Some interesting content publishing systems

I test out a lot of content management/publishing systems. A lot.

As someone who runs a couple of websites, I make it my business to check out different publishing systems and see how they’re cobbled together. Some systems are pretty straightforward to set up and conducive to publishing straight out of the box.

WordPress

WordPress logoWordPress, for example, is a wonderful publishing tool and more flexible than you might give it credit for: photoblogs, text blogs, magazine style sites are all possible. Bolt on BuddyPress and you’ve got a basic social network with some of the best elements of Twitter and Facebook. Themeing is a snap, and it’s notoriously good for SEO benefits. What it lacks out of the box can be filled in by some extremely well-written plugins.

We run Unreality TV and a sister site off WordPress, and have done since 2005. The improvements to the platform since then have been breathtaking, especially the one-click upgrades and the very slick administration pages.

Drupal

Drupal LogoBut I love Drupal. I saw the promise of Drupal quite a few years ago. I hate to criticise, but Drupal is an incredibly cumbersome beast. I’ve used it to build Unreality Shout (and a couple of other sites that were intended as community sites). For all its flexibility, Drupal still hasn’t got basic out-of-the-box functionality right: media uploading is a minefield and still horrible. Drafts aren’t autosaved, so when things crash, people lose everything. That might be OK for my personal blog, but when it’s members of the site, they get incredibly pissed off.

(PS, I’d like to thank Christian Yates who pointed out the availability of the Autosave module. That’s great, but why isn’t it in Drupal core?)

Anyway, it’s not my point to list reasons why I’m slightly disillusioned with Drupal. The contrast that I’m aiming for is that WordPress is more or less ready straight out of the box. With Drupal, once you’ve finished tinkering with content types, getting a WYSIWYG editor up and running and making sure Pathauto is properly configured, you’re almost too tired to create content. I’m serious.

Tumblr

The other point of this post was to mention Tumblr. I’ve had a Tumblr account for ages. It aggregates stuff I’ve published on my RSS feeds here and on Shout. It pulls in my tweets from my personal Twitter account. And now, I’ve decided to use it for minutae: pics I’ve found, links to other blogs about pop culture, web design, Drupal! and whatever else tickles my fancy.

I’ve been surprised at the features that come with Tumblr, perhaps surprised at how straighforward it was to set up the account, select a theme and pull in content or create new content. There’s a bookmarklet to make sharing even easier, and within the Tumblr dashboard, you can follow other users and reblog things you find interesting. Oh, and you can email posts to a private email address if you like that sort of thing.

As a lifeblogging platform, I love it. And you know the best bit? No worrying about performance, disk limits or scalability – it’s all hosted on Tumblr’s platform, so those problems are someone else’s. You just use it.

Others

I’ve checked out a ton of other services – I’ve been a FriendFeed user for ages now. Still haven’t got a clue what the point of that site is – but then among my friends, most aren’t that web-savvy, so there’s no personal investment there. Most of the people I know personally are on Facebook, the professional types are on Twitter.

I’ve also tried out the beta version of Drupal Gardens (Drupal’s hosted version, something like WordPress.com, but with Drupal as the underlying system). It seems to be based on the forthcoming Drupal 7 and features some of the so-called UI improvements for users. It’s nice, but a long way off what I’d consider to be essential usability features my users would appreciate. But it’s nice to see they’ve got a WYSIWYG editor bundled there. Now, what about those workflow improvements, like drafts, scheduling posts and autosave?

Apologies for the rather inexplicable post today – it’s more of a scattergun missive featuring various thoughts I’ve had on content management systems recently.

9 comments

    • I’m a Drupal fan myself, and I hate that this post comes across as quite down on Drupal. I’m just frustrated at the moment that things which are easily achievable in other systems are painful in Drupal.As for Joomla, I think I installed it once on my test server and ran screaming for the hills! Initial impressions were horrific and I decided not to invest any more time on that system.

  1. “That’s great, but why isn’t it in Drupal core?” – because if every great but targeted addon would have been included in the drupal core, Drupal would get very close to cthulhu madness trying to develop on and optimize even so, its still bloated for some people’s taste, see http://smallcore.org/ so it’s not good design to include for convenience 1 addon in core for one out of every 10 people to be disabled/removed by the other 9, including stuff in core usually involves changing core in specific ways, where as core needs to be kept flexible for every possible development need

  2. It all boils down to this. Do you want a tool or an appliance?

    I don’t think it’s necessary to spell out which is which.

    I find these comparisons quite pointless. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery but is also irrevocably the mark of a second rate mind.

    Drupal has obviously a lot to learn not only from WP, but also from other platforms and languages. But trying to ape the leader in the blog market is the wrong way to go, IMHO.

    • I’m familiar with the old “Drupal as Lego kit” discussion, thanks very much. And the comparison, as far as I’m concerned, isn’t pointless. To the end user, how it’s built isn’t remotely important. It’s how they interact with it, and the ease of use/access to features that they need that’s important.Drupal being a mature content management system, I’m very surprised that it hasn’t found a definitive way to handle media – images, audio, video. And now that WordPress has essentially went down the route of custom content types and taxonomy, it’s taken a further step in Drupal’s direction.Comparisons will be all the rage soon enough. Drupal advocates – and I remain a fan, but also a realist – should spend more time thinking about how they can make the product much more usable instead of telling people that “it’s a tool/framework/lego kit”. I agree that they should be making a clone of WordPress, but there’s an enormous amount of improvement that could be made to core Drupal – such as standard/preferred add-on modules that give 90% of the userbase the functionality that they need.

      • The answer you are looking for is a Drupal Distribution/Installation Profile. I predict that moving forward, Drupal won’t suddenly start answering how to become Word Press automatically out of the box. Instead, you will one day see a blogging platform released as a contributed profile that will allow one-click blog setup.The state of media-handling in Drupal is frustrating, but Drupal 7 has introduced a lot of basic infrastructure, and developers in that area have been very active in the last year. It’s still behind the curve, but it is closing that gap at full speed.

  3. Heya Gerard!Thanks for mentioning Drupal Gardens. The development is really influenced by the participation of the users on the forum. Not sure if you have the time, but if you post your ideas for “workflow improvements, like drafts, scheduling posts and autosave” it would be helpful! 

    • Hi Heather!Thanks for leaving a comment. I actually meant to do a proper review of Drupal Gardens when it first came out, because in general it’s a step in the right direction for Drupal as a platform.Perhaps the biggest advantage is not having to worry about database optimisations/hosting requirements and the plethora of modules it takes to get a workable site up and running. There are some great themeing customisations available and you still have all the power and flexibility of Drupal at your fingertips.I’ll certainly try and stop by with a few more workflow suggestions!

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