nwsource & drupal, summary

This is a (hopefully more useful) summary/takeaway of my notes from last night.

The folks at NWSource evaluated more than 50 CMSs before narrowing their list down to 2: Drupal & Joomla. Some of their basic factors are familiar to me: cost, use existing programming expertise, “source-available”, customizable in both look and function.  Drupal won, although part of that seems to have been a historical fluke.

This was a very complicated project, which they did (are continuing to do) in pieces. It was the only way they could handle it, but they don’t recommend that approach others. Drupal use will be expanded from nwsource.com to all the other “NW” sites, migrating from several different CMSs/publishing methods.

They used professional services from Lullabot and Fuse IQ, which helped both with technical aspects and with internal acceptance of using open source. There’s a couple of programmers, and a few designers, including one “superstar”, working on the site. The programmers participate as part of the Drupal community, which is different from previous company culture, but they sounded pretty upbeat about the experience.

My biggest disappointment? That the superstar designer who did all the template work wasn’t there. I was really, really, really curious about how they set theirs up.

I think I might take another peek at Joomla for the particular project for which I’ve been considering Drupal, but I also think that Drupal remains a strong contender. (Plus I wouldn’t mind being able to be a helpful volunteer for OlyBlog.) However, unless I can accomplish super-human feats, I probably won’t be able to do a CMS conversion in the time scale I was originally considering. We’ll see.

A few particulars: 

Strengths so far: workflow, custom URLs, taxonomy, photo handling, overall extensibility.

Weaknesses: content input, templates, working with other web software, moving from development to production (particularly with the volume of user-generated content)

Some of the modules mentioned/recommended:  workflow, pathauto, image field, image cache, printer-friendly, RSS (?), services (audience suggestion). They are using upwards of 30 modules, but figure that’s pretty normal.

CCK is apparently incredibly valuable for specialized types of content, and they were very enthusiastic about it.

Questions about performance and security led to a long discussion of tuning measures, including some particular ways to tweak Apache. This was probably the most valuable thing I got out of the evening.

URL rewriting can be very difficult, but they managed to keep all their old URLs even after the Drupal migration!

Best quotes (may not be exact):

  • if you can’t get around in the system, any CMS will last you about 2 years.
  • everything that we’re relying on is a module
  • [follow the community to] mak[e] sure you’re not digging yourself into a hole that no one will be around to get you out of.
  •  drupal likes to own everything.
  • so happy to have made their [authors & editors] lives better
  • if anybody wants to rewrite a module in the drupal way, please do this one. [printer-friendly]
  • it’s not drupal, it’s us [their optimization methodology]