Flexible Content Management System


Interview: pnCommerce-Team

Contributed by on Oct 09, 2003 - 03:00 PM

Who belongs to the pnCommerce team?

Patrick Cornelissen: First of all there is Mario G. (gzuki) from Priesendorf/Bavaria in Germany who just finished his military service. Next is Frank Schummertz (Landseer) from Stuttgart, Germany. He works as IT specialist in a consulting company. JimHadfield (JimHadfield) is from Big Lake, MN, USA and works there as web designer. I personally live in Bonn, Germany and study computer science and software development. And Sebastian Schürmann, who already introduced himself in another interview ;-) Then there is David, he was also with us at the developer meeting, but his is afk atm so that he also didn't participate in this interview.

Let's begin where it alle started: How did your Postnuke career start?

Patrick.c: I started with Postnuke ~2 years ago. PN was much easier to install and the administrative stuff was/is very comfortable. PN has a lot of 3rd party modules too, that was very impressive.

gzuki: And the good api!

Landseer: End of 2002 I was asked to take care of the homepage of a German dog breeder club. This is a static page with only a few regular updates and my intention was to create a portal site where everyone can contribute something. So I started searching for such kind of system, stumbled upon phpwebsite and phpNuke and finally came to PostNuke. Unfortunately they never agreed to use this system so the site is still not nuked :-(

But at the moment I am working on a nuked website of the company I am working for. It will consist of a external part with information using some static sites with Xexpress and internal sites for the employees with forums, download, employee pages, tim recording and so on.

JimHadfield: I looked at several sites and finally ended up using PN for a group ( in Dec. 2001. It's been a success since the very first day. I have PN installed on several sites with some custom modules on some of them.

When did you start working on your own module?

Patrick.c: We started the project ~February 2003

gzuki: joined the team March/April???

Landseer: The breeders club website should contain a webshop for some dog related stuff and so I began evaluating PostKart when Rex stopped development and Pat asked for volunteers to fork. I had plenty of time and so I started working on pncommerce. From January to March I worked 8 to 10 hours per day on pnc. Since two weeks I am also working on the timerecording module pnHora, which will be used on the internal webpage of the company I am working for. It is currently in pre-alpha state.

JimHadfield: From the very beginning ~February 2003

What is your development like? How do you work together?

Patrick.c: Development is a lot of work, but with a good team it's possible to handle it. We communicate by chat, ML, Forums and sometimes by telephone. We also had a developer meeing in august too. I hope that the impact on the community is big :-) because the need for a good shopping cart is evident, so we hope to get positive feedback from the users out there and maybe some more help.

Landseer: PN module development teams consists of people, who normally never meet each other in real life so I work on my own as the others do also. Important decisions have been discussed in our internal dev mailinglist or in our daily chat in our EuIRC channel #pn-commerce. This and email are the most important ways of communicationg with each other. Another big thing is the CVS at sourceforge. CVS is the best thing ever invented for people working at different places :-) Mid of August our first DevMeeting took place in Würzburg, where four of the team met for the first time (generally). Via webcam our documentation guru Jim was also connected. The main development has been done by a couple of developers who could easily agree when we had to make such decisions.

The impact of the community is big, even bigger, after we released the first alpha version. Now the people know what pnc can do and so they can give us suggestions where to go to and what to implement also. Sometimes it's hard to say "Not possible at the moment" :-).

JimHadfield: The response from the community has been fantastic. CVS is a lifesaver!

What is the biggest difficulty in your development?

Patrick.c: One problem, we had, is the bad documentation. The Module Developers Guide has a lot of unclear points and the api documentation documents functions that are not written yet. Dabase has restarted the API Documentation project, so I hope it will get better soon, but this was one of the major problems from my point of view. The unclear information flow from the PostNuke leaders should be more open. We module dev's need all informations about comming changes in API, workflow or whatever as soon as possible, to be able to consider this in our strategy. We don't have time to invent the wheel 4 or 5 times because the layout system has changed for example.

Landseer: Personally the biggest problem is that I had to learn PHP and the Postnuke API at the same time. I started programming in the late 80's with Basic, Oberon and C on an Amiga so the basics are there and the step to PHP was not so difficult.

JimHadfield: My biggest problem (?) was working with a bunch of guys that were great to work with! I don't usually get that lucky!

What features should the Postnuke .8 core have to simplify your work?

Patrick.c: The SSL support for the modurl function we gave the dev team. And Smarty :-)

Landseer: The templating engine that will be in .8 simplifies our work dramatically. We are already porting pnc to Smarty and see, how much code we are going to get rid of in pnuser/pnadmin without minimizing the shop's capabilities. Another needed thing would be generic SSL support in .8, we made a suggestion to the core devs (really easy thing), which did not make it into the .726 package, but maybe in the next one.

Which route will Postnuke/your module in your opinion go in the future?

Patrick.c: Finish Smartification, add custom properties and add the missing small tweaks. After that maybe a compatibility layer to make it possible to use the module on different Postnuke-descendants. Custom properties is one of the most demanded features. You can create for example a tshirt product with it and assign different sizes. The whole thing is very complicated because there are a lot of thigs that we have to keep in mind, so it may take a while until this is completely working.

Landseer: I don't see a clear future for Postnuke (which does not mean that I do not see any future for PostNuke!!). The information politic by the projects leaders is very poor and can be heavily improved. The open module developers mailing list is dead (at least I do not get anything from there), compared to the Xaraya dev list it is more than dead. We can be glad that the community is strong and giving support where it is needed.

JimHadfield: I have to agree with Frank.. Sometimes it is real hard to truly see where PN is going with all of their internal bickering. We will still produce a igh quality product/module that will work with it and others.

What should users of your module regard?

Patrick.c: we have some difficulties with our plugin system and windows servers, the rest works fine most of the time. 75% of all problems occur because people have not filled out the main settings, wrong permissions or missing files.

Landseer: The strongest point is that pncommerce is completely modular and that it can be easily extended. This makes it a very powerful shopping cart solution which will even get better with Smarty, there you can do things which are not possible right now. The 0.82 version still looks to much like PostKart, this is going to change in the next version. Maybe this is the weakest point. But "under the hood" there is nearly nothing from the old program left over, I guess that more than 98% of the code have been changed to meet our requirements. I think that there will be a time when you can see two completely different shops that both use pncommerce, but with their own templates and their own layout.

JimHadfield: The biggest problem?? People do not read the docs...

Anything else you always wanted to say about Postnuke/your module?

Patrick.c: We hope to provide a good module to the community and help Postnuke to cover more areas. In return I hope to get more public informations about the PN development. We have really good programmers in the community, so it would be nice to discuss some changes in the public to get different views. The final decision should be made in the dev team after that. (Just a hint)