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What is EE Reactor?

In the comments of a recent EllisLab blog post, my friend and supplier of the finest gin, Kenny Meyers asked:

What’s EE Reactor?

I’ve been thinking the same thing and I thought it was just me. I’ve seen EE Reactor referenced in a way that made it seem like it was an announced somewhere but as far as I can tell it wasn’t. In the EllisLab blog post there was a bullet item that read:

EE Reactor concept update

Surely I had missed the original announcement if there was going to be an update. So I went hunting.

A quick google search turned up three tweets from Leslie Camacho about phone calls regarding EE Reactor and an update that “it’s going quite well…”.

Then there were some more mentions in the forum thread about “The state of EE”. All of the other Google results have to do with actual reactors and, you know, physics.

I’m not the only one wondering. In the forums, Danny Tam asked:

Are there any links you can point me to to learn a bit more about this EE Reactor? Can’t seem to find anything on it.

He was pointed to Leslie Camacho’s Twitter feed. Well, okay.

Another response to questions about EE Reactor was:

The reactor group (not branch) for CodeIgniter started in an effort to have a branch of CI that the community was responsible for maintaining and adding to with oversight from EL.

Recently the idea came up to harness this idea for EE. That is what is being discussed in this thread.

Leslie did answer Kenny’s question a couple of days later:

Like CodeIgniter Reactor, but for ExpressionEngine. We have four awesome devs eager to give it a trial run, goal is to have it set by EECI. If it works with 4, we’ll expand.

CodeIgniter Reactor started as a community run branch of CodeIgniter (Reactor is now a team of developers). It moved along at a faster pace than the version developed by EllisLab because it did not have the weight of commercial software (ExpressionEngine and MojoMotor) sitting on top of it.

The CodeIgniter you can download today is CodeIgniter Reactor but it’s no longer called that. As stated in a blog post by Derek Jones last month, “CodeIgniter ‘Reactor’ is CodeIgniter” and the EllisLab branch of CodeIgniter is “no longer being publicly maintained.” I don’t know if that means that ExpressionEngine 2 is still truly based on an open source version of CodeIgniter or not.

Is ExpressionEngine Reactor a community-driven version of ExpressionEngine?

It’s an interesting question and theory because EE is a commercial product and not open source like CodeIgniter. From what I can gather, EE Reactor is going to be an experiment wherein a set number of developers are allowed to poke, prod and improve EE and then EllisLab may pull (some or all of) those changes into the commercial version of ExpressionEngine.

Because EE doesn’t have a free version and isn’t open source like CodeIgniter, I don’t see how this could be anything but a tightly controlled experiment. What are scenarios on how this would work?

Here’s one I could come up with: if you own an EE license you could opt to download and use the EE Reactor version instead of the EllisLab version.

There are some potential downsides to this theory:

  1. EE Reactor could begin to implement features of commercial add-ons.
  2. More people would choose the Reactor version than the core EE version thereby shifting the development of the EE people use to a completely different team of developers.
  3. The Reactor developers would be doing free development work for EllisLab.
  4. Support could be a mess because the EllisLab support team would have to know two different “kinds” of ExpressionEngine.
  5. Fragmentation of add-on support (“Does this add-on support Reactor?”).

There’s a lot there. The above list is just me riffing on my theory of how it could work. As I’ve made clear earlier: I have no idea what EE Reactor is or how it really will work.

But people sure are talking about it like it’s been announced already.

Posted on Sep 23, 2011 by Ryan Irelan

Filed Under: EE Reactor, EllisLab, ExpressionEngine 2

Steven Hambleton09:31 on 09.23.2011

I started this conversation on Twitter and Leslie asked if developers would even consider contributing to a commercial product. The response was very positive and so it went from there.

The idea is for developers to be involved in clearing up a lot of the long standing issues/feature requests that never seem to be addressed/resolved.

Developers aren’t paid but instead stand to benefit from a better ExpressionEngine (as we all will).

I don’t know if Leslie has expanded the scope of this but it seems that at least this much is on the cards.

