Make my day please, integrate Contribute and Movable Type
Still dreaming of the perfect CMS for my corporate needs, I'm sitting in front of the specifications document for a new site, thinking that Movable Type would be just fine for half of it and Macromedia Contribute 2 would work well for the other half. I might integrate both tools but I wish I had just one system that would do it, not two that go only half way. Because, you know, for those bozos from marketing, one click is ten times better than two ;-).
Recent discussions with CMS gurus have not yet unearthed The Truly Good Thing, and old-school rich text editors are, well, still hanging around with no real relief in sight. My brief hope that Midas could be the one, quickly vanished after a simple look to the tag soup it generates. I keep an eye on Nvu, but Lindows' legal battle with Microsoft notwithstanding, Disruptive Innovations is aiming at a different target (power users) for the first release of their HTML editor.
Almost a year has passed and I'm wondering why there are still new projects popping up for yet another old-school text editor, why it's so difficult for developers to understand that we want our styles in a custom, external CSS style sheet, and how long it will take before all those applets are finally replaced by office tools.
Before developing my point further, I need to describe what is a typical corporate site for me. It's 90% of static content, 9% of seemingly dynamic content and 1% of business logic. The static content is usually comprised of web pages and downloadable PDF files. The dynamic content only seems dynamic in the sense that new content is added on a regular basis and promoted in various places -- Press releases or financial results are the typical examples of this kind of content. The business logic, like registrations, is happily handled with a bit of PHP here and there.
Most CMS get this balance completely wrong. When a system fires 30 database queries and an XSLT transformation, all that through a SOAP gateway, for rendering a page which content will never ever change since its creation, you know that something is wrong and that too many electrons are sacrificed because a programmer found that playing with Java was so much sexier than implementing a cache with -- how disgraceful! -- server-side includes and static files.
This is where I think both MT and Contribute have an advantage, in their own way.
MT has a quite unique (in the weblog world) way of generating content. It generates static files using templates and a smart algorithm that will create or modify files only when and where needed. It is also completely agnostic in terms of other server-side technologies, so I can carry my business logic as usual. For those press releases and alike, MT is very attractive because, in terms of workflow, I see absolutely no difference between them and weblog posts (add one, create a new page, list it on the home page, move old ones down one notch and update the archives). Its main caveats, for me, are the lack of a good rich text editor, better handling of file uploads and inflexible data model -- on which I'm not really entitled to complain, as Six Apart does not (yet) brand MT as more than a weblog tool. The last point, basically that all content for MT is a weblog post, makes it not very attractive for my 90% of static pages and documents.
Here comes Contribute. With it, Macromedia is the only vendor I know of which has a cross-platform, good-enough wysiwyg and CSS-savvy HTML editor with advanced functionalities such as file uploads and versioning (for reasons that I might
rant about explain later, I have not tested Adobe GoLive Co-Author, a competitor product to Contribute). Contribute is tailored for managing static web pages and documents and, as a desktop application, has a much better user interface than anything you can expect from a browser or so-called RIAs. Caveat: Contribute is tailored for managing static web pages and documents. This means that adding a new press release to a site with Contribute is a cumbersome manual process involving so many steps and as many chances to screw up some important pages such as the site home page that, as the webmaster, I'd rather not let the boz marketing folks touch. Contribute is missing a way to trigger processes on the server, or talk to a database to cascade changes automatically.
Now someone finds a way to integrate Contribute and MT, with the former as the user interface and the latter as the back-end template system, and I'm the happiest webmaster on earth. Until I switch my sites to web standards that is, but that is another story.