Flexible Content Management System


Postnuke - A Heavy User's Perspective

Contributed by on Aug 23, 2002 - 01:39 AM

I would call myself a hack and slash coder, meaning I do what I need, using other modules as examples and worry about the module working rather than the code looking pretty (and trust me it isn’t pretty!).

The advent of .8 causes me a few worries and I’d like to share them with the developers from the point of view of someone who relies on Postnuke. This isn’t me saying what should and shouldn’t happen (man, I’d be lost in the dark ages without you guys!) but hopefully let you see some of the worries larger sites which can’t afford downtime or loss of functionality have. If Postnuke is to become adopted by bigger corporations these are going to be points they will raise.

With each new release of Postnuke, the ‘coding’ changes. And what I mean by this is that modules need to be recoded slightly differently with each release. It wouldn’t be a problem except that a lot of excellent modules aren’t updated for weeks / months / if ever because the original developers are confused by these coding changes. Heck, I still don’t get all the pnadmin apis, and don’t have the time to really sit down and learn.

However, I understand that as the system progress towards it’s goal, each release is going to introduce changes. And you have started a documentation site which is excellent. However, I know if .8 doesn’t support some of my older modules, supported in .714, I’m going to consider not upgrading, and instead just introduce hacks to do what I need, which will make it even harder to upgrade in the long run.

News needs a complete overhaul, and yes I’m glad to see that happening in .8. News is my ‘bread and butter’ so I need it to be able to work overtime, and whilst many would like some of these features, I’m probably one of those ones who needs them all.

First off, I need next page news. I need to be able to visit the front page see the first x articles and be able to click on an image to see the next x and so on. In a site that publishes a lot of news in a day, it’s not as easy as it could be to see older articles. I also need this to happen whether I’m looking at topics or categories. The “view all articles in this category/topic” is a bad idea. Simply because if you’ve got 5000 articles, the user isn’t going to get a pleasant experience

Sections and news really need to be integrated, but it would be nice if they could be grouped together in some way, neither using topics or categories.

I think we need further options beyond topics and categories and let them be user defined. Maybe someone is giving coverage of an event which covers all topics and categories but needs to be lumped together. I wrote a simple little module for this where I have an event name and then assign urls and titles to it… but I’d like to see this integrated into the news submission.

I also think it’s needed to be able to assign an article to more than one topic/category.

It’s difficult to explain my needs in a way people would understand, so I’ll explain it by example of a music site. Each topic would represent a style of music (but hence there could be times when someone releases a mix of hip-hop and western which would need to appear in both categories). Each category would represent a label. And the 3rd option would be akin to a music festival or awards ceremony where I would want to lump articles from multiple topics and categories together.

Some of my articles contain hardcoded links to previous ones. When things changed from being articles.php to the modules format… it caused me no end of problems because I suddenly had loads of dead links. With integration of news and sections please consider that links not only exist hardcoded within the site but on the wider internet as well, so traffic needs to be successfully re-routed with each new version of Postnuke

Next images. This is something that Postnuke is sorely lacking. I know we have modules like Gallery, but I want to assign images to certain articles. For this I’ve written a module I call imagebank… which is nothing special code-wise. I know this could be written better and integration with things such as scheduled articles and other modules is a bit botched. Now when things like this are suggested a lot of people go on about upload facilities. Personally, I don’t have an issue with creating the images and uploading them via FTP (it’s easier on CPU to do all the image manipulation offline), but I’d like to be able to assign images already on my server quickly and easily (maybe even assign a whole directory which Imagebank can now do).

You can see a demo of this here to get an idea of what I’m talking about:

And no, I haven’t released it for a number of reasons, the main one being the way it has to be hacked into the core.

Also items such as number of reads information should have the option of being admin only. This takes me an age to rehack. I don’t want my advertisers being able to compare my traffic data with what someone else may tell them/fake.

The collapsible blocks was a brilliant idea, but some blocks should NOT be able to be collapsed. I had to hack that functionality out because I don’t want my readers being able to turn off my advertising! Banner blockers are bad enough.

Now if something could be done with the banners module to allow zoning by topic / module / category, etc… I’d be a happy bunny. I use phpadsnew as a sepereate install and integrated into my theme (with the odd hardcoded block) but it’s not integrated with nuke enough to do the zoning.

I’d like it if the forums and comments were somehow integrated. No idea how this could be done but I do get the feeling that they are very separate entities on the site and hence cross traffic between the modules is very low.

I currently use encompass which I think is an excellent module. I know there is a lot of discussion about blocklayout vs encompass but to me the strength will be in Postnuke being able to use both… it gives me a choice and allow me to select whichever suits my needs best.

Also, everything possible needs to be done to make Postnuke as optimized and as scalable as possible. I want to ensure that whether I have 20 or 20,000 articles the difference in loading speed is as minimal as possible. Whilst my site isn’t hosted on anything grand, it does have it’s own dedicated server, and has got to the point that it really, really struggles. The bloat is to such a level I am now seriously considering moving to another CMS if things don’t radically improve in .8

Apologies if this seems like a long list of I want, I want, I want. I just feel that these are important generic features any large site which depends on Postnuke needs and I felt that by contributing it might share some ideas with you. I truly appreciate all the hardwork the developers do, and wish I had more time, and better coding knowledge to contribute more to the project

Adrian Faulkner