[Evangelism] The State of Drupal

Ken Wasetis [Contextual Corp.] ken.wasetis at contextualcorp.com
Mon Nov 23 17:19:08 UTC 2009

Hi Scott,

I wanted to make sure we linked up at Gilbane; maybe we can discuss in 
more depth some pros/cons of Plone versus other systems and you can 
determine the best way to position that in the panel discussion without 
it being so us-versus-them.  We have a small pedestal display area for 
Contextual (www.contextualcorp.com) at the conference.  I know that 
Nate/Jazkarta will also be working a Plone booth, so we should all hook up.

We all have our favorite aspects of Plone.  Here is my off-the-cuff list:

Strengths of Plone (with comparison notes you can omit during 
discussion, but which provide some context):

1) Ease of Use / In-line Editing:
(Some tools such as Drupal, Fatwire, many others have a separate Admin 
UI and 'Preview' mode, rather than just navigating to the page to edit, 
change it, save it.  Drupal's admin UI is described as complex and 

2) Flexible Workflow / Fine-grained Permissions:
Many other tools hit a brick wall in this area and Plone really shines 
here.  Not only can we have different workflows per content type, but 
also per area of the site, and permissions per role can be different per 
workflow state for each workflow.  We can also empower some users to 
have edit/reviewer rights in some areas of a site, but not others.

3) PAS / Integration with LDAP, OpenID, SQL, SalesForce, and other 
custom Pluggable Authentication Services:
Single Sign-On is a deal-breaker for some organizations and through PAS 
(combined with web services in some cases), Plone succeeds very well here.

4) Versioning, Visual Diffs, Audit Trail:
Now granted, many of the commercial tools offer even better capabilities 
in the versioning/rollback area than Plone (entire site, entire section, 
not just content item-specific), but Plone does do well here, and I 
believe better than Drupal, but not as well as Alfresco and ezPublish.  
But users still fall in love when seeing visual diffs (green/red-lining 
of changes) with the ability to instantly rollback to the version they like.

5) Compliance with Standards (Section 508, well-formed XHTML, etc.):
For some orgs, especially government sites, this is a deal-breaker by 
law (if a site does not adhere to such standards)

6) Abundance of Free Add-ons to Extend Functionality:
For commercial tools, and even with other open source tools, such as 
Drupal and Joomla, well-working and maintained add-on modules/products 
typically are sold (e.g. $200 forums module for Joomla, etc.)  In the 
Downloads section of Plone.org, there are over 3,000 free, open source 
add-on modules.

7) Portlet Management:
Users love being able to add static portlets, collection portlets, RSS 
portlets, etc.  Plone got this very right with 3.0!

8) Structured Content Types (Taxonomy):
Plone does a nice job of allowing for custom, structured content types.  
Types are not limited to simple pages, files, images, as with some 
lightweight CMS tools (some people are calling Wordpress a CMS, for 
example.)  While Drupal handles this well TTW with the CCK and Plone has 
similar TTW options with ATSchemaEditorNG, Dexterity is on its way, 
etc., I think that the more complex the data/content model, the better 
Plone does here (RelationshipField/Widget, use of ATVocabularyManager 
for SelectionField values, etc.)  Generation of content types/products 
via free tools such as ArchGenXML and ArgoUML make it even more tantalizing.

9) Collections / Smart Folders:
Users love seeing that they have the ability to create more complex 
listing pages (or portlets with listings), without having to pay a 
developer to create them every time they're needed.

10) LiveSearch

1) Microsites / Subsites:
There are various ways to theme a certain folder/page of a site such 
that it seems like a separate site.  A common use case is an 
association, government agency, or company that needs the experience of 
having state-specific websites, but wants the ability to 'roll-up' all 
state-specific events/news/etc. into the national website.  This is done 
easier on Plone than with many systems and ever more ways are coming out 

2) Seemless Multi-site Experience:
Opposite of use case #1.  With the trend toward use of Deliverance as a 
theming approach for Plone (currently is an optional front-end theming 
layer), it's very possible to consistently theme ones various SaaS sites 
(Plone, cVent, Salesforce, etc.) as one consistent website user 
experience.  Sure, Deliverance could be used in front of Drupal, 
Vignette or any other CMS-based site as well, but if Deliverance/xdv  
becomes more the standard approach for Plone, then we can make the 
argument this is easier to do with Plone, there will be documentation to 
help do so, etc.  The market is in desperate need of a consistent 
theming layer like this that allows one to theme some SaaS application 
that the organization has little customization/development control over, 
as it is hosted/provided by another vendor that only allows some slight 
color theming and replacement of logo.

