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Website Development

WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, TikiWiki, how do I love thee?


JOY Blocks

JOY Christmas decorations a Fresno's Christmas Tree Lane

Let me count the ways.

I never want to criticize or fail to appreciate the contribution many dedicated developers have made to provide for free some of the most excellent CMS and Blogging packages available.

These systems have developed in phases and among different sets of developers with newer technologies building upon older ones.

The Old Days

When Mozilla, the first browser came out closely followed by Netscape, I coded everything by hand in HTML.  Since I was into Unix System Administration at Oracle at the time and Dan Farmer came out with a controversial security package called Satan, I quickly became familiar with how HTML code could be generated in Perl and other languages.

I soon discovered Pov-Ray for doing ray tracing imaging and used it to image the systems in Oracle’s Enterprise System Center.  Then, I used that image to develop an internal website for giving real-time statistics on our sysems by clicking on the picture.  I got a laugh when people asked where I stood to photograph the systems as I would have had to shoot the picture from a high angle through the right side of the front wall had it been a real photograph.

For years, I fell back on using NetObjects as it allowed me to be lazy and focus on design and content rather than technical details.  Still, good SEO required moving away from tables and into CSS.  I also found it cumbersome to develop database driven websites that way.

Enter Content Management

Initially, I snubbed PHP.  It did not have threads the way Java and other languages did.  I had trouble believing it could be fast.  And if I disliked CGI compared to FastCGI, what could PHP possibly have to offer that I would want?  Well, for one thing, ubiquity among cheap webhosting services.  It is really easy to find software that runs under PHP.  So I caved.

Initially, I started coding some database access modules into some websites, but I found those were not general enough to meet my needs.  Coding from scratch would take too long and would involve reinventing the wheel.

Let’s put this longwinded page into fast forward.  I installed, worked with analyzed, and developed websites in PHP-Nuke, Postnuke, B2evolution, mambo, xoops, Joomla, Drupal, WordPress, and TikiWiki.  The nukes used tables, so I tossed them for SEO sake, where B2Evolution was pretty good.  The rest were not bad.  I have a few TikiWikis, one or two Joomlas, and Joomla sort of merged/split/whatever with Mambo.  TikiWiki was great but big and did not seem to lend itself to external blogging software through things like XMLRPC.  I found some systems better able to export and import than others.  Drupal was a bit complex and it seemed easy to tangle things up.  The learning curve was a bit steep.

In the midst of this, I found myself battling hackers and spambots and getting weighed down with SEO.  I had previously experienced a reasonable amount of traffic and sales, but now it was getting harder to come by.  Dollars spent on advertising did not always produce a good return on investment either.  So, I focused heavily on organic SEO.

I found myself straining my brain focusing on multiple CMS systems.  Then I added WordPress-mu onto a VPS that I built up from scratch and added to the brain strain.  So, when Google called me in for an interview and they asked me questions about Java and Python and Perl and C which I had not used in a few weeks, I drew a blank when I shouldn’t have, and therefore I was not selected for the job.

Anyway, I’m healing and all this web stuff is starting to become almost as comfortable and familiar as Unix system administration.  I can throw together a new WordPress-mu installation in almost no time.   I have consolidated most of my domains into a few that were getting PageRank from Google.

And still, I have several WordPress and Drupal sites with a couple TikiWikis and a Joomla or two.  But, I can update them, configure them, install themes and plugins, and modify the code and even create plugins of my own.  And since I have a very strong coding style from decades of experience in countless other languages, much of that carries over to the way I create PHP and Perl code.

When I get a little more comfortable with this, I may hang my shingle out there as a WordPress theme and plugin developer.  I would like to build some really quality modules that might help generate links back to my sites while helping others out greatly.