Flexible Content Management System


Interview: Mark West, Core Developer

Contributed by Next weeks interview on Oct 23, 2003 - 11:58 PM

Tell me about your postnuke "career".

I was looking for something a bit different to run a website for myself and a group of friends to orngaise our social lives - going to the pub, events, photo galleries etc. This was late in 2001. I installed postnuke, php-nuke and a few other dynamic website engines/content management solutions. At the time PN was on v.70x. Although I wasn't entirely happy with PN at this stage I read much about the direction of the project and the totally modular style proposed by the API and the general nature of where PN was heading. This fitted in with views on the required architecture for a site engine like PN hence I chose to wait for the .71 release and begin my work here.

.71 was released and many of the aims of my (little) project could now start to be realised. One necesssary feature was missing from my requirements. The core polling solution didn't fufill all of my requirements so I began coding. As with any new technology it was slow going at first - the API was brand new at this stage so the amount of people able to aisist wasn't as high as it is now. But I stuck at it and by june 2002 had the first version of my advanced polls module. At this stage I began to think about releasing

the code for the community. This was going to be my first ever code release and contribution to the open source community so it took a few weeks thinking to make sure that I had the time and commitment to support the module once released.

Hindsight says it was a good decision. The code was well recieved (despite some initial early bugs) and no public site. At this time I was asked if I would be interested in joining the core team. Unfortunately events of that summer meant that I never got to accept that offer - envolution and xaraya were born with PN continuing as well. At this stage I took at step back and concentrated on my own code and a full analysis (almost function by function) of the core code.

The new phpbb based forums came up and were a signifcant improvement on the old cyboards based forums, as has been shown by the success of these over the last 15 months. I began helping people out on the forums and with my analysis of the code on going began helping answer development questions. A few hours here and there became a lot more. By late january of this year i'd

reached a point whereby I felt I had a lot the offer the project and the community as a whole as well as having the time and commitment so stepped up again and volunteered to join the core team.

Since then i've been working more hours than i'd like to count helping shape what will be .8. The amount of work involved in the step that is .8 is something that I underestimated when joining the team. Taking that many modules to API compliance and fully templating the output has an proved to be a huge task.

What is your task in within pnCore?

My primary role is that of looking after the modules development. However I help anywhere where I feel I have something to offer. The main areas this doesn't involve are theming and anything requiring anything remotely graphical. I can write entire modules but get stuck with the admin icon ;)

What is your development like?

I'd probably descibe my development style as professional (due to the requirements of my job). Having taught programming; techniques, data strcutures and algorithms to first year undergrads at Kingston I would also say that I have a very strict style of programming - heavy on layout, consistency and style. Those that have taken a look at the .8 CVS should see a level of consistency of approach across all of the code I have written. I believe that the benefits of this strict, consistent and academic approach

to coding is a stronger, more stable and bug free end product.

The modular nature of PN has meant that even in the core team there hasn't been that much need to work very closely on individual code. Generally things revolve around a lot of discussion around the approach, style and form of a problem or solution before a line of code has been written and then one person goes away and produces that bit of code.

Community has a siginificant impact - I wouldn't be here doing this and spending the time I do if it wasn't for the community. I've made many friends across the world during my time on PN. I make a specific effort to be as prominent as I can on the forums. As coders we can often loose focus while our heads are in the code but time on the forums quickly re-focuses the mind. If people can't use or don't understand the product being produced then the development effort has been wasted. Much of the work I have done

has been centered around solving specific problems that i've encountered while helping others.

What is the biggest difficulty in your development?

The biggest difficulty I find is keeping the requirements of PN light due to my experiences with corporate style computing. PN has and always will work with some basic web hosting but this inherently limits the approach that a developer can take to a solution. For example there is always much talk about integrating product x with product y. If asked this question at work I would recommend directory enabling the product or selecting an alternative that already is. Clearly the average web hosting plan doesn't come with an

LDAP compliant directory.

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

I don't know that's really not up to me (well directly at least). The community will shape the direction based on thier feedback and experiences with the work that myself and others produce. The forums will again play a big part here. I'll soon know if something i've written isn't working as it should :)

What is the weakest/strongest point in PostNuke?

The strongest points are the community and the foundation that this provides. The weak point is documentation but then this is the case with 99% of open source projects and I have to admit that i'm as bad here as every developer that's been interviewed thus far.

Anything else you always wanted to say about Postnuke?

Aside from the name which i've always thought was kinda daft the only thing I can think of for the community to keep the suggestions and comments coming in and if anyone is thinking about wanting to help the team then I can always think of plenty of tasks assistence would be welcome on.

Thank you very much for you time.

No problem - happy to be able to answer a few question. I'll be off to the forums again....... Before I go though - if anyone wants to take a look at the advanced polls module look me up at