It really is a sad state of affair when it comes to blog server software for Java