TechSoup asks “Why Joomla?” We answer.

It seems nearly every day, I read about a brewing debate to determine what’s “best” for non-profits:  Joomla!, Drupal, Plone, or WordPress.  To be honest, I really think this debate is about as useful as a debate about the “best” color in the rainbow.  So you can imagine my surprise when I read a quite useful introductory review of Joomla by Tess Gadwa in TechSoup on Friday.

After an introduction on CMSes, Tess dives into a key question that folks ask me nearly every day:  Why Joomla?  With a question like that, I couldn’t help but pen a blog entry.

I obviously need to start with a little background.  First, I’m extremely biased in favor of Joomla.  As a sitting member of the board of directors for Open Source Matters (the non-profit entity behind the Joomla project), you could say I have some stake in the matter.  In addition, PICnet has been providing Joomla Web development services since the day the entire core team left Mambo to plot a new course.

Additionally, as a strong supporter of open source software built for users, I’ve always been impressed by Joomla’s central focus on community building (Joomla’s Mission, Vision & Values document is a must read for anyone doing open source work) which matches well with the goals of our non-profit organizations.

I’ve had a chance to read through the article and the subsequent forum posts responding to it, and I thought it would be a good opportunity to give perspective from someone quite deeply involved in the project.

Giving the people what they want, with tech wisdom

When asked, “Why did PICnet start using Joomla?” I like to give a little background.  At PICnet, we’ve always been focused on efficiency building within non-profits.  Getting difficult things out of the way allows our organizations to focus on their missions and less on their technology.  This is a good thing. Too many times, we’ve seen open source projects raise barriers to entry.

After years of supporting numerous CMS platforms (remember PHP Nuke, Slashcode, and others?), we started seeing a common trend:  our organizations using Mambo (Joomla’s predecessor) were extremely effective in updating their Web sites and quite happy with the day-to-day usage of the tools.

The community spoke, we listened, and we pulled all of our resources into building on top of a tool that made life easier for our non-profits.

Ending the extensibility debate

Many times, usability comes at the expense of functional expansion.  The ability to give developers the tools they need to do both is critical.  At this point, I need to say something I do my best to say every time a Joomla vs. Drupal vs. Plone debate breaks out:  can everyone please stop saying any one of these CMSes does a better job at extensibility?  Seriously.

Joomla has a clean Model-View-Controller based framework that makes it very useful in developing well-defined code.  Drupal has great development community speed behind it that keeps their system upgrading.  Plone has terrific abilities to extend its libraries in infinite directions.

At the end of the day, any one of these frameworks/CMSes/tools can run practically any heavily trafficked, complex, and expansive Web site service. Heck, PICnet led the way in the rollout of Joomla as the first open source CMS for the US House of Representatives, and organizations like the UN have successfully rolled out highly trafficked Joomla sites successfully.

It’s safe to say that with the right match of well-written code and appropriate hardware for the job, Joomla, or any of these CMSes, can scale quite nicely.

A robust third-party community

One of Joomla’s key strengths is its massive third party community.  From the project’s beginning, OSM and the Joomla core team took quite a different approach from the Drupal project by strongly supporting the growth of a GPL focused product economy, in addition to a consultant economy.

What does this mean for non-profits?  It means they have more than 3,000 add-ons to choose from, many particularly well-vetted through a reputation system at the Joomla Extensions Directory (JED).  Many of the typical needs of non-profits can be met by perusing the JED and pulling together best of breed add-ons for your Web site requirements.

A view from my seat

During my nearly three year tenure on the board of directors for Open Source Matters, I’ve learned quite a bit about the Joomla project.  I’ve learned that quality tends to trump speed in the project.  I’ve watched and supported the continuing opening of the project’s leadership and accessibility.  I’ve seen an ad hoc team of people build a professional non-profit entity supporting the project’s needs without requiring a corporation to step in.  While open source development, by its very nature, requires changes, all of these points should give organizations continued confidence in the lifespan of the Joomla project.

I guess I could go on and on, rambling about the awesome power of the Joomla 1.5 templating system’s configurability, or the reason for building an ACL system that is more intuitive than a giant table of checkboxes, or why Joomla has one of the most powerful PHP Web frameworks under the hood that few are utilizing to its full extent.  Instead, I’ll stop.  I’m happy to answer more questions, avoid ridiculous debates, and talk shop with you at an upcoming Joomla!Day event.  Maybe I’ll see you at Joomla!Day Brazil or Joomla!Day New York!

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This entry was posted on Thursday, September 3rd, 2009 at 3:57 pm and is filed under CMS, Joomla, nptech. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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