Post by dfumagalli » Tue Apr 15, 2014 6:02 pm

Introduction

Today I was writing down a bug report when I got struck by a series of thoughts. It's a year I am heavily using and coding OpenCart features so I have matured some opinions I'd like to share here.


OpenCart meta and visibility

We have many great pieces of Open Source software. Some get the fame their deserve, some don't. Some "sell themselves" very well, some do it less so.

OpenCart needs to mature, but mostly not on the technical point of view, which I'll leave out for this thread.

Like many great ideas, OpenCart has been born off the vision and hard effort of an individual, Daniel (although credit has to be given to the original OpenCart concept creator as well).

Now that person has indeed to stay really focused on his creation, we can't ask more or better off him.

What we should ask ourselves, instead is: how to make OpenCart perform the jump from "nice Open Source idea" to large scale, famous product able to compete with Magento and the other "more famous / over-marketeed than deserving" e-commerce platforms?
How to leave the "niche" corner and actually extend its wings and soar along with the other big brands?

The reply to this is (just apparently) simple: OpenCart needs to get one or more managers / spoke persons / representatives. Can't really put everything on Daniel's shoulders, should we?
I also come from an exclusively technical software development background so I can appreciate his huge technical achievements but also see the limits of being basically a technician in charge of non technical matters. And alone at that!

I have just read another thread, where the Global Moderator called Daniel in cause as "there is one Admin who's has the POWER to make changes: Daniel".

He just stated the limits of everything in here: Daniel being basically the one man show on whose shoulders fall everything, from coding to forum admin to clean the windows glasses, paint your home...

That's too much and even unfair to put on one man's shoulders. He should focus on what he does best: provide us with the best e-commerce experience possible, where other less technical people should take on "meta" tasks: advocate OpenCart, promote it, speak about it, write about it, contribute to it...

Also, I think this is on Daniel's call to attract a core of such people and then put them in charge of the many, many facets that contribute to making a project succesful on a worldwide scale. Until he does not decide to do this, he'll keep all the "power" to himself but that will also be his own inflicted limit, a choice to stay in a corner.

The consequences are visible to all: as OpenCart grows, it's still:

- Considered utterly irrelevant, to the point Wikipedia repeatedly removed the English OpenCart entry while letting in EVERY other e-commerce competitior including PrestaShop, Zen Cart and osCommerce! OpenCart is not even mentioned in the one Comparison of shopping cart software page!

- As user base grows they can't be properly supported and this hurts on their comments around the web (people to people talk being a powerful way to spread or damage a product credibility). We have a GitHub tracker where only experts may (should) actually comment or suggest changes. We have 1 forum where they post and get some kind replies by people like JNeuhoff but those replies are not stragegically organized in layers / ranks.
In example, he shall reply with the same "vanilla answer" (check your configuration, check your settings, "make sure to use the clean OC install") both to the guy who does not know what vQMod means and to me, who have rewritten 30%+ of OpenCart to customize it for my company, from sub-page in-RAM caching to rewriting the products management and more. And I can't "blame" him, he's just doing what he can, with the means he (does not) have been given! This baseline approach tends to not solve end users issues and to put off companies which come to know OpenCart but can't find the degree of support they need. Companies support is a big driver to the "higher spheres" of product reputation.

- There are no channels to communicate with some "decision maker" that don't involve making Daniel waste his time. Project managers and similar imho are indeed "boureaucracy" but are a lesser evil needed to let a big project take off.

- There are no standard Quality Control procedures. Anyone with write access may come in and slip in a file replace with no explanation given (see the "official Paypal module sending order details to Paypal module developer" incident).
Whole features may sit bugged for a year without anyone realizing it. My bug report is exactly that: a year ago for some reason two spurious lines of code have been left in the OC 1.5.6 release distribution and those lines affected the most fundamental feature of any e-commerce product (the order module) and after a year we still get told to check our email config!

