There hasn't been a blog post from developers for a while, unfortunately, and I'll take the opportunity of a little initiative we've started, to present a few things to you. Yes, these are only a few things.
We all know how long the development cycle of SMF 2.0 has been, until it has reached the stable version, and during a significant part of this time, it has been feature-locked. Many proposals for new features or improvements made during this time simply couldn't be considered for inclusion in SMF (2.0). That, however, has changed now. The next SMF (what we call 2.1, and 3.0) is open for discussion, and to your thoughts and proposals.
For this purpose, we have created a new board, Next SMF Discussion, where SMF team will present to you various ideas, proposals, considered for 2.1, mods for 2.0 considered for inclusion in 2.1 core, official themes we're planning to make available to the community, plans for officials mods for next versions (2.1/2.x/3.0), and so on.
It is easy to see that during all that time, proposals and requests have practically kept "piling up", if I may say so, and there are many little enhancements (and a few significant enhancements) that have proven appropriate, for SMF to grow and move forward. SMF developers have already a good idea of a number of things we want to make real, for SMF to be inline with the landscape of the web today, and bring much more added value to you all, but there is more to it. SMF development itself has become very closed (IMHO) through the years, and that is not suitable for an Open Source project, nor fair, nor beneficial for our users nor the project. There are many reasons that have contributed to it into which I won't get here (it would become an endless post!), however let me say this clearly: this must
change, and it was and is my goal to change it, since the moment I've taken charge of it.
While it won't happen over night, we have already taken steps towards it. The release of SMF 2.0 with an Open Source license, a permissive license, BSD (three-clause), is only one of them. To open development of the next SMF to the community, we are now taking this little other step: we are starting to present to you the features and enhancements we're considering for the next SMF version, and invite you all to take part to the discussions on them, offer us your feedback, alternatives, insight into how they may affect you, whether you like or want them or find them useful - or not -, for SMF developers to know better how your needs are served by the software.
The topics proposed for your attention will be here:Next SMF Discussion
This "list" we're starting to post for community feedback is a list compiled by the SMF team, from many sources, among which:
- your requests, as you let us know in Feature Requests board, over time. There are many things, small or not so small, that SMF could do to better to be more useful, and while of course they're not meant for next version alone, we're addressing the most requested and useful, in core or in official mods.
- support requests, and the deficiencies in the software they're pointing at. Mods developed for 2.0 to address them, that we are considering for inclusion in SMF 2.1.
- the experience of our international communities users and admins, the difficulties faced by our translators working with SMF files in their current format (yes, it's time to refactor EmailTemplates! - before GravuTrad burns me alive, he's mean like that)
- difficulties faced by modders and themers, their needs for SMF to be more customizable, the success that a few enhancements have already had (like the hooks we have changed and added in SMF 2.0 last RCs)
- coding support requests, the most frequent requests more likely show us how SMF is used and what is more useful to address (or what additional tools would be handy for you to have at your disposal)
- difficulties faced by developers of big mods, or their feeedback on how maintainable is the code, whether it is easily extensible or not, and how to make it more understandable, and better documented. (yes, we're switching to a standard documentation for SMF code, easier to read and easy to parse by existing tools for offline documentation)
There are many other avenues by which these ideas and proposals for the next SMF have been made, have been referenced by SMF team to developers, and we're sorting them out, for SMF 2.1 (this is how we're calling it internally, but it's such a prosaic name, proposals for a cool codename are welcome!), and SMF 2.x/3.0 (one more boring name, this was supposed to be called "Saguaro", but we're not really using the name; seriously, do you like it?)
If you're interested as admin of your forum, in a feature, let us know, in Feature Requests and Next SMF Discussion.
If you're interested, as coder or designer, to take part to contributing code for something cool you want to build, you can do so, by a mod for 2.0 you can propose for official distribution for 2.0 and integration in 2.1, by a theme you want to propose for official theme of 2.0 or next theme of 2.1, by a patch to 2.0 code or modifications made to your own SMF variant, whichever suits you. For example, Akyhne has stepped up to create a version of Classic theme for 2.0, that we're making available to the community as official theme of 2.0. (as additional download, not in the main package, but developed and supported officially).
We are working on making it easier than this actually, for them coders and designers from the community to contribute to SMF, for which purpose we have created last year the Consulting Developer role, and I'll come back on that and others. (I'm really trying to keep this short! ... really.)
The SMF team has a few amazing people who stepped up to help the developers with the difficult and insanely time-consuming task to do the initial gathering of Mantis features, endless internal forum posts, approved requests from the community boards, etc, and will present them for your feedback, step by step, by topics they'll open in the Next SMF Discussion board. (that's because they're amazing, but don't tell them I said so!). There are more than a hundred proposals, and of course not all will be for one version (no, we won't take four years, and no, SMF will not become bundled with everything either!). In fact, there are also official tools and mods and themes proposals and contributions among them, as you will see, not only core software alone. I'm keeping an eye on them all and sort them out as we move forward, along with their developers. For example, you may see mods developers, who have been working on mods we intend to make official mods of SMF 2.0, and integrate in 2.1, opening their work for your feedback on 2.1 inclusion of their mod.
In parallel with this initiative, we were working with TBG developers to convert what we have in Mantis to it, set up TBG as tracker for the SMF project (Mantis is terrible on a few aspects), integrate it with the community forum and theme. Once that is done, I'll take those that stay accepted for the next SMF versions, and track them there for everyone to be able to follow easily, along with their development status. What we really need are better development tools, open to the community, for easy management of the SMF software, but those are coming too.
As the work on getting these ideas for 2.1/3.0 out in the community progresses, topic by topic, your feedback, your opinion, your alternative proposals or experience with your forum, are essential to the choices we are going to make! So please, help us know what you're thinking, and help us build the software YOU find useful. The developers of SMF are not building this for ourselves alone, but for you to use, build on, extend, customize, adapt easily, as you see fit. We're moving forward with making SMF a true open source project, one driven by the needs of its community, and open to everyone to take part to. And you can quote me on this one.
Of course there is much more to it, but hey. I said I'll keep this, umm, short...