CB09:32 on 09.23.2011

When I first read that bullet in their post, it sounded like a new Auto Updater feature for EE called Reactor. As I also didn’t know how they could update us on a feature we’ve never heard about.

The above does sound very odd other than allowing all the people who ‘b*tch about what’s wrong with EE being able to offer their time to fix it where EE would gain all the financial gain unlike an open source project where the gains are only to the product and not monetary.

Ryan Irelan09:40 on 09.23.2011

Steven, do you have a link to some of your tweets on this?

MediaGirl10:09 on 09.23.2011

From what I understand there will not be two versions, just EE proper.

Leslie Camacho10:55 on 09.23.2011

Hi Ryan,

Let me see if I can clear some things up.

EE Reactor is a small team that can contribute directly to EE in a manner similar to a controlled open source project, in this case modeled after CodeIgniter.

We’re working out the details, hence no official announcement yet. Our goal is to be able to show how the experiment is setup at EECI. And then we can all follow along, see how it goes.

I can clear up a few points right now.

1. There will only be EE proper, like Media Girl said. We’re not doing the Magento thing with multiple editions.

2. The actual workflow details are being sorted out, but our intention is to work closely with the devs on what gets added while allowing as much autonomy as possible in terms of what they want to work on, but tightly controlling the process once code is actually submitted (peer review,  testing, etc…). This is how CI works and that’s working quite well now that we’ve got the kinks out.

3. People contribute to projects because it helps them in some way, because they like adding to something that makes a difference in people’s lives, and because they simply love doing it.

My job as CEO is to grow EE as quickly and responsibly as possible because the Community counts on EE for their success. The Community wants to help with that directly and I think its a good idea to see if it works. Hence, this experiment.

I’m personally very excited about it as are the four devs we’ve got lined up (and a number who want to participate once its formalized).

As usual, feel free to contact me directly with comments, questions, or concerns. leslie dot camacho at

I’ll also follow comments to this post and jump back in when I can.

Jez Swinscoe11:22 on 09.23.2011

I think this sounds fantastic, EE needs to grow and flex and I think is one of the smartest ways to do that.

MediaGirl11:24 on 09.23.2011


I agree. I’m guessing with this participation we’ll see quick progress on many of the things that annoy and complicate our daily dev efforts. I can’t wait!!


Rob11:26 on 09.23.2011

I’m curious about how the EE Reactor “team” is being assembled.

Leslie Camacho11:31 on 09.23.2011

@Rob - That’s easy. I replied to Hambo on Twitter and suddenly got steam rolled by overwhelming positive responses and requests to participate. I interviewed a handful by phone (well, Skype), and then we decided to start with 4 to keep it small & lean so it doesn’t get clogged during the planning/process part.

There is no formal announcement, but obviously we’re not keeping it a secret. If you’re an EE dev who is interested, please email me or give me a mention on Twitter (@knight777) that you’re interested in participating. I’m keeping a list of those who want to be involved once its open.

Ryan Irelan11:33 on 09.23.2011

Thanks for the clarification, Leslie. My write-up didn’t mention the upsides but, as you mention, this program would benefit ExpressionEngine and thereby the entire community. Obvious, a great thing.

I’m glad there won’t be two EEs. As I mentioned (and I’m sure you discovered in brainstorming) it would be messy.

I look forward to hearing more about how it is set up and working.

Your answer to #3 is interesting but I think it works better in an open source environment (like CodeIgniter).

Ryan Irelan11:38 on 09.23.2011

I want to also add that despite my skepticism about parts of this, I think it’s a bold initiative. I like bold. smile

Leslie Camacho11:43 on 09.23.2011

#3 - I do to, but the response I got from Twitter, calls, and emails has been so overwhelmingly positive we’d be foolish not to experiment and see where it leads. 

Almost all the open source projects mentioned here and in the CMS world are owned and operated by for-profit companies who benefit the most from contributions. The difference is the business model. In my mind, that’s also the experiment here. Can it work with this business model? And if so, what should we do as a response? I think those questions are worth answering.

MediaGirl12:08 on 09.23.2011

IMO, the EE community isn’t like other communities so normal operating procedures should be tossed out the window.

