[conspire] (forw) Re: Our friend Drupal

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Thu Nov 10 11:47:06 PST 2005

To paraphrase Jamie Zawinski:  Occasionally, someone at a user group
has difficulty encouraging participation and thinks:  "I know!  I'll
move our online presence to a buggy, overfeatured, inflexible CMS." 
Now, he has two problems.

----- Forwarded message from rick -----

Date: Wed, 9 Nov 2005 14:34:35 -0800
To: dmarti at zgp.org
Subject: Our friend Drupal

So, yet another hapless user group is falling towards Drupal,
and I've attempted to articulate the reasons why not:

Did I miss anything I should have mentioned?

----- End forwarded message -----
----- Forwarded message from Rick Moen <rick at linuxmafia.com> -----

Date: Thu, 10 Nov 2005 11:09:21 -0800
From: Rick Moen <rick at linuxmafia.com>
To: Don Marti <dmarti at zgp.org>
Subject: Re: Our friend Drupal

Quoting Don Marti (dmarti at zgp.org):

> AFAIK, Bayosphere is still on Drupal...
> http://bayosphere.com/why-drupal
> and they don't look like Yet Another Drupal Site.

Thanks, Don.

Amusingly, the proposal to install/run Drupal for the Smaug user group
is _from_ my friend Jay Campbell in Scotts Valley, the guy who
established and runs Bayosphere for Dan Gillmor.  I've accordingly
pointed out to Smaug that Jay's work is the very best my friends were
able to cite in the not-like-all-other-Drupals category.  I'd already
mentioned the other things you talk about.

It's a good site to know about.  Although it's structured precisely the
same as all other Drupal sites, its aesthetics aren't _quite_ identical
with the Drupal default:  Jay does good customisation work on the
graphical elements.

All of which basically underlines one of the central points I was trying
to make to Smaug:  You decide to run Drupal _if_ you want a Slashdot-style
news/comment/blog site -- but not otherwise.  That model is a really bad
fit for the needs of a typical user group, in my view.

The background of all this is that Smaug's founder, whom I helped get
things going, used free Web hosting for the group's pages -- at
SourceForge.net, of all places.  An Apple mkLinux technical guy (David
Gatwood) later came in and fixed the site's aesthetics and scripting,
but then both of them flaked out, and nobody in Smaug's area (Santa
Cruz) was willing to help.  About the same time, they lost their meeting
space.  So, I stepped in again and kept things going with the Web site
and mailing list.  Eventually, a new guy restarted the meetings at a
restaurant in Capitola (suburb just south of Santa Cruz).

The restaurant guy decided to increase the frequency of meetings from
monthly to _weekly_.  I said this was good if they could do it reliably,
but that there was no way I was going to update the Web site that
frequently without help -- that, surely a LUG in Santa Cruz should and
could have participation _from_ someone in Santa Cruz, rather than
relying solely on an expatriate fifty miles away across the mountains.
A year or so passes.

Suddenly, a carpetbagger Web designer from Saratoga drives over the
mountains, shows up (or so I gather) at one of the restaurant meetings,
and says, "Hey, I can fix your Web site problem!  Here's a printout of
the half-assed poorly done graphical layout I have in mind, and, unlike
Gatwood's (better looking) 1999 tables layout, my equally static,
harder-to-maintain site meets W3 accessibility guidelines."

So, they rather stupidly say, "Gee, that's great, let's go with that,
because it's politically progressive and therefore fully Santa Cruz
compliant -- Santa Cruz (where I lived and went to school for a while)
being basically, you know, Berkeley with surfboards --  and, besides,
we'll be able to maintain this one much better because... um... we
choose to believe that."

They also chose to believe that the Saratoga guy would do the site
maintenance for them, though he carefully never said that (and
repeatedly ducked the question when I later forced the issue).  And, by
the time he mentioned that he'd also want advertising on the site for
his Web consultancy that sells PageRank boosting services, they'd
already bought in.

At this point, the Saratoga Web guy mentions his intentions on the mailing
list, which is when I hear about it, and my reaction is... "Um, you say
your sole aim is to help the group with accessibility guidelines.  So,
why aren't you converting the _existing_ site from tables to CSS, which
is all that's required?  Is there something that actually _necessitates_
throwing out everything, other than your desire to overwrite other
people's work and gain advertising for your business?"

Big fight followed, featuring lots of names hurled in my direction by
the Web designer and the restaurant guy, whereas the group founder and
another veteran Web guy pointed out that my points were dead-on correct.
I offer to cease site administration and let restaurant guy find out the
hard way that they've all been fast-talked.

Restaurant guy claims I'm "bluffing".  I tell him I never bluff, don't
appreciate being accused of dishonesty, and immediately cease site

Jay Campbell enters the conversation, and offers to help Smaug by giving
it free site hosting at Santa Cruz ISP Got.net, where he works.
Everyone including me reacts that this would be ideal, and that it's a
generous offer.

Then, Jay says he'd like to do it with Drupal.  And I think, oh great, 
another code-hairball Slashdot site, just what the world needs.
I point out that Drupal's a poor fit, that it's a security debacle,
that it's hostile to traditional Unix users' preferences in tools, and
that it resists customisation and tends to remain inertly Drupal-like
despite fervent efforts. 

As things stand, they're very likely to go with Jay's offer.  Oh well.

----- End forwarded message -----

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