I have proposed to implement Unit Testing. Yes it's a "poor man's" way to perform Quality Control but at least it's a good start and it served me awesomely for 1 year now.

I have found an existing, dead base OC Unit Testing project, updated it to cover 1.5.6 and more features including ways to integrate Override Engine with Unit Tests and am now using my own costomized version with great satisfaction.
I could gladly share it and even provide OC unit test examples... if only I could find anyone to talk with about it!

Basically, in my opinion, OpenCart is a maturing project but "just" in the technical side whereas many other projects try and attract consensus, contributors, participants, organize meetings, talks, webinars. They can do that because they rely on the immense perks of forming an organized community, wherease OpenCart looks like a diamond buried under 10 meters of rocks.

OpenCart needs to break its cocoon and come out and show everyone for the beautiful butterfly it is!

Heavy OpenCart Customizations. Current project in progress: fleurworld.com


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Post by rph » Sat Apr 19, 2014 1:18 am

I agree with you but unfortunately there's a culture of micromanagement that makes it difficult for OpenCart to grow to the next level.

-Ryan


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Post by dfumagalli » Fri May 02, 2014 4:23 pm

rph wrote:I agree with you but unfortunately there's a culture of micromanagement that makes it difficult for OpenCart to grow to the next level.
Yes and it's very ugly. We might have to switch to another e-commerce solution, because despite OC is clearly one of the best, its growth potential feels "hard capped" by human decisions.

Succesful open source projects may be a "one miracle man"'s work but ground breaking, highly widespread products that make into the news and into the corporations are those where human capital is used and administered.

I understand the HUGE effort of going from the efficient "solo" production to the boureaucratic, many a meetings, board of stakeholders model. However past a certain thresold, the one man effort (yes, with helpers but it's still a 95% one man effort) starts losing pace and - most of all - quality. Unit tests could greatly help in the latter, but would further worsen the former.

Heavy OpenCart Customizations. Current project in progress: fleurworld.com


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Post by rph » Sat May 03, 2014 12:01 am

That's certainly your prerogative. Use software you're comfortable with.

-Ryan


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Post by IP_CAM » Sun May 11, 2014 12:10 am

dfumagalli wrote:Introduction
Basically, in my opinion, OpenCart is a maturing project but "just" in the technical side whereas many other projects try and attract consensus, contributors, participants, organize meetings, talks, webinars....
... OpenCart needs to break its cocoon and come out and show everyone for the beautiful butterfly it is!
Unaware of OC-History, I imagine, that OC is (at least partly) based on an Idea on how to generate a 'longer term income'. It's a great Idea, to offer something, in it's basic Form, for free, and 'allowing' others to design Mod's and let them offer their 'Add-On's' trough the official OC Website Channel. So, one can concentrate on basic's, while others take the responsability to serve their (paying) Customers with functionable and secure Mod's & Options.

In my Opinion, there is not much one can change, this is the way how the OC-Project works. Nobody really has any Control, there is no Background-Organisation as well, why should there be one ? The System does probably not allow Daniel to engange Fulle-Time Specialists, because of the money they cost, he's making just about enough Bucks to enable him to enjoy a good life. But, whatever would change, it would limit his Abilities and Freedom of decisions, it would eventually even force him to charge Buyers of 'socalled' Pro OC Versions at last, in order to keep alive and well...

The OC - Project is a One Man Show. It succeeded so far, possibly because, it's what it is. Whoever else has some revolutionary Ideas, is free to design Software, create a Site, offer Material, give it away or then sell it. This is the big advantage, why spoil it?

Let Danial concentrate on Basic's, let him make sure, his free Source is as secure as possible. That's all we need. If others know ways on how to replace - modify - add Stuff or Sections to make OC run more like a PORSCHE than an old VW Microbus, they are free to offer their own Version to the Market, eventually against cash.

Organisations are the Contrary of the FREE open Market.

Ernie

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