Once again contemplating alternatives to ExpressionEngine.

I’ve said before that I’ve been looking at possible alternatives to ExpressionEngine for running my blogs. Not because I’m overly unhappy with EE, but because I’m not sure I’ll be able to afford to upgrade to EE 2.0 when it is released. Not to mention the amount of time it’s taking for that release to happen. I’ve also mentioned that I was looking at WordPress as one possibility as the platform has matured quite a bit since the last time I considered it. One of the main issues I had with it last time was that I’d have to install a separate instance for each of the blogs I host for family members and that would make updating them all a real pain in the ass.

It appears the folks at WordPress have been putting out a multi-user version of WordPress (called, stunningly enough, WordPress MU) that’s based on the code the use to run their free hosted offering at WordPress.com that would allow me to host all the blogs from one installation. My one concern with trying that was the caveat that not every theme/plugin is sure to work with the MU version. Not that I need every theme and plugin to work, but it’s still something to consider. From what I’ve been reading, though, the developers plain to merge the two versions come the 3.0 release which should smooth out that wrinkle. So most of my concerns with WP are either gone or will be before too long.

Then I heard about BuddyPress, which is apparently an add-on for WordPress MU that adds a lot of community oriented functionality similar to Facebook, but on a smaller scale. I’ve long considered SEB to be a community as much as my own personal blog which gives this add on some appeal. So I want to hear what you folks think about it and if you’d like to see SEB go in that direction. I don’t know that I’d use all of the features in Buddypress (I don’t want to end up hosting 10,000 blogs for example), but a few of them could be pretty cool. Or do you think I should just wait to see what EE 2.0 will bring with it? If you have alternative suggestions for platforms be sure to toss them in as well. I’ve been considering Drupal for awhile now too, but I really hate the theme engine for it.

19 thoughts on “Once again contemplating alternatives to ExpressionEngine.

  1. I haven’t been around EE’s forums recently, but as I recall they said that they’d continue to sell EE 1.x for a quite a while and therefore they’ll continue to support it for even longer. There’s no harm in researching alternatives, but any decisions or actions before the release of EE 2.0 are premature.

    Unless something changed, you’ll hate Drupal updates even more than the theme engine.

    I’ve only ever run WP on a home server, but it struck me simplistic and limiting viewed from an EE/Drupal perspective.

    I have seen the previews of EE2.0 at SXSW and it looks really really cool. I wish I knew what the upgrade pricing will be, though. Tell you what, though: If you can’t afford to upgrade and the pricing isn’t completely unreasonable, why don’t us regulars pitch in?

  2. I think you would like a lot of the WordPress features as they have steady releases, prompt updates to security flaws, and lots of great plugins. I like how I write blog posts now from my Blackberry or iPod Touch. And you don’t have to do anything tricky, all you have to do is run the application and login.

    If you are considering it then it’s on your mind and you obviously give it some degree of importance. So why not install it and play around and see what you think? Try a few things and see if you like it better. You shouldn’t keep using what you have now just because it’s already there. Try something better to see if you can get a better experience.

  3. I’ve played around a bit with b2evolution before. I believe it’s a fork from the same package that WordPress broke off of.

    Elwed, I’m trying to hold off to see how 2.0 turns out. I’m hoping it has some form of WYSIWYG editor in it. Not so much for me, but for my folks who would find it a bit easier to use on their blogs.

  4. Have you thought about going back to Movable Type? MT Pro is free for personal bloggers and adds various social features, as well as custom fields.

  5. Yes.  Yes I did.

    Though to be honest, I was behind enough in my MT install and (esp.) templates that upgrading to MT would have been as much of an organizational issue as WP.

    I’ve found WP to be very flexible, with a metric ton of add-ons that let you do nearly anything.  The PHP it’s written in is easy to customize (or at least figure out)—but much of it is set up so that you can compartmentalize modifications, or do it all through CSS, making upgrades less painful.

    I’m irked by having to update each of my installs with new releases of add-ons and the core system, but it’s a painless process at each one, and rarely a must-do-right-now kind of thing.

    In short, I’m quite happy with WP, glad I went that direction, and have no intent of going anywhere else.

    I am interested in what you’re mentioning about merging the WP/WP-MU forks in the future, LES. That would be a serious win in my mind.

    As to the BuddyPress stuff—it looks well-supported, which is probably the key issue (esp. if they’re going to be messing with MU in the future).  I don’t need another social platform grin but if it has stuff you want, then give it a whirl.

  6. I myself am too invested in EE to make it palatable to change. EE 1.x has two or three more years of useful and supported life and there’s no rush to investigate alternatives even if I were shopping around.

    After using it for a couple of years, I have to say that it’s an extremely powerful and rock-stable platform that’s proven virtually free of known security problems. I don’t regret moving off Drupal, although I miss a few of Drupal’s features that are very challenging to implement in EE.

    I might go back to Drupal, but I have to agree with Les—Drupal’s templating/themeing system is a horror.

    Once in a while I triy to get into MT4, but it seems so “meh” and I just can’t work up any enthusiam towards it.

    There are fans of WordPress, but coming from EE and Drupal WP seems too much like a toy.

