Free CMS? Free my ass!

Linus Torvalds and Dries Buytaert are great guys who offered us great toys for free. But if you are a small business owner, and you are thinking of using those toys for a production site to represent your company, think twice.

After spending tons of hard earned money to web developers from all over the world, I regret that I didn’t stick to good old Microsoft-licensed web solutions. Instead of paying once and using free technical support for a Windows platform web solution, I had to constantly look for freelance developers. I hired both local and online, cheap and expensive developers. I tried Moodle, Joomla, and finally Drupal. The result was nearly identical. Things worked the way I wanted them, only after I myself sat down, read the books, figured everything out and did the job with my own hands! Very time-consuming.

Here’s my advice. Unless you know them already, or plan to seriously study PHP, MySQL, Javascript, CSS, etc. – don’t touch a free CMS. Especially Drupal!

Instead of a free CMS you’ll end up owning a fancy site, which you won’t be able to maintain yourself. If you don’t subscribe to support services of the original developer, you’ll be a prisoner, or more accurately an outsider of the drupal ‘community’. I prefer calling them a mob. A mob of clever young people who figured out how to play with their great geeky toys on Macbook Pros, and get handsomely compensated for playing. As a bonus, they travel all over the world to attend their conferences, where they sip coffee, drink beer and laugh at schmucks like myself. While new recruits who paid to attend, are watching the same presentations year in and year out. Ata boys! And girls, and … whatever.

Their forums at are pretty much useless for amateurs and enthusiastic old farts like myself, because only seasoned drupalers and people with good knowledge of LAMP, HTML, CSS and CMS can figure out what they are discussing in those forums. Due to complexity of the whole concept of the modular structure of drupal sites, there is no place at those forums to get answers to basic questions. No wonder more than a quarter of the topics have zero replies. I never felt so unwelcome and shunned at a forum before.

At the beginning, when they needed to gain a momentum, to make Drupal popular, the early adopters and the most experienced folks, you can call them apostles of Dries Buytaert, found time to answer stupid questions of naive nubs like me, but very quickly it all transformed into a commercial enterprise. You want an answer – pay an expert.

I don’t blame them. Charity at your own expense is not my idea of helping people either. I myself cannot offer free certified translation of birth certificates on a regular basis either. Why should I? I do it for a living. But there must be at least some sympathy, some kindness and generosity…

In short, if you go Drupal without a ‘mobster’ among your friends or family, be prepared to shell out big bucks. They will milk you every step of the way at $100/hour, despite keeping your emails ignored, and they will do their best to make the system so complex, only they will be able to support it. It’s not even a matter of support. It’s a matter of your website’s life and death. Without them the system won’t even run more than a month or two. Even if created by a talented Drupal developer. An ace so to speak, like it was in my case. Then you’ll have to turn to him again, either him/her or their equal (also a $100/hr geek). Because anything less than an expert simply won’t work.

To illustrate their snotty attitude to us, mere mortals, here’s what my guru developer from Ireland answered to my complaints about the website complexity:

«Of course, your guy in India charging a couple of peanuts and an egg probably doesn’t dare touch it as he has no bloody clue, I suspect the drupal ‘developer’ who built a site for his mum once probably won’t either, or if he does he wont have a clue what is going on either. However, any developer who actually knows what is going on wont have a problem with it – and they will charge you $100 per hour for that. Ever tried taking your car to a monkey to get the oil changed?»

No further comment.

Final thought: If you buy a Microsoft license you pay for a released/finished product. If you buy a Drupal site, you will be regularly financing an ongoing development of that platform. Drupal 7, 8, and so on. Making perpetual payments.


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