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What Can WordPress Teach FileMaker?

February 9, 2014 / By: Todd Geist

WordPress is the dominant web platform on the planet.  It’s ecosystem is orders of magnitude larger than FileMaker’s. Clearly they are doing something right.  Is there anything that FileMaker and FileMaker Developers can learn from WordPress’s success?

FileMaker

At first blush, this may not seem like a reasonable question. WordPress and FileMaker fit different niches in the software world.  Wordpress is open source and free, FileMaker is not. WordPress is forpublic websites and FileMaker is for client server applications and intranets. But they do share a common critical core feature.  Both allow non-programmers to make useful software. Given that; is there anything that we can learn from it?

Some of WordPress’s success comes from the its price. It’s free and open source.  But that can’t explain it’s success entirely. The founder of WordPress Matt Mullenweg noted in recent blog post, that there is nothing special about the core of WordPress. He said.

The core features of WordPress aren’t rocket surgery. A handful of smart people in a room for a year could create a reasonable approximation of the software, and undoubtably improve some things — I see other startups do this three or four times a year.

He goes on to point out what he thinks is special about WordPress.

It’s over 29,000 plugins created by the community, from the in-demand things like SEO to niche features like using your 404 page to help adopt homeless dogs in Sweden. Every WordPress site looks different, because of the thousands of themes available.

WordPress derives it’s success from the strength of its community! Let me state that again in broader terms. A software platform’s strength comes from the strength of it’s community. Strengthen your community and you will strengthen your platform.

How do you do that? Make it incredibly easy to share and collaborate!  WordPress thrives because it is incredibly easy to find, install, and update, powerful plugins and beautiful themes.  Plugin and Theme management is built into the core.  Its not an after thought. It’s application logic designed to be pluggable.  It’s presentation layer is designed to be theme-able.  It has maybe the best automated update and package management system on the planet.

TheWordPress community, empowered by this framework, does the rest.  The community creates the 29,000 plugins and thousands of themes.  The community explores new ideas, features and functionality. The community reacts to the whims of the ever changing market, faster than WordPress or any organization ever could.

WordPress is maybe one of the best examples of this extendable core, rock solid package management combination, but is far from the only one. Drupal, Joomla,  Ruby on Rails, and node.js are other notable examples.  The history of software is quite clear on this matter.  Extendible systems survive and thrive. Other’s don’t.

This is where FileMaker is severely lacking. With the exception of the limited functionality available with plugins, its very difficult to share code. This was the reason I founded ModularFileMaker.org last year.  I was trying to gather support for a way of building FileMaker apps that was at least somewhat shareable.  I think  it’s doing quite well.  There are dozens of freely available modules up on the site. I am very pleased and grateful for the support that we have gained so far.

As FileMaker developers WordPress teaches us we need to put more efforts into collaboration.  Efforts like modularfilemaker.org, and filemakerstandards.org need to continue. With some innovation and some change in culture we can accomplish a lot.  But long term we need some help from the mother ship. We need FileMaker Inc, to step up and bring us some much needed new functionality to make it easier for the community to share awesome code and beautiful themes.  I’ll give some ideas for what I think some of those things are in a another post.

WordPress teaches us that collaboration is the name of the game. No one person or even a single team can create the kind of success that WordPress has. It requires the efforts of a community, a community that can work together.  Platforms that allow for modular design and sharing do better than ones that don’t. PlatForms, like WordPress, that make modular design and sharing a core feature, can sometimes change the world.

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