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Why have you forsaken blogs?


djpretzel
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There's a sales question that's been sitting, unanswered, since Monday:

I replied on Tuesday, but it looks like IPS aren't going to approve my response. It's a shame, because I have a lot of faith in the IPS team, I admire IPS4 as a platform, and I want it to succeed... but at this point, anyone looking to IPS4 as a robust - or really even basic - blogging platform, should probably look elsewhere. I think IPS should just own this reality and lay out some basic plans for improvement, chief among them support for categories and for blog-specific sidebar blocks/navigation and for a blog homepage that isn't just a giant list of blogs but actually has some rudimentary discovery capabilities.

One browses the current IPS blog implementation and wonders "How many actual blogs have the IPS devs visited??" - it doesn't appear to be grounded in the reality of how the rest of the Internet uses blogs, and is missing basic features that have been present since the origin of the form.

At any rate, because I believe it has value, here is my response from the sales thread... I'm not sure if IPS intend to provide a response to the user, who is asking a completely reasonable question, but approving my own response seems preferable to letting the question just sit there for four days...

Quote

Posted Tuesday at 5:59 PM (edited) · Hidden

I'm not sure you're going to get a direct answer from IPS regarding IP.Blog... I truly hope that one day they cycle back, acknowledge its many shortcomings, and address them, but at this point in time, IP.Blog pales in comparison to Wordpress, for even basic functionality.

Wordpress of course has a giant ecosystem of themes, plugins, addons, etc., and it's not fair to ask IP.Blog to compete on that level, but I'm just talking about basic blogging functionality.

Case in point: IP.Blog has no support for categories.

This is one of the reasons that the main IP.Blog "homepage" is nothing more than a listing of blogs - without fundamental support for categories, there's no way to perform more interesting layouts to allow for discovery of content. When asked about categories, the IPS response has been that tags should be sufficient, however tags and categories are fundamentally different... and their OWN reason doesn't seem to apply to IP.Pages, which supports categories, or IP.Gallery, which ALSO supports categories... it makes no sense.

Likewise, when customizing the blocks on the side of blog pages, there's no support for per-blog blocks, offering things like a breakdown of posts WITHIN that blog across categories WITHIN that blog - a staple of blog navigation - or blog-specific calendar navigation, which is again something you'll see plenty of.

I hope moderators approve this post and also take a second to do some soul-searching on this product - the IPS4 framework/platform already supports ALL of the features that would be needed to make IP.Blogs a most robust blogging platform that, short of competing within Wordpress in the real world, would at least have basic feature parity for core blogging functions. That functionality just needs to be intelligently extended & applied to the IP.Blogs plugin, which at the moment is the most red-headed of red-headed stepchildren in the IPS stable...

 

Edited by djpretzel
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As predicted, my response was not approved. @Lindy did respond and while he's generally been knocking it out of the park lately and I have a lot of respect, I feel like the answer was a little... misleading/incomplete.... especially by the standards he's set for himself, and the standards by which IPS generally operate.

Would love to see a mea culpa & specific plan for the future. Would only really take a few things:

  1. Global categories
  2. Per-blog categories
  3. Blog homepage that provides browsing by category and statistics (breakdown of total entries) across categories, and allows a more dynamic presentation of featured entries, with a single larger featured entry and several smaller featured entries, not unlike major news outlets/blogs
  4. Sidebar blocks that are specific to that blog, configurable for that blog

That's it - that'd be huge, I think it would provide instant return-on-investment for most users, I think IPS could use it themselves right here on this site to great effect, I think it would help differentiate blog entries from other content types on IPS, and I think it would generally make the product less embarrassing - rather than telling people looking for basic blogging capabilities that SHOULD be in the IP.Blog product that they can use IP.Pages instead, which *IS* a cop-out (if that's the case, why even have IP.Blog?), IPS could hold their heads high and point to the significant features that IP.Blog automates & offers out-of-the-box.

And the underlying IPS4 framework supports all of this already...

