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ImpressCMS Blog > Making Informed Decisions

Making Informed Decisions

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.


The problem


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.


The opportunity


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.


The solution


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.

All posts by fiammybe
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Madfish
Posted: 2012/7/18 15:24  Updated: 2012/7/18 15:24
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 Re: Making Informed Decisions
I think this would be very useful, but at the same time I think the kill switch is essential. Opt out should be ok *if* the admin is informed during installation or upgrade process and has to make a choice about it.
skenow
Posted: 2012/7/19 4:30  Updated: 2012/7/19 4:30
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 Re: Making Informed Decisions
Nicely put, David.

I am an advocate for opt-in, only. If it is opt out, then every installation has another point where the user can run into trouble and the install will fail or the user will abandon the install.

The major OS providers (Windows and Ubuntu, for sure) give the user a message after a failure asking if they would like to send a report to MS or Ubuntu. You can even see the content of the report before it gets sent. The default is to not send the report.

For privacy concerns - only a hash of the site identifier (base url) is sent, along with the version number. We would couple that with a timestamp when we receive it. From that, we would be able to determine if the site had previously submitted version information, but would be unable to determine the site domain.

What about just adding a "register your site" step instead? Let them submit as much or as little information as they'd like to?
Madfish
Posted: 2012/7/19 8:21  Updated: 2012/7/19 8:21
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 Re: Making Informed Decisions
I think one way to make this more valuable to admins (and thereby encourage opt in) would be to make the information exchange two way, offer something useful back.

For example if a site dials in once a week and reports what modules and versions it is running, it would be useful to hand back information about what updates are available for those modules, especially if they are security patches.

So this idea might fit in as part of the 'app store' concept.
fiammybe
Posted: 2012/7/19 9:08  Updated: 2012/7/19 9:08
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 Re: Making Informed Decisions
Excellent suggestion, and in line with my 'future' views. The 'app store', to use a popular term, would be an extension of the addons site. Having a weekly/monthly update check would be great.

It would also help in keeping the system secure, as you are pushing people to upgrade to your latest version. This was one of the points that frequently came up at CMSExpo: how do you roll out security fixes to your userbase?

The current implementation is just a proof of concept, in order to iron out the growing pains of such a solution. I have some plans to build upon that in the near future, before the end of the year.
Vaughan
Posted: 2012/7/20 12:05  Updated: 2012/7/20 12:05
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 Re: Making Informed Decisions
just goto the admin in Wordpress, you see RSS feeds from wordpress & when updates are available, they are displayed in multiple places. with notices in the header of the admin saying updates are available, little numbers next to the plugins menu - plugins (2).

and on the plugins page itself.

people are more than happy with having wordpress contact their sites with update info. why should we think ICMS users are any different?
fiammybe
Posted: 2012/7/20 13:08  Updated: 2012/7/20 13:08
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From: Belgium
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 Re: Making Informed Decisions
They aren't any different according to me

It's best to describe what you are doing in detail, to avoid any confusion later.
Will
Posted: 2012/7/20 16:15  Updated: 2012/7/20 16:15
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From: Dallas, TX
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 Re: Making Informed Decisions
I really don't see any reason for there to be opt in or out at all.

We should just do it, it is well within reason for us to collect statistical data, especially if we are providing services like update notification - security announcements etc - if a user is so inclined, they should have the option of turning it off - but I think that should be an afterthought.

If you are so loud about the option many users will just turn it off because they can - and that means our statistics are just as useless as they are now.

Wordpress and Drupal do this all day long - and because of that you get great info about every plugin/theme/core

Ex:
http://drupal.org/project/void_menu ... ct_release
Will
Posted: 2012/7/20 18:00  Updated: 2012/7/20 18:00
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Joined: 2007/12/4
From: Dallas, TX
Posts: 3556
 Re: Making Informed Decisions
David made a good point ove messenger - the drupal stats are only active if the user chooses to install the update status module (available during install)

http://drupal.org/node/329620