It's time for module ratings

tags:

The number of available Drupal modules is continuing to grow dramatically. Like a lot of other Drupal users, I spend a good deal of time downloading new modules and trying them out to see what they do. Unfortunately, not all contrib modules work as advertised. I may spend several hours working with a new module before realizing there's some small issue with it that prevents it from solving my problem.

Similarly, there are often modules out there that solve problems I didn't even know I had, but I'm simply not aware they exist.

What I want is a resource that leverages the experience of thousands of Drupal administrators. I want to know that I shouldn't even bother with a module because it's too buggy. I want to know what modules other users find useful in specific areas (such as multimedia, file handling, cache issues, etc.).

Other large OSS communities often solve this need for a shared knowledge base by providing user reviews. Mozilla, Thunderbird, Joomla and other modular systems provide user reviews and ratings. It is time that the Drupal community have one too.

When I first started using drupal about three years ago, it was not all that difficult to simply be aware of most modules and how effective they were because there just weren't that many. Now there are multiple new modules released on a daily basis, and I just can't keep up anymore.

Why do we, the Drupal community, not have a shared review/rating system? It's certainly not due to lack of demand. A search for "module ratings" on Drupal.org reveals a great deal of interest in this functionality.

As far as I can tell, the primary reason for not having a rating system for modules is fear. Module developers in particular are concerned with the fairness of ratings. They are concerned with "gaming" of ratings. They are concerned that inexperienced or "dumb" end users may unfairly give a bad review of a module simply because they don't understand how to use it. These are all reasonable concerns. But they are concerns shared by other OSS projects as well. Sure you will see "bad" reviews, giving a module the lowest possible rating along with some inane review such as "tis modules sukcs BEWARES" :) But who cares, it's just noise that will be drowned out by valid reviews. It works for other OSS projects, and it can work for Drupal.


John Forsythe
has released what I believe is the first site dedicated to rating and reviewing Drupal modules drupalmodules.com. No doubt this site will be a source of controversy as developers voice their concerns. But we need this resource now.

I encourage my entire audience (hi, mom!) to register at drupalmodules.com and to submit reviews for both your favorite and most hated Drupal contributions. This is a great way for non-techies to contribute to the community. The site is young, and there is naturally a shortage of ratings on the site now, but that will change as the site brings on more users.

Maybe this database will eventually make its way to Drupal.org. For now we can show our support for this type of system by helping build out the database at drupalmodules.com.

Hey,

Thanks for your support :)

- John

Dear Harry,

We have the same point of view. A rating and review system to Drupal modules is something that we need on the community. Sometimes we spend a lot of time testing and looking for modules in the dark because we don't have any idea about what others users think about.

I'm registered now in drupalmodules.com and hope to help that people on this idea.

Thanks for sharing you vision and the link.

Regards from Brazil
Paulino

I’m intrigued by this post, largely because I thought the whole planet had left learning objects behind, and moved on to the seductive, subversive Web2.0. While it is no doubt correct that Drupal could achieve the same goals as a customized LO repository, what I was hoping for in the post was some advice on the more fundamental problem with repositories: what motivates someone to contribute?

I’ve been working for years on a project called LoLa: Learning Objects, Learning Activities and one insight that we’ve had is that you need to explain to ourselves and our (potential) users WHY they should spend their time typing into the boxes we provide. The core problem is not the technology, but the academic reward structure, which so far has no good way to reward people for this kind of contribution, and (as noted above) shows few signs of changing.

Mr. Proextender
[email protected]

It is interesting that the gridlock for implementing this at Drupal.org, has resulted in people finally getting impatient enough to roll their own solution.

Imho, issues like this, as well as a few others deserve, more attention from the community-as-a-whole than does figuring out how to roll Drupal 7. (especially considering that most people don't even consider Drupal 6 production ready at this point)

Hi Caleb

I was hesitant to make the point, but you did. Drupal seems to be getting ahead of itself. It will likely be months before popular contrib modules are ported to Drupal 6. Without these module upgrades, many sites simply cannot move to Drupal 6. I'm working up the nerve to blog on the fact that with Drupal 6, we may see a sort of race condition develop where site maintainers may be forced to start skipping releases simply because they are too frequent. I too would like to see the core team slow down a bit and take a more serious look at community needs (such as the need for a way to sort through the growing number of modules effectively).

Gosh, it is unfortunate you have not involved yourself in the discussion and contributed work and help on project module improvements. It is also unfortunate that you cast inaccurate and inflammatory statements accusing people of 'fear' when that is not the reason.

Otherwise you could have been a little more informed instead of inflammitory.

I've gotten yelled at by Steven, I'm somebody!

I'm sorry you considered the post inflammatory. I suppose I should have used the word 'wariness' instead of 'fear', sorry.