 

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  • Management

I appreciate your kind words, djpretzel. Your post was simply not approved because it really wasn't relevant to the pre-sales inquiry - the poster asked for links to existing blogs, not expansive commentary on what you feel the blog needs for your needs. Prospective clients can read these forums as well and you've shared your thoughts here. Nothing personal, it just wasn't the appropriate time/place... this is. :)

Hopefully, it's apparent by now that we develop based on current and future market demand. If I'm being honest, we actually considered dropping Blog altogether for IPS4 and rolling it into Pages as it's frankly the app that people seem to care the least about in terms of evolving. Ultimately, we obviously decided to refactor it for IPS4 with an emphasis on community blogging and then garnering feedback and shaping any future needs based on market demand. There's been little feedback since, so it's remained as-is and people largely seem content with it.

As far as categories and such are concerned, that's not a simple change and in fact, requires heavy structural changes. Again, when we were developing for IPS4, we looked at how people use Blog and developed accordingly. There were actually topics you may be able to find in which people were calling for basic, simple community blog functionality. That's what we delivered.

We remain open to feedback, just as we always are, but again, we wouldn't be interested in investing resources into doing something virtually nobody is asking for and we don't see a strong market for. Conversely, Pages is our up and coming app -- in fact, it's close to outselling the Forums app and many are buying it instead of Forums - so naturally, we're going to continue putting a lot of effort into growing the Pages platform. Likewise, Commerce is gaining traction for some alternate uses and we will likely be putting further resources into that. Gallery also has a strong need for some love and we'll be making a sweep through that very shortly. We still need to complete our big update to Chat as that too is a popular app. I would say Blog and Downloads are what they are, not necessarily because of sales, but because how people use them. Those who purchase it tend to just use it and go about their day. Again, the demand for adding further pizazz doesn't seem to be there and if the need and demand does increase, naturally we'll reconsider. The demand may eventually lead us to roll Blog into Pages - you never know. There's little sense in developing something that people aren't going to use, especially when another product in the lineup can easily meet the need and then some. 

Short version: we're not vehemently opposed to the items on your list, but the demand is very low while the demand for other apps is very high. 

Hope that helps.

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11 hours ago, Lindy said:

Short version: we're not vehemently opposed to the items on your list, but the demand is very low while the demand for other apps is very high. 

Hope that helps.

@Lindy That helps immensely; I appreciate the candor.

I'm asking you to read & consider ONE more post from me on this topic, and then I'll shut up for at least another year :)

The only real questions are:

  1. Is it possible you are overestimating the contentedness of customers with IP.Blog 4? I'm not content, and it seems like others aren't as well... this is anecdotal of course, but so are most of the responses from IPS on these topics...
  2. Is it possible you are underestimating the market interest in a more robust platform that offers first-class forums with a solid blogging module as well?

Presumably, you have better metrics than we do as to both questions... could we see them?

Is this a gut feeling, or is it based on hard data?

Not asking for sales figures that you might not want to reveal, but what about relative percentages?

I don't feel wrong/inappropriate asking this question, since you've made these statements and they affect the future functionality of a product I've purchased which, to paraphrase your own (honest & appreciated) post, seems like it's on the backburner, and will stay there indefinitely.

There are really two follow-up questions:

  1. What metrics/data are you using to assess the answers to both questions, above?
  2. What dollar value (ROI) would you be looking for to justify the proposed enhancements to IP.Blogs?

Because... to be honest, I think you're missing an opportunity here.

If you've got other fish to fry, by all means you should fry them, and I'm thrilled to hear that IP.Pages is receiving a lot of energy & focus. But I'm wondering whether that focus needs to be zero-sum - obviously you've got finite development resources on hand, but there are other avenues:

  • Depending on the answer to #2, above, what about a kickstarter/crowdfunding campaign? If you can put a dollar figure on the benefit to IPS to proceed with these changes, which would offset any perceived contentedness and/or lack of interest, is there harm in seeing if the goal could be met?
  • In a similar vein, what about subcontracting enhancement of IP.Blogs to a solid third-party developer, having them do the heavy-lifting, and then swooping in at the end for a code review? I know you've expressed concerns that it wouldn't be coded to your standards, but I think you've got some talented folk who grok the IPS framework pretty well... and if the alternative is that IP.Blog just stagnates indefinitely, is that really a reasonable risk to consider as prohibitive?

Again, I know from past conversations that you are reluctant to pursue the above options, but isn't doing one or the other, or even both, preferable to letting this product stagnate? Especially when it has been stripped of useful functionality that was previously available in 3.X?

