LAMP CMS Systems frustration

I’m never happy with whatever site I’m running or involved with. Evolution of a site is never fast enough for me, never fresh enough for me, and never easy enough to work with. Over the years, I’ve run test versions of my sites using Mambo, PostNuke, PHP-Nuke, PHP-X, Drupal, ezPublish, and many other LAMP-based CMS systems. My experience has been that they suffer from one of two major downfalls:

1) They were conceived to handle a very specific task, and every other task was an afterthought.

2) They were conceived to handle large, team-based publishing of multiple content types, and so they have things like “workflows” that a single-user site never uses, so there’s a learning curve involved in just getting a simple content model together.

The Nuke-like CMS systems suffer from problem 1. They were conceived as news portals, not full-fledged content management solutions. You could get “plugins” for everything else you wanted, but since the API was originally designed to handle a very simple set of tasks, integration of plugins to do completely unrelated stuff has always been horrible, and everything was always shot to hell upon an upgrade.

The Mambo and ezPublish models of content management put walls up between the authors, editors and publishers of content, so a single user has to put on three different hats to get things out the door. With Mambo, I tried two different times to figure out how to create what I thought was a very simple hierarchical menu for the front page of a documentation site. It was impossible. There was jargon involved in Mambo that was so convoluted that is clearly just wasn’t aimed at getting a site up and running quickly that did anything useful.

With ezPublish, the first thing it does is try to force you down the path of creating a particular *kind* of site. A news site, corporate site, blog… I believe there were, like, 8 choices. Well, I don’t want any *one* kind of site.

What I really want is an application that doesn’t make assumptions about the content of the site. Sound a lot like I want a Wiki, right?

Well, they have their own issues. First, they need to be thoroughly locked down. Wikis are designed with the intention that it is driven somewhat by the spectators. I do not want that. Second, I haven’t found a very easy way to link one article across multiple categories. What I guess I want is a Wiki that understands the del.icio.us notion of “tags” or something, so I can categorize the content however I please, but still define a relationship between articles or documents in other completely remote sections of the site without a lot of heavy lifting.

I’m also tired of single-topic sites. I’ve grown to hate linuxlaboratory.org, because the domain pretty much dictates what the content should probably be. I have a wide array of interests, and I’d like to write about all of them, because I like to write, and because writing helps me to remember the things I’ve learned about whatever my interest is this week. One day, I might want to write about issues with my Radio Shack bread board electronics kit. The next day, I might want to post a video of my high run in straight pool. On the weekend, I want to post some “finger tips” about how *not* to slice a finger off while using a router. Maybe I want to have a “home improvement” section with notes for others about how to avoid the pain involved in working with fiberglass insulation. Maybe I want to videotape a tech support call and accompany that with notes.

I want an application that will let me host all of this stuff, and maybe have some friends pitch in and help, and I *DO NOT* want to be writing code – I want to be writing content.

If anyone out there understands what I’m looking for and knows of a solution, I’m all ears!

  • Grug

    I don’t know if you have tried a recent version of Drupal – but if not then I would give it another go.
    My experience of it has been great – modules are highly integrated, and you can configure it for pretty much any kind of site. It is easy to use the book module to build simple hiarachical site content. It also has a very flexible permission system, that doesn’t force you into a particular workflow.
    Good luck!