We’ve been using Open Food Source for Cloverbelt Local Food Co-Op since we started out in 2013. I’m now working with @tschumilas to explore OFN as a new platform for our co-op.
Roy Guisinger is basically the only developer left on OFS. He’s fantastic, really great to work with, and a big open source proponent … but he’s only one person, working on volunteer time. I’ve been a PHP dev since 2001, and honestly, the whole code base is a mess. That’s nothing against Roy, or the work he’s doing to keep it going, because, I marvel at his ability to keep it working. It’s code he’s inherited, and worked with over many years. But it’s outdated at its core. A large number of the core functions are deprecated, and the recent changes to integrate it with WordPress created massive overhead on the server side. We went through two server upgrades this year to keep it running … and there were a couple of weeks in there that it was BARELY staying online. What I discovered in trying to set it up on a ‘bare metal’ VPS was that the server couldn’t be running the most current versions of key software, like PHP, or it would throw pages and pages of errors and warnings. A lot of deprecated functions. In the near future, it’s going to require a custom, outdated, server just to function. Which is too bad, because when it’s working, it works fairly well. There was an attempt about two years back to put the project on Github and bring more developers into it … but it fizzled out fairly quickly. It basically needs a ground-up refactoring though, or its future is greatly restricted.
One of the things OFS does, that we’re finding missing in OFN, is memberships. IE: when a new member registers, they are automatically charged a membership fee, based on the type of membership (consumer/producer/institutional). There are ways to do this manually in OFN, but having it part of the sign-up process is great.
One other thing that OFS does, that OFN doesn’t appear to have any way to do, is charge producers what amounts to a ‘stocking fee’ for the hubs handling their products. It’s a way for the costs of operating a hub split between the shops and the people buying the goods, vs. ALL of the fees coming out of the consumer’s pocket. Is there a way to charge producers for carrying their products at a hub with OFN?
While OFS does allow multiple hubs, creating them is clunky. I have to go in and create entries directly in the database for them to show up in the site. It’s not something we do often, but it is definitely a much more labour-intense process than it should be.
OFS does have a fairly extensive ledger system for tracking all of the orders/fees/etc. Learning how to use/interpret it can take some time. But the numbers are all there.
OFS has some pretty straight forward systems for producers to view and print off labels for their products, which is good. I’m not seeing anything quite the same in the OFN reports. The one I’m looking at that could be close shows the names of the purchasers as “HIDDEN”, which isn’t very helpful for sorting.
The OFS invoice printing works fairly well too, although I added some bits of code to it so the pagination was correct when printing them, instead of having a new invoice starting to print at the end of the previous one, on the same page. I also created a couple of custom scripts to pull out membership reports from the database, because none exist in the OFS code base itself.
As I said, Roy is great, and I respect him and the work he’s done A LOT. I’m in no way bashing the software. But the hard truth of it is the codebase needs a complete ground-up refactoring, all of the functions need to be updated (they pre-date classes in PHP), and I would say it would take a dedicated TEAM of developers a couple of years to get it done. It’s still working, but if anything were to happen to Roy, or he decides he’s done with it … that’s pretty much the end of the line for it. The future prospects are limited at best right now. At least, that’s my opinion on things after 5 years working with it. That’s a driving force behind CLFC’s interest in the OFN platform for our … 1700+ members. (Over 175 producers)