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[_] Elgg

Tom Holder tom at
Thu Dec 17 18:03:49 GMT 2009

Hi David,

Agree with Keir, not sure if I ever posted it publicly but here are my main
issues with it (and there are a lot more!):

In no particular order,

1. The directory structure is insane, if you're using Elgg out of the box
fine, if you're 'tweaking it' you will spend all day navigating up and down
2. The code is massively inconsistent about how it achieves stuff.
3. It's documented just well enough to lead you to think it's going to be
good to work out. Then, as soon as you get stuck you realise there's little
help available.
4. The community is very quiet and doesn't offer a lot of help.
5. Everything is a view. Good in theory, but a typical page will have markup
spread across some 20/50 view files making the life of a markup person
impossible. You'd really struggle to get it to validate.
6. The database structure, whilst highly flexible, will never scale and will
make it almost impossible to extract useful data using anything other than
the elgg core.
7. It's painfully slow to begin with. I wasn't kidding that each page runs
some 400 ish db queries and even images are served up via PHP calls.
8. There's a lot of javascript that would make it difficult to maintain and
add to. For example, moving to latest jquery with .live support breaks it in
several places.

It's easy to bitch about open source code. The very nature of it will be
that you're bound to end up with a slightly messy codebase.

The problem with Elgg is they've tried to be far too clever with the
architecture and forgotten about being obvious! You spend 15/20 minutes for
every single text/xhtml tweak just trying to track it down. It uses
translation files for content, and whilst this is comendable, it only really
serves to make  it more time consuming to find things.

Views can be overridden simply by the same view existing in another plugin.
This means that you can install a plugin and completely lose a previously
amended view and have absolutely no idea what code is outputting something.

Keir (who I respect massively for his XHTML/CSS skills) and I have worked
with elgg day-in-day-out for 2 months and I finally had enough of it. I
ended up rebuilding the site we've been working on in Zend framework and
it's considerably better. In short, I made a very bad platform decision by
going with Elgg and ended up paying a hefty price in lost time. Someone on
underscore recommended it ;)

No amount of money in the world would make me ever touch it again!

Tom Holder
Technical Director

Simpleweb Ltd.
68 Oakfield Road
Tel: 0117 214 0980

Simpleweb Ltd. is registered in England.
Registration no: 5929003
V.A.T registration no: 891600913

2009/12/17 David Gilroy <dgilroy at>

> Any Elgg experts out there available for freelance work over the next
> two weeks.....yes, I know it's Christmas!
> We've just, unexpectedly, been ask to build a prototype for a client and
> may need some help.
> T'will be onsite at our gaff in central Bristol.
> Contact me off list please.
> Regs....David.
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