White House changes CMS to Drupal

Just read at AP (via Huffington Post) that the White House has changed CMS to Drupal and yes, I knew we did the right thing when choosing Drupal for our new library website at Umeå UB ;-) Joking aside, we decided platform about a year ago and we hope to launch the site in a couple of months. One of the great things beside of Drupal being open source LAMP is the community: very active and big. I already know Karlstad University Library is using Drupal and KIB is on their way, already using it for their Intranet. Talking of libraries in Sweden. Lots of libraries in US already use it.

I also read in a Drupal Groups discussion that U.S. White House launched recovery.gov with Drupal earlier this year February 17. And read a blog post at Lullabot explaining how to figure out if a website is running Drupal or not.

Chris Wilson thinks running the White House Web site on Drupal is a political disaster and explains it with five statements: Drupal knows best, Drupal is disorganized, Drupal is righteous, Drupal is impenetrable, Drupal hates change.

Let’s see what he complains about:

“The apologists will tell you that, once you scale the learning curve, it gets much easier. This is probably true, but a lot of ordinary, code-fearing people who just want a simple Web site are getting left behind”.

Yes, there is a learning curve but I’m sure the learning curve will be a bit lower with Drupal 7? Has he tried that? The development of Drupal 7 is focused a lot on the usability problems. Lot of open source projects have great problems with the usability design but that doesn’t mean proprietary software also has. I think WordPress is a great example of teriffic usability design and it’s open source. Maybe Drupal in version 7 is reaching their level. Maybe the IT staff at White House will contribute to this usabilty efforts.

More from Wilson:

“Instead of displaying your pages in folders that you can browse, like you do on your personal computer, Drupal provides a nightmarish content list. To find what you’re looking for, you have to search for it.

Yes, I do agree that the content list is not optimal but at least in Drupal 7 you can sort columns.

“…it [Drupal] remains a religion. If you went to DrupalCon in Paris last month, then you would have almost certainly come across proselytizers of one the movement’s fundamental tenets: Drupal doesn’t break Web sites. People with Drupal break Web sites. Most problems with Drupal stem from people who “don’t get it” or aren’t using it correctly”.

Open source projects has a tendency to become religions but you don’t need to be a dedicated Drupalist to use Drupal and go to the confs. You can swear in front of your screen at your Drupal installation and you could ask the the critical questions at confs. All Drupalists will not damn you for that. Some get religious but that doesn’t mean all Drupalists become that.

“Drupal’s defenders are eerily reminiscent of those movement Democrats who were constantly knocking at your front door in the summer of 2008″.

Heh, haven’t met them in Sweden ;-) but I like what they did: moving Bush out in the desert.

Tim O’Reilly in his Radar has lot of interesting reflections on Drupal for White House and is quite positive IMO:

“…I suspect that simply using open source software won’t slash government IT budgets, at least not right away. What it will do is increase the amount of value we get for our money and the speed with which new technology can be adopted. Features that would have cost millions of dollars and years of development to add will now be rolled into the scope of current contracts”.

Though he thinks White House should be better on contributing to the Drupal community:

“…the White House has not yet released any of the modifications they made to Drupal or its operating environment back to the open source community. The source code for Drupal (and the rest of the LAMP stack) is indeed available, but the modifications that were made to meet government security, scalability, and hosting requirements have not yet been shared. In my conversations with the new media team at the White House, it is clear that they are exploring this option. Giving modifications back to the Drupal community is the next breakthrough announcement that I’ll be looking for”.

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