Edited by djpretzel
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For all the complaints about Blog, there are some features of it which mean that using Pages in its stead is a backwards step too. I love the group feature, where we get the presentation of the blog's contributors. And I love the cover photo. Now that I've seen them I don't want to let go, which is why I'd love to see Blog have these little tweaks here and there (mainly centering on categories) rather than use the otherwise wonderful Pages for my group blogging.

 

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  • Management

DJ - I'm not discussing sales figures. Suffice to say, Blog is the lowest selling app we offer. It pretty consistently accounts for less than 10% of app sales. That's all I'm prepared to discuss from a numbers standpoint, so please don't ask for more information. 

I realize your line of thought is "if you put more into it, they will come." Obviously we have access to data you don't - we log sales inquiries, trends and patterns. The amount of inquiries related to advance blogging features is virtually non-existent. The demand beyond basic community blogging just is not there. I'm not sure what else to say on that, unfortunately. 

We are not looking to make any sweeping changes to Blog, including outsourcing, at this very moment, but once we have further developed the suite and incorporated more of what people are asking across the suite, I assure you we'll evaluate Blog's fate and future and if it makes sense to pump resources into evolving the product - we may do just that. We're also not opposed to considering other options. Right now, Blog is steady and from a sheer business standpoint, we're happy to leave it as-is for the immediate future. 

I appreciate your commitment to bettering the product -- I'll definitely keep your feedback in mind. 

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On 5.3.2016 at 7:02 AM, djpretzel said:
  1. Global categories
  2. Per-blog categories
  3. Blog homepage that provides browsing by category and statistics (breakdown of total entries) across categories, and allows a more dynamic presentation of featured entries, with a single larger featured entry and several smaller featured entries, not unlike major news outlets/blogs
  4. Sidebar blocks that are specific to that blog, configurable for that blog

 

This is something I believe may be accomplished by the current Pages application functionality. Otherwise you want something that is close to the Forums idea. I am not opposite your ideas, but seams to be this will not be quick here on this platform. Let them do what they are doing at least they are trying their best and quickly respond to support requests. In other places this is not so.

Edited by कृष्णा
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On 05/03/2016 at 4:20 AM, Lindy said:

If I'm being honest, we actually considered dropping Blog altogether for IPS4 and rolling it into Pages 

 

If I am honest, I was trying to figure out why IPS kept it since Pages has blog templates and is used as a blog by many. It already has most of the things the OP wants for blogs, and when we polled our community about whether or not they would use this app there was a resounding "no".

I'd prefer more focus on the gallery in terms of acting on feedback since it is one of the apps that can be the heart of someone's site and there are still things clients may need in order to make that so.

Edited by Claire Field
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Do you think there would be scope, @Lindy, to have some of those Blog features ("Contributors to this blog" and the cover photo) built into Pages as options? In that situation Pages would have scope to be Blog with all the add-ons that people are asking for already present, wouldn't it? And in that case you wouldn't even need to look into further developing Blog into the future because its days would be numbered: "You want Blog? Follow this Guide to learn how to build it in Pages."

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I'm with @Lindy about the IP.Blog.  I own 2 licenses but won't be using it on my sites.  I would much rather IPS work on the chat app or commerce app.  Having multiple rooms would be huge for my community.

Maybe an idea @Lindy - toss the IP.Blog app to one of the good developers and allow them to take a percentage of the profit moving IP.Blog to a marketplace app?  Anyone who already owns IP.Blog could get a credit in the marketplace.  Just an idea, maybe that's not possible.

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In 3.4 everyone on my site creates "blogs" on the forums because they hate the actual blogs. They create forum topics like "My 2016 progress" and blog in that topic all year. I used to PM them and tell them that's what blogs are for. No one bought into it. They didn't like that blogs had less traffic due to having to click away from forums in VNC. "Blogs are too hidden" and so forth. I had to create special "Blog" forum categories which I hate, but they love. Some members tried to use blogs but no one ever commented or Liked and they gave up. So did I.

I want to change this mentality in v4. Now, all content is streamed as one, and that is a giant step forward in blog exposure, the #1 problem for me (and I am sure others).

IPS CS4 is supposed to be all about expanding beyond forums, that's why the forum app was removed from core. I'd like to see some of these features as well. It does seem it is the red headed step child of apps.

