I'm working on a more thorough analysis for Download Squad, but after reading Linda's comment, I thought now might be a good time to share some of my own evaluations/thoughts on the different blogging platforms/Content Management Systems...
OK, this is where I kind of write a bit of a mea-culpa for last night’s bitchfest. See, for 6 and a half years or so, I kept a personal journal/blog on LiveJournal1 and though I eventually did start treating it like a more traditional “blog” in the post-2003 sense of the word (commenting on articles, news events, and other external commentary), it was often used as an outlet for me to vent some of my frustrations, grievances and other stream-of-conscious writing.
What I hadn’t really taken into account, until I saw Linda’s comment, was that stuff that I write as merely an exercise in venting my frustration, can potentially impact how people perceive a product/tool. Whoops. I’ll try to clearly mark that kind of stuff in the future. I don’t intend to use this site/blog the same way I used my journal all those years, but I also don’t intend to stop writing about the more mundane blatherings/bitchings.
I’m working on a more thorough analysis for Download Squad, but after reading Linda’s comment, I thought now might be a good time to share some of my own evaluations/thoughts on the different blogging platforms/Content Management Systems. Aside from actually kicking myself in the ass enough to do it, choosing a blogging platform was as much of a roadblock for me to start this site as finding a good design. In fact, I’d say those two things were the two elements I let allow me to put off starting this pseudo-professional space for as long as I have.
Every six or seven months for the past couple of years, I kept coming back to the question, “what blogging platform should I choose?” I would type in comparisons for WordPress and Movable Type, hope to find something recent, try to read up about how something worked with my host, hope that that was recent, etc., etc. I would dabble with a few here and there, but because I love to procrastinate (and am great at rationalizing my procrastination), it took me a long time to get to where I am.
In the last month or so, I have taken a much closer look not only at WordPress (which I am using to run this site), but also the newly released Movable Type 4.1 OS, the RC2 candidate for Drupal 6 and the recently released Joomla 1.5
Read on to see some of my brief thoughts on each. As I said, I hope to have a more thorough evaluation up on Download Squad soon. Worst case scenario, I’ll just do the series here.
- WordPress (.org)
- HUGE user community for support/plugins/themes
- Very, very easy to set-up, especially for people who still get squeamish over FTP (to those people: start getting comfortable or go with a hosted solution — you have to use FTP if you want to maintain your own site/blog)
- Supports multiple users with WordPress MU
- One installation can run multiple blogs
- The commercial counterpart, WordPress.com (and its company, Automattic), just got a huge bankroll in Round “B” funding. Yes, they are separate entities, but that kind of funding means that the commercial arm will be around for a long time, and by extension, have a vested interest in continuing to develop WordPress.org. This isn’t going to die from lack of updates.
- Not as secure as some of the other options, namely Drupal. It is imperative that you always keep your installation updated, and updating is a bit more difficult than just installing.
- The Dashboard kind of sucks. It’s supposed to be updated in the forthcoming 2.5 release, but right now, it’s ugly and not always easy to manage
- Because the community is so large, it can be difficult separating the good from the useless. Parsing all the information into something usable and useful can be difficult.
- As soon as something becomes successful, you see the grifters come out from under their rocks. Meaning you can find plugins with ad-code for the creator invisibly inserted, themes with hidden ads, etc., etc.
Bottom Line: For new users, this is probably the best of mainstream options simply because of how much support exists. The number of tools and plugins available dwarfs the competing platforms and development is always active. If you have the time to code your own stuff and don’t rely on plugins as much, looking at other options might be beneficial, especially when it comes to web-based management and security.
- The first stable release of Movable Type Open Source (MTOS) is now available, a return of sorts to the pre-2004 licensing brouhaha.
- Once installed, is very easy to manage from the Dashboard.
- Lots of plugins and themes are available (be sure to check that they are compatible with your installation)
- MTOS and MT 4.1 have some really great built-in features like multi-user support, OpenID, custom fields, author avatars, etc.
- Again, the company behind the project is self-sustaining and not likely to disappear anytime soon.
- The installation is a bitch. A total, total bitch. I’ve finally got it down so that I can get it running as fast as I can get WordPress set-up, but it took far too much time and too much documentation to figure it out. You have CHMOD all the CGI files, which is fine, but then you have to make sure that your server can support CGI enabled folders, otherwise the CGI has to go in a separate place. Then there’s the whole “mt-static” quandary. I didn’t have to move my CGI scripts or the “mt-static” folder, but the documentation wasn’t overtly clear about how those two steps are not always required. Install is a total, total bitch.
