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.