But the fact remains, the primary reason we haven't seen an officially sanctioned Drupal contrib ratings system is a wariness among developers to have modules judged by users. Don't take my word for it, ask core developers. Watch Kieran's presentation at Drupalcon Barcelona where he says so. I'm not making this up :)

I for one am willing to have my feelings hurt if it means getting some objective feedback from users. If my module sucks, I want to see it given a thumbs down. I think a rating system would bring a greater awareness of general module quality. Most importantly, it would help folks find solutions without spending endless hours trying out modules that may not even work.

Hi Harry, I believe I wrote about this sometime back on Drupal.org. I feel that module ratings will divide the community. Not so much the module devs themselves, but the community as a whole. And from your post, and a few others within the last 24 hours, that has shown to be true. Fork the community and Drupal love goes down.

Maybe, just maybe, if this would have been labeled as "test" to see how the community responds and how useful everyone (users to module devs) responds to module ratings - then present that to Drupal.org as a report of some sort, maybe there would be less division up front and moving forward.

The one thing I do agree with you on, is the resources part. Drupal.org contributors are strapped and until they become unstrapped or new contributors join the Drupal.org efforts things will remain that way. But in the end, although hard to weigh, you have to ask yourself how can I contribute to help keep the community strong? Can / should I get involved on Drupal.org more, help them move forward with the redesign (or some other effort) OR should I give part of the community what they want (module ratings). Which is better for the community?

That is my 2 cents.

Dig in and supply patches. It's not just a matter of tacking on features, it's building up the infrastructure and right now, only about 2-3 people are actually contributing code. I haven't seen Kieran's presentation but the primary reasons I remember for it not being there are different from his. And no, I am not making this up either. Project module working on Drupal 6 is more important then yet another feature on Drupal.org. It's great and all that people have ideas, but where are all these people when it comes to actually rolling up their sleeves and supplying patches and testing? Is any of this more important than getting the core work on project module done so that Drupal.org can be migrated to Drupal 6? If it's not, then why have people not bothered to help get this accomplished? It's not like this information is listed somewhere those involved can find. When will these people coordinate a security review? There is a lot of mis-information out there on the why of things. Calling people afraid is not usually considered the best way to build consensus. It surely is the best way to establish sides and define boundaries though. Just saying 'ratings system' is silly. In order to propose a ratings system, you really need to define what you mean by it. Will all answers stand forever? Will Each version be a separate rating or inherit the previous versions? Will it be a point scale or an up / down? Why? Can people vote more then once? Can people change their votes? Who will supply the patches for project module? and when? So, to any of the 'me too' and 'so there' crowd. Start supplying patches. Oh, I haven't yelled at you and claiming I did doesn't make it true.

Of course the project module efforts are ultimately a higher priority than module ratings. But it's not a matter of one or the other.

Too much thought and debate has gone into the module ratings issue. It's one of those things that should just get done. And John has done it. Users can begin benefiting from his efforts right now. Imperfections can be worked out as the site matures.

John has repeatedly expressed his interest in moving this tool under the official Drupal umbrella. When the time comes, that can be done. But meanwhile, I think we all need to thank John and start rating modules!

My guess is that by the time implementation details are finalized for any official module ratings system, John's site will have thousands of reviews submitted and will have already become very popular. I really think it might be effective to begin using what he's done today and worry about tomorrow, tomorrow :)

Stop debating and start rating! (I should print up T-shirts).

It's not fear, it's time and energy. It's also a matter of figuring out the proper metrics for evaluating a module. Some measures that come to mind immediately include scalability, ease of use, ease of administration, extensibility (interaction with other modules), as well as aggregated metrics of the status of issues (how long they're open, how many, etc.), number of downloads.... How do you measure that with basic ratings? Here's where we're having open discussions: https://groups.drupal.org/drupal-association-improvements-drupal-org Kieran is looking for team leaders: https://groups.drupal.org/node/9710 While stop-gap sites that fork and fragment module discussions may have some value to some, I feel we benefit most from gathering the resources of the full community.

The rating system does not have to be that complex. See the ratings done by other OSS projects such as Mozilla and Joomla. In fact, we'd be better served by keeping them as simple as possible so that users don't feel intimidated and are free to rate modules even though they not be able to judge stuff like scalability. Don't overthink this. I agree that it would be nice if the community could work together to come up with the ideal solution. But folks have been requesting a rating system for years (see https://drupal.org/node/24689 dating back to June, 2005) and nothing has been done until the creation of drupalmodules.com. A rating system is certainly not something that you'd find at the top of a developer's priority list. But I bet you'd find it pretty high up on a Drupal administrator's wishlist :)

Drupal definitely need some modules review and rating system.
Thanks John.

I agree. If we could come together and create module reviews and rating systems the world would be a better place.

