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  1. #1
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    Like Ning but not Ning

    Let me start off by saying I am a fairly good front end developer and even halfway decent on the design end. What I am not is much of a programmer (although I'm picking up some PHP). I have a situation right now where I am being asked to put together a community resource site. A lot of it is just content that I have no problem putting together in a usable, attractive way. However, the site is also supposed to have a forum and a feature that allows signed in users to add events to a calendar. Before I did anything on the site I told the PM we would probably have to use an already available solution on the web for those two features and he cleared that and gave me the permission to select one. I selected Ning and set up the forum and the event calendar there and also began plugging in all the other content. It worked better than I thought it would. Now, there are drawbacks to Ning that would keep me from using it for every site I make but it seemed to be a great solution in this case.

    However, now the PM is telling me I shouldn't have picked Ning and that I should have programmed the forum and calendar on my own because the client will refuse to have a site that has ads on it that they don't control and will refuse to pay to have those ads removed. The PM basically thinks I have committed a mortal sin by picking a solution that seemed just right for the present project. What I am wondering is if there is any solution out there that would take care of these features for free and that I can easily incorporate into the rest of the site that I will build. I have looked into Joomla and that could the answer but the couple times I have tried using it it has so many unnecessary complications that it drives me up the wall. I really just want to build my own traditional, mostly static site and: a) add a forum, and: b) add an events calendar, apparently for free, if possible, since that's what the client is demanding.

  2. #2
    doing my best to help c2uk's Avatar
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    First, the client refuses to pay to have those ads removed and he wants it for free, doesn't he pay for anything? I mean who pays your time, who pays the web space? I have the feeling that you haven't sold it properly to the client. Keep this in mind for the future.

    Regardless of that, Drupal is a nice and clean solution for pretty much everything, it will come at a cost, despite it being "free", the costs are increased developing costs and increased server costs as it is more resource-hungry than Wordpress and Joomla, and obviously your traditional, mostly static site.

    I would recommend you to dive into Drupal even if it is just to further increase your skill set, it's a good piece of software and fairly flexible, there is practically nothing that it can't do, and it's not too difficult to learn compared to other solution with similar complexity/flexibility.
    Dan G
    Marketing Strategist & Consultant

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by c2uk View Post
    First, the client refuses to pay to have those ads removed and he wants it for free, doesn't he pay for anything? I mean who pays your time, who pays the web space? I have the feeling that you haven't sold it properly to the client. Keep this in mind for the future.

    Regardless of that, Drupal is a nice and clean solution for pretty much everything, it will come at a cost, despite it being "free", the costs are increased developing costs and increased server costs as it is more resource-hungry than Wordpress and Joomla, and obviously your traditional, mostly static site.

    I would recommend you to dive into Drupal even if it is just to further increase your skill set, it's a good piece of software and fairly flexible, there is practically nothing that it can't do, and it's not too difficult to learn compared to other solution with similar complexity/flexibility.
    Thanks for the response. Some of your questions will be answered if you read my first post again (although you don't have any obligation to; just saying it's a good a source for answers). I think what the deal is is that the client is okay w/ paying $8 a month for hosting but not okay w/ paying $24.95 a month to have Ning ads removed.

  4. #4
    doing my best to help c2uk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MauiMan2 View Post
    Thanks for the response. Some of your questions will be answered if you read my first post again (although you don't have any obligation to; just saying it's a good a source for answers). I think what the deal is is that the client is okay w/ paying $8 a month for hosting but not okay w/ paying $24.95 a month to have Ning ads removed.
    No it's not, not for my questions. I read your first post now three times (I did read it in the first place!) but it didn't answer any of my questions really. The only time you mentioned price there was that the client wants his community driven site (the calendar and forum) for free.

    As I see it, you did commit a mortal sin as you call it when you chose Ning, based on the fact that you didn't inform your PM about what Ning is, i.e. that it is an ad-supported, hosted application and how much it would cost to remove those ads. You basically made a budget decision without having the authority to do so.
    Dan G
    Marketing Strategist & Consultant

  5. #5
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    Thanks for reading it three times. I got clearance to use a third-party forum feature at the beginning of the project. I guess I didn't know that people think that's free. Now they are telling me, "You have to program a forum all on your own but we will conveniently forget we told you before that you could use an existing forum application." So it's the other people involved that are backtracking. I also thought it was a matter of you either pay for one thing or another thing, not a matter of introducing whole new costs.

  6. #6
    doing my best to help c2uk's Avatar
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    Sorry mate but I don't get you, or you don't get it, I don't know. From what you said, you could happily use an external software package, maybe your PM wasn't clear to you, and it clearly seems like you need it being told to you clearly, that you shouldn't have introduced new costs. Maybe he assumed that you know that anyway, which it seems you didn't. From what I understand, you can use FOSS, which means you don't have to code it all by yourself, maybe your also PM doesn't know your skill set, thinks that you can do more than you actually can.

    So basically, there is a huge communication problem there, and both sides are to blame.
    Dan G
    Marketing Strategist & Consultant

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by c2uk View Post
    Sorry mate but I don't get you, or you don't get it, I don't know. From what you said, you could happily use an external software package, maybe your PM wasn't clear to you, and it clearly seems like you need it being told to you clearly, that you shouldn't have introduced new costs. Maybe he assumed that you know that anyway, which it seems you didn't. From what I understand, you can use FOSS, which means you don't have to code it all by yourself, maybe your also PM doesn't know your skill set, thinks that you can do more than you actually can.

