So a couple of days ago I trounced up on stage and gave a presentation around extensions at Meet Magento NY. I hope it was a balanced presentation where I highlighted issues with the Connect Marketplace, but also aired my strong opinion that Magento is the platform of choice for design agencies, developers and merchants. Indeed this was one of my statements:
“Magento in 2008 was a far superior platform than either Shopify or BigCommerce are today”.
In my mind this one statement sums up a lot about Magento. You add 6 years onto that and we have built a tremendous offering, both the Magento developers and this fabulous open community we have.
Unfortunately I think some people may have taken my presentation along with Kurt’s presentation about ‘The Center of Gravity’ and made 5 instead of 4. So I’d like to just set the record straight on how I see things with the Magento ecosystem, and also my recommendations. Much of this extends beyond my presentation.
What I’m seeing is a slight fracturing of the ecosystem, we saw this after other Meet Magento events too. This is good for no-one, we as a community need to stay together, because together we are so much stronger than apart. I just want to look at some of the parties in the ecosystem and how we can get some resolution here.
In my mind Magento/eBay need to sort a few things out:
- What is their strategy around eBay Enterprise? What is the impact likely on other members of the ecosystem of that strategy
- What is their target market?
- Who is the leadership team?
- How are they going to fix Magento Connect and when?
- What is their strategy with regards to SMEs?
I feel that one of the key issues Magento have right now is no revenue model around the SME market. This is very easily resolvable and I feel essential that Magento do resolve in order to keep the ecosystem working correctly. The other big issue is we just don’t know where Magento are going, and how that will impact us. They need to make this extremely clear, and now. Because we need to consider our own futures as companies, and our investment in Magento, if Magento/eBay Inc become our competitor that is cause for great concern IMO.
What’s interesting here is that Magento 2 in my mind does not come into this. Let’s just pull back from everything being about Magento 2. Actually Magento 1.x is a damn good product. Can we please start realising that? Because I know agencies realise it every day of the week, and so do Technology Partners like WebShopApps. Let’s start rejoicing in what we have instead of always wanting the next big thing.
The problem at present is that there are a select group of individuals who feel they represent the whole community. But they do not, no more than I do. We are one of hundreds of thousands of people that make up this wonderful community. What concerns me is that certain people have their own agenda, their own castles to build, their own goals.
Call me what you want but as a decent human being with a respect for all people I would like to state once again that a community should be open, free, inclusive and welcoming.
What I see are people trying to create cliques, to do things for material gain for themselves, or to stroke their own ego. And I’m sorry I have no time for this. This is business, we are all in business, every single person in the ecosystem, and there is no time for playground antics. Some of what is happening right now is just chaotic, unprofessional, and frankly childish. This is not Magento, this is a set of people who are looking to improve their friendship ranking. Go look inside yourselves.
There is also a little bit of stoking of a fire going on, you know everyone likes a drama. But seriously just sit back, is it really that bad?
What I saw at Meet Magento NY was a lot of new faces. And some of us took the time to go up to those people and extend a welcoming hand. As a community this is what we should do. We should bring in new members, make them welcome and extend our community as much as we can. Because, as Ben Marks so precisely pointed out to me, continuity is key here. The ecosystem needs to move forwards, to innovate, to change, to grow, and to make that happen we need new life, fresh life, new ideas.
Merchants using Magento are usually guided by the design agencies or developers they choose to work with. We have a truly fantastic set of people in this space, and luckily 99% of them are seriously nice intelligent people. So merchants really have good opportunities to build great partnerships and hopefully a great store. I’ve seen this time and time again, and I can count on 1 hand those I’ve seen fail, but its in the thousands those I’ve seen have massive success with Magento.
What the merchants are demanding now though, and especially on the SME side is simplicity. They want more features, more power, but they want it to be simple to use. And they want to know their costs. Magento struggles here, it doesn’t have fixed costs and if you are not careful the costs can escalate. Magento is complex and in the wrong hands it can be very expensive. I believe Magento can better work with Merchants by doing the following:
- Having a closed forum for Merchants to talk with other Merchants without fear of advertising, promotion or similar
- Having a forum for Merchants to talk freely with ‘trusted experts’ in different areas, who are open and honest about their own self-interest but also give their time freely
- Providing details to Merchants on the various options open to them, especially in the SME market – for instance a website where they can go and see the agencies in their price range, the hosted Magento platforms available etc
- Improving the marketing output both in frequency and quality. I would suggest look to your partners, I’m sure many would like to write copy for you
The Center of Gravity
In my mind the Center of Gravity is not around one thing, one community, one set of people, Magento. It’s actually around each web design agency, each technology partner, each merchant. We all create our own center of gravity, where we find partners we can work with comfortably, people we trust, companies that fit us. I think a great many companies go on completely oblivious to what’s happening at these conferences, and are actually pretty happy. We need to acknowledge and respect this, and actually realise we aren’t the sum total.
So Where is Magento Now?
Right now Magento the product is running strong. Because the ecosystem outside of Magento Inc is keeping it afloat. And because the product is so powerful it is currently unmatched. But this will change, I fully expect both Shopify and BigCommerce to extend more and more into Magento space, and indeed Hybris to enter the party now they have recovered from their merge with SAP.
It is my full belief that Magento need to embrace the community more. My proposal is that Magento setup 2 things:
- A democratically elected rotating working committee made up of around 3 reps from across the whole of the community in each area (Gold/Silver/Bronze/Non agencies, Tech Partners, Hosting Partners, Large/Medium/Small merchants, Magento, etc)
- A quarterly town hall meeting with the whole community where they are transparent about their strategy, allow for questions, and engage 100% with the community
By doing these 2 things Magento will increase trust, transparency and engagement. And they will give the community a place to air their feelings, or representatives that are ready to listen (and you would hope push for action where appropriate).
From a community perspective we need to respect Magento, the constraints under which they are working, and be professional and organised in our approach to them. Its a two-way street.
What do I want?
Let me just get personal here. I have no interest whatsoever in joining any committee. Why? Because this is not about me, and actually I’m probably not the best person to have on a committee. When I helped kick-start the Magento Meetup London as soon as I possibly could I replaced myself, because I have a small company in WebShopApps that actually demands my full and total attention, I’m manically busy all the time.
So this isn’t about me. In fact it’s not even about my company. I’m doing this blog, and I spoke at Meet Magento NY for 3 reasons:
- Because I care more than I can possibly quantify about my clients, small, medium and large, and I care about their investment in Magento
- Because it annoys the hell out of me when people can’t do the right thing. This isn’t rocket science, the left arm at eBay needs to talk to the right arm, its as simple as that
- Because corruption and greed really pisses me off
The reason I will not join a public forum or a private room is because one is a chaotic mess giving the wrong message to anyone just browsing through and the other is a club. Neither are appropriate.
The Time is Now
I think there is a fair level of frustration around because quite a few of us have been waiting for some changes really since 2011. That’s a long time. Since eBay took over we have bounced around various people, management teams have changed, and its really become unclear whats going on.
We have seen massive progress with Magento 2 and I commend Magento for that. But I think they need to get a small amount of resources just back on Magento 1 and keep that ball up in the air. I don’t think what we are asking for is a lot. But some indication they are engaged is definitely required. And I know we have the wonderful Ben Marks, but its about more than Ben, we now need to see some action.
Make a plan, approve it and then do it now. Cut out the red tape, lets go build the future together. But please let’s not wash our dirty linen in public, let’s be professional and stand strong as a unified group with one common goal, to serve the merchants success. Because in their success we too will have success.