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.


  • Very simple solution to over complicated projects:

    A bible to some perhaps?

  • I want to be clear about one point you made:

    "Keep in mind that CS isn't free for commercial use,"

    This is not true. Here are the relevant parts form our license/EULA:

    "Subject to the restrictions below, you may use the Software for any commercial or noncommercial purpose."


    "Include the eula.gif on any displayed web pages which must link back to"

    You can use the software however you like but the one catch (there are other points in the EULA but they are largely boiler plate items that protect Telligent) is that you display the CS logo and link back to

  • Ok, I'm going to correct this just a tiny little bit. Your point is well taken, Jeff, but you need to keep in mind that all the check-ins span not only Community Server core, but all the add-ons we have too.

    For example, the NNTP Gateway (enables NNTP access to the forums) and Email Gateway (enables send/receive email to Community Server) are both included in the check-in counts.

    Furthermore, the statement was not 3,700 files. It was 3,700 check-ins. There are most definitely not 3,700 files in CS :)

    ...and just to completely shut-down the rumor mill CS can be used (for free) for commercial purposes.

    ...and (yes I know <g>) we have many small customer who are thrilled with what Community Server offers. A lot of people don't care about the technology, rather about putting up a solution that not only works, but is supported.

  • Interesting points, Jeff. I'm a big CS fan, but I know what you mean about CS complexity. That complexity seems to be an inescapable trait of sophisticated applications, which CS definitely is!

    You may be right about the small user being an area not addressed in the blogging .NET application space. But don't forget about subText.

    Having a good bit of experience working with ScottW's .Text, I can appreciate why people fondly embrace its clean, simplistic architecture, and one of the reasons subText was born. dotText was a beautiful piece of code.

    Personally I like sophisticated feature set of CS and having all of those features normally supporting an organization all to my own use. I may miss the accessible environment of dotText, I wouldn't trade it for the new features.

    I think these guys are architecting CS the right way, IMHO. One of the benefits I personally gain in working with CS is following Scott and the other developers' growth and evolution as coders. I hacked CS 1.0, 1.1, and looking forward to hacking CS 2.0.

    Speaking of hacking code, I better get back to my own coding...

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