Your findings are similar to mine. Other OSS projects have far more ways to discover new modules/plugins than Drupal. I also understand some of the comments that we all should chime in and help out the projects doing the drupal.org redesign. However I don't think that this post (nor mine) should be considered as a flame towards other people. It is a sign that there is an itch. Now we just need people to scratch it.

1) we don't have ratings on Drupal.org because a very limited number of people have been helping to port project* module to D6, including making it views-enabled to support ratings functionality
2) there is nothing wrong with John's site other than that a) he is scraping data rather than helping with the XML interface and b) it would have been nice to put that time into d.o. itself

I encourage my entire audience to either help out with the project* modules, or to donate to dww and hunmonk to do it for them.

I am just trying to understand your perspective better. Your post suggests that John did something wrong by scraping the data and by not contributing his time on d.o.

If that's the case, would drupaldojo.com, themegarden.org and other third-party drupal sites out there trying to help drupal users also be classified as wrong?

If the module rating system is already implemented on this site, then why not transfer the code to Drupal.org?

The whole issue here is that drupal.org maintainers are hesitant to enable module ratings.

I believe it's being over-thought and just needs to get done, which is what John has done.

I think I was one of the earliest drupal users to find out about drupalmodules.com and comment about it on lullabot.com

Frankly, I can't understand the dismissive comments about the site. Someone desperately wanted to fill a gap in the community and spent hundreds of hours on it and the last thing that should happen to them is having to defend their effort.

I am going to show my support by registering on the site.

Very well put. I couldn't agree with you more.

I'm working on the Conversation Pivots research project, which is also my school work :) It will go live on drupal.org soon. What it does is to list related forum conversations on a module page. It will give people some good sense of what's going on with the module.

drupalmodules.com is very well done and offers cool functions to find modules quickly. I think it is good to have sites like that or the drupal themegarden because they provide faster access if you are looking for themes or modules and it's good to have diversity.

I couldn't agree more! It's about time that we see a user review section for Drupal modules! It gets pretty frustrating hearing about a module, researching the module for reviews and then deciding whether its right for me. Save us time and create something like this!
- Frank - the auto repair blog

I think http://drupalmodules.com is great. John's taken an entrepreneurial initiative to solve an important need in the community. The survey Dries did in September 2007, validates that module quality and selection is a huge issue for the community. Drupal.org has limited resources, and requires a much higher bar in terms of security, and scope integration. I welcome people pointing out the many projects ongoing to improve Drupal.org. 1) Daniel Zhou and Paul Resnick from the University of Michigan are working on a recommendations system for Drupal.org. We've been working together for almost a year now giving them access to data,and putting prototypes on scratch.drupal.org. Daniel, Paul, Gerhard, Narayan, and myself have been working hard to get this deployed and ultimately I think it will be a great next generation recommendation system. 2) The Drupal association has made the Drupal.org redesign the number one priority for 2008. That means community donations and money earned through conferences can be applied to getting a great design. Infrastructure funding was the top priority in 2007, and we've added enough hardware and architecture improvements to support growth. 3) I've been working with John Forsythe lately on cooling things down on the hosting forums, improving business listings of hosting companies. John's been a long time contributor and he knows how to contribute. I'd welcome his suggestions based on what he learns on http://drupalmodules.com. Drupal has experimentation in it's culture, and John's done a great experiment. 4) Gerhard is the infrastructure lead on Drupal.org. He's got the final say on what get's run on Drupal.org. It's a huge responsibility and we always defer to him. What that means is he's not going to randomly add 5-10-15 modules to Drupal.org that haven't undergone a security review, or that might have long term maintenance consequences. That limiting of features on Drupal.org has allowed for security, maintenance, and scalability. It's a trade-off and overall I am happy with the improvements to https://drupal.org in 2007. John and Caleb can add suggested improvements to Drupal.org through the infrastructure issue queue, or through the drupal.org redesign group. Both will be welcome. Cheers, Kieran

Indeed I admit that I´m a "past" Drupal - user, who switched away around a year ago after spending 3 months of building my first Drupal page.
Everybody said "Drupal is great". Maybe, or indeed certainly. There are a lot of great sites running Drupal.
But not for me. In daily life I simply had to spend too much time to search for modules which then have been outdated ... mainly visible only after installation.
Currently I´m working with phpwebsite and wordpress, and starting there is much easier.
But looking at drupalmodules.com I think I will give a new try for one of my future projects to Drupal again, hoping to come to an end of testing sooner.
Andi from http://www.alopezie.de

Drupal is certainly an interesting platform with some great possibilities. I'm still getting to grips with wordpress though :) I'm planning on switching to drupal soon though, I think it may be better.

Amy

Hi Harry, this is where I first heard of drupal modules. This article sounds interesting to me and of course I will support the system. Thank you for sharing this with us.

that was a really useful post,

thanks

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