Nine mothers can't make a baby in a month...

Andrew Boon posted 4th of August 2011 in News. 24 comments.

...and we don't need nine babies either. I am talking about web software development now. A recent Techcrunch article quotes former Facebook CTO saying how it is possible to build a Facebook clone with about 250 people in 2 years. It's an interesting read with some valuable insights and yet, after many years in community software development, this assertion feels flawed to me. That's fine, surely, for we all have a little bit of a guru blood in us and can teach those smart-ass CTOs a lesson or two... but we should probably keep it to ourselves. The only reason why I decided to confer this one is its relevance to the current state of affairs in BoonEx development department. 

Been there, know that.

Interestingly, we have had about 250 people in total working on BoonEx over the range of about 2 years some time ago. Hectic times to say the least, but parties we good. As for the product, well... let me just say it wasn't the brightest time in BoonEx history. We ended up with 3 unfinished platforms half-dozen sites and huge wad of crappy code in Dolphin.  

We've had a small team first, a big team later, and a small team now, again [long deep sigh of relief]. What we've figured out is that after you have 2-3 really good developers new ones only add trouble. They start to need managers. Worse, they start fixing each other's bugs. Even worse, they do things differently. One may think that managers can fix this. Not really. For good developers managers are a distraction, a potential trigger for inspiration leaks. I know, I distract our developers all the time. A very small group, given a right direction, creates beautiful code, almost subconsciously churning out elegant algorithms and approaches. It's inspiration. Time, money, managers and, sadly, helpers kill inspiration.

Time, people and money matter less. Vision matters more.

Even with things as mundane as building a Facebook clone, it's not the amount of developers, time or funding that makes or brakes it. It's all about the ideas and direction. World's greatest innovations appeared from garages and napkin doodles, forged in a matter of days, if not hours. Moreover, I strongly believe that once fabrication stage starts taking more than a few months - it's a bold sign of a blackhole, wrong direction or a bad idea altogether. Good product will appear quickly and it's ok that it may take decades to polish it.

Dolphin was born after about two weeks of development. Seriously. We had the first sale the day it came out. In two months is was already #1 community/dating platform on the market. Ten years down, it powers hundreds of thousands sites and is still being polished. Trident swallowed 3 years of work of our best people and we scrapped it. 

With Dolphin 8 development, we put forward very high requirements and only let a couple of people touch it. It's going great. I'm sure it'll appear sooner than it would if we had a developers army or millions of VC dollars to blow away.


All in all, I guess I just wanted to say that it may be possible to create a Facebook clone with 250 people in 2 years, but it is absolutely possible to create a better social networking site in one year if you go down to just 5 people.

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Who wants to create a clone of anything anyway. You can't beat Facebook at their own game. For example the site I just bought a license for will probably use less than a fourth of the functionality of stock Dolphin, but it does the functions I need better than any platform I could find, by far... Buddypress by a hundred miles, Organic Groups in Drupal, geolocation built in like nothing else... well done. Have never spent half of $500 bucks on a piece of software in my life, and I know it's the best see more investment I've made in a long time.
Great Post. Totally agree with what you said there!
see moreThis hits the nail. It's all about motivation and not so much of technicallities and management. A great motivation is 70% of a project accomplished even before it starts.

When you go for Genius it needs 98% of hard work and 2% luck.

There has been a major study for over a fecade on this and it backs up the findings of Andrew.
scroll down to this clips

"The surprising truth about what motivates us" ...
For three years, all I have wanted is a website that works. After all this time, I am nowhere closer to having a smoothly running website, than I was when I first started.

I am an inch away from throwing in the towel.
I'm dumber that you, I'm pretty sure it has been four years for me. Maybe I should just have taken those five minutes and built it in Ning.
Don't throw in the towel - just migrate to a better platform. Help is on it's way ;)
When I see the list of tickets, it'll sure take more than 3 months to release Dolphin 8. I haven't upgraded since 7.05 and I'm still waiting for ticket 600 (timezones) to be resolved. What happened to it anyway ? Duplicate ? Vanished now ? No resolution in the near future ?
its really good to share the vision of Boonex. When a product is out, the product is used by the site owners in the first hand, then the consumer.
and the member of my site doesnot comes to boonex and gives the feedback. so, to face the feedback confidently and maturely it would be nice if Boonex will include "priority/premium/knowledgeable site owners/admins" in the [by invite only] locked discussion of any upcoming logics and features. once after the discussion. Boonex can do the code. see more so that when the oven is ready we all will be glad to embrace the product rather than complaining this is not what i expected and this is good/bad etc. which will create unwanted stress/confusion over unity.

We like Boonex.
We like to give feedback, submit bugs, ideas and dreams...
We also would like to "take part/listen/debate" with boonex about your logics,upcoming features etc
We(not me, at-least somebody whos more knowledgeable) can be with you to support you more than you can expect out of your developers.

Wish you consider this!!!
I totally agree with you, we as site owners don't feel our feedback is important, although we are the actual user of the platform, and we know what is the practical issues of it. For example, I moved from Ning to boonex one year ago, I notice that the page views per visit is much less than Ning site, and it is due to small tweaks in the design and the way the platform operate, and I know what need to be done to reach there. But I don't feel my experience and feedback will be taken seriously since see more it require hard work to be done
As members of the Boonex (Unity) community, we have to share somewhat in this blame. For example, how many legitimate issues go completely ignored without any response in the forums. I'm not talking about my own, or ones written with such poor English that it's reasonable to say you can't understand what's being said...But real problems, that even the community ignores, so when your bug ticket takes a while for any developer to listen to it, realize that there aren't very many developers, but hundreds see more if not more in the community, and we can't even respond to basic requests for help.