I can totally see how popularity went down. As a customer I'd be tempted to drop it was well, and I'm sure many did. I'm sure many of those customers did not buy again in 4.0. So I get the numbers. (I still have it though.)

I feel like v4 answers the exposure problem but the blogs still lack features and people would rather use the forums, why? Because blogs don't offer much beyond a forum post. Or even a status update. It's the full editor, just in a different area. So post where the action is, forums. But v4 is supposed to help us spread that activity out, so why not make blogs more attractive and feature-rich? Admins would feel more confident introducing, or re-introducing blogs to members, and you'd probably see a lot see more renewals. Otherwise members will just use the forums and we are back to the same.

20 hours ago, Lindy said:

I realize your line of thought is "if you put more into it, they will come."

I do feel there is something to that. You have to go where your data tells you but a lot of the problems with blogs are people are jaded from the 3.4 blogs, and they are really the same thing.

I'm glad you will be looking at them again soon and hope they can improve. Blog categories (as suggested) would solve a lot. People are more apt to post in a category than blindly. Just like on the forums. They want to post where there is like-content, and where they feel people will browse looking for that content. If you have Food and Technology on your site, then they will likely use the forum if they can't pick the appropriate blog category to blog in.

As they are now, they are just a forum post in an area much less trafficked. Adding some of these suggestions would set them apart as blogs and make them more attractive to users, imo.

I would not like to see the blog app disappear, but I would not be opposed to Blogs being rolled into Pages. One app and the blogs utilize all that Pages has to offer; categories, fields, blocks, and is a pre-set database with its own settings. Of course they would need to convert. But please don't discount it as an app that does not need attention, it has a sole purpose, for people to blog and index their own content that is not mixed with others' like a forum. It's their blog. But right now, it is just not attractive enough for users.

Blogging directly from the user page would be a nice, simple addition as well to boost activity. Like when on FB, you have your page and choose what to do from it. Blogs is already a tab there. (I realize the +Create menu does this but is not on mobile and in the tab would be a bonus.)

Thanks for reading and considering.

PS. Hope group blogs are sorted soon. An author used to be able to add other authors. Now they are simply user group blogs set by admin.

Edited by chilihead
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You, actually are underestimating the blog functionality. People are dying to getting a forum to getting linked to wordpress blogs!! They don't wanna migrate, simply because no one with a forum provides a full blog functionality. One your IPB has that, you will see lots of interests into it. In my case, I am with IPB only because of some resemblance with a blog.

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I have many Wordpress sites which I will happily move to IPS if the blogging app was better. Anyone with a community wants to have blogging and forums integrated under a single sign-on. I have built bridges and other silliness to have forums and Wordpress living on the site and it is major pain.

I have recommended IPS forums and Wordpress for blogging many times. I usually just have them publish the Wordpress blog at domain.com and have the IPS forums at forums.domain.com. I have them shut off the blog app.

I really think it is a brand recognition problem. People don't see IPS for a content management system or blogging. All they see is forums. A better job of marketing may help this. I will say that Pages is a big improvement for IPS4. The potential is unlimited with Pages. However, there is a HUGE need for better documentation.

The support and community is much stronger for Wordpress and that is a free product! I believe if IPS devoted one person to documentation and helping customers build custom features the marketplace will grow exponentially and the increase in IPS sales for all apps will more than pay for that person to be employed by IPS.

Just me two cents.

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I have built bridges and other silliness to have forums and Wordpress living on the site and it is major pain.

Yep, that's a key thing, isn't it? How many times do we see posts asking for a bridge between IPS4 and Wordpress or Joomla? Those people aren't thinking of using Blog instead of their existing product; they're looking for convoluted and unstable work-arounds. Blog's obviously not doing everything that people who do use contemporary blogging software want from it.

Edited by Meddysong
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On Sunday, March 6, 2016 at 11:18 PM, Lindy said:

Right now, Blog is steady and from a sheer business standpoint, we're happy to leave it as-is for the immediate future.

 

I am one of the non-vocal customers who has purchased all of the IPB products and has been paying renewal fees for years in the hope that one day IPB would address the many shortcomings of the products and I wouldn't have to spend a fortune on developers to meet my needs which might not be all that unique.