3) CMS-to-CRM Integration:
 From the feedback I received at our booth at CMSExpo.net last year, 
Joomla and Drupal in particular don't quite integrate with Salesforce or 
SugarCRM as well, with the more freely available plugins.  There were 
commercial/hosted service options that did answer this better, though.  
On the commercial CMS side,  the Salesforce connectors are few and 
expensive, and some simply act as an IFrame within the CMS, not blended 
into the website experience.

4) SEO Improvement:
As with many CMS tools, using Plone to manage site content pretty much 
instantly improves Search Engine Optimization/Rankings/Results.  Better 
use of keywords, Title tags. alt tags on images/links, proper use of H1 
and other heading tags, accessibility options (search engines read a 
page similar to the way a screen reader for the visually impaired does), 
auto-generation of sitemap.xml.gz file, easy implementation of Google 
Analytics code snippet (or other).

5) Security:
There's a reason that Zope is on the Dept of Defense approved OSS 
application list and by Plone community accounts is used on fbi.gov and 
other security/intelligence-related websites.  And as described on the 
plone.org front page, cve.mitre.org results indicate that Plone has the 
best security record of any CMS.  Plone's workflow, PAS, and 
fine-grained security on a site-wide, section-wide, or 
per-content-object basis really seems second to none.

6) Repeatable Deployments:
Generic Setup allows us to easily export TTW settings for workflow, 
search, navigation, content actions/views, etc. out as XML that allows 
for migrating such configuration options to other Plone sites on the 
same or different servers and platforms.  Just listen to the Drupal 
folks in the room drool over this one, and likely, even many of the 
commercial tool integrators (that rely upon a DBMS to store such 
settings, along with site data - have fun separating out just the site 
settings you want, when it's time to implement client site #2, 3, or to 
promote the settings from dev to production, but without the dev content 

7) No Vendor M&A / Consolidation to Worry About, No Corporate-Owned IP 
to Worry About:
While the commercial CMS market has been rampant in recent years with 
regard to consolidation (Oracle bought Stellent, OpenText bought 
Vignette, RedDot, Gauss, IXOS and others, IBM bought Lotus Notes, MS 
bought NCompass Labs, Autonomy bought Interwoven, etc., etc.), I don't 
believe customers/adopters/integrators of Plone will be left with no 
upgrade path and forced to migrate to another CMS anytime soon. 

Plenty of RedDot customers are going to be forced to move to Vignette, 
for example, losing significant knowledge of a platform they were 
comfortable with.  The same is true for other consolidations - I'm sure 
MS has pushed NCompass Labs customers to Sharepoint.

We also don't face the prospect of the Mambo/Joomla (commercial vs. OSS) 
fork, as the Plone Foundation, rather than some vendor, controls the IP, 
brand, trademark, etc. for Plone.

See you at Gilbane!

Ken Wasetis
Presdient and CMS Solution Architect
Contextual Corp.

irc/skype/twitter: ctxlken
ken.wasetis at contextualcorp.com
mobile:  224-628-1665

