Plugin idea: expose community plugins repo and discussion forums from within Elgg itself?

So many times folks report issues and don't include enough info about their Elgg build to be useful. If we exposed interaction with the community via the Admin ui, we could include this information by default (with the option to remove it for privacy's sake).

Similarly, when searching for plugins, we could automatically filter out plugins that aren't compatible with the current version of Elgg they are searching from.

Anybody else think this would be valuable? No promises or anything, just trying to guage interest.

Since I am currently ajaxifying the community it is natural that a nice json API falls out of that. A plugin that Elgg admins can install so they don't need to leave their Admin ui to get help seemed like it would make for a nice second client.

  • I don't know, I see it like a more confusing way to handle problems. The Community Plugins repo (as installer) seems like a great idea thou

  • While the idea might sound interesting at first, I don't think it would be of much use.

    First, (personally) I wouldn't want to expost my site to such an extend. Even if the communication option from the admin UI would be by choice only, it would leave me with a bad feeling. As someone who can evaluate the code (and maybe remove it), I could help myself. But someone who hasn't the ability to code might get the idea that such a functionality might have some hidden "ping home" part and then would really feel bad about its presence.

    Secondly, the option as such might not be of much help - both for the person who seeks help and for the people who want to help. For any problems during installation it wouldn't help at all - as you can't access the admin section yet. If there's a serious issue preventing access to the admin section later, it's of no use either. Then, there are so many details that might be relevant for a specific problem that it would soon end in an overkill to make the json API fetch them all (and someone might not want to expose all the info, e.g. commercial or private plugins installed). And for most problems most of the info would be completely irrelevant. So, the person who wants to help would have to cope with all the unnecessary info only to find out afterwards that the really important facts are missing (because the person seeking help thought that any relevant info would be provided automatically anyway).

    Also, where would the question made via the admin interface appear on the community site? Would it be only within the discussion groups even if the problem is rather specific to a plugin or even more specific to a plugin release? Asking the question is also only one part. The person might also want to know if there were any replies, so it would be necessary to visit the community site anyway. And if the question has been posted via the admin interface it might not be easy for everyone to find the corresponding discussion thread here on the site (so some people might even add a new thread asking the same again...).

    Plugin search could really get improved. As far as I know the community plugin repository plugin would already offer much more search options that are currently just not enabled on the community site (not sure if full text search combined with other filters is available but it would already help A LOT if the filter(s) could be used combined by AND instead of by OR, e.g. category AND Elgg version instead of category OR Elgg version). I don't know if the theoretically available filters are disabled due to performance reasons. If that is the case, adding an API that would basically offer the same additional search functionality would result in the same performance issues.

    Sidenote: there is already an API function to check for plugin updates implemented in the community_web_services plugin. Unfortunately, the API provides the download urls still with the outdated 'pg/' part. I've just noticed this yesterday ( I would be able to provide an updated version of the elgg_update_services plugin for Elgg 1.9 but it would be necessary to fix the already implemented API before it is of full use.

  • Wow. Tough crowd. It is truly amazing how many details you have both assumed about the implementation when this is just a glimmer of an idea!

    I'm doing my best at interpreting this feedback in more of a positive "here are the potential pitfalls you need to watch out for" and not as currently phrased: "it's categorically a bad idea because I can imagine a poor implementation".

    Good grief. :)

    Requirements, based on feedback:
    * the community site needs to remain available for admins who don't have access to their panel or prefer to use the community or whatever...
    * it needs to be clear where the content is going
    * it needs to respect privacy
    * interactions on the community site need to be available within the admin area and vice versa to avoid duplicates and/or confusion.
    * we want to avoid information overload for those helping out.
    * we want to avoid laziness for those asking the questions who might fail to include info because they assumed it would be included already.

  • * the community site needs to remain available for admins who don't have access to their panel or prefer to use the community or whatever...

    I don't know but I don't find it useful. New notifications must be created if someone replied to a problem, and it must be visible and only for admins. Also it will confuse users, to a point that the interface is actually some sort of tech support.

