With seemingly high staff turnover, new competitors popping up, senior management shakeups and a major shift in how support is offered - it looks like the perfect storm for a CMS in turmoil.
It could be. It could also be one of the best things that has happened to ExpressionEngine in a number of years.
With EllisLab losing great people like Lisa Wess it is all too easy to focus on the negative. Here’s a positive: everybody working on ExpressionEngine today is actively contributing to the core. Fixing bugs, working on enhancements and suggesting usability fixes.
Front-line support at EllisLab will not just listen and help, but actively take on board our feedback to make a better product. That’s the theory, anyway.
So while they’ve lost some great members of their team recently, they’ve potentially developed a more agile and responsive one in its place. Besides, those folks are better placed elsewhere - leading me to...
One of the biggest draws of ExpressionEngine for years has been its developer community, and perhaps the most prominent is Pixel & Tonic. In case you missed the news, they’re building their own CMS and Lisa Wess has joined them.
What does this mean for ExpressionEngine? Well P&T will still develop for it for the foreseeable future - we’re safe there.
But primarily it is competition, Blocks takes some of the strongest concepts of ExpressionEngine and builds on them, and in some cases enhances them. It uses a powerful templating engine that can blow the socks of Expression’s increasingly rusty engine - it’s called “Twig”.
It’s not just Blocks though. Drupal 8 is also pushing towards using “Twig”. You’re going to be hearing that name a lot - and what it is doing is helping to erode the niche advantage ExpressionEngine has had over most other CMS’ - it wraps around your design, not the other way around.
So then - with all of this new competition what does it mean? EllisLab need to get it together and ramp up the quality of their releases. If they don’t, they’ll ultimately fail... so we’re pretty confident they’re working on things.
Fresh blood and a new culture. It may turn out to be yet another EllisLab refresh, if it does then they’re wasting precious time when Blocks and Drupal are sweeping in to steal their users. But if they can revitalise the community, ramp up releases and to truly innovate.
Our suggestion: monthly town halls where the EE community votes up questions and the top 10 get answered in a live webcast.
So with the new support structure we all know exactly where we stand. If we want technical support, we have to pay for it.
Sure, it would be nicer if it was free - but it means that a high responsibility is on EllisLab to deliver and frankly the rates are rather reasonable.
The community is also shaking things up in this arena with the private beta of the Stack Exchange website now online and slowly-but-surely taking off.
It’s far too easy to be negative and worried about these changes, but if you consider some of the potential of these announcements and decisions there is a lot to be positive about. The company seems to have some direction again and they have increasing competition forcing them to do well or fail.
As developers, we need to be agile. We need to keep on top with developments from all corners of the web development world and move forward with confidence that if Tool A becomes extinct or not fit for purpose, we can simply substitute it for Tool B.
We’re very nearly at that point.