Before you think that plugin technology in the open-source world is a panacea to expensive commercial software, particularly association software, you should consider the importance of today’s decisions on tomorrow’s operation.
For instance, in the catalina380.org site, I wanted to provide a photo album capability so that users could create their own albums and upload their own photos. Each user would own their own albums and photos so others couldn’t mess up something someone else had done.
There are several WordPress plugins for this purpose that their descriptions look great. I won’t say exactly which they were but think about this. Once you decide on a plugin for photo albums, you essentially have to stick with it forever! Even if it works now, will it work later? What are the consequences of it not working? It is unreasonable to assume that all the albums already created can be recreated under a new configuration. Yikes.
In my case, the first plugin I tried wouldn’t run either on my own local site or the hosting facility. Once I worked out UTF8 issues with the database, I could get it to run on my local system but not the hosting site. The second one I tried, wouldn’t even load without fatal errors. The third one really looked like a winner and I figured out how to configure the interface such that it would make sense – but then I found that though users controlled their own galleries, there wasn’t ownership of albums. At that level, anyone could do anything.
Ultimately, I found a photo-album plugin that would do almost everything I wanted it to do so the site is off and flying with everyone’s personal albums as well as links to albums from their own sites. Cool.
Support for these open-source plugins is spotty at best.
Now, from a professional developer’s standpoint, I like the concept of plugin technologies for large systems as long as you are dealing with discrete activities. In my previous life designing commercial association software, we considered doing this but found that what we were trying to accomplish was so integrated – everything had to talk to everything else – that the approach had less appeal.
So…..not everything is roses in terms of open-source plugin technology. Keep your eyes open and consider the future as you commit to a specific technology.