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Whitehouse.gov moves to Drupal

without comments

I like the decision that the White House is making to move its web site to Drupal, an open source content management system. However, not everyone is happy with the move. Chris Wilson over at Slate wrote a piece last week where he gave five reasons why the switch to Drupal will “… [end] badly.”

  • Drupal knows best.Chris complains that it’s not easy for content authors to add their own javascript. Drupal is right to make this difficult without sufficient privileges. Authors should be able to add and format text and add pictures. Anything beyond those tasks should be completed by an administrator.
  • Drupal is impenetrable.I guess the big gripe here is that setting up and administering Drupal can be difficult and that if you’re endeavoring to be a Drupal administrator that the support community expects you to have some base level of knowledge before asking for help. That’s probably true. Fortunately, there are lots of people that the White House can hire that know what they are doing. I’ve only used Drupal in the most superficial of ways, but I have had great luck in getting help when I needed it. If you’re a newb and you ask newb questions, you should expect to be treated like a newb. Be proactive and do more than a cursory search if you have a problem or questions. Chances are fairly good that someone has already provided a solution.
  • Drupal hates change.Wilson says that Drupal hates change which I read as Drupal rarely (never?) comes out with upgrades or security patches, but then he provides links to two sites that had a difficult upgrade experience. Perhaps, Willson is really suggesting that Drupal loves to make upgrades difficult? I can’t really speak to the difficulty of doing a Drupal upgrade having never attempted one myself. However, from what I understand the core modules that are part of Drupal’s default package are upgradeable with relative ease. Upgrades can become problematic when sites are running incompatible community modules. This is more of a problem with the community modules and less of problem with Drupal core. Either way, Chris’s point misses the mark.
  • Drupal is disorganized.I haven’t found it to be disorganized. Perhaps, it’s not organized the way someone might expect it to be organized?
  • Drupal is righteous.Wilson’s final point is that open source participants and supporters regard the open source movement as a kind of religion. There probably are a goodly number of people who will reject a commercial product outright simply because it is commercial and who will support another product just because it is open source. Whenever someone comes to me with an IT support issue I automatically assume that it’s an operator issue. That might sound bad, but I’m generally right. The problem, more often than not, is a result of incorrect usage of software or some other piece of technology.
  • I think the White House’s experiment with open source software will end up as a success. To assume that the road will be completely smooth is probably overly optimistic, but even a commercial path wouldn’t be without bumps. In the end, They will get where they want to go.

Written by Steve

November 2nd, 2009 at 1:08 pm