What do you get when you take Ryan Masuga, Mitchell Kimbrough, Brandon Kelly, Lodewijk Schutte, and Eric Lamb, and put them all in the same room? Hilariousness to say the least.
This developer round-table, moderated by the amazing, tall, and fantastic Ryan Irelan (I was paid to say that) was a source for hearing straight from the horses mouth about the world of add-on development.
Notable statements from the round table:
Q. “Have you considered reevaluating the price due to widespread adoption?”
We’re pretty much breaking even, with our sales and support, lowering them for more customers would increase support and not make it beneficial . - Brandon Kelly
Q. Is support something you’re concerned about?
All: Yes. Low: No. Support isn’t the main time hog at the moment.
Brandon and Mitchell have dedicated support staff.
Q. Is main support from newbies?
Pretty wide range. Some on a weekly basis. Easy to think their taking advantage. Then the others who have put a ton of effort into it, with the one little thing they can’t figure out. Majority, it’s newbies. - Brandon Kelly
We’re supporting people with complex problems, or supporting complex add-ons. Supporting edge cases. Doing it again, we’d release fewer things, simpler, more focused. 1/4 payroll dedicated to support - Mitchell Kimbrough
Q. Trends with numbers?
It’s not a steep curve. Things are flattening out. - Mitchell Kimbrough
We’ve been flat at every stage of the game. When I released Playa, week to week basis when selling it. When Pixel and Tonic came out it raised the ceiling. When we released Assets, the total revenue didn’t change at all. Matrix, Wygwam, Playa took a dip. - Brandon Kelly
Fairly flat. About a year ago, I saw a steady increase. That went on for about 9 months. About 2 months ago it’s gone down again. Too early to tell. - Low
Every time I have a record month, the next month it goes down, then the following it goes up. I don’t know what to make of that. - Eric Lamb
Q. About 2 years ago, add-on devs made the migration to ExpressionEngine 2. What do you see about the future of add-on development?
We have a pricing problem as a community. We need more and more difficult challenges to keep the team engaged. We want to build a bunch of difficult stuff. But the volume of sales and price point would support the stuff we want to do. Unless there is drastic change of core tool, not much else I can do. - Mitchell Kimbrough
There are things not possible at moment I currently work around. Better APIs with channel entries. But actually fetching channel entries [needs improving]. If I didn’t have to do this “hackish” trick, it’d be better. Really depends on what EllisLab’s priorities are at the moment. Would love custom field approach applied to categories and member fields. Really up to EllisLab. - Lodewijk Schutte
It’s a limited API. Holds us back from doing some of the cool stuff. The API is the problem. - Eric Lamb
5 years from now. At this point I have been releasing add-ons for 5 years. Back in 2007, ExpressionEngine back then was a lot more prominent in the workflow then it is today. Back then it was ExpressionEngine plus a few add-ons to fill in a couple gaps. Today, the add-ons have exploded, and you start with ExpressionEngine then build your site from there with add-ons. It doesn’t look like ExpressionEngine out of the box anymore. And that all happened in 5 years. So 5 years from now, the trend will continue. Like iOS the built-in software is nice, but it’s the apps that make it. And that’s probably the model that ExpressionEngine is looking at right now. 5 years from now we’ll be looking at ExpressionEngine as more of a platform and add-ons will be needed more and more. - Brandon Kelly
Q. I noticed add-ons need to work with each other more and more, how do you handle add-on compatibility?
My add-on expected something, another add-on expected something else. I don’t lose sleep over it. But when it comes up, the add-on community is great, they respond well. It’s always an easy fix, you kind of just work through it, it’s not really been a big problem for me. With Updater, for example, it was a simple fix, nothing that required me to do anything above and beyond. All these things come up anyhow, between ExpressionEngine versions. It’s the nature of development. - Eric Lamb
As far as proper compatibility, you have to add a couple of methods to your fieldtype, same thing with Matrix, Low Variables, etc you need to add a couple of methods. That’s kind of like writing an API. Emailed Brandon on what to do to make it work. Decided to name stuff generically so we can use the same hook. Try to keep it open. Always open for suggestions. - Lodewijk Schutte
Communication between developers is key, and strongly encouraged.
Q. How do you work with EL to make sure a new ExpressionEngine release doesn’t break functionality.
The lead time we get on a preview isn’t enough time for proper Q/A. Our library is too big. For add-on devs with 1,2, maybe 3 add-ons, the preview gives them enough time to update. - Mitchell Kimbrough
Q. Have you considered a different support model? - Rob Sanchez, Mighty Big Robot
Yeah, forum support is not sustainable. We want to help people succeed. Unfortunately, people sometimes take advantage of that. A team of three people, you spend all day catching up on support from the weekend. We have some ideas we’re considering. Moving more towards a private support model. Maybe, a pay per instance, monthly subscription. Then just pimp the community forums for people to go there to get help. It has to be adjusted. - Brandon Kelly
Q. When people don’t read, do you have a solution for getting these people support fast.
A lot of questions are RTFM type questions.
Again, I think that falls under the “people taking advantage of us” category. Maybe having to pay up front will make them think twice. - Brandon Kelly
And that’s a wrap.