Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Web: SilverStripe

A couple years ago, I built my church's website using Plone. I had to read most of "The Definitive Guide to Plone", but I did it and it worked.

Recently, I realized it was time to overhaul the website. My buddy is a Plone expert, and he told me I would have an easier time rebuilding the website than trying to migrate it since my version of Plone is so old. After two years, I had forgotten much of what I knew about Plone, and I knew that my book was out of date.

I went looking for something that didn't have quite the same learning curve. Plone is fantastic if you're a Plone expert, but I'm not. I just needed "an overly simplistic content management system." I tried out Drupal and Joomla, but for long and complicated reasons, some of which involved my ISP, I decided against them; I'm sure they're quite nice.

My buddy Leon Atkinson told me that he had seen a cool demo for SilverStripe. SilverStripe is PHP, but I decided to watch the video anyway. I was amazed. It's worth the five minutes it takes to watch the screencast.

I decided to actually try it out. Within three hours, I had installed it, read one page of the tutorial, and actually built out a decent portion of the website.

What I like about SilverStripe is that it's super simple. It uses TinyMCE, so you can get a lot done with just a WYSIWYG editor. However, it also encourages you to dip into flat files in the filesystem to edit templates. It's like the best of both worlds for me. I'm almost done with the website, and I still haven't actually had to code any PHP yet. TinyMCE is occasionally a bit fickle and I've seen weird caching problems, but overall, I'm really happy.

Permit me to wax philosophic. For a hundred different reasons, I prefer Python over PHP. However, there's no denying that there's a ton of really good projects written in PHP. Consider php forum, MediaWiki, WordPress, Flickr, etc.

I have a pet theory about why this is so. I care an awful lot about how I build something, but I don't care much at all about what I build. Hence, I can use Python to build whatever, and I'm happy. Seriously, I know a ton of stuff, and I write beautiful code, but I never have any interesting ideas about what to code ;)

Most people aren't like me. For them, a programming language is just a tool to build something they want. They don't care how it gets coded as long as it does get coded. Product people often build beautiful things using not-so-beautiful code. I'm not saying that PHP can't be beautiful. I'm just saying that sometimes it doesn't matter.

Perhaps I'm just feeling a bit bipolar.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I totally understand about the "how" versus the "just doing".

Thanks for sharing about the framework. It looks like it might fill a need for one of my customers as well.

Anonymous said...

I believe the real reason PHP is used so much is that it's basically only an Apache module that is supported by nearly every provider.

Another CMS playing in the same league as SilverStripe is http://www.websitebaker.org.

cropr said...

I am actually having the same issue about CMS and Python.
For a new project I decided to make it with Plone. In May, I bought the book Professional Plone Development from Martin Aspeli. An excellent book, but it demonstrated so painfully that developing with Plone is a nightmare for those who don't do it 24 hours a day 7 days a week. The book gave me a lot of insight what is good and bad about Plone.

Mid July I decided to change strategy and look for other options. I looked at PHP CMS, but eventually I decided to
write my one simple CMS using Pylons, removing all the bad things of Plone but taking over the good aspects. By the end of septemeber I should a first version available.

Shannon -jj Behrens said...

I find that *very* interesting, since I already use Pylons. Best of luck with that. I really hope you can achieve the ease of use of WordPress and SilverStripe. It's something that Python desperately needs.