Life is a Mystery

17 February 2009

Drupal madness

I’ve been working on getting a Drupal site up for months and I’m beginning to really wonder about Drupal’s popularity. The Drupal team has a long way to go in making the system admin friendly. I guess I’ve been spoiled by the super-easy admin of WordPress and PmWiki. I wonder if team Drupal will pick up on some of the WP innovations.

The difficulties really started when I got a notice that my Drupal install needed a security update. No problem, I thought, I’ll let Drupal upgrade. Only, there is no way for Drupal to upgrade itself. There is a “Backup and Migrate” module, but it only backs up the db, not the filesystem. I don’t have SSH access to our production system, so now I’ll have to find a way to backup the fs without that. Ug.

Then the Drupal instructions for an upgrade suggest taking the site off-line during an upgrade. Only, having the site off-line eventually makes Drupal think it has no HTTP access and then it stops showing what upgrades are required. Where is this documented? It is not, that I’ve found. The only hints are in user comments at the Drupal site.Ug.

The instructions also suggest disabling all modules during an upgrade, but Drupal has no facility for disabling all modules, they must be clicked individually and there are many many (many!) more than needed in typical WP installs. Worse yet, some of the modules can’t be disabled until all dependent modules have first been disabled, and then these need to be reenabled in order too! Final insult: there is no way for the system to even remember which modules are in your “enabled” set, so the only way to record your choices is (yup) a screenshot! Ug.

All in all a shockingly cumbersome process. All this for a system that, once running, seems to be much slower than WP and has a much more complex “skinning” mechanism than WP. The next time around, I think I’ll see how far I can push WP. It has way fewer bells and whistles than Drupal, but I’m not sure Drupal can be managed by any non-system-admin types, whereas WP could potentially be managed by just about anyone with reasonable web savvy.

Clearly team Drupal assumes organizations running the system will have sys admins ready to manage it. That rules out a lot of organizations.

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Eric Celeste / Saint Paul, Minnesota / 651.323.2009 / efc@clst.org