The Mother of all Content Management Discussions

By Deane Barker

Making A Better Open Source CMS, by Jeffrey Veen: This is a great article – a rant, really – about how much the author thinks the open-source CMS offerings just plain suck. He laments about a lot of things I agree with.

The real goldmine, however, are the comments. There are 104 of them, and several are from developers of Drupal and Mambo – two of the systems this guy is irritated with. Just reading comments will help you understand a lot of the struggles of developing content management systems – it ain’t easy.

Some of the author’s gripes:

Make it easy to install. […] I want to download, unpack, and run an installer in my browser. Ask me a few questions, and then you go set up the database tables and write the conf.php or whatever.

Eh. I’m not so much worried about this. I’ll take the time to install a good product. From the visitor’s perspective, the CMS is far, far more important than the operating system running the server. And how much time did you spend installing the operating system?

Users of a public web site should never – never – be presented with a way to log into the CMS. Every organization I have ever worked with has kept the content management interface completely separate from their public-facing Web site, yet almost every open source CMS mixes them together.

A Drupal developer calls him on this and makes a good point: there is a difference between a content management system and community management system. Drupal is the latter, though it gets used as the former a lot.

Why do you insist Web sites have “columns”? I’ve used quite a few systems now that have the notion of a 3-column layout. They give me the ability to turn columns off and on, and put “portlets” into “content-slots”. Where does this assumption come from? For the last two years, I haven’t built a single Web site with columns – and these are high-traffic commercial sites.

Oh yeah, I hate this. When a system starts trying to codify and compartmentalize the layout of the site, I just want to scream. You can identify Nuke sites a mile away. Drupal was a little better, but still – the columns and blocks concept just drives me nuts.

(However, it’s worth saying that some people like it. If someone doesn’t code HTML or CSS, this may be just what they want. A good system would allow you to transition between the two models easily.)

Just about every CMS on the planet gets pimped in the comments. Read through them all and you’ll find references to about a dozen systems you never knew existed: Lenya, SPIP, phpwcms, WebGUI, Etomite?

I haven’t heard of any of these, and that first one is from the Apache group itself, which makes me feel extra-lame. My beloved eZ publish even gets mentioned once or twice.

This discussion is so good that I’m printing it out right now to pour over it. If you enjoy content management theory and implementation, this is one to read.

This is item #256 in a sequence of 354 items.

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