I find it ironic and unhappy-making that I’m writing about my adventures with Perl using software based on PHP.
Sadly, the Perl-based options for journal software seem limited.
Let’s do a quick “drive by” review and see what’s what at this moment in time…
I went looking for a list of blog software written in Perl and found myself looking at Wikipedia. (It like Dennys. No one sets out to go there but that’s where you end up.) Searching for Blog Software, we find a link to content management systems. Once there, we can pop down to those using Perl.
Eliminating those that don’t allow PostgreSQL, I see three contenders: Movable Type (open and closed), Bricolage, and MojoMojo. The later being an actual *gasp* Catalyst project.
Movable Type seems to be the “big dog” here. I’ve looked at Movable Type in the past and it used to be our blog of choice. When they went commercial and their licensing became a cause for concern we moved to WordPress. It looks like they’ve clarified that somewhat but it’s still a bit confusing.
I’m seeing an open source version over at movabletype.org but, from what I read in their FAQ, it looks like all the “cool new stuff” is going into the commercial product, leaving the “open source devotees” (as the FAQ calls them) to play catch-up.
I’m seeing a bunch of plug-ins I’d need but not others. The descriptions and documentation for these seem a little sparse and technical, i.e. mostly what I expect from open source projects.
Also, the latest version of Movable Type has dropped support for PostgreSQL. I’m trying to limit my exposure to MySQL when I can, so this is a big negative.
My immediate first impression is that I could probably switch to Movable Type but I would need to do more digging and coding to get what I want and I’d have to get MySQL all over me.
So… moving on…
I was pleased to see Bricolage got a major update back in April. The last time I did a review like this the project looked quite moribund. The site looks better and they’ve managed to expose a lot of their activity, making the project look much better all around. Kudos to them.
But… I can’t seem to find any documentation on using the damned thing. I see the API docs. Hm. The Support Page has a link to a wiki, kind of buried in the middle of the page.
On the wiki, under “Recommended Reading” I found a slide-show-type presentation, a white paper about managing a “web site with tens of thousands of pages” (this was the CMS built for Salon) installation, configuration directives, document modeling, etc. etc.
There is a link on the same page to Documentation. The FAQ is mostly about technical issues (database support, pre-compiled packages, etc.), the Introduction is actually an appendix from an O’Reilly book, there is a link to some off-site tutorials in Flash, and so on. The Documentation Browser and Installed Documentation refers to the POD reference docs. Useful, but hardly the whole “documentation story.”
This looks great for a large organization with extensive requirements and (perhaps) a training staff but I’m “just this guy, you know?” Convincing clients to use this would require instant familiarity, dead-simple ease-of-use, or great documentation. What I’m seeing here looks very “Enterprise Ready,” which means it’s not gonna fly with most of my small business customer types.
I’m not seeing anything resembling the kind of infrastructure that Movable Type or WordPress has in terms of plugins, templates, and so on. My first impression is that this may be the Mother Of All Content Management Systems, but it’s going to take more than a little work just to understand how to get started and I may have to code functionality from scratch that I’ve become accustomed to just downloading from some plugins page.
If it is there, I’m not seeing it. Rule #25: If the user can’t find it, it doesn’t exist.
Also, keep in mind the basic question here: Why should I switch to this from WordPress? If the switch is going to create a lot more work, even if it’s interesting work, just to get to back to the same place that’s not a win.
On to MojoMojo… which, according to the front page there, really isn’t blog software…
Depending on your definition, MojoMojo might be a Wiki. It certainly makes it effortless to create web pages of text, and it can be configured so that anyone can edit any page. It can also be configured so you have to register to edit a page, or you can even disable registration. However, the thing that sets MojoMojo apart from other Wikis…
So. Um. Yeah. That’s not going to work.
I do see lots of positives here (doesn’t rely on any specific database, mod_perl or FastCGI, Catalyst, etc.) but no plugin or theme library I can see, arcane wiki-markup, etc. So, no. A quick stroll around their site leaves me with the impression they’ve got their heads screwed on straight and they’re moving in the right direction (except for that whole “wiki” thing) but they’re just not there yet. I’ll come back in a year and check again.
If I was just trying to replace WordPress with something Perl based, Movable Type might fit the bill, if I can find suitable replacements for the plugins I need or want. I’d be forced to use MySQL and I’d have to live with the closed/open licensing issues.
If I was building a larger site, and I wanted to learn some new tech, I’d seriously consider Bricolage. It looks kind of cool in a giant “I could do anything with that” kind of way. It’s still no replacement for WordPress, though.
So… guess I’m stuck with WordPress for the nonce.
