CMSs, Revisited, Again

I wish the term content management system (CMS) would go away. I make that wish after reading a post by David Strom at ReadWriteWeb about what’s wrong with today’s CMSs.

As usual when CMSs are the subject, the conversation quickly get strange. One of David’s problems with is that some CMSs are (or started as) blogging platforms, and so suffer from excessive ease of use: “today’s blogging platforms make it so easy to post new content to a website that almost anyone can do it.”

In comments, Scott Fulton (another RWWer) declares that the term CMS results in a score of 0 for 3. That’s the precise opposite of my problem with the term. It seems to me that almost everything qualifies as a CMS. It allows for content? Check. Some sort of management is possible? Check. It’s a system? Check, in that it’s a system of components forming a whole? Again, almost anything can get a check for that. That renders a score of 3 for 3 so common as to make the score, and the term CMS, almost meaningless.

The most interesting (to me) passage in David’s post is:

Each time I transition to a new CMS, (as we are about to do here at RWW), hope springs eternal that I will find the one true system. And then, these hopes are quickly dashed.

So I’ll be looking out for answers to the following questions:

  • Which CMS is RWW about to move to?
  • Why is there hope that it will be an improvement?
  • How and when will these hopes be dashed?

Drupal Earworm

I didn’t realize until this morning that there is a Drupal song. It is infuriatingly catchy, so don’t listen to it and then claim I didn’t warn you.

I found out about the Drupal song from a post by Dries, who can claim much of the responsibility for Drupal, but can deny any direct responsibility for the song. It is an earworm: a song or other music that repeats compulsively within one’s mind.

The sequences Acquia-Buytaert and Drupal-Earworm compelled me to write the following. Social media addiction compelled me to incorporate links.

A is for Acquia, founded by Dries;
Buytaert’s his last name, pronounce it with ease.
C is for CMS (rather weird term);
Drupal‘s a CMS, subject of worm.
Ear’s where the worm lives,
Forget it I cannot.
Got to stop rhyming,
Halt it here, dammit!

I should note that the above alphabet rhyme, like all of the content at Changing Way, is under a Creative Commons Attribution license, and so can be completed, augmented, adapted, mashed up, etc., as much as you want as long as you attribute.

WordPress and Joomla: Smashing Comparison

Once upon a time, choosing a Content Management System was a matter of finding the CMS that could do what you needed it to (if you doubt this, you might want to see the fussy notes at the bottom of this post). Over time, though, CMSs have tended to become more capable and more similar to each other. And so, according to Marco Solazzi at Smashing Magazine:

Picking the right CMS is then a matter of “mental models”: choosing the one that best fits our vision of how a Web application should work and what it should provide to users and administrators.

Marco goes on to compare the respective models of WordPress and Joomla, with particular emphasis on themes and extensions. I skimmed and nodded my way through the WordPress parts, and had some “that’s… different” thoughts on the Joomla parts. My reaction, of course, backs up the above quote from Marco.

Looking at the comments on Marco’s article, many of them are similar to mine: I’m used to WordPress (or Joomla), and so lean towards it. There are several What about Drupal? comments. There are also a some links to other comparisons between CMSs. By the way, I compared WordPress and Drupal recently, but not in any great detail. Summary: the two are becoming more similar.

That brings us back to, and reinforces, Marco’s above-quoted point about how CMS choices are made these days.

Fussy footnotes:

  1. I suspect that developers have long tended to go with their favorite CMSs. People in general tend to use the tools they know and like.
  2. I still consider CMS to be a very strange term.

Drupal and WordPress, Two Years On

Drupal and WordPress are often compared. Here’s a summary of my summary of a comparison between the two platforms: WordPress is easier to get started with; Drupal has the advantage when it comes to more complex sites.

That was two years (and two weeks) ago. A lot has happened in those years, and early 2010 is a particularly busy and important time for both communities: Drupal and WordPress. If I had to provide a soundbite (blogbite? tweet?) right now, it would be: Drupal and WordPress are becoming more similar.

