7 Comments


  1. Yeah, pmaiorana is Paul Maiorana, he works on the VIP side of WordPress.com, so, he doubtless spends a lot of time explaining these advantages to companies who might have previously felt that WordPress wasn’t hard-core enough for real publishing.

    The article itself is the usual insane bullshit – despite the evidence staring this newspaper journalist in the face, despite the contrast between her experience and what her WordPress-using competitor is spelling out for her, she is so befuddled that she bravely rolls what is meant to be a comparison between WordPress and Drupal into a bland, impartial, meaningless ball.

    She says it took a team of people ONE YEAR to prepare the Drupal-based website for the small local newspaper she works for, The Concord Monitor. WTF. Just look at it.

    And can you imagine what the total cost was, spread over a year, including not only the developers fees but, also, the newspaper’s own staff costs?

    Can you imagine the progress that purely online companies serving the same locality made during the year that she and her colleagues spent whacking their skulls against whatever Frankenstein concoction of Drupal + custom code was being served up to them?

    This is why local newspapers are dying, not because technology was inevitably going to wipe them out but because journalists are so used to superficially skimming the details and coming to trite conclusions rather than bothering to actually understand things – decades of poor journalism echoed in bad business decisions.

    The Internet isn’t killing newspapers, it could have been a huge boon to them, they are committing suicide.

    Obviously, I don’t have access to the backend of The Concord Monitor but, seriously, I could whip up something more stylish, easier to maintain and with a better publishing work-flow in one day by simply building upon a good Genesis theme, Justin Tadlock’s Members plugin, Gravity Forms, Yoast’s SEO and a few other old reliables. I have seen the “professional” tools that cost crazy amounts and they are way behind the best of WordPress.

    The problem, and I come across this all the time, is that companies have experienced such horrific abuse from their previous CMSes that they simply can’t believe this stuff can actually be easy and, of course, there’s usually some lazy IT guy in the background, worried that his cover will be blown, persuading them that they need to pay fifty grand for a “professional solution” – this is why the “WordPress is for blogging” meme refuses to die, because a lot of people are making a living from it. When clients are clueless – and print journalists tend to be surprisingly technophobic – such manipulation becomes standard practise, it’s an industry-wide Stockholm Syndrome.


  2. Aminka

    I must chime in! I actually enjoyed Meg Heckman’s article, though I guess I’m on donnacha’s side of things.

    I tried running a Drupal site three years ago and couldn’t make heads or tails of it as a lay user. I gave up after three or four months of struggle; I even bought some of the few Drupal books that were available for purchase then.

    Today I use WordPress without having read hardly anything on it and yet have no trouble understanding how to use it — simply use it. Not hack it, not customize it, not “push” the technology…simply use it. I am absolutely astounded at the difference.

    I actually looked into Drupal again this year, prior to WordPress, and it was the same ol’ same ol’…it’s just a whole other vibe to it; really tech-y, really I.T.

    Not to knock Drupal — they like to note how Harvard, Sony, and the White House uses Drupal. And that’s cool. But I recommend WordPress for ordinary DIYers. In fact, WordPress is so simple to use, I’m now building a site for someone else!

  3. Meg Heckman

    Thanks so much for linking to my piece on Poynter and for continuing the discussion on this site.

    A few things in donnacha’s post warrant response:

    1.) He referred to my “WordPress-using competitor.” The Bangor-Daily News and the Concord Monitor aren’t competitors. We operate in different states and different markets.

    2.) He said, “This is why local newspapers are dying, not because technology was inevitably going to wipe them out but because journalists are so used to superficially skimming the details and coming to trite conclusions rather than bothering to actually understand things – decades of poor journalism echoed in bad business decisions.”

    Actually, this is precisely why we decided to build on an open-source platform. We wanted a laboratory in which to push the boundaries of digital storytelling and local news presentation, one that allowed us the flexibility to make real — as opposed to ‘superficial’ — changes in the way we publish news. WordPress might have been an equally appropriate choice, but we happened to already have some Drupal expertise in house.

    3.) “I don’t have access to the backend of The Concord Monitor but, seriously, I could whip up something more stylish, easier to maintain and with a better publishing work-flow in one day.”

    I’d be happy to show you around the back end of the Monitor’s site and hear your feedback.

    4.) “there’s usually some lazy IT guy in the background, worried that his cover will be blown, persuading them that they need to pay fifty grand for a “professional solution””

    Say whatever you want about me, my newspaper’s site or journalism in general. I will, however, vehemently defend my colleagues in IT and web development. They are some of the smartest, hardest working (and nicest) people I know… and I couldn’t do my job without them.

    Thanks again for taking the time to read and comment on my piece.

    Meg


  4. @Meg Heckman – I understand that the frustrated tone of my comment may have struck you as a personal attack but my frustration is with this phenomenon, which is playing out in newspaper markets everywhere – local, national and international. That is why I made my comment here, on Jeff’s blog, rather than yours, because my argument isn’t against you specifically.

    That the guy using WordPress is not your direct competitor is precisely the sort of nit-picking that journalists call “fact checking” but which I call deflecting attention from the important point. Let us, however, put aside the temptation to enter into a lawyerly quarrel and let’s get to the heart of the matter.

    I did not take issue with your use of Drupal as much the fact that you and your colleagues somehow felt it was normal to embark on a one year ballet of expensive IT department pirouetting to set up what appears, both stylistically and functionally, to be a very mundane, run-of-the-mill and, frankly, charmless Drupal site.

    People in traditional publishing have been brain-washed into accepting that, somehow, a year of “development” is necessary to implement what boils down to very simple functionality.

