Daily Archives: 17 June 2004

Apart of the Solution

The question comes up periodically as to why I switched to a
content management system (CMS). I’ll lay out some of the
problems and how they are solved by a CMS (without evangelizing
too much about which CMS I think is best) but I’ll also
highlight some of the costs that are involved in using one.

I chose a CMS (I presently use MovableType) because I was
tired of having to update my templates the beginning of each
week and felt that computers were meant to help make me more
productive, not be forced to manually slave away at boring
tasks.

For example, each week I would have to edit the main index
page to update the dates for each day, the “last week” and
“next week” links, the redirector page, and the calendar page
that had links organized by month. This was a lot of detail
work with attendant mistakes cropping up. Hence, much of my
time was spent updating the templates instead of writing these
insightful posts [g].

I understood, however, that switching to something to
automate these tasks would come at a price.

Since I don’t have the expertise or the time to write my own
system, I would need to rely on someone else. By doing so, I
give up control, to a certain extent, over how my site looks
and operates. This is because most (all?) CMSs are based on a
set of pre-written templates. While it is true that the
templates can be modified, there are bits that should not be
altered. Hence, to a great extent, websites using a CMS tend to
look very similar, if not exactly alike.

But these templates, and the underlying PERL/Python scripts,
are required to automate the very processes I didn’t want to do
by hand anymore.

Further, once going down this road, deciding to go back may
be very difficult and time consuming. Some CMSs dynamically
create the page as it is requested. But once served, it
disappears into the ether. Lose the database where the posts
are stored, or access to it as users of Dave Winer’s service
have found, and everything you have written is gone (even with
the help of Google’s cache or The
WayBackMachine
).

On the other hand, other CMSs (such as MT) use a static
structure whereby pages are created and permanently archived
(or as permanent as things can be on the Web) to the server.
Nonetheless, if you want to switch to something else, you may
still end up having to do much hand coding. In either case, you
are essentially locked into the system you choose. Hence, you
have to decide if the cost of having to switch, should you need
or want to, is worth the benefits of any CMS.

In summary, using a CMS automates tasks that you would
otherwise spend time doing. The downside is you loose a certain
amount of control. In the end, only you can decide what the
costs and benefits are of any system. Use whichever tool works
best for you. But for now, I’m sticking with Ben and Mena
Trott’s
MT.

Aloha!

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