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Content Management Systems

© Anthony Lawrence, aplawrence.com

Most bloggers use Content Management Systems (CMS from now on) of some sort. These do what they promise: they manage your pages. I imagine that many bloggers don't understand much about the underpinnings. At (link dead, sorry) a review of CMS software said:

[Movable Type] uses CGI scripts for the under the hood stuff. For that reason, I have no idea how it does what it does.

That's probably typical, and there's nothing wrong with that. If you aren't "techy", or even if you are, you may not need to understand the innards of how your text gets translated into web pages, complete with RSS feeds and notifications to blogger sites like Technorati etc.

I don't use CMS software. Well, that's not exactly correct: really I should say that I write my own content management code. I write these pages in "vi" (a Unix/Linux text editor) at the command line, and create my pages with Perl scripts that I wrote. Why? I'm as lazy as the next person, and certainly could use the convenience of a canned system. Who needs to spend time mucking with scripts when other people have already written them and undoubtedly done a far better job? Why go through all this pain?

Security and Control.. and Perl

Those are the reasons. For example, I have often looked longingly at Drupal. It has the features I need. It has features I want but have not yet implemented because I haven't written the necessary code. I have several times leaned so far in that direction I thought that I would actually start using it, but ..

It's written in php, and I am more comfortable in Perl. That's not really awful: php isn't such a great leap for a Perl person, but it would be awkward for quite a while.

But even if it were Perl, it's someone else's code. I'd have to learn how it works. That's sometimes hard and confusing, and it's especially hard when you already know how to do something some other way. It's the same reason I've remained a one fingered typist: I can bang out 35 WPM with one finger and a thumb now and then, so every time I try to learn touch typing, I get frustrated because my early efforts are so slow. If I could stick with it, I could do far better than the 35 WPM, but crawling along at learning speed is too painful: I give up and revert to one finger. Learning how to do something in someone else's code causes the same frustration: to heck with it, I'll do it my way.

Drupal, and every other CMS, has had security problems now and then. That really bothers me. Not that I can't make my own security goofs, but mine aren't going to be publically known so that any tenth grader with an attitude can break into any web site running that particular CMS. I see the attempted attacks in my logs every day, and I don't want to expose myself to that. Better to write my own code.

Finally, I'm fussy. When I want something to work a certain way, that's the way I want it. No "almost" or "it does, but..", I want it as I want it and that's it. With someone else's code, the only way to do that is to get in and hack at it. Two things are bad about that: one is the effort it takes to understand their code well enough to hack it, and second is that you now probably can't do any upgrades because of your custom hacks. Again, I'm better off just writing it all myself.

This is me, though. If you are not the demanding, my way or the highway type, I have no doubt that you'd be far better off with a good Content Management System. I'm just the odd duck who has to build it myself.

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