Seth Gottlieb of Content Here fame asked me a few weeks ago to review his report of Open Source Java CMS which he just announced in his blog. The report is a master piece of analysis covering business-critical aspects as well as technical details.
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The report is profound and reaffirms Seth’s role as one of the best CMS consultants out there, especially when it comes to Open Source CMS. Seth actually compiled first-hand information from the project leads into the report, which is smart.
The report takes a close look at:
I basically share all of Seth’s valuations and imagine that anyone reading the report will have a very good understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of each of the above CMS.
As Seth can put it in much better words than I ever could, let’s read the master’s wisdom:
Even if the best technology fit is a commercial product, the technology decision maker now needs to be able defend his choice of commercial software by demonstrating a knowledge of open source alternatives that were rejected. The answer “we looked at open source and it was all bad” is becoming weaker and weaker as a response to a challenge to consider open source.
It is not that open source projects are secretive. In fact more information is available because coordination and communication usually happens out in the open. It is just that the information is spread thinly across many sources and people. Compilation and interpretation takes a lot of work and a different set of skills than your typical career analyst. In order to understand an open source application, you need to use it, configure it, and interact with the community (actively and passively). The source code itself also contains valuable information about the development standards and history of the project. It takes time to learn the personalities and group dynamics of the community. Not that it wouldn’t be nice to know all this information about commercial software – it certainly would. Just commercial software doesn’t allow you that access.
For each of the projects reviewed in this report, I have subscribed to the mailing list and monitored the volume and nature of the activity. I have talked to users of the software. I have built prototypes that involve defining content types, setting permissions, and developing layouts. To ensure factual accuracy, each evaluation has been reviewed by a project committer or company officer.
Web content management is not a turnkey solution.
Because company requirements are unique, web content management more like toolkits than out of the box business applications.
Market fragmentation is rife in the open source world too (especially in the content management sector) and comes at a great cost: developer resources are spread too thinly across too many projects. However, the absence of a “winner” in the commercial market takes away a safe, automatic choice and forces technology decision makers to look at alternatives. Every option appears equally risky from a market share perspective.
Unless a selection process is adapted to fully explore open source, the commercial products typically win because of the allure of a polished and well executed demo. Investing in an open source proof of concept typically levels the playing field but few companies make the investment unless there is a particular motivation such as a senior-level directive to carefully consider open source. This has essentially happened in many of the governments across Europe that have been mandated to use open source software wherever possible.
Social activity also creates the opportunity for non-technical users of the application to get involved. Building and serving a non-technical community is a plateau that only a few of the open source content management projects have achieved. It is an important milestone because it allows for user input to be contributed directly in the users own words rather thathrough a technical developer who filters the information through is own biases.
For a full overview of the contents, download the Java Open Source CMS sample which also contains the ToC.
I won’t disclose anything about the final conclusion in Seth’s report, because that’s like killing excitement when telling someone about the end of a novel or movie, but there’s one thing that’s for sure: the report is worth reading all 150+ pages!