- They are still trying to push the commercial vein for Movable Type 4.1. I get and understand that, but I have questions about how frequently MTOS will be updated and what kind of community support it will truly have.
- The development community isn’t as active as WordPress and many of the styles and plugins are for older versions of the software.
Bottom Line: After it’s installed, this is a pretty elegant CMS with a nice interface and lots of available options. It isn’t as supported by the community as WordPress but many of the built-in features take care of some of those problems. If you truly want your blog to be an extension of your web page and manage both together, MTOS seems to do a better job, especially with Static Content, than WordPress.
- Very secure
- A true CMS, very dynamic/scalable
- Active development community (caveat, not the same as active style/theme community)
- Very easy to manage more than one site or multiple users
- If you want to customize the look of your blog, there aren’t as many pre-built solutions. In fact, most of them are ports or Zen Garden derivatives. I haven’t had a chance to figure out how Drupal 6 themeing works, but you’ll want to take the time to learn if you want to customize your interface
- As active as the development community is, most are geared more towards performance and backend support, not so much user plugins that are popular on WordPress. Keep this in mind.
Bottom Line: I really, really like Drupal and if you are running a large site or considering hosting multiple blogs, I think it is far better than WordPress MU. That said, the community, as nice as they are, are much more geared towards people who know what they are doing. That isn’t to say that beginners can’t use the system, but the level of hand-holding isn’t there. If you want to learn or already have PHP knowledge, it’s a great system.
- Easiest to install — WordPress is faster but Joomla is actually easier. It walks you through all the configuration steps and MySQL setup.
- Very elegant interface
- Default styling options are really attractive
- Vibrant and supportive community
- Understanding the template, plugin and integration structures takes time. Don’t expect to pick this up in an afternoon — spend the weekend to learn the basics
- Third party styling isn’t as robust as some of the others.
- Although there are tons of great plugins, it can be difficult to find out where they are.
- The community is great and aims to help users as much as possible but it can still be overwhelming for total n00bs
Bottom Line: This is one I’m going to be watching. I really like the direction this project is going in. Like Drupal, I like its backend and security a bit more than WordPress, but once you understand the system, it’s interface is more akin to Movable Type, and its community, while not as large as WordPress’s, is very active.
Again, I’m going to try to do a more in-depth series for Download Squad, but those were just my recent thoughts using the latest versions of those 4 CMS systems.
Have another favorite? Let me know, I’ll add it to my list.
- No, I’d prefer no to link to it — I did reference it in an earlier post and am working on importing the best of the 1000 or so entries into a “Christina’s Past Writings” section, but you really don’t want to read about my various dramatic experiences starting at the end of high school and going through college — well, my traditional college experience; the fact that I’m taking forever and a day to graduate is neither here nor there. [↩]
16 people have left comments
What I’d be interested to know is how much tech knowledge you need to set up and run these things. My blog so far has always been with a hosted platform, but one day I’d like to gravitate to a do it yourself blog. But I’m unsure whether I have the tech knowledge and/or time. I don’t want to shell out money to find out it’s not for me. The last thing I want is to spend more time getting my blog to work than writing posts for it.
James, That’s a GREAT question. Generally, I think that you need to be willing to at least learn more about web technology, but at least as far as WordPress (and Movable Type once you get it installed), the knowledge required after that is relatively basic. You need to be able to create a MySQL database on your webhost. For most hosts, this is very, very simple (usually nothing more complicated than clicking a “create database” button and then copying the details like the database name, host, username and password). You also need to be able to edit the text values for some PHP files (you can use any basic text editor) to fill in details (like your MySQL information), but much of that is limited. Some hosts do “1-click installs” that basically load all the stuff for you and you just have to do the configuration stuff, which would be very similar to how you configure a hosted blog now.
The big thing, is that that you do need to be comfortable using a FTP program. That’s how you transfer your themes, plugins, etc.
That’s basically it. Everything else for systems like WordPress and Movable Type (less so for Drupal and Joomla, but they have a slightly different target market), is handled through the web-based dashboard, which is very, very similar to the dashboards for a hosted solution like Blogger. Blogger frustrates the hell out of me to be honest, and I think WordPress is actually easier to control from a management perspective.
Chris Murphy said:
I think I spent about six months trying to decide which weblog platform I wanted to work with; I had tried a number of home-grown packages, as well as attempted to develop one of my own. At the time MT was not very attractive in terms of developing against (I think it was its theme engine), and I also tried Expression Engine (Loved it!!!!). I settled on WordPress because of the community behind it. I’m not at all impressed by their Dashboard — it’s probably one of the poorest designed admin areas I have had the misfortune of working with (I’ve worked with many). I’m equally less impressed with what they are developing (check out their SVN repo — or not — preferably not).
