going IPS gets me closer out of the box so that's probably my focus. The TCO argument doesn't really stack up in favour of XF in that world.

As I said earlier, I don't see how you could do that anyway, not unless you switch to providing sandboxed, heavily typed, narrow, easily tested interfaces to devs. Reminds me of an interesting discussion on coding and code testing approaches in last week's New Scientist. Well worth a look if you haven't seen it already.

Well, what you can do is what my world encompasses. I don't know how viable this is for IPS or XF but like I said I come from Moodle. Moodle has all the tooling built in to run both PHPUnit and Behat tests and supplies a pretty comprehensive test suite for itself with these frameworks. Plugin authors are encouraged to submit plugins following the same guidelines.

The other thing they do is offer a CI suite that you can plug into a Travis repo for a plugin which will let you automate (entirely) running coding standards/linting across PHP + JavaScript + Mustache (for templates) for your plugins, plus fancier things such as copy-paste detectors to spotlight when you haven't refactored, plus running the aforementioned PHPUnit/Behat.

From what I see, you could probably write a ruleset for PHPCS without too much effort, and automate that into the marketplace process as a step and if an upload's PHP files don't meet that, don't allow it. I actually think from what I'm hearing this would negate the very worst developers without IPS folks having to intervene. If you're feeling really bold, adding in PHPMD for some sanity checking, maybe PHPStan or Psalm for static analysis. DevOps: automate everything you can.

I don't know how feasible it is for IPS/XF/etc. to invest in building out a full PHPUnit/Behat automation suite, but my experience is that if you give plugin authors the tools to do this sort of thing, they tend to actually use it out of pride wherever possible, and I think if you're going for a marketplace, making it easier for developers to show quality benefits everyone.
 

ibaker

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What Matt M and others are missing when they say you can still manually upload the add-ons is that a lot of the developers won't deal directly and refuse to provide you with the file so Matt, sorry but your argument is not correct. The whole IPS business model along with the huge amount of negative comments all around the net I believe is driving many not only current customers but many potential customers away. This opens the door really wide for Xenforo to come in and take an even bigger market share especially if they create or support the creation of an overall suite
 

Matt M

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What Matt M and others are missing when they say you can still manually upload the add-ons is that a lot of the developers won't deal directly and refuse to provide you with the file so Matt, sorry but your argument is not correct. The whole IPS business model along with the huge amount of negative comments all around the net I believe is driving many not only current customers but many potential customers away. This opens the door really wide for Xenforo to come in and take an even bigger market share especially if they create or support the creation of an overall suite

I think it's easy to look around here at TAZ and speak to a few people and conclude we've done this terrible pig headed thing, everyone is unhappy and our customers are preparing to leave us in droves.

But that's just not the case.

While there are some customers who aren't happy with the change, and a few marketplace devs who are not keen on the changes, it's not the overall feedback we're getting.

Our customers seem pretty happy with the new marketplace. The number of marketplace downloads close to doubled on the release of 4.5 thanks to the higher visibility of the add-ons.

Let us not discount that we are offering to sell after market add-ons directly in the Admin CP. No other platform allows that. The majority of our customers are thrilled they can install new functionality with a few clicks.

Sadly, us old timers who understand the nuts and bolts of how the internet works are in a shrinking minority. The future is in making things easier and this means making tough decisions that we're not afraid to make.

There definitely have been some teething problems and we've not always communicated changes well to our marketplace developers - hence the recent Slack channel invites to help close that gap - but I remain completely convinced that the direction we're headed is the right one.
 

Pete

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No one is disputing that the improved visibility is a good thing. The only dispute is that this encourages devs to only use it, which encourages customers to remain actively renewed, rather than letting renewals lapse.

Practical situation: let us assume I have an IPS licence, due for renewal next month. I‘m now in the process of planning how to use this. If I buy a plugin today that has a 6 month licence on it and gets updates next month, I either need to renew my licence to get those updates for that plugin, or hope the author is willing to send me updates manually.

Now in my case I wouldn’t have an issue renewing, but others seem to let their sub lapse between renewals - it would be interesting to see how many people stay *continuously* renewed, vs people who lapse and renew.
 

we_are_borg

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I think it's easy to look around here at TAZ and speak to a few people and conclude we've done this terrible pig headed thing, everyone is unhappy and our customers are preparing to leave us in droves.

But that's just not the case.
It’s not about that everyone is unhappy but its about giving a good customer experience it’s the little thing in service that makes it from good to great. I myself can’t buy anything in the marketplace because my license is not renewed, but i need an update of the theme i bought. So instead of paying only for the theme update like $15 i now need to pay an additional $105 to get the theme update. What is fair about that that you need to have active license to buy on marketplace.
 
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