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Taking aim at a box of Legos

One can only assume that Wordpress, Joomla! and Drupal are making it hard to close deals for Adobe's Business Catalyst (BC). Why else would Brent Weaver - a BC partner(?) - have to blow off steam shooting pieces of paper with a machine gun?

Brent is apparently preparing to show the world that BC does some things better than all three of the major PHP CMS solutions. Looking at the marketing video it isn't hard to imagine what they are:

  • Nice content editing interface
  • Email marketing as a first class feature
  • Easy to set up a basic web store
  • Instant analytics for the above features
  • It's a hosted solution so all you have to do is pay to start

(Check out the open source response video to idea of shooting guns at open source. Also look at Jam's response to the BC Gurus challenge.)

Let's give Brent the benefit of the doubt and assume that he's aware of Drupal's 8,000 modules, multiple distributions, and various hosted services, and that he's actually going try some of them to before writing his articles. He wouldn't really take the cheap shot and show a default installation and then say "hey look, BC does what BC does better than Drupal!" would he?

But here's the problem; Drupal is like a box of Legos. You open it up and a world of possibilities are available to you, but you have to build it yourself. Even if Brent does download some statistics and graphing modules, one of the email marketing solutions, one of the WYSIWYG solutions, Drupal Commerce, and a nice theme, and installs and configures all of them, he'll still probably be able to show fairly effectively that Adobe has a better product.

Wait?!? What? Did I just say that Adobe has a better product? Yes. Focus on the word "product" and ask yourself just what kind of product Drupal is, on its own. It's not a product in the same way that Business Catalyst is, because it wasn't designed to serve the needs of just one type of customer and serve them well. It is much more of a blank slate on which products can be built. It's a box of Legos.

Progress is being made with the productization of Drupal. Acqiua's Drupal Gardens can be fairly compared with Business Catalyst in many ways, although it is designed for a different customer in mind, and therefore has a different feature set. Distributions like Open Public and NodeStream will also take us a step further towards having real products. But until more people and companies make more progress with bringing more finished products to market, the Brents of the world will be able to take pot shots that, at first glance, make us look bad.

The sad thing is, the problems that Business Catalyst has solved have been solved in Drupal, Wordpress and Joomla! a hundred times over. Unfortunately, they're typically solved within the context of one client's website. At best the resultant toolset modules will get contributed back to Drupal.org, but the actual solution, the product, is locked into the one website that got built. I call this "Islands of Isolation" - the websites that are the products, and only ever have one customer.

Jeff Walpole and I talked about this problem in our DrupalCon Chicago presentation titled Drupal as a mature software industry. Drupal is taking steps towards becoming more of a product (while retaining its leadership position as a framework). Jeff Eaton's Snowman project for Drupal 8 is a great sign of this. Hopefully, if nothing else, Brent Weaver shooting guns at open source will at least alert people in open source that proprietary software is a threat, and the threat comes wrapped up as products.

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