A good backend for a MetaFilter-type site?
June 4, 2004 8:53 AM   Subscribe

Would Expression Engine (or maybe pMachine) be a good backend for a MetaFilter-type site?
posted by kirkaracha to Computers & Internet (14 answers total)
 
Yes, you could use it for such a thing rather easily. If you're not interested in multiple categories (not really used on mefi), then pMachine would do the job just fine. If you want multiple nested categories, you'll need EE.

I used to recommend pMachine wholeheartedly until I had some trouble with the wording in their manual which implied a certain functionality which wasn't actually possible. Since then I've been much more hesistent, worried about if there are other instances of such a thing.

However, for a mefi type site, yes, it would work perfectly.
posted by dobbs at 9:54 AM on June 4, 2004


There's a list of MeFi clones here, one of which I've sucessfully installed -- FreeFilter
posted by o2b at 10:51 AM on June 4, 2004


Thanks, but I'm interested specifically in pMachine/Expression Engine.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:58 AM on June 4, 2004


kirkaracha, last time i checked PM was free to test (and use). It's very simple to understand and you could set up a mefi-like site in a an hour or so, really. You would actually just be removing some of their defaults (event calander, for instance), and changing the design. The default functionality of PM is exactly what mefi is. You'd set up community blog and you're done, pretty much, with the "back end" stuff.
posted by dobbs at 11:57 AM on June 4, 2004


pmachine has the annoying habit if showing users a comment form, and asking for a login at the same time. If you submit the comment, you get an error that you're not logged in.

That is completely broken in terms of user experience and why I've avoided ever using it on anything.
posted by mathowie at 12:37 PM on June 4, 2004


That's definitely bad user experience, but you can put the comment tag inside code to make it only appear if you're logged in.

I've used pMachine before; I'm curious about other people's opinions about using it (or Expression Engine) for a 'filter site.
posted by kirkaracha at 12:42 PM on June 4, 2004


mathowie, can you point to an example of this? I've set up a few sites with pMachine and have never come across that.

To my knowledge, you chose what to display on each page (comment form or login or whatever). If a person is not logged in, and you require membership for comments, then you would just tell it to show the login form instead of the comment form. Once they log in, then they'll see the comment form without the login information.

Doesn't sound to me like you (or whoever's site you're talking about), set it up right.

On this page, for instance, I don't require login for comments so I just turned off the login info.
posted by dobbs at 12:48 PM on June 4, 2004


There's a list of MeFi clones here

It should be noted that many of these sites are either defunct or very lightly attended. I have just set up a MetaPhilter to replace a phpBB forum on my own site, and as I was digging around to see how things were going with the clones, it seemed the answer was "not so well".

I'm also looking at Expression Engine as a way to do my web community site as a set of small blogs that share a login system, so we'll see how that goes.
posted by briank at 1:23 PM on June 4, 2004


Another downside I've heard of is that pmachine and ee are encrypted php source, right? So you can't totally customize the backend code, which may be a problem for a community site vs. a blog.
posted by mathowie at 1:30 PM on June 4, 2004


Another downside I've heard of is that pmachine and ee are encrypted php source, right? So you can't totally customize the backend code, which may be a problem for a community site vs. a blog.

This is definitely not true. I've installed and run pMachine on two sites, and the new site, Double-Tongued Word Wrester, runs Expression Engine. The code is wide open. I've made modifications to both myself. It is well-written code, and modular, which may mean you have to dig for what you're after, but it's all there in the open.

pmachine has the annoying habit if showing users a comment form, and asking for a login at the same time. If you submit the comment, you get an error that you're not logged in.

If this is true, it is easily fixed with minor template modifications. I don't remember it being true, however.
posted by Mo Nickels at 4:13 PM on June 4, 2004


Much information on this topic can be had in the pMachine/EE forum.
posted by Mo Nickels at 4:16 PM on June 4, 2004


My concern for using any out-of-the-box web publishing tool to replicate a MetaFilter-style interface -- or anything else that's already coded -- is that you're inevitably losing some existing functionality.

You get a lot of benefits by adopting something like pMachine, but if one of the best things about a community site is user familiarity and comfort with how it works, changing any of that pisses people off. In my experience, users hate having to rewire their brains to use your site, even when a redesign delivers obvious benefits.

Matt: If you decided to dump MetaFilter's code for something that could be run on a LAMP platform1, would you look for an out-of-the-box solution like pMachine or roll your own code in one of the P languages?

1: Linux, Apache, MySQL, and Perl, Python, or PHP.
posted by rcade at 9:26 AM on June 5, 2004


As the author of the semi-dead FreeFilter, I must concur with briank. That said, FreeFilter 0.25 does work, and works well. Its major plus point is that users tend to report that it's much faster than the other choices. On the flip side, it's not easily customisable (although instructions on the archaic 'templating system' are included), and MetaPhilter has a lot more functionality out of the box, which is why I tend to recommend people go that route instead.
posted by wackybrit at 2:43 PM on June 5, 2004


I'm enjoying using pmachine, and have a few other people blogging with me.

pmachine can be set to either require registration before comments, or to allow people to comment without registration.

But, if you use pmachine for more than one blog, it requires that people register for comments. Why? I don't know.

There is a fix posted on the pmachine forum. Make sure that you read the whole thread if you're going to try this out - there's a slight error in the fix that is addressed a couple of posts later:
posted by bragadocchio at 3:58 PM on June 5, 2004


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