A valid counterpoint might be that Boonex is making a small profit from Dolphin, and we the community are not, and in fact are paying for it. But there are many in the forums who do discuss certain topics and try to help, many more than there are Boonex developers. So why can't we step up, and show Boonex how it's done? Prove our point!
well, communication might be a barrier. Even with Good communication, we[site admins] repair few minor bugs ourselves and "never report to boonex".
reason is we dont have time to do that because we pay to buy a cms, pay to buy mods, pay for the server, pay incentives to members, burn our time/head to do something better day by day. thats it.

say, Boonex has 1million registered and premium accounts.
when the site encounters an error, i get an email. if the same email is cc'd to some see more bug analysis system in boonex. the boonex members,developers,experts can watch that and do major bug fixes. which will make the platform more stable.
Eg: firefox crash report, Windows Error Reporting...

this is heck of a job which needs too much manpower. still if the top 10 bugs are killed thats better than the rest.

i'd be happy to pay $$$ to hook my server with boonex to ensure that my server is monitored by boonex for stability issues...
Oh I agree completely with the bug submission idea, so long as it was opt-in by site admins. And you do make a valid point about all the free time we have being used making our own sites solid.

Overall I am very pleased with Dolphin, and plan to use it for a long while longer. It get's two thumbs up from me.
Too many hands in the pie is never a good thing. I suspected you had several people working on dolphin, But WOW!.... I never imagined 250 people working aimlessly on it.... It's no wonder the code was such a mess. Andrew, Your doing a good job getting things straightened out.Keep it up!
see moreEXCELLENT post!!!... I have been working with Boonex for what 5 years now? I have worked on over 800 Boonex sites in this time. The point I am making here is no matter what is done, everyone will have thier own wants and needs that are different from what was developed out of the box. And it is amazing that alot of people call something a "Bug" when it is not a bug at all it is just that it does not function as they would like or expect ... but it still functions as designed and intended...
"I strongly believe that once fabrication stage starts taking more than a few months - it's a bold sign of a blackhole, wrong direction or a bad idea altogether."

I think that is probably right. There is such thing as "a runaway project" - and they are especially a danger for Boonex I think. I'm not sure how obsessed you should be with keeping he development team small - if you do I hope you don't lose at least the "spirit of open source" here..

I think see more most of us will likely have to go with 7.0.7 - I'm hoping the search is fixed and some of the other things we lost when we upgraded from D6. D7 is now mostly a stable product and I think you should keep improving on it before any "pie in the sky" new versions - everyone is pretty burned out on that.

p.s. The page control mod in D7.0.7 was a great addition - keep putting "value" into D7 like that, and you will have a world class product.
this is a really good article, you make a great point! I have seen D come a long way. I first toyed with it about a year ago (I would not even install it on my server 2 years ago) and since then there is only really ONE major thing left that I really think needs to change: the blocks/page system. (and some small stuff... but I am not here to list those things...)
Merging the design layer with the application layer: the result of 250 people who took 1 good idea and made it bad.
the column thing? see more bad.
the "idea" of blocks? wonderfulness!!!
the way blocks and pages actually work? god awful
the "hope" of having 5 well focused developers finally address this in a logical, intuitive, and usable way?
friggan amazing and wonderful at the same time.
Good post. I think you might need another 's' in the past tense of 'plus':
It's obvious past issues have made the waters a bit icy. I'm new, drowning in sea of my own ignorance here, but if I know something, Andrew is spot here. I'm looking forward to 8, even more-so now after hearing there a fewer hands in the cookie mix. Although I must admit, the thing that weighs heaviest on my mind is reading a review that alleges my mods may not convert over to the new D8. I dumped all my funds and then some into these mods...for what? To be stuck on the slow train? Don't get me wrong, see more I dig D7 but if D8 is going to be the bomb why wouldn't I want to be on that ship? If I have to make a "cut my losses" decision come D8, I ain't buying crap from nobody, I'll find another solution...That like saying "sink or swim fella" to someone who fell into the toilet. I hope these rumors aren't true...I hope like hell I'm misunderstanding something
Andrew Boon
We been thinking and considering what you're saying a lot lately. Dolphin is often only the beginning for many here and then there are mods. Some members are HEAVILY invested in mods. Heck, I just talked to client over the phone who spent well over 10K on mods alone, so go figure. So, we had two seemingly contradicting objectives - we needed to plan a major upgrade AND somehow help to protect such investments. First, we scrapped the Trident project and decided to fo all-in with Dolphin, second we see more are trying to maintain support of properly developed mods in D8, and third we are going to run a pre-release campaign urging developers to update their products and offer free or discounted upgrades to their clients. We al need to make this transition as painless as possible and move on.
I know there's one helluva balance y'all hafta maintain, and I imagine it's a bit to pull off at times. I've had to support third-party software before as a tech, and it was no fun at all- some businesses wash their hands of TPs completely...(going as far as to void warranties even) so I must say- freaking excellent guys! That's some relieving news to say the least.
Much Appreciated
Well, I have to say that me too who feel the distraction I produced on developers at different times when managing them, add to this whole bunch of things with bugs fixed for 2 times or overlapped each other consequently. I may add to conclude the homework is done very well after all, and we're are excitedly wait to see the new beast out very soon..
great post and i agree with you.keep ppl working in that number that works need much experts can make too much problems.always need much much more time to fix something then to make it from start and ppl need to be aware of that.i didnt read too much but i can give one idea and sorry if that exist but can you ppl make script that will safely export members info (logins,pass,pics etc) im talking about important info from database and files from server and to be imported to new versions of dolphin? see more i know that is too much job but that would safe alot time for fixing upgrading that failed. tnx and keep it going,you ppl doing great job :)
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