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"WordPress is a CMS" says Adii (WordPress RockStar)

I strongly disagree.

On Wednesday night I attended WPCPT3 – shorthand for the 3rd monthly meeting of the Cape Town(CPT) WordPress(WP) enthusiasts – where Rafiq, one of my SEO team members was speaking about how to SEO a WordPress blog.

The evening got off to a good start – interesting info about WP security flaws, themes, tips, WP tricks – that was until Adii (local WordPress RockStar & creator of cool internationally renowned WP themes) started speaking about how… “WordPress is a CMS”.

Screech! Halt! I almost choked on the slice of sponsored pizza from Butlers.

I was so the wrong person to be sitting in that audience, while Adii was being so cavalier and sprouting profane, blanket statements about CMS.

(To put my reaction in context: In one of my past incarnations, before Quirk, I was part of Deloitte’s Global Office of Knowledge Management (GOKM) for a year in Washington DC.

Here I was able to outline what Deloitte’s Global Intranet serving 90 000+ employees should look & function like. I also sat on the global technology selection committee IT Budget: $50M for the first year. We looked at things like enterprise portals, document management, workflow process solutions, eLearning Tools …and… great B-I-G CMS’.)

But enough about me – let’s get back to Adii and his “WP is a CMS” statement. (Check out the slide set which caused me such techno-consternation.)

Firstly, with due respect, do most people know what a CMS is? I mean a real CMS.

Do they realise you have 3 main categories of CMS’s:

  1. Enterprise CMS’s – which handle major volumes of content across technology platforms, databases and geographies.
  2. Open Source CMS’s – like Drupal or Joomla – which are fast becoming players in the small to medium enterprise space
  3. Home grown CMS’s – created for bespoke purposes by developers with a specific content management requirement.

Compared to a most of these CMS categories, WordPress is little more than a glorified content delivery system… albeit with a large and growing user base and nifty ease-of-use benefits.

Whether WordPress is a CMS or not – depends on what you think a CMS is. And frankly, the term “CMS” is getting applied too loosely lately to things which have no place calling themselves a “management” anything.

In my not so humble opinion (IMNSHO), WP "aspires" to be a CMS, but it is far from that in reality. It lacks many of the necessary protocols (like security, complex content management functionality, robust software version maintenance, update processes and user controls) which any self-respecting, scaleable CMS offers as standard fare.

To punt WordPress as a CMS is to force it to punch way above its natural weight class.

Secondly, simply because WP doesn’t qualify as a true-blue CMS does not mean it’s not a highly valuable tool which suits the needs of millions of users – who actually do not want or need the full functionality and complexity (read: hassle) of a CMS system.

Maybe WP will become a mini-CMS when it grows up… but that’ll take some growing, in substantial CMS terms.

I question whether becoming “more of a CMS” is even a good thing for WP. Most of the natural growth of WP user base comes from the delight users experience when they install and use WP easily. If that value proposition works, why mess with it?

Becoming a CMS could complicate and bloat the code and perhaps make the software lose some of its natural ease of use – which is part of its ubiquitous charm.

My question is – Should WP even try to be a CMS? Aren’t there enough pretenders to that throne already?

Lastly, Adii spoke about New York Times as “using WordPress”. Again – with due respect – that’s misleading.

In a CMS context, that statement implies WP manages and services their underlying content management needs.

If you read this article, you will see that it is not truly the case. NY Times are not running their primary content management engines on WordPress. It is merely part of a wider strategy to for NY Times to start embracing citizen journalists and allow them to use a blogging tool, which just happens to be WordPress, to start doing that.

As a matter of fact, Content Management Systems like Drupal probably have a much stronger claim to “newspaper” fame since sites like Fast Forward and NY Observer run their core content management on Drupal.

Enthusiasm for WordPress is great!

WP is a good, cheap little tool for many smaller or niche needs and possibly some larger ones as well. It has some interesting content manipulation capabilities.

However, to try and promote WP to the level of “CMS” – is probably taking the scope of WP a little too far. IMNSHO of course.

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