Great strides have been made on all of the other products, but the Gallery and the Blog need additional features before I could actually use them and neither product seem to get much development resources allocated to them.

Every time IPB has released a new version I check the release notes to see if either of the products has received any kind of attention and invariably they don’t.

What I find interesting is that I have never once received any kind of inquiry from IPB asking for my feedback via any means about any of their products and I’ve been a customer for a long time. 

I would welcome a better approach going forward to engage your customers in determining how your products should evolve (or not).  If IPB does decide to slow down development, eliminate a product, or refuse to add some particular feature, a better mechanism should be implemented to allow the developer community to step in (in timely fashion) and provide a solution if customer demand warrants it.

I think there is “customer demand”, for further development of both the Gallery and Blog, maybe not overwhelming but there all the same.   How can IPB better meet the needs of this portion of their client base?

Edited by LAUGHTERISGR84U
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1 hour ago, LAUGHTERISGR84U said:

I think there is “customer demand”, for further development of both the Gallery and Blog, maybe not overwhelming but there all the same.   How can IPB better meet the needs of this portion of their client base?

I understand what you are talking about and I am not opposite to your opinion. Practically speaking IP Suite is the mass product. And no mass product (except Dollar) can satisfy everyone expectations. For the small company they are trying on the good level and are noticeable on the market. I agree they may do better and they are providing signals that they will do.

Edited by कृष्णा
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The collective information technology experience shared amongst all of IPB’s clientele would be compelling if we all shared our backgrounds with each other. 

We all have a vested interest in IPB being a success for the long term and some of us would actually jump at the chance to be of service to the community in some fashion or another if we were simply asked.  The product(s) could exponentially leapfrog ahead with the help of a select group of customers helping out with targeted bug detection, documentation, product demonstration pages, forum support, etc.

 

Edited by LAUGHTERISGR84U
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4 hours ago, LAUGHTERISGR84U said:

I am one of the non-vocal customers who has purchased all of the IPB products and has been paying renewal fees for years in the hope that one day IPB would address the many shortcomings of the products and I wouldn't have to spend a fortune on developers to meet my needs which might not be all that unique.

Great strides have been made on all of the other products, but the Gallery and the Blog need additional features before I could actually use them and neither product seem to get much development resources allocated to them.

Every time IPB has released a new version I check the release notes to see if either of the products has received any kind of attention and invariably they don’t.

What I find interesting is that I have never once received any kind of inquiry from IPB asking for my feedback via any means about any of their products and I’ve been a customer for a long time. 

I would welcome a better approach going forward to engage your customers in determining how your products should evolve (or not).  If IPB does decide to slow down development, eliminate a product, or refuse to add some particular feature, a better mechanism should be implemented to allow the developer community to step in (in timely fashion) and provide a solution if customer demand warrants it.

I think there is “customer demand”, for further development of both the Gallery and Blog, maybe not overwhelming but there all the same.   How can IPB better meet the needs of this portion of their client base?

Bless you @LAUGHTERISGR84U for your infinite amount of patience, hopefulness, and charity in supporting IPS with the hope that all IP.Apps might one day be fully developed to their greatest potential.  

On a more serious note,

  • Maybe you should be vocal.  It's your community and your purchase that are ultimately on the line, so why wouldn't you want to passionately articulate your interests to further your website?  You don't get any bonus points for being silent.  
  • This entire community is their feedback (and you're always invited to post in it), so I encourage you to make full use of it.  As a fellow customer, I've voiced my concerns plenty ... because I'm paying for the privilege of doing so!  
  • In terms of engaging customers, at least they're trying.  (And it's only been one month so far, but hey, it's a start.)  And they just came up with a really fancy mechanism to signal to clients and the developer community if they're going to pursue an idea or not.  It took them until Feb 2016 to brainstorm and implement this really fancy mechanism, but ... at least it's a start.  
  • They've requested feedback on IP.Gallery:

 

 

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  • 2 months later...
3 hours ago, laltroweb.it said:

i've read this... then, if i have fine understood, renew blog license isn't a Great idea, im right?

The problem is that framework won't allow you to run an outdated version from thr app. It will be disabled and won't be available on frontend anymore. So that's not a good idea if you have content and your users uses it.

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