There are EE developers eager and willing to contribute code to core “and docs” for free and I am so happy to see this moving forward.

“Good on ya” to these 4 generous souls! And “good on EllisLabs” for being open to the idea!


Rob12:51 on 09.23.2011

Thanks for the reply @Les. It’s a testament to the EE community that you had more volunteers than you could handle.

Dominic Kelly14:21 on 09.23.2011

I’m very much looking forward to seeing how this pans out.

So long as you nail the processes and vet the third party developers sufficiently I can’t see how this can fail. You’re capacity will grow over night, for free, and that’s only a good thing for the product that many of us rely on financially.

Emmanuel15:17 on 09.23.2011

Beware of the Drupal syndrom : new features being brought-in by eager developpers while nasty bugs and basic improvements being forgotten…

Ryan Irelan17:06 on 09.23.2011

Emmanuel, I don’t think we’ll see that same type of problem with EE because it has a development team already. The Reactor team would, from the information I’ve learned up to know, just be in addition.

Aaron Waldon17:49 on 09.23.2011

If developers wanted to build products for me for free and then purchase them from me afterward, I’d welcome them with open arms too (If anyone is interested, please get in touch).

It seems to me that there are now 1st party developers, 3rd party developers, and a new segment: 2nd party developers (the EE Reactor team). It sounds great, but I’m a little curious as to why these devs are doing this though.

From what I’ve gathered, 3 out of the 4 devs sell add-ons commercially. What’s their motive to take part in EE Reactor? Is it going to help them to add more hooks to sell their add-ons? Are they trying to get (more) EE popular? Are they working to extend EE in ways that will allow them to make sites more efficiently, in the hopes to recoup the costs by decreasing build times down the road? Do they have some particular bugs they are crazy about smashing? Or are they generous philanthropists with altruistic motives?

Sure EE will come out on top from this, but who else will? Will the developer community be positively affected by it? Will the 2nd party devs that are selling add-ons and have the ability to modify core have a special advantage?

So many questions (seriously, I don’t think I have ever asked that many questions in a day). I guess only time will tell.

Sam Lomax19:00 on 09.23.2011

@Aaron, as a developer, there are times when i find an EE add-on that doesn’t do what i need it to but by adding a few lines of code, i can address this short coming. Doing so however can lead to issues when the next version comes out so typically I submit this code to the developer of the add-on and in most cases, they add it in and support it from that time on.

To me, the EE Reactor project seems like a formalised way of doing this for the EE core. Indeed all you need to do is go through the EE forums and wiki to see how many devs out there are keen to add small refinements to EE to improve it as a whole for everyone. I think the concept is great and really look forward to seeing how it progresses.

Russ Lipton11:41 on 09.26.2011

@Aaron, I certainly hope these developers are getting ‘something’ back ... at a minimum, increased visibility which will be well-deserved and lead to them making more money in their own work. So long as the code works and we know who’s doing what to change what, it’s a win-win. There may be occasional missteps, but EllisLab will not intentionally clobber commercial add-on developers, certainly not with ‘2nd party’ features.

Also, as Sam notes, scads of relatively minor but desired fixes and enhancements are made on-the-fly by developers, but never enter the current development path. I hope very much that this group becomes a filter for that kind of work by the entire community, in addition to contributing their own coolness.

I’m with @MediaGirl, only I thought EllisLab never had any normal operating procedures? Why weren’t we told? The only down-side to EE Reactor is that I now (partly) know what it is. Where’s the fun in that? Ah, for the old days ...

Matt Spencer06:32 on 05.03.2012

Till today, the definitive answer to what is EE Reactor has not been found. I still wonder what it is about. There is another blog post in this website that chronicled the various articles about EE reactor, but still, the actual product or service has not been rolled out. I just hope that there isn’t so much secrecy behind it.

Steven Hambleton06:45 on 05.03.2012

What’s not to understand Matt? It’s a bunch of ExpressionEngine veteran developers, chosen by EllisLab to make meaningful contributions to the core product (such as additional hooks).

It’s not a product or service you buy. Just an enthusiastic and knowledgeable group that aims to make ExpressionEngine a better product.

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