Andy McKay

Jan 15, 2008

Open Source CMS FUD

The other day I received this email about why open source CMS's are not being considered for a project. Honestly I just laughed when I saw them, but here goes. This is the list of things a closed source CMS is meant to bring:

It is likely to have a number of features built in already

What open source CMS's don't? If you go to CMS Matrix site and compare them you'll find Plone compares very well. In fact, if you look at the list, there are far too many features in some of those products.

This also doesn't consider a simple point, what if the feature doesn't do what you want? A term like "Groupware" which Vignette (for example) has is meaningless to since its so vague. How do you propose to change that in a closed source CMS? It would likely be easier in an open source CMS. Before you choose a CMS pick those features you really need and then research how those are done in depth on your platform.

It is likely to be more reliable and faster to implement

Really? What is that based on? If I remember a Tony Byrne talk a while back, the majority of closed source vendor money is made off of consulting dollars. It's likely to be more expensive. The implementation all depends upon the skill of the people implementing it. Some are incredibly easy to simple installs. There are a whole bunch of very bright people out there who can install an open source CMS. Shockingly enough, there's a whole bunch of cowboys in the open source and closed source world who can make a mess of it. At least in the open source world you can pick your implementor.

Documentation and training are usually significantly stronger

This is the only one I'll partially agree with here. Plone is the exception here, there's lots of training and documentation available for Plone it. But for most open source projects it's not great. Again though this creates a common fallacy, that documentation in closed source projects is better . And rarely is it great, in fact time again I've heard "I paid $50k for this system and all I got was this PDF, if i'd used Plone I would have 3 books and". Before you pick a closed source vendor, ask about this.

It is easier to find developers trained in a particular closed source CMS

I don't buy that. Yes finding Plone developers can be a challenge, but that's because Plone is doing very well and most people who know Plone are gainfully employed. But I can take Drupal off the shelf and then find any PHP programmer which are as common as muck and have them work on it. A few months ago I was configuring Moodle quite successfully.

Of course, if it's a closed source CMS, you are assuming it as at least configurable or can be changed. That's not always the case. Open source CMS's have all the code available and the API's apparent to you. That is far, far more power than you will ever need.


Minor point: the original comments said commercial not closed source. I use closed source since there's an implicit assumption from the here that commercial == closed source. I don't like that - Plone, Drupal, Alfresco and other CMS's are clear big commercial successes.

These comments are quite sweeping statements and seem to be based on belief that "commercial" is better. Perhaps its based on the idea that if you buy something, you will get everything you need and if not you'll have someone to complain to. Or perhaps its that all open source projects have terrible marketing.

I was pleasantly surprised to note that the list did not mention price. No where does it mention this and I 'm glad because I don't believe a good open source implementation is a huge amount cheaper. Just because you don't pay licensing fees doesn't mean you shouldn't expect to pay for implementation, analysis, development and training. Paying for this from a good company will make all the difference.