My Obsession with Content Trees and Subcontent

By Deane Barker • Posted on February 15, 2009

I’m stuck in a CMS rut. It’s a good rut, but a rut nonetheless.

I’ve written here in the past about a couple of content management patterns which I believe in very strongly: Content trees and subcontent. I often celebrate these two patterns as the “correct” way to model content. Problem is, I’m almost to the point where I’m non-functional without them.

Take Joomla for example. My church uses that system, and I tried to sit down and learn it so I could contribute. Despite lots of very helpful advice from Amy Stephen, I just couldn’t wrap my head around it. I just didn’t…get it, and I quit the platform just as confused as when I started.

Drupal was no better. I have a personal project percolating right now, developed with Drupal, helped along by Adam Kalsey. But I still don’t like it much. I know, I know – you can use taxonomy to impersonate a content tree. But I still can’t have subcontent. And without that, I’m sort of…lost.

This is a personal failing, to be sure, but it’s still a huge roadblock to me. After all these years, the content management part brain just works that way now. I need to break out of this pattern, I think. Not for functionality’s sake so much – I still believe the tree/subcontent model is the correct model – but because I probably let a bunch of really nice systems slip by because I can’t see past it.

eZ publish implements it. WordPress implements it (for its pages functionality). CMS Made Simple implements it (I voted for them in the Packt awards last year). So does Etomite (a nice system, worth checking out), and my newest obsession, Episerver (with which, Blend is planning to take over the world). Ektron implements about half of it, which has always annoyed me (they fell into “the folder trap” which I discuss in the subcontent post).

Now, before you flame me about how awesome Joomla or Drupal is, save it. I know they’re good systems, and that’s what I find so frustrating. A lot of other people are doing really nice things with them – why can I just not wrap my mind around them? Why can’t I see past this one thing? As Gunney Hartman so eloquently put it (audio, beware), what is my major malfunction?

I don’t know. It’s frustrating.

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