Please keep in mind this is not an extensive review of the “state of the blog software market space.” I’ve done a couple of hours poking around and this is what I could find out quickly. Think of it as going down to the mall and doing a bit of window shopping to see what’s there to see.
If you think I’ve missed something about one of these projects or have another project you think I should look consider, please do let me know.
My website — http://sedition.com — is and has been Perl for 9 years. Currently it’s a Catalyst app that covers most of the features of WP and a few it doesn’t have. I’ve been trying, not very hard lately, to make a stable/generic version public/CPANable.
You did miss many Perl blogging platforms. Blosxom comes to mind (because it’s very similar to my first custom platform for sediton.com back in 2001) . There are several others I don’t know the names of off the top of my head.
Thanks for the comment. I did see blosxom package on the Wikipedia page I mentioned. There were a couple of things that removed it from the list for consideration:
You are probably correct in assuming I “missed” other Perl-based blogging packages. One of the oblique points I was making about “Perl blogging software” would be that, if it exists, it’s invisible. For example, the Wikipedia page about content management systems lists almost 60 PHP packages versus 8 Perl packages. The first-glance impression is “Gee, there’s a lot of PHP out there, and not much Perl.”
I know it’s weak conclusion, but it takes a couple of seconds for the necessary brain-bits to fire up, parse what I’m seeing, and realize this isn’t market share, it’s just an arbitrary list of packages. A self-selected list of packages, to boot. Selected by those brave enough or foolish enough to stick their hands into a great, steaming pile of Wikipedia.
If you know of other packages you think I should have been able to find quickly and easily you might consider dropping those folks a line and see if they can get their project listed in more public places like Wikipedia. Sourceforge has a lot of listings, but it’s not easy to find things sometimes. A quick “Google?perl+blog+software” turned up a raft of things, but a “quick and dirty” review doesn’t call for much digging. A glance at many of the sites wasn’t really encouraging–lots of über geeky, ulta-minimal sites; things out of date; broken links; etc.
Where else should I be looking? (Which begs the question, “Where else should these projects be posting?”)
Despite the goofy name, you might want to look at ‘bootylicious’ http://getbootylicious.org/
Thanks for the comment. When I have a moment, I’ll take a closer look at Bootylicious, but I see similar issues with Bootylicious and blosxom with regard to using the file system as data storage.
While I don’t really see either of them as a replacement for WordPress at this time, both look like they could be interesting, informative, or inspiring.
Good post & a solid summary. Many thanks for the comments about the Bricolage documentation — as a volunteer on the project, I appreciate getting this kind of outside perspective on how we’re doing vis-a-vis speaking to “users” and making it (relatively) easy to get up-and-running.
That said, you’ve pretty much nailed Bricolage’s sweet spot: large sites with lots of pages and infinite customizeability. A straightforward blogging tool it is not (though some sites do use it to incorporate blogs into a larger site).
One project that you may want to look at that is worthy of note is Open Melody (http://openmelody.org/). It’s a fork of the open source Movable Type codebase that is more actively maintained by folks that used to work for Six Apart. AFAIK, they intend to keep PostgreSQL support.
And, for all of its quirks, Movable Type itself is pretty darn good as a blogging platform. Fewer themes and modules, but a solid codebase to build on nonetheless.
Thanks for the comment. I hope you/Bricolage find this useful. I know how hard it is to “see the forest for the trees” and how easy it is for an outsider to just throw rocks. (I try not to be too snarky. Really.)
The major questions in my mind when I’m doing “quick and dirty” reviews are pretty simple:
The showcase page you mention helped quite a bit, actually. It certainly showed off the capability of the project and helped answer the “What is this?” and “Is this for real?” questions. I cannot stress how important that is–projects that don’t look “real” might as well be dead.
The #1 thing I would recommend is putting a “Documentation” link on the front page that goes directly to the Bricolage wiki on Github. In the long run more of the user-oriented material (assuming it exists or is written) should be linked from that page.
The Bricolage site has lots of good material but doesn’t really give a casual visitor any idea how it might work on a day-to-day basis. My vague impression, considering what I’ve seen of the documentation, is that most of the organizations using Bricolage probably created sites and processes specific to their needs. If someone just installs Bricolage is it useful for any specific purpose, or does someone need to create “purpose” using the tool?
Thanks for the pointer to OpenMelody. When I get a chance, I’ll drop by. The fact they’re keeping support for other databases is encouraging.
It will be interesting to see how the two “open” Movable Type projects interact. (Or not, as the case may be.) Their site certainly seems…circumspect in discussing the relationship, which I think is a positive thing.
Look at Open Melody https://github.com/openmelody/melody/wiki , which is a fork of movable type open source. And it supports MySQL, Postgres, and SQLite.