The Open Source can of worms

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the whole Open Source thing. In the UK at the moment there is a massive push for organisations to make use of FOSS (Free Open Source Software), which is a great idea in principle, but is it always appropriate.

The company I work for does a lot of work with Voluntary / Community organisations, we provide tech support, consultation, web sites etc, – and we do it very well. One of the things we do is content management systems. We have a CMS called Rocket, most of which I wrote. All in all it is a pretty good product, it’s fast, stable, looks good and most importantly from an end user point of view it is very easy to use.

Of course if I was writing it today I would do it differently, but that is because the initial planning happened 3 years ago, but all in all it’s not bad. It is a modular system with a shared security framework and a huge raft of functions to help with all the CRUD.

Lately though we have been coming up against a lot competition from people offering Joomla solutions for about half the price. We know that these people are muppets and they couldn’t design their way out of a wet paper bag. The end result is people get ugly websites that they can’t maintain and are too complicated to use.

The thing is this isn’t a reflection on Mambo or Joomla because they are serious kick ass pieces of software, the trouble is they are being¬†used in completely inappropriate situations. I’ve been developing a theory that basically goes something like this:

The problem with most FOSS is that is designed by programmers for programmers, at the end of the day the guys developing it don’t really care about the end user, they are building these projects¬†because they like to make things.

If you look around you see a lot of sites littering the internet powered by things like Joomla but that are essentially wreckage, becuase once the guy / gall who built the site has gone, nobody knows how to use the thing and sure as hell can’t change anything like the design.

I worry that having a few bad experiences puts people off the whole concept of FOSS.

One Response to “The Open Source can of worms”

  1. Darfuria

    Joomla, like many of those other pieces of software you can get for varying purposes, is just another ‘thing’ that you can get. Because it’s free it has a large community that uses it, and therefore, the people who use it are generally into various development sectors as opposed to actually having a CMS.

    If a client wanted a CMS, they wouldn’t search Google for open source CMS software, simply because it’s fairly likely they wouldn’t have a clue to know what they’re looking for.

    Not only that, but having installed and seen Joomla, it’s nothing but a hundred million options, with all of the important stuff hidden away. It’s an overwhelming coridoor with millions of doors connecting with eachother, and that’s not what any basic user wants.

    A hundred thousand options in a technological item or piece of software, to an only-barely computer-literate person is persuasion to think “fuck it” straight away.

    This is why, I think, Rocket is good where those other CMSs aren’t. Sure, Joomla has a load of things Rocket can’t do, but most of them are things Rocket wouldn’t need to do. Aside from that, Joomla probably has a fair few developers, contributers, feedbackers and various other things. Rocket, however, just has the company and the clients opinions, most of which are very unheard of.

    I do like the general look of Joomla, and that is one thing I prefer over Rocket. But you should, of course, never judge a book by its cover.