[ic] "High traffic list" - ramblings on Interchange

Ron Phipps rphipps at reliant-solutions.com
Thu Mar 16 09:37:56 EST 2006

> From: Andreas Grau
> Sent: Tuesday, March 14, 2006 12:04 AM
> Remark: The introduction is copied over from another posting. I didn't
> want to mix subjects, which is why I am starting a new thread.
> On Tue, 14 Mar 2006 00:00:22 -0500
> Mike Heins <mike at perusion.com> wrote:
> > Quoting Mick Szucs (mick at scrapbookgraphics.com):
> > > Hello, all.
> > >
> > > The warning that this list is "high traffic" seems a little
> now.
> >
> > I remember the warning -- we used to get 15,000 messages a year --
> > I forget where it is.
> >
> > >
> > > I'm running a reasonably successful osCommerce site right now and
> > > looking to move to something that, umm... sucks less.  Interchange
> seems
> > > to be flexible and well written, plus I *heart* Perl.
> >
> > Welcome. I believe osCommerce and the success of PHP is probably one
> > of the reasons Interchange's mail list is not so busy any more.
> This is most certainly one reason. There are many PHP based shopping
> carts, and many hosting provider concentrate on PHP, with little or no
> support for perl.

I think whatever cart is chosen, if you want to customize it, which most
people want to, you have to get in and get your hands dirty.  The
problem is that a lot of people don't want to spend the time to learn
the system and immediately come here asking the most basic questions
without searching the docs/mailing list or even giving it a try.

Interchange I would not consider a cart, I'd consider it a development
platform, with one of its strong suits being e-commerce.  The demo is a
cart, but Interchange is really an environment where the sky is the
limit.  My guess is we wouldn't be able to do half the things we do with
a system like osCommerce.  Interchange has evolved through the years so
it can be expanded with usertags, payment gateways and option types.

Personally I'd rather have it this way, it gives the e-commerce
developers an environment where they can do anything and their hands are
not tied.
> And many of the PHP carts are, well, good looking. Hardly any IC shop
> in the hall of fame is nice and modern. And inviting.

Here are some shops done in interchange all of which are either on the
Hall of Fame or were at one time:


That's what interchange can serve when it's paired with a good designer
and developer.  The cool thing is if I wanted to I could take the code I
built for one of those sites and apply a new style to it and the site
would look different, but still be functional, that's because IC allows
you to remove the design from the code with the template system.

As for PHP shops in general looking good, there are plenty of bad
looking PHP sites.  And regardless of what the engine looks like if the
site looks like crap running on Interchange it's going to look like crap
running on PHP/osCommerce, the engine doesn't suddenly make it look
good, that's up to the designer and developer.

> Next, IC is largely unsupported. If you look in the mailing list
> archives, there are tons of serious questions which remain without
> answer. The other IRC channel is mostly dead.

Many of the people that are on the mailing list have been around for
years working with IC, they've seen the questions many times and if
people would search the list before posting their questions they
wouldn't need to post.  There very rarely is a question these days that
hasn't been explored in the past.  The first thing I do when I have an
IC question is I search using google through the mailing list.  If that
doesn't answer it I look at the docs and if that doesn't do it I search
the code before asking a question.  This method seems to work for me.

> Then, IC is not really documented. Since when I follow IC, there has
> been zero visible progress on the docs.

That's harsh to say, Davor has been formatting and updating the docs
over the last year or so.  The XML docs are a step forward from what we
had before.

> Take an unsupportive mailing list plus zero docs, and you come to
> that IC is actually a closed-shop solution.

You may come to think that, but it only takes a moment to search the
mailing list and see there is a wealth of knowledge and information
there.  IC is not a closed-shop solution, everything is there for you to
look at.  I've been working on a new site, it needs the ability for a
product to be built up using other products as options, and because IC
is open I was able to write my own options module without hacking on the
core code.  Not many systems will let you do that.

> To a newbie, IC is very complex. I can tell you from my own
> And if one doesn't find a helping hand, he is likely to turn away

IC is very complex, even to an experience user, but that's the beauty of
it, it can do anything you throw at it.  As for new users if they are
developers then it's a good idea for them to get their hands dirty and
learn the internals, it will allow them to really see the power of IC.
If the user is just someone wanting to put up a shop, then I think it's
best they hire an IC developer to help them out.  Please don't think
this is a ploy for me to get more business, I've got more then I know
what to do with.

> What will be the consequences ?
> - Further drain of installations
> - Further drain of users
> - Increasingly bad reputation (complex, ugly, unsupported, few users)

Interchange will continue to grow and people will see that it's a great
system, just by looking at sites that run it today.  There are thousands
of users of IC, it's supported free here on the list and on a pay basis
with developers, it's not ugly despite what you say, and being complex
isn't exactly a bad thing.
> In the end, there may be a team of dinosaurs who satisfies himself
> existing clients. Probably rationalizing that IC is technically better
> than anything else.

I challenge you to find another open development platform that can do
what IC can do.  If you need a list of things I've needed IC to do for
clients I'd be happy to post them.
> Anybody remember Univac or Data General ?
> For IC to have a future, I believe it would be necessary to
> a) help people grow from newbie into intermediate state, so reciprocal
> help can build momentum

People have helped the new guys, the problem is that many times the new
guys don't come back to pass along the info, they fade off the mailing
list, that's not something we can fix.

> b) do the marketing work: improve the docs, polish the sites, spread
> word

I got an idea, how about you give Davor a hand in improving the docs?
This has always been a difficult area to get help in.  You could be what
IC needs, someone determined to improve the docs.  As for polishing the
sites, that's the job of the individual owners, not something the core
people can do unless contracted by a site.

> c) leave the ivory tower (see a.)
> I would appreciate it. And I hope we'll get somewhere with my
> provocation. Unless I am the only one who feels like this.
> Best,
> Andreas

I don't think you are the only one that feels like this, but I don't
think your provocation is going to fix any of the issues you bring up.
Are you going to step up and help with the docs?


More information about the interchange-users mailing list