March 2009
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The CMS Word on the Tweet

Ye playboys and playgirls
Ain’t a-gonna run my world,
Not now or no other time

Like many others, I use Twitter Search to listen to the word on the street in the areas about which I’m passionate. Recently, I’ve been doing a lot of searches for “CMS“. In this case, however, the problem I have is that very few people are talking about the kind of CMS product in which I am interested. To illustrate this, have a look at the search for “CMS” using one of my favourite visualisers – the Twitter Stream Graph.

Twitter Visualiser for "CMS"

Twitter Visualiser for "CMS"

You probably can’t see the detail here (click the image to see the current stream), but it is clear that when most Twitter users say CMS, they mean WordPress, Drupal or Joomla!. There’s always a big PHP strand in there too.

So I panicked a bit. I know WordPress (from this blog, mainly). We very occasionally see Drupal in a vendor selection, and never see Joomla! at all. I’ve never been involved in an implementation with either. In fact, the technology team where I work is 45% .NET, 45% Java and 10% Misc. We tend to avoid PHP, Python, Perl and other scripting languages for various reasons which I won’t go in to here. So, are we really that out of touch?

I thought I’d dig around a bit more. I found the CMS Focus: CMS Report’s Top 30 Web Applications article and, of the 30, I’ve heard of about 60%. But we only implement 2 (SharePoint and Alfresco). That’s 7% of the top CMS products. Not very good.

So I tried the Open Jason 50 Content Management Systems list for a bit more choice. Of the 50, I’d only ever heard of about 10, most of which are blogging platforms (TypePad, MoveableType, Blogger and WordPress. Drupal and Joomla! are there. But this list is a year old, and the only new ones that have come onto my radar recently are Silverstripe (now available on the Microsoft Web Platform Installer) and GoodBarry. The rest have names like Moodle, Pligg, Triggit, Jogango and Weebly which just make me feel old . And we’ve never implemented any of these for a client, excluding simple blogs. So that is 0 / 50, or 0%. Things are going from bad to worse. Had a look at the 52 More Content Management Systems from the same source. Got a bit better there. Heard of maybe 20, and actually implemented three (Alfresco, eZ Publish and LifeRay).

I needed a more recent list, I think. Found 10 Promising Content Management Systems by Jacob Gube. Heard of 5, implemented 0. It’s getting desparate.

Fortunately, it seems, the clients that we work with don’t play in this space either. Just to reassure myself, I re-checked the list in my bible (that’s CMS Watch). Still good there. Of the 42 vendors covered, I’ve dealt with about 70% of them, and been on projects with about 50% of them.

Which brings me to my point. There are two worlds out there, in which the term CMS means something different. The Big Wide World, and My World.

To the Big Wide World (which includes Twitter, and all the sites I’ve mentioned above), CMS means “Free Open Source CMS with Low Cost of Ownership”. The commercial Open Source CMS solutions don’t make the cut either. Four of the five Open Source CMS products reviewed by CMS Watch (Drupal, Joomla!, Plone CMS and TYPO3) live in both worlds. Open CMS doesn’t as my feeling is it is a bit too complex. Alfresco, DotNetNuke and ez Publish made one of the lists above, but don’t really feature in the Tweetosphere.

I inhabit a world populated by analysts, commercial vendors, systems integrators, large agencies and other such creatures. I don’t believe we pay much attention to the other world until a product jumps the gap. And it seems difficult for a product that isn’t Java or Microsoft based to make it in to My World.

Looking at it from the other side, it seems difficult for a product that is Java or Microsoft to make it into the Big Wide World. There are very few good open source Microsoft (which I don’t find surprising) and Java (which I do) CMS systems. The open source community has embraced the scripting languages. If anyone has a simple, easy to use, Java based CMS that they really like, I’d love to hear from them.

In my head, the two worlds are still quite far apart. My “web generation” is extremely uncomfortable even calling WordPress a Content Management System. But the scary thing is that I suspect that I’m probably completely wrong on this. The two worlds might collide sooner than I think. Or maybe they have already and I just didn’t see it happen.

P.S. Here are two great posts that highlight various super cool Twitter visualisers:

P.P.S. The Open Source CMS Market Survey by Ric Shreves gives a really good overview of the Open Source CMS market. I wish I’d read that before I wrote this blog entry.

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