    In short, I’ll almost certainly stick with EE; if the upgrades aren’t as affordable as I hope, I’ll spread them over time.

  7. Is Drupal robust?  I may be using it at work soon, which is a bit scary given that I never got very slick with EE.  Words like “horror”…

    Recently started reading a book about it to prepare.  Oh well, I once learned to rebuild zoom lenses, but my brain was younger then and I had lots more available study time.

  8. DOF, Drupal is very robust and powerful. It’s great to use a portal or blogging platform, but it has drawbacks, too. Feel free to ask away offline if you have specific questions.

  9. Thanks Elwed, I’ll ask offline.  Or would it be better to discuss on this thread since it is relevant to the topic?  Not necessarily for Les since he’s considering WP, but others may also be interested to know the main drawbacks of Drupal as I am.

  10. Drupal’s drawbacks as I see them:

    There’s a learning curve. Drupal wasn’t designed with usability in mind, although this is changing incrementally. Still, there’s an uphill battle.

    Creating your own themes (templates) is a tough nut to crack. While the themeing system looks very similar to WP (say) at first glance, there is some weird sh*t with regards to CSS going on. Perhaps this has improved in the most recent versions, but I’m not holding my breath.

    Major version updates, oh my. I have had issues in the past where the core update script bombed, but hopefully this is a thing of the past. There will likely be issues if you get too clever with shared database tables (for the user accounts, say) in a multi-site configuration, but there are workarounds. Most frustrating for me was that Drupal’s API changes all the time and every time a new major version comes out, you have to wait until all the contributed modules you use are updated and stable—we’re talking delays of months and months unless you get your hands dirty and update the modules yourself.

    On the up side, Drupal is very powerful and it really shines if you have a full-blown portal site. There are plenty of features to like if you can put up with its dark side wink

    Scared yet?

  11. I’m on WP- the free version. To be honest from this side of the counter SEB doesn’t look different to anything I could do (if I could be arsed) – I’ve not seen anything on here that I thought ‘I wish I could so that, except a tagline which my current theme doesn’t display.  Of course that is just my view from here- how it plays for you may be completely different as the owner.  I keep meaning to investigate the ‘Poll’ feature (and I’d like to know what has happened to my ‘Scarlet A’ while I was on holiday, but again can’t be arsed too much)

    I have commented before that I see SEB like a Bar, though I’m not a big fan of alledged ‘social networking’ sites (You do not have “3,000 freinds”, and I’m not that interested that you’ve opened another beer).

  12. There are features in ExpressioEngine that WordPress took awhile to get around to having, but most of the functionality is equivalent at this point either in the core package or through plug-ins. The templating system in EE is much nicer than WP’s in my opinion, but even that is less so than it once was. One area that WP excels in is with it’s WYSIWYG editor. There are options for EE, but they all feel very tacked on in comparison. It would be nice to have it as part of the core package. I think EE is still much better at supporting multiple sites with a single install (even more so now with the optional Multiple Site Manager add-on).

    My main reason for thinking of switching has to do with concerns over how long EE 2.0 is taking and what it may cost to upgrade to it. The fact that more and more of the add-ons for EE are going commercial is also a concern. There are several add-ons I’d like to try out, but aren’t willing to drop the funds on them until I know I’ll actually use them. I love EE overall, but I’m an inveterate tinkerer and the lack of new things to tinker with (or their having a price attached) has me feeling pangs of withdrawal.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think the asking price for ExpressionEngine isn’t all that bad and there are several commercial add-ons that are worth the money they’re asking for, I just can’t afford to purchase each and everyone on a whim when I’d like to.

  13. My main reason for thinking of switching has to do with concerns over how long EE 2.0 is taking and what it may cost to upgrade to it.

    I hear it’ll be out (well?) before the next SXSW. No idea about the upgrade pricing except for one thing I read in one of the EE blogs that sounds like they’ll be offering multiple versions which bundle more or less features (and are presumably more or less expensive, depending). This could be a good or a bad thing.

    There are indeed more and more commercial plugins. It’s not too big a deal if you develop a site for a client, but it adds up for the likes of us. All told, you can easily pay a few hundred bucks for stuff you get for free with Drupal, say.

    By the way, migrating content from EE to drupal or vice versa is relatively easy; the templates/themes not so much. Random rambling: Regardless of the drawbacks, I would run a set of sites like yours like so: Use a shared set of files, there a provisions for making add-on modules and themes global or site-specific. Use one or more databases, but share the user account tables between all sites.

    Oh well, time to tinker, eh.

  14. Besides a few features, I am not sure what the point is in paying for something you can get for free that still does a damn good job. Why not save some dollars and then when you have more money and spare time buy the luxury items?

  15. Webs, price isn’t everything. I got my first EE license for free and I’ve happily paid for more including MSM licenses because EE is a cool toy that’s a pleasure to work with. It is also extremely well supported.

    I prefer free, but sometimes it’s not worth it wink

  16. I moved your comment, Elwed, as I thought you meant to post it here.

    And, yep, the official transition was 5/20/04. My how time flies, eh? Five years on the same platform.

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