You might already have read the message that ImpressCMS is now available on Softaculous. This is of course great news, as it gives a huge number of users an even easier installation option than the standard install we already have. This will enable large number of hosting companies to include us in their offering.
Needless to say that it is very good exposure for the project to a group of users that might have never heard of us in another way.
As we have some ideas of other distribution platforms we could get on, this presents us with another challenge : how can we get a view of the ImpressCMS installations out there? Previously, we trusted the download figures on Sourceforge to give us an idea of the trend. We took it for granted that many downloads would feul multiple installations, so that was an approximate metric at best.
The new distribution channel on Softaculous makes that method impossible. Softaculous doesn't have a way to track the number of installs that were made through their system. Given their architecture, I didn't think it would be possible for them to do that. Softaculous is installed locally at each hosting company. As a hosting company, I wouldn't like the thought of a third party supplier tracking my activities in any way.
So we need another option. Using terminology coming from the economics world, this 'threat' is also an 'opportunity'. For some time, I’ve been frustrated by the lack of information we have about our installation base. We don’t know which versions are out there, we don’t know which module versions are used. That means we have difficulty organising the support of those versions and modules in an efficient way.
With the migration to IPF-based modules in ImpressCMS 1.3, this information would have been very interesting to have. It would let us make an informed decision on which modules to port to the IPF platform based on usage. Without that data, we had to leave it entirely up to the community.
We’ve been talking about how to obtain that information off and on, but it never was really necessary until now. Because of these new distribution channels it becomes interesting to start implementing such a functionality.
In ImpressCMS 1.3.3 beta, we’ve decided to implemented a routine that will notify the ImpressCMS servers about the installation or update of the system core module.
It's a tricky situation where we must find the right balance between the needs of the project (having a view on the installation base) and the privacy of the users. We are aware that privacy is sometimes a hollow term these days with Google and Facebook building business empires on collecting and/or disclosing user data. This is not what we have in mind, and if you look at what we collect from a site, you’ll agree that there is no identifyable data here.
The future (near and a bit further)
This first implementation is very basic. It only notifies the impresscms server with a hashed version of the base URL of your site, in combination with a version number. Before we release 1.3.3 Final, we’ll implement a checkbox that allows users to indicate whether they want to offer this information or not. I’m still not sure if it should be opt-in or opt-out (or another way).
Once we start implementing the online installation of the core and of modules, we will have to collect a larger dataset. Languages, core versions, module versions. This will be a nice challenge, but with huge benefits for site administrators.