BUT. It appears there are efforts to re-skin the Dashboard to something much more streamlined and visually appealing. I’ve seen some screenshots of this, and if WP 2.5 dashboards turns out to be crap, you’re going to see a new theme from me for sure.
I worked with Drupal — and while I cannot really say whether or not it was a good platform — I was thoroughly disappointed with its Theme capabilities. In all fairness to the Drupal though, it seemed pretty stable and if the application/service/site was well developed against the platform’s strengths, it would be worth it for me to look into in terms of specialization.
Something else to look at is the derivative project of Expression Engine — Code Igniter and it’s MVC counterparts/predecessors like CakePHP, RadiantCMS (Ruby on Rails), as well as an offshoot of the last one, FrogCMS.
Jay Cuthrell said:
I’m still using LiveJournal as an advanced twitter-like application and for the simple reason I’ve been on it for so long.
I flailed around with WordPress and the importing of LJ xml exports enough to get most of what I cared to keep. I just set most of it as private, tried double posting to both LJ and WP, then I gave up and just put things I’d shout on WP and things for my friends-only in LJ. So, are you using the native LJ export or resources like jbackup.pl? I just run that periodically to sync entries for backup purposes but haven’t determined how to drop/add the tables without duplicates on import to WP.
Also, how did you get the OpenID URL working on WP? Is that a plugin for WP? I could probably search for an answer but I’ll consider this my lazyweb question of the day
Joshua James said:
Great post! I’ve been looking for a well-rounded comparison of the top CMS players. Thanks!
Jay — yeah, I’m using the WP-OpenID plugin (http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/openid/) and it has been working really well. See, that’s my dilemma with the LJ thing, I still want to be able to post certain Friends-Only stuff, but I haven’t used it regularly in so long, that going back to it seems strange (and lots of my friends don’t use it as frequently as they used to either).
I haven’t played around extensively with importing any of my LJ stuff into WordPress, I just used LJ Migrate (which I think is essentially jbackup, but it runs on OS X, not sure if jbackup does) which exports every entry out as both XML and HTML and keeps nested comments and also downloads/inserts all my userpics in the HTML. I’ll have to do more tests to see what the XML imports look like.
Linda Sherman said:
Christina, Thank you so much for your fabulous technical assistance in getting my WordPress.org blog off the ground. I’m delighted to be included in your “bookmarks”!
Bradley Charbonneau said:
Thanks for posting, Christina. I’ve been down the whole MT –> WP –> Drupal –> WP path and am more than happy with WP, but, as evidenced by reading this post of yours, am still interested in what people think of the others. I never took much of a look at Joomla, but with your comments above, I’ll also keep my eyes on it. Where I usually run into ceilings with WordPress is often with member management and e-commerce. Maybe Joomla does that sort of thing better. Thanks again for the analysis.
Bishop James ‘I Feel God’ Brown said:
Great Great Great post!!
I have many sites up and running using joomla 1.0.13 and a couple (including my wife’s ) using wp. Also I just had the nightmare of upgrading a site from Joomla 1.0.13 to 1.5.1 ahhhh!!!!! not pretty!!! I really wish that there was a straight forward upgrade path. Nonetheless using cpanel 11 you can still get a good clean install with fantatico. Those who still have cpanel 10 are out of luck on that as well.
One additional comment, WP generally has superior SEO tools and posts get the wp bounce. Joomla was notorious for poor SEO. Don’t know much about the others.
Like you, I really do like the new joomla. I started cms’ing back in the pre mambo — postnuke days, so I was really comfortable with the way it worked. The reason I started really using it for production was the ease with which dreamweaver could create scratch templates on the old system. I have not had time to learn or understand the new theme system yet.
Having said that, for newbies — a self hosted wp installation is the way to go in my book. But for more versatility in layout and presentation — I love (like) (don’t hate) joomla 1.5
In Him, JMb <
Bishop James ‘I Feel God’ Brown
The Internet’s Favorite Pastor
Bishop, Thanks for your comment! It’s great to get the feedback from other users who have “been there” so to speak. Thank you for also sharing your thoughts on the Joomla upgrade experience. It’s disappointing (but not surprising) that the upgrade experience is so painful, but great to know.
TheLetterTwo.com » Blog Archive » You know you want to blog, but with what? said:
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