Computer Geeks and Garden Gnomes
First and foremost before I begin my ranting it is worth mentioning that there are many very helpful and considerate people out there in the cyber wilderness who devote much of their time to providing open source and free scripts of all variations from PHP, CGI and Java to name but a few. They provide dedicated support, do not insist on payment, and spend much of their free time helping you avoid having to part with your hard earned cash to get free programs and scripts up and running on your websites.
Now, that having been said I have just spent an enlightening couple of days installing several PHP and CGI scripts, mainly because whilst I have some experience of installations, the only true way to become fast and efficient with all this geeky stuff is to install, de install and test a variety of applications and programs yourself.
After two days and over a hundred scripts I am left drained. Half of the scripts I just dumped immediately due to poor or non-existent documentation and bad layout of files. It amazes me that some quite intricate scripts are left high and dry without any installation documents at all. In other words, the author spent days programming and putting together complicated scripts, to fail miserably on poor or non existent documentation. Aside from this, some sites you visit in order to download this material insist on blitzing you with numerous pop ups - the end result of which is neither good for the person visiting the website or the website owner. Both part very quickly. Perhaps I am intolerant but any sign of boxes leaping up in the air and blind adverts and I am gone. I know I am not alone.
Add to this the frustration of taking the time to read through endless documents and CGI scripts on websites only to find that when you click on a link for more information or a download you find it is dead, the site under maintenance or what was advertised as free is not actually free. Either that or you go to the extreme of getting a script working only to find the writers advertisement popping up all over the place to the extent it warrants dumping the script. Yes I know you can remove it for a fee but why didn't you tell me that before I installed it?
Even quite clear documentation often omits what is to the writer an obvious requirement but not something that he or she chooses to share with their hapless user - classic example might be forgetting to mention that an SQL database is needed. Hardly a minor omission.
At the height of one frustrating and particularly badly written install attempt I imagined myself as John Cleese with a garden gnome under my arm hunting for the writer. Anonymity on the internet does has its advantages in this case.
Now, I know you will be cynical and say that most of this is down to the fact that many script writers are hoping you will pay them to install their scripts for you, indeed many do offer installation services. This really is a bad way of advertising your services. There are plenty of people who will have trouble with the easiest installs and if you wrote clear and concise documentation which any user can see is genuinely comprehensive, you are more likely to secure customers as a result of failed installs.
During this laborious exercise we went through scripts of all kinds some of which include; online photo albums, content management systems, member login and authentication scripts, virtual postcards, email programs, hosting scripts, live helper, communication, e commerce, shopping carts, quiz and chat programs to name but a few. We also purchased 3 scripts. Only one of those free scripts was simple to install and marginally better than the free versions available. Paying money does not necessarily mean better service. In fact one photo album provider charging around $30 dollars per script provided bad install information and less than helpful advice, immediately deleting anything that mentioned install problems from his forum.
It has been an experience. If none of this has meant anything to you and you have no idea about scripting or installing scripts then consider yourself fortunate and leave it to the geeks if you are able.
For those of you that regularly dive into scripting for your websites - here is a useful tip that saved us no end of time and frustration. The minute you come up against bad scripting, bad documentation or difficult to install scripts - trash them, ditch them and move on. There are plenty of others. Leave the tricky badly written stuff to the real hardcore freaks.
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