Regarding Community Server and the ASP.NET developer community
I made a pretty strong comment
in response to Paul Wilson's post about a problem in CS
. Alex Lowe sent me e-mail regarding that comment, and this is partly what I shared with him.
First off... don't think that I'm dissing the product outright. That isn't the case at all. My point, if I didn't make it well, is that the product as a whole is too big and too complex for a small shop or individual to really work it in to the specific needs they might have. But again, that in itself isn't a bad thing, because a lot of companies need exactly what CS provides, a robust community that just works out of the box. That's what I mean by CS being a "corporate" product. Capitalism is good.
I think the ASP.NET space in general suffers from overlooking the small user space, both small in terms of number and in experience. That shouldn't be that surprising because it does so much more than any of the "popular" platforms like PHP
or whatever, but it does make hiring people hard and getting buy-in from the less experienced people. I'm crossing my fingers that the express products will help to change that, but MS is doing a crappy job getting the word out about them.
Forums and now blogs
have become a fairly standard part of every community site on the planet. I'm not shy to say that I spend more time in these apps
than anything else other than news sites (which aren't that different from blogs
either). Most developers, and by most I mean the legions that run the bulk of the Internet, not the few that code for the biggest sites, can't build their own stuff because of time, money and desire. If you're a PHP
monkey you're totally set because phpBB
is free, and vBulletin
is still worth every penny. You've got options.
In the ASP.NET space, we don't have a lot of options. Keep in mind that CS isn't free for commercial use, and unless I missed something, putting ads in and around your forum is certainly commercial use. So you're left with a number of relatively
inexpensive options, many of which aren't very mature, and a few freebies that lack the features a lot of people want (and I'll throw my own POP Forums
in that last group, after nearly two years between releases).
Assuming that you do like one of those options, customizing it probably isn't that easy. I blame that a little on the platform, because there's a lot of matrices
to follow around to understand how something
works in the OO
world, a much different place than the script world. I also blame the design of the apps
to a lesser degree. I know I design for my needs first, and I suspect a lot of other individuals and companies that give something away do the same.
What's the solution for that? Not sure. I had a discussion about complexity just today at my current gig. Stuff gets complicated and you have no idea how it got that way. I think it's sweet that companies like 37signals
are challenging this problem, and largely succeeding. We need more of that.