    When I responded to the actual result, your newspaper’s website, with a concise “WTF”, I was not trying to be provocatively profane. Trust me, I was speaking for anyone who as any familiarity with how long these projects take. Even the greenest beginner, in Drupal, WordPress or any other PHP+MySQL CMS, would look at that site and refuse to believe that it took anything more that a few weeks, possibly a month, tops, if you include training.

    I have created hundreds of Drupal sites, WordPress now happens to be better for most projects (especially those involving non-technical end-users) but Drupal has served me well in its time. It is good software and there is simply NO WAY it is possible to spend a year developing such a site UNLESS the magical, triple-punch stopping power of organizational dysfunction, managerial laziness and departmental free-riding is brought to bear.

    Look at your website, look at Bangor Daily News, look back at your website, now look back at the Bangor Daily News …

    … they both look like shit but are both doing essentially the same thing and the key difference is that your WordPress-using non-competitor did not piss away an entire year on unnecessary bullshit. The entire print industry is arriving way late to the digital party but you guys let yourselves be talked into arriving a whole year later.

    We wanted a laboratory in which to push the boundaries of digital storytelling and local news presentation, one that allowed us the flexibility to make real — as opposed to ‘superficial’ — changes in the way we publish news.

    Oh God. Please. Stop.

    The only boundary that got pushed is that, in stretching this job out to a full year, your developers scored a legendary win that will be the toast of Slashdot for years to come. In your “laboratory”, they discovered a way to string you along for a year before leaving you holding a heavily-customized bundle that will guarantee plenty of IT department overtime for years to come.

    WordPress might have been an equally appropriate choice, but we happened to already have some Drupal expertise in house.

    Frankly, whether you used Drupal or WordPress is immaterial because neither should have taken anywhere near that long. Already having some “Drupal expertise in house” should have shortened, not lengthened the development process.

    Take any reasonably bright high school graduate who has no previous experience of any CMS but, also, does not habitually smoke crack. Sit him down at a Mac with access to the Internet, point him at Google and tell him to spend a week learning all he can about about Drupal.

    Come back a week later and ask him to spend a week setting up a test website using Drupal.

    “Oh, sorry” he will say, “I already have … I did that back on the first day, I thought that was the obvious thing to do. Sorry”.

    Magnanimously forgive him and ask him to instead spend this second week experimenting with the various already existing extensions that make Drupal more suited to newspaper sites and familiarizing himself with all the options, both free and commercial.

    Come back a week later and, sitting by his side, look at all the options, make some judgement calls – knowing that, this being software, you can always change them later – and give him a week to polish it up and port some existing content into that sucker.

    Then, ask him to spend his forth and final week training you and your colleagues on how to paste stories into text fields and how to press the “Publish” button (perhaps you could split the week so that you can properly focus on each of those weighty concepts in turn).

    So, there you go, there’s a Drupal site every bit as good as what you’ve got but it took one man-month to create, not a team of people haemorrhaging time and money for a year. WordPress might have been less of a headache for the end-user journalists and editors, but it doesn’t really matter, the point is that it took a month in total and you haven’t needlessly drained money from a newspaper that could probably use it to, you know, pay writers and photographers.

    Say whatever you want about me, my newspaper’s site or journalism in general. I will, however, vehemently defend my colleagues in IT and web development. They are some of the smartest, hardest working (and nicest) people I know… and I couldn’t do my job without them.

    Like I said, Stockholm Syndrome.

    Look, you don’t know me from Adam and these are real people who play a role in your day-to-day life. It is natural to think well of your colleagues but, seriously, go and talk to other people, even people on Drupal forums, and ask them how much actual development should be involved in setting up a newspaper site, even one that “pushes the boundaries of digital storytelling and local news presentation”.

    Politely ignore the gales of laughter and, then, listen carefully to what they have to say and ask yourself: is there any justifiable reason why the development of your site should have taken so very much longer?

    Clearly, you trusted people to make technical decisions that you felt you, yourself, would be unable to make – although, honestly, an evening with Google would have given you all you needed to now. There was probably a lot of conversation, a lot of coffee, a lot that smiling thing that nice people do and, in the end, you had no reason to suspect that a timeline of one year was unreasonable.

    Here’s the thing, though: these “nice” people took you and your colleagues on a ride that not only wasted a year of your lives but also put your newspaper a year behind where it should have been as a business. That is unforgivable and you should be angry about it but, like so many victims of fraud, you still believe that your manipulators actually did you a favor.

    But, hey, this isn’t just about you and your ability to sense when you are being conned, I am telling you that I see this story played out again and again, in practically every type of organization. The nature of IT departments and, indeed, any select few who become gate-keepers to knowledge necessary to keep the wheels turning, is that some people will initially be honest but, over time, the trend is to favor immediate departmental needs over the good of the greater organization and, when an industry is disrupted, it’s auto-immune response kicks in and perceives newer, easier, better ways of doing things as a threat that must be stopped at all costs.

    Journalists need to wipe the ink off their hands, embrace the fact that, now, WordPress or, God help you, Drupal are your most important tools and you need to get to know them, intimately, yourselves, not farm out the effort of learning something new to your IT departments, they are the very last people who should be making these decisions.

    Writers should chose their own tools and, when they do, they choose WordPress.


  5. Regardless of what people say about the WordPress/Drupal comparisons. The article about the “Drupal Crisis” is an important consideration. I do not know whether the views expressed in that article are widely held, or authoritative. However, if they are even partly true, Drupal is in trouble. Any project built on Drupal is at some stage going to be affected by those troubles. Were a prospective user to be directed toward that article, they would need to think long and hard about going down the Drupal road.

    For me, the choice lies not only in the features of the CMS itself, but in the good health of the community around it and the development within it. Long term, this is a far greater factor than the questions about the CMS features alone. The WordPress ecosystem is healthy and fertile, and the enthusiasm shown by all involved nurtures the success of the system and will continue to increase the quality of WordPress.

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