Scott Paley wrote:
> Steve - this is fantastic. Thanks!
> Next Wednesday (12/2)  I'll be sitting on a panel at Gilbane Boston 
> entitled "Open Source CMS Powwow", as the "Plone representative". 
> Others on the panel will include Mitch Pirtle, the founder of Joomla, 
> Jay Batson, a co-founder of Acquia, and Ian Howells, the CMO of 
> Alfresco. In other words, it's a pretty strong panel (always fun to be 
> the "weakest link!") Obviously I know a lot more about Plone than the 
> other 3 platforms, so this kind of information is extremely helpful. 
> It's interesting to see how Drupal stuggles with many of the same 
> challenges as Plone and is not some "magic bullet".
> http://gilbaneboston.com/conference_program.html#W9
> If anybody out there wants to "arm" me with additional information 
> about what you perceive to be the strengths of Plone relative to the 
> other platforms, please send an email my way. I'm not as interested in 
> the specific ways in which Plone is better than Joomla as I am about 
> where Plone really shines. I have my own ideas on this, but would love 
> feedback.
> The stated agenda of the talk is, "Just a few short years ago many 
> organizations wouldn't think of implementing an open source content 
> management system. Today, thousands of major global companies have 
> implemented solutions like Drupal, Joomla!, Plone and Alfresco, to 
> name a few. In this session, Joe Bachana, Founder and CEO of DPCI, has 
> invited major luminaries from these four open source CMS projects to 
> help attendees better differentiate each system from the others. 
> Particular attention will be paid to calling out the strengths of each 
> system. The session will also pay close attention to any feedback or 
> lingering criticism in the market that open source CMS platforms still 
> face."
> The moderator followed up privately to let the panelists know that, 
> "With regard to the tone of the session, I'd like it to be 
> constructive -- I don't have a particular interest in declaiming which 
> project is better than the other. However, there are clear 
> differentiators on platforms (LAMP, Python, Java/J2EE) as well as 
> functional focus for each that can and should be called out, and we 
> should endeavor to do so. Further, I would like to leave ample time to 
> discuss the criticisms of the open-source platform and communities, 
> since there is still a great deal of it out there."
> Thanks all,
> Scott Paley
> Abstract Edge
> On Sun, Nov 22, 2009 at 12:59 PM, Steve McMahon <steve at dcn.org 
> <mailto:steve at dcn.org>> wrote:
>     While at the Non-Profit SW Dev Summit, I had the opportunity to
>     attend a couple of Drupal panels (new to Drupal, and what's new
>     with Drupal). Drupal had their A team at the summit (a couple of
>     core devs and several evangelists) to do the talks. I wanted to
>     pass on a few things on what I observed. Share as appropriate.
>     1) Drupal is also having the framework vs product debate. From
>     what I heard, the "framework" side is definitely winning. Many
>     Drupal integrators are actually demanding that some new,
>     friendlier UI in the Drupal 7 preview be rolled back because they
>     feel it undermines their flexibility as integrators. Drupal 7
>     continues to be a micro-core product that is not really suitable
>     for use out of the box. The Drupal folks emphasize that no
>     inexperienced person should think they can integrate Drupal by
>     themselves (for more than a blog), as they need to gain a lot of
>     experience as to which modules really work together.
>     2) There is no migration path for add-on modules between 6 and 7.
>     The core devs emphasize that it will be a rare 6 module that does
>     not need a complete rewrite to become a 7 module. The integrators
>     in the audience moaned loudly on receiving this news, and
>     complained that this was awful for them. The core devs replied
>     that the new APIs would make add on modules more secure and reliable.
>     3) Drupal is still very complex for end users. I don't think they
>     really differentiate between users and site managers. Positioning
>     a node in the content hierarchy still requires intimate knowledge
>     of how Drupal works (or add on modules that organize portions of
>     the tree). The ideal Drupal install is probably either small
>     enough that a single site admin is not a bottleneck, or large
>     enough that several site admins can be well trained.
>     4) Permissions and roles are still pretty much global, and
>     workflow is rudimentary. No ACLs. The organic groups module
>     remedies some of that, but there was skepticism about whether or
>     not it could be ported to 7.
>     5) The CCK (content creation kit) is now pretty much integrated
>     into 7, and is really pretty cool in its ability to allow site
>     admins to add fields to content types TTW. On the other hand, they
>     don't have a round trip story, and I heard a couple of
>     conversations, that translated to Plone-speak, amounted to "we
>     need something like generic setup to handle repeatable deployments."
>     6) Real-life Drupal is actually very resource intensive. The
>     audience was told that they could do something like a blog on a
>     cheapo host, but that a real deployment with multiple content
>     authors would require a dedicated server or large virtual slice.
>     7) They are still, out-of-the-box, a great blogging platform, and
>     if you're using Drupal as a "news to the home page site" with a
>     few static pages, it's easy and fast to configure.
>     8) The party line on Acquia is that what's good for Acquia and
>     Dries is good for Drupal. I saw not a hint of discomfort with that.
>     9) A somewhat contradictory pair of party lines: "it's easy to
>     find PHP programmers, and they're inexpensive, therefore PHP is
>     the place to be" and "Don't even think of using a PHP programmer
>     with less than 3 years Drupal experience to do any customization."
>     10) Taxonomy was "never meant to provide site structure" and is
>     now deprecated as a way to build nav trees. The "right" way to do
>     it is with the new relations fields, which allow you to pick nodes
>     as parents/children.
>     _______________________________________________
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> -- 
> Scott Paley | ABSTRACT EDGE
> Office: 212.352.9311
> Direct: 212.352.1470
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> Website: http://www.abstractedge.com
> Blog: http://www.brandinteractivism.com
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