Drew McClellan has just posted The State of Textpattern over on his site. Drew is not a core TXP developer, but a long time user who has seen the product change and change hands over its life. His concerns are no surprise to me, as we’ve often gone back and forth over IM trying to ease each other’s frustration with the state of the project.
I think Drew has covered most of my frustrations in his State of Textpattern address. I’ve been using it since the Place Name Here redesign in late 2004, and evaluated it for other projects before and used it since. In that time there are some enhancements to the sites I’ve done via other’s plugins, plugins written myself after I’ve seen a need, times when I’ve done things simply to participate in the community and make it look like it had some life [like the theme contest and been in the code enough to know how it works and make a fair amount of my own customizations.
But as time has passed, like Drew, I find myself both concerned and hesitant about continuing to contribute in any way, or keeping it in future plans for my own sites.
I don’t use the product in my typical day to day web development duties [projects are bigger, using other often custom frameworks or languages besides PHP] but I occasionally find myself with time outside of work that I could offer to the project if the motivation was there.
When motivation and time align – the occasional contributor
The times in the past when both motivation and time have aligned and I’ve made contributions like the microformat plugin. The times more recently when that has been the case, were time and motivation to revise my plugins or look for other things to enhance [hAtom templates or OpenID as examples], I haven’t had enough confidence in the project to justify the effort. “Big” changes that have been talked about forever like admin side redesigning or the decision to include [or not] a particular JS library would have a big impact on how I should approach my code and what features I think are a priority. With no development roadmap in sight [again not a timeline, just a commitment to features or general development direction] and no assurances that what has been done in the so called experimental branch will be there next week I find it impossible to plan my own contributions.
And that’s my own biggest area of frustration for the last few months. My investment in any particular product on my own blogs is light. I could jump to WP or EE or some other solution in a weekend and be done with TXP and onto plotting how to address my peeves with the new platform. The investment in a product that others might be downloading and using is a bit more difficult for me to abandon.
The wrong things take work
As much as the direction [or lack there of] is a concern, its only the latest symptom of a something that has always plagued textpattern.
The way product development has been handled since it was opened up to a larger, more open team, has always been difficult to follow. It is a chore to cover the forums, blogs and mailing lists on a regular basis. That their use by the core team go in spurts and ultimately most of the insight into the product comes in the form of replies to inquiries on the forums or individual code checkins only makes it more difficult. Unless it is your job to do so and you’re building sites with TXP on a day to day basis, the commitment that needs to be made before one can just jump in and be a productive contributor has been too great.
Its nice that a core team has formed over time and they’re now looking for ways to sustain themselves, but I agree 100% that its the the lack of open direction, and the occational feeling from some contributors that direction doesn’t need to be or is somehow in a state of development where it cannot be stated that has me concerned and questioning continued use and support of textpattern.