Picking a Multiuser Blogging System

I’m a blogger. I’m also a systems administrator at a University. Thus, when the University decided to charter a project to offer each member of the institution a blog, I was selected to sit on the committee. We boiled all of the software choices down to Drupal, Movable Type, and WordPress MU.

In my evaluation of these solutions, the software was ranked on a five-point scale against the following requirements, which we had decided were important to us. I’ve also included my personal rankings. In many cases the software received a lower ranking on a feature because it was not customizable by the individual user.

Intuitive
Drupal:2
Movable Type:5
Wrodpress MU:5
Skinnable
Drupal:2
Movable Type:5
Wrodpress MU:5
Pingbacks
Drupal:3
Movable Type:5
Wrodpress MU:5
Trackbacks
Drupal:2
Movable Type:5
Wrodpress MU:5
Supports XMLRPC
Drupal:5
Movable Type:5
Wrodpress MU:5
Comment SPAM blocking
Drupal:2
Movable Type:4
Wrodpress MU:5
Image support
Drupal:5
Movable Type:5
Wrodpress MU:5
WYSIWYG
Drupal:5
Movable Type:5
Wrodpress MU:5
RSS feed Support
Drupal:3
Movable Type:4
Wrodpress MU:5
TAGS
Drupal:5
Movable Type:5
Wrodpress MU:5
URL Rewriting
Drupal:5
Movable Type:5
Wrodpress MU:5
Hosted here
Drupal:5
Movable Type:5
Wrodpress MU:5
Single installation
Drupal:5
Movable Type:5
Wrodpress MU:5
Single Database
Drupal:5
Movable Type:5
Wrodpress MU:5
Single Table structure
Drupal:5
Movable Type:4
Wrodpress MU:0
Mysql or Oracle
Drupal:5
Movable Type:5
Wrodpress MU:5
Integrate with IDM (ex. CAS)
Drupal:0
Movable Type:0
Wrodpress MU:0
Quota on file uploads
Drupal:5
Movable Type:0
Wrodpress MU:5
Prefer PHP:
Drupal:5
Movable Type:1
Wrodpress MU:5
Ease of Upgrade
Drupal:4
Movable Type:4
Wrodpress MU:5
Cost
Drupal:5
Movable Type:3
Wrodpress MU:5

Totals:
Drupal: 88
Movable Type: 90
Wordpress MU: 100

Drupal came in last not because it is unable to meet the requirements we had listed, but because it is not as intuitive as the other solutions, and there are many areas where the user can not be granted any granularity of control over the blog. There is, for example, no way to allow the individual user to manage comment spam settings. The administrator chooses the settings that are then applied globally to each user on the system.

Movable Type evaluated quite well. The user interface is very nice, and the entire software package is very feature rich from a user experience standpoint. It meets most of our pre-determined criteria, but there are no built in “file upload quotas”, and the application is written in Perl. Also of possible concern is the fact that, while content exists within the database, it is delivered via static pages. This means that a site (all static pages) must be rebuilt whenever significant changes are made, such as changing a theme. It is anyone’s guess how this static / dynamic model will scale to a very large number of users. Also of note is the fact the MT is a pay for product. Like any proprietary software solution, this can be both a benefit and a drawback.

WordPress MU mets or exceeds all of our pre-determined criteria with one major exception. The database does not have a unified table structure, meaning each blog requires its own set of database tables. It is largely unknown how this model will scale to a large number of users, however wordpress.com has this software successfully rolled out to a large and growing number of users. Should we decided on WPMU, it may be worth discussing the implementation with the WPMU team. The user interface is both elegant and intuitive, and the user retains maximum control over most of the unique blog settings. It is, however, worth mentioning that WPMU has adopted the Web 2.0 standard of not versioning their releases. Upgrades are downloaded via a nightly builds directory, which means that version releases may not be as well tested as with a more traditional release strategy.

For my part, even though I scored it slightly higher, I have no real preference for WordPress MU over Movable Type. Both are great blogging solutions, and I feel that we could find a way around MT’s lack of file upload quota. I do, however, prefer either of these two solutions over Drupal because of issues surrounding usability, and customization.

In the end, the committee agreed that WordPress MU was the winner. We will now go on to write the CAS authentication module, and see if we can get around the requirement that usernames have greater than three letters. We are also hoping to get in touch with the wordpress.com people to discuss how the non-unified table structure will scale to 30.000+ users.

8 thoughts on “Picking a Multiuser Blogging System

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  2. Not yet… We are currently LDAP authenticating. The CAS module is yet to come provided we don’t decide to use cpip instead. I’ll send you an e-mail if, and when we have a CAS module ready.

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  4. I also work at a University and we are evaluating WPMU right now. I’d like to discuss your progress with LDAP and CAS if you have the chance.

  5. I am also concerned about the data model used by WPMU. I have found that MySQL requires a significant portion of computing resources. This may not be a problem on a powerful server with RAID 5 and large RAM, but a lot of WPMU installations are on shared servers that quickly get bogged down.

    Have you thought about tweaking the MySQL data model?

  6. Very cool review and evaluation — and just what I’ve been looking for. I can’t mail you directly (the address didn’t jump out and hit me so I missed it) so pardon the spam while I say Thanks a Heap for this post.

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