    So basically, there is a huge communication problem there, and both sides are to blame.
    But if they are paying to remove Ning ads and therefore not paying for hosting then it is not introducing new costs, it's just diverting the funds a different way. If they tell me "Go ahead and use an external software package," and I start doing it and show them what I've done and they turn around and say, "Now program it yourself instead because we didn't know that an external software package costs money like we should've known and is only logical," then that is not me introducing new costs. It's somebody else being dumb. I can't second guess everybody's stupid thinking. But maybe from now on I will tell clients, "Every new feature costs extra money. You should know that but I'll reemphasize it upfront."

    If I haven't emphasized it earlier, I will now: I told the PM at the very beginning, "I don't program forums from scratch." He said, at the very beginning, "That's okay, go ahead and use a third party solution." He then pointed out to me sites that have done this and I looked at those sites and saw that they were PAYING for third party solutions. Maybe I should have told the PM even more clearly than I already have numerous times to him: "Those sites are paying for those forums!!!" And, yes, I have told him that.

  8. #8
    doing my best to help c2uk's Avatar
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    You introduced new costs, since you didn't have the authority to make a call on hosting costs, I also assume that your PM never actually gave you any budget authority. He's the person that should overlook that kind of stuff, so that's his responsibility and not yours. I'm pretty sure he assumed that you know that. Just wondering, did he ask you how long you need?

    So, once again, there is clearly a communication issue, and it is at both sides, I don't know what else you want to hear?

    I told you where in the future you can get a "free" solution for what you were trying to achieve and I told you how you, in the future, have to sell Ning to your client/PM.
    Dan G
    Marketing Strategist & Consultant

  9. #9
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    Thanks for working with me here and your patience on this. Basically what you are saying is that I should tell people things they should already know. I'm all for overclarifying things.

    "I also assume that your PM never actually gave you any budget authority."

    Except that he did when he said to go ahead and use 3rd party software that was like the software used on sites where it was being paid for, and he also overlooked that he would be saving on hosting costs, not seeing the whole thing as the tradeoff that it is. Not quite sure how to overclarify this point anymore than I already have. Basically what he did was say, "Go ahead and use something like this stuff I see other people are paying for but I'll get mad at you when you don't clarify back to me that they are PAYING FOR IT and I'll just play dumb and act like it's free and if you don't tell me something any sane person should already know then it's your fault."

    I'll look into Drupal. Maybe I can learn it in time to get this project done on time. Hopefully it's less stupid than the horrendous Joomla.

  10. #10
    SitePoint Evangelist Karpie's Avatar
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    From what I can understand, the misunderstanding is between third-party apps (like Joomla plugins or whatever that you plug into your own hosted site) and third-party sites (the forum being hosted elsewhere that you have little control over).

    As the developer, that was your job to clarify the difference.

  11. #11
    doing my best to help c2uk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MauiMan2 View Post
    Thanks for working with me here and your patience on this. Basically what you are saying is that I should tell people things they should already know. I'm all for overclarifying things.

    "I also assume that your PM never actually gave you any budget authority."

    Except that he did when he said to go ahead and use 3rd party software that was like the software used on sites where it was being paid for, and he also overlooked that he would be saving on hosting costs, not seeing the whole thing as the tradeoff that it is. Not quite sure how to overclarify this point anymore than I already have. Basically what he did was say, "Go ahead and use something like this stuff I see other people are paying for but I'll get mad at you when you don't clarify back to me that they are PAYING FOR IT and I'll just play dumb and act like it's free and if you don't tell me something any sane person should already know then it's your fault."

    I'll look into Drupal. Maybe I can learn it in time to get this project done on time. Hopefully it's less stupid than the horrendous Joomla.
    Your whole attitude stinks to be honest, and I doubt you get very far if you continue like this. You are not ready to admit your own mistakes and faults, Joomla isn't stupid otherwise it wouldn't be used by thousands of people. And let me just stop you there before you waste any more time, you won't be able to learn Drupal in time for this project, it's far too complicated, setting up a calendar of sorts already is far more complicated than you would expect, and that doesn't even include setting permissions for it, you're looking at least at 3 months learning time, even more if you've got no idea about CMS in general and little knowledge of php.

    Your PM didn't give you budget responsibility, did he explicitly say, spend as much as is needed? What if you saw the perfect application for this project for $25, would you have just bought it without letting your PM know? What if it was $50, $100, $1,000, $10,000? Just a reminder, you basically bought one that could cost the client a couple of hundreds if not thousands bucks over its lifetime. Your PM's fault was that he assumed that you don't decide something like that without knowing the budget and without clarifying. Your PM probably thought that for any paid solution there is an open source alternative that you could and would use, and you would indeed know about open source alternatives.

    Your problem was that you didn't sell the app properly, that's nobody else's fault but yours, and you didn't do that because you didn't think about the client's needs and preferences beyond that Ning ticks the boxes of community, calendar and discussion board. There are many other downsides of using Ning, did you think about those? You should've made a list of pros and cons of using Ning and go with those to your PM and let him sign it off. His fault here was that he misjudged your ability to do this on your own.

    You PM's fault is also that he not only overestimated your ability to judge what's the best solution for the client, but he doesn't know your skill set. Your fault is, that you yourself don't know it. Setting up a calendar/discussion board is a skill set that you don't have, and while it looks easy to get this done when you know what you are doing, you don't.

    Let me give me you one last pointer, after that you end up on my ignore list and I unsubscribe from this thread.

    FOSS alternatives can be found and demoed here:
    http://www.opensourcecms.com/
    Dan G
    Marketing Strategist & Consultant


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