    Also, if there's an URL change in the community repository (such as switching to HTTPS) there has to be an elgg version update, which could be tedious if the update is only for making this "feature" available again. (I faced this situation with the beta plugin installer).

    Similarly, when searching for plugins, we could automatically filter out plugins that aren't compatible with the current version of Elgg they are searching from.

    Yeah... The search won't even let me choose plugins from an specific category and an specific elgg version. (Can't select 'search plugins' inside the "communication" category compatible with elgg 1.8)


    For some reason I don't like this idea at all, but it's just my opinion :3

  • This is a "plugin idea", so no Elgg version update required. And we would probably have redirects for backwards compatibility I would think.

    More distilled feedback:
    * notifications still need to work for replies
    * users might think this is tech support. Need to clarify that it is just community support.
    * don't expose discussions to end users of Elgg based sites.

  • This is a "plugin idea"

    I just don't buy this idea. It will require a work around to mark a thread as "Solved" or "Closed". Why? Well:

    -User John Doe makes a post using the plugin

    -John Doe exchanges replies, gets help and solved problems (Community help, Normal replies Notifications)

    -234 days later John Doe is happy with his network. All of the sudden someone make a post asking for help for a problem that is not related to thread and John Doe is very confused by the new reply notification.

    -John Doe comes back here, ask to notifications to stop without turning off the plugin.


    Seems like a complex plugin, that will require to do some changes to the community site.

  • More feedback:
    * don't let admins get spammed with superfluous notifications

    Any other concerns?

  • wow, so much pessimism here.  Don't be like that guys, life is better as an optometrist.

    I actually think it could be quite useful if done correctly.

  • Evan,

    using the community forum from within your own Elgg installation is not really useful in my opinion, but the repo is. It would be great if the plugin search could use your own installation info to limit the search results (only plugins for version X (or with no conflicts)). This requires conflict information to be available in the repo.

    Maybe it is an idea to add the repo id to the manifest (as different plugins could have the same id). It would be nice to (at least) read the comments about the plugin from within your installation.

    There is also a annoying issue related to the community repo and that is that there is no (nice) url bringing me to the latest version of a plugin. It would nice if brought me to the latest version. I would even settle for<guid>/profile_manager (without the notices). It would make more sense if the url logic would be /plugins/<guid>/profile_manager/<version> instead of /plugins/<guid>/<version>/profile_manager.

    Related to people having problems providing the correct details to report to the community when asking help on a forum, it could also help if you could copy/paste that information from a special admin page. That way, you can also use that information if you ask help via email.



  • I aggree with Mat, if it's done good, it could be a very usefull plugin.

    I suppose you are all talking about the second part of Evan's post.

    Maybe it should be done in a way like: If error display is on, show a button 'support' that posts the error on the communitysite, together with Elgg build, basic server config, etc...and with an optional field to add a description or comment.
    Those posts should also have an option to mark it as solved.
    People could follow up in their admin section to see if there are new posts. Of course if there would be any notifications involved it should only notify you with the first reply on your topic, if it stays unread, all the other posts on that topic don't need to notify the topicstarter, untill it's marked as read, maybe just a red badge on the admins dashboard to show that there are unread comments on his topic. The badge should turn of whenever the topicstarter reads the comments either on his admin or on the community site.

    We could go much further by just linking your community profile to your Elgg admin and show that 'unread badge' on every topic you start here and you got unread comments on...wild thoughts...

    About the first part.

    It would be quite nice to have a sort of 'option' in peoples Elgg community settings where they can connect to their Elgg install, to display their Elgg build, maybe their php version and some other essential info which are exposed by the plugin on their Elgg install.

    Just an idea, maybe stupid, but it could be a sort of profile metadata here on the community. Check the box, fillin your URL and it generates an API key that you could fillin in your Elgg admin. Now your profile on the community shows the info about the Elgg install you are running, the profile itself aren't used for much anyway here.

    I actually always missed this on the community site. the use of extra profile fields that let you show your server configs: Apache or nginx, php version, elgg build,...
    I would find it interesting not only for giving support, but also just to see what people's basic config is.

Feedback and Planning

Feedback and Planning

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