[Lyceum-users] the future of Lyceum

Asheesh Laroia asheesh at asheesh.org
Thu Feb 12 15:39:37 EST 2009

On Thu, 12 Feb 2009, John Joseph Bachir wrote:

> ...except, of course, for the database schema. Lyceum's schema is 
> normalized[1], MU's is, roughly speaking, sharded[2]. For massive 
> installations such as wordpress.com, a sharded schema is preferable. A 
> normalized schema is preferable for everyone else. A normalized schema 
> offers advantages in performance, ease of upgrades and administration, 
> and vast opportunities for developing plugins and features which can 
> access the entire set of data in the installation.
> "Show me the last 10 posts across all blogs" is impossible in MU without 
> maintaining and accessing a separate, redundant index table at the 
> application layer. In Lyceum it is trivial and fast, even for thousands 
> of blogs.

It's true that in WP MU generating this query is slow. But running it need 
not be painfully slow. For me, the question is how much is that efficiency 
worth in human development time to maintain *another* multi-user WordPress 

> Regardless of these advantages, the effort of maintaining Lyceum must be 
> matched by demand. So I find myself at a crossroads, deciding whether to 
> pick the project back up, or let MU be the only option.

I'm really glad you're asking.

> So my question to you, users, is this: What value does Lyceum hold for 
> you today? How many of you out there chose Lyceum over MU mainly because 
> of the schema? What other reasons do you have? What do you like and 
> dislike about Lyceum?
> If I choose to resume Lyceum development, here are the two initial 
> phases of development:
> :: Phase 1 - simply bring Lyceum up to the current version of WordPress
> I have two options for doing this. The first is to continue developing 
> Lyceum as a branch of WordPress. The second, and more likely option, is 
> to start from scratch using the WordPress MU codebase, keeping all of 
> its features and merely normalizing the schema.

Either way is sensible; the last makes the most sense to me. In fact, if 
that's all you're bringing to the table, maybe we could see if sharded vs. 
non-sharded can be made an option in the official WP MU.

> Either way, I could get Lyceum back on its feet in 2-4 months of 
> development. And don't worry: even though the codebase would be wildly 
> changed, there would be a fully-supported upgrade path from previous 
> versions of Lyceum.

Right on.

> After getting the codebase contemporary with WordPress, applying future 
> WordPress updates to Lyceum would be a non-trivial, but relatively 
> straightforward process. I estimate it would take me 5 hours of work per 
> week.

I agree with that, except possibly across feature releases (2.7 -> 2.8). 
Keep in mind that that's where Lyceum 1.0.x stumbled.

> :: Phase 2 - add Lyceum-specific features
> There are two main types of Lyceum-specific features that I would like to
> develop. The first are features which simply leverage the normalized schema
> -- template functions, hooks, utility pages, site-wide feeds... all
> accessing site-wide content in a way that is easy for template and feature
> developers to use without having to worry about complicated denormalized
> meta-tables (or any sql at all).

If you abstract it away inside a function, then the backend could just as 
easily be WP MU; it would just possibly be slower than the non-sharded 

> The second are features which evolve Lyceum into more of a foundational 
> social platform, connecting content, users, and their online publishing 
> presence in an intuitive and ergonomic way.

That sounds nice!

But I wonder if it really depends on the particular database schema 
approach Lyceum has over WP MU. Maybe it can be a WP MU extension just as 

> - What value does Lyceum hold for you today?

Quite a lot, but WP MU can also give me that.

> - Did you chose Lyceum over WordPress MU mainly because of the schema?


> - What other reasons do you have for using Lyceum?

You're a cool guy. Plus I already have it installed.

> - In general, what do you like and dislike about Lyceum?

I dislike all the feedback I get from my users about how they want themes 
that aren't compatible with Lyceum or plugins that aren't.

I'm leaning very heavily toward migrating away from Lyceum. JJB, even if 
you lean toward continuing Lyceum development, I want to tell you: I think 
that given the current maintained state of WP MU, it's not worth 
continuing Lyceum unless someone's paying you. (And even then, I wonder.) 
If anything, joining forces with WP MU and creating a non-sharded WP MU 
option makes the most sense.

When people like Brian talk about the WP MU architecture being a 
non-starter, I wonder if they've tried to run WP MU. The fact that it uses 
so many tables doesn't seem to, in practice, be a real problem for anyone 
except aesthetically. If you want to administer WordPress via SQL 
commands, it can be difficult, but if you're willing to write even a 
little code it doesn't seem like it would be so bad. (Note that I 
personally haven't run WP MU, even though my employer has a WP MU 

I'm nearly done writing my Lyceum export/WP import tool; if I finish it, 
I'll be sharing it with the list when I'm done. Regardless, I'm glad I got 
a chance to use Lyceum these past few years.

-- Asheesh.

You will be advanced socially, without any special effort on your part.

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