The best example of convergence from the Drupal side is Drupal Gardens, the slogan for which is: “Building Drupal websites just got easier.” It was indeed easy to establish a little outpost of the Changing Way empire at Drupal Gardens. runs on, of which Gardens is the Drupal counterpart.

Gardens runs on version 7 of Drupal. I love this line from Jacob Singh about developing Gardens on that new version, rather than on version 6: it’s like playing Jenga on a cocaine addled elephant riding a skateboard being jabbed in the ass with a hot poker.

WordPress is also in the midst of a new major release. In fact, this very post is a fringe member of a current and ongoing series about WordPress 3.0. Much of what’s in 3.0 (e.g., multisite) is already in Drupal.

The above account of convergence between Drupal and WordPress is very broad-brush. But it’s also about as long as I like a single post to be.

Comments – especially yours – are excellent for filling in gaps. They are also excellent for asking questions, and for offering me inducements to write more detailed comparisons of Drupal and WordPress and the communities and organizations behind them…

Oxite Doesn't Excite

Oxite is an open source, standards compliant, and highly extensible content management platform, Microsoft’s Jeff Sandquist posted yesterday. So is this Microsoft taking on Google/Blogger, Automattic/WordPress, Six Apart/Movable Typepad, Acquia/Drupal, and so on?

No it isn’t. Jeff and his colleagues “are hopeful that this lightweight sample allows folks to get rolling with ASP.NET MVC and understand the importance of web standards.” That’s worthy stuff, but it does make clear that Oxite isn’t an attempt to compete with Blogger, or with anything. Rather, it’s a sample application.

Trying to Understand CMS

I know that CMS stands for Content Management System, but I don’t know what that means. In order to understand what a term describes, it’s often helpful to try to understand what the term doesn’t describe. So, in order not to be a CMS, something has to lack one of the following attributes.

  • Content. I find it hard to see the interest in anything content-free. I suppose that there might be a social network so purely about connection as to be unencumbered by content, but…
  • Management. I find it hard to see the point of something that can’t be managed, especially if we have an eye to the business market as well as to the consumer market.
  • System-ness: but let’s not get into what that might mean.

Since I don’t know what a CMS isn’t, I can’t claim to know what a CMS is. But I do claim to recognize one when I see one, which is perhaps good enough for Web 2.0 (whatever that is) work.

I do understand the argument for free/open source software, in CMSs and elsewhere. So do Forrester, who just wrote a report on what they call WCM (web content management) and open source. Clients are looking at OSWCM (may as well go all the way with the alphabet soup) “as a way of controlling software costs and increasing their access to product-specific expertise in the marketplace.”

The Forrester page doesn’t provide much detail, but there are quotes elsewhere. For example:

For an open source WCM vendor to be relevant, it must have a satisfactory product offering, proven enterprise-level implementations, and a large–and passionate–community of developers and service providers. Currently, enterprises interested in open source should keep an eye on two offerings–Alfresco Software and Drupal.

That quote from the report was posted by Matt Asay of Alfresco. He of course likes the report. So does Jeff Whatcott of Acquia, who wrote that:

Forrester analysts… highlight Drupal (with Acquia backing) and Alfresco as the most “relevant”. Among a wildly crowded field, Drupal+Acquia and Alfresco stood out for strong technical architecture, active communities, and strong commercial backing that make the technology more accessible. Sounds about right, doesn’t it?

By the way, Jeff is among those in the CMS world who don’t like the term CMS. We even find discussion of problems with the term at the site called CMS Report.

Having identified “free is good” as one of things I do understand about CMS, I find it hard to see good prospects for a CMS that is neither free/open source nor free of charge. Nevertheless Markup Factory just launched exactly that.

I have to agree with Mashable Paul that Markup Factory will turn away quite a few interested users who would otherwise quickly become adopters with its paid subsciption model, starting at $14.95/month and with no apparent option of a free trial. Given that, I’m puzzled that it got featured at Mashable, which I believe features only a subset of the launched products it’s told about.

Puzzling place, this CMSland. Rather more complicated than Blogistan.