Joomla!

I’m trying to select a platform for a new project for The Conversations Network. What we need isn’t a content-management system, but more of a “community portal” with many of the usual components such as forums, wikis, newsletters, surveys, rich personal profiles and the ability to support 100,000 registered users/contributors.

To our internal team, I was bemoaning the fact that such a solution didn’t exist. WordPress was suggested, but it’s just a very good blogging tool, not even a full-fledged CMS, let alone a community portal.

Drupal was an obvious suggestion, but I’ve delved fairly deeply into Drupal, and I just don’t like its architecture and peculiar style of abstraction. And it’s *really* hard to integrate outside applications into a Drupal site. Some people tried to convince me that with third-party modules, Drupal could do it all, but those modules fall way short of best-of-breed tools. The Drupal forums, for example, are very primitive.

Then team members Les Booth and Charles Lawrence recommended Joomla!, a spin-out (or more accurately a break-away) from Mambo. I used Mambo for a large-scale project way back in 1997, and ended up quite unhappy with the results, so I resisted Les and Charles recommendations. But Mambo today and now Joomla! are a far cry from the package I knew ten years ago. So finally, in a moment of weakness, I went to the Joomla! site and started dabbling. While the basic package seemed rather light on features, I discovered the add-on modules were quite good and plentiful.

I downloaded and installed Joomla!, and was very impressed. The installation and configuration processes are among the best I’ve seen for a complex open-source package.

Over the past two days I’ve been reading a lot of the Joomla! source code, and now I’m even more impressed. Most of the code is well-structured object-oriented PHP. phpDocumentor is used almost everywhere, although in many files, the commenting is somewhat skimpier than I’d like to see. Drupal also uses phpDocumentor, but as I mentioned above, I find its abstractions hard to follow. You’ve got to buy into the Drupal “religion” as it were. It lives in its own little universe.

WordPress is a much smaller application and doesn’t use phpDocumentor. Internally, WordPress is quite clean, straightforward and easy to read and hack. But it’s still just a grownup blogging system — not what we need this time around.

Bottom line: I’m rapidly coming around to agree with Les and Charles. While WordPress is a good single-user app that’s been extended nicely into a multi-author tool, and Drupal is a multi-user but quirky and limited package, Joomla! looks so far to be true industrial-strength code in the same way that Apache, PHP, MySQL and other LAMP tools have evolved to be.

(Yes, I looked at Plone/Zope about 18 months ago, but I found it to be like Drupal in that its design is just a bit too far out of the mainstream.)

More comments as I learn more, but so far, so good for Joomla!

5 thoughts on “Joomla!

  1. Pingback: Amy Stephen
  2. Do look at the Alledia post – while you are there, look at Steve’s other posts, as well. He will give you the straight answer on questions you might have. There are extensions to provide for multiple categories. Make certain to check out the Community Builder and also GroupJive extensions for a community site.

    Doug – you nailed one of the huge benefits of Joomla! and that is the enormous number of ways it can be extended to do all of the things one needs to do.

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  3. Joomla! is an excellent choice. There are 2 major things that Joomla! does not have that you need to consider: 1) as mentioned by Andrew in #3, it is missing the ability to post a content item in multiple categories, and 2) the access control system is not very powerful.

    Like Amy said, there are extensions that perform just about everything you could need for a community site, but just keep the limitations in mind. Check out extensions.joomla.org and/or joomlacode.org to find what you are looking for.

    Good luck!

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