Plone vs Drupal
April 13, 2008 10:05 PM   Subscribe

Plone or Drupal? We are a non-profit organisation looking to develop our web presence and move from a hodge-podge CMS to something using either Drupal or Plone.

We have one part-time web editor who is enthusiastic about one of these platforms but hasn't really built anything with it. Other interested folk like myself have used both (but built nothing on my own) and I have a favourite too (although I think there are flaws with both).

Assuming it's one or the other, if you were building a site, which would you choose? Plone or Drupal?
posted by Kerasia to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Oh, god, avoid Plone. It's buggy, it's not up-to-date with the most recent versions of Python (nor is it likely to be)

We have two sysadmins at work. I run about 30 boxes. The other guy runs four BSD boxes that I don't like touching for fear I'll break something (they are, you could say, a bit 'mission-critical') and our Plone server. Most of his time is spent on Plone, plus the caching layerS (plural) in front of it, plus the multiple database backends behind it. We have to restart it twice a day as it eats all six gigs of RAM on the server... We have to cache everything, even though it's theoretically dynamic, and the Zope server is so slow to start that the five minute cache usually runs out when re restart the servers all at once and results in a few minutes of downtime before the caching layers catch up.
posted by SpecialK at 10:52 PM on April 13, 2008 [2 favorites]

Drupal is huge and byzantine, and Plone (as above) is a performance and glitchy mess. Are these really the only two choices?

If so, (my vote on the restricted question) Drupal, but it's one of those things you use 10% of, and suffer through the other 90.

(Yes these are only my opinions, but they're based on dozens of efforts with each.)
posted by rokusan at 10:58 PM on April 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Have you considered Joomla? I know you only mentioned those two options, I just wanted to make sure that it's because you've already ruled Joomla out.

I'm in a similar situation to you and it seemed to me that Drupal (and Joomla) are the best known and best supported - I'm avoiding Plone for the reasons SpecialK mentioned above, which I noted in a lot of comments.
posted by thumpasor at 11:16 PM on April 13, 2008

I've used Zope and Plone for about four years and despair of ever doing anything useful with it. The documentation is extremely sparse, and what's there is out of date. The books tend to be out of print; I've been waiting for months for Amazon to try to get me one. The real power of Zope is in creating "products", but the documentation on doing that is nearly nonexistent.

You may be impressed with Python. Be warned that outside products, you will only be allowed to use about 20% of the language due to security restrictions. You cannot create any classes or use regular expressions. Python's reflection capabilities are not available - and that would at least be one way around the documentation issue.

In short, I would not recommend Plone to anyone for any purpose.
posted by yath at 11:52 PM on April 13, 2008 [2 favorites]

Agreeing with b1tr0t. What are your needs? Figure that out and go from there.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 12:06 AM on April 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

Plone is a nightmare. Don't do it.
posted by melissam at 12:26 AM on April 14, 2008

Nthing the "don't Plone" advice. While it has some great ideas and technology behind it, it's one of those systems that presumes you have nothing else to do with your time. You have to haunt the mailing lists, and get acquainted with Plone-centric technologies and jargon and tools. While there is a lot of documentation, much of it is outdated, assumes prior knowledge, consists of highly specific examples, or (incredibly) refers you to the code unit-tests. The acquisition machinery (where web objects can acquire properties and functions from elsewhere in the site) is emphaiszed heavily but in practice turns out to be a huge pain. Also, like many open source projects, the Plone community are overly fascinated with the new and shiny. Thus technologies get adopted, promoted, abandoned and replaced before they've been properly debugged or documented.

Bitter, me?

Now (massive caveat) this all depends on what you what to do with your CMS. If you just want to take a system off the shelf and put up a set of pages, some images, maybe a set of forums, Plone (or Drupal, Joomla) would work fine. They do that stuff well. If you need to add or modify functionality, stick a database online, or do a web-application (i.e. when you move from user-space to developer-space), is when it gets complicated.
posted by outlier at 2:19 AM on April 14, 2008

Nthing Anything But Plone. Also Nthing that you're going about this ass-backwards.

You seem to be approaching this as "what shall we build our new website with?" rather than "what do we need and want our new website to do?"

Draw up a spec. Then see what you need from a CMS. I have built massive, massive sites with WordPress, and tiny sites with very complex database requirements from Drupal. The website requirements dictate the CMS, not the other way around.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:53 AM on April 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

Ultimately it's your needs that should dictate the choice of CMS. That said, I like Drupal for larger projects and WordPress for smaller ones. Both of these require some configuration and administration time. But both are quite powerful and flexible.
posted by wheat at 6:13 AM on April 14, 2008

This may not be applicable, but if you may want to consider if you have long term plans to move your membership information into an online database (i.e. a CRM). The non-profit that I work for uses CiviCRM which sits on top of Drupal or Joomla and if you ever want to go down a similar road, it may be easier to already be using Drupal or Joomla.
posted by ssg at 9:37 AM on April 14, 2008

I know, you shouldn't build a CMS if you can at all avoid it, even if you use a framework to do it (or at least that's the conventional wisdom that's been pounded into my head), but: have you considered Django instead of Zope/Plone?
posted by chrominance at 9:42 AM on April 14, 2008

Picking tools before you've determined requirements is a recipe for, if not failure, then a protracted, expensive, difficult deployment. Decide what you need to do to serve your community and editorial needs, and then see how all of the various options (I'm biased, but I heart Movable Type!) compare.
posted by anildash at 10:05 AM on April 14, 2008

I agree with the other posters about really assessing your needs more deeply and not limiting yourself too early by being tied to a particular CMS framework. However, between these two I'd definitely recommend Drupal -- in my opinion its faults are much easier to overcome than Plone's for most general usage.
posted by camcgee at 10:46 AM on April 14, 2008

I'm pretty biased in favor of Drupal as a rule, but I'll nth the advice to look at what you need to do and pick something that does it well. Drupal works best best when you want to have a fair amount of content, of different types, displayed in lots of different combinations around the site. (News, project profiles, staff bios, event announcements, etc. displayed on calendars, sidebar listings, rss feeds, and so on). Running a blog on it, for example, is going to be like swatting a fly with a buick.

It's also best when you want the visitors of the site -- or at the very least, a team of people other than the 'webmaster' -- building the site's content collaboratively. One person in charge of keeping news up to date, another managing discussion forums or calls to action, another who has permission to promote announcements to the front page, things like that. It has a strong emphasis on providing core APIs for developers, and a reasonable amount of functionality in the base download, while farming out all the 'extras' to plug-in modules. That makes it tremendously customizable, but it can also make it very, very frustrating if you want something that is a turnkey solution or is already tailored to your particular application.

Feel free to drop me a line if you've got more detailed questions.
posted by verb at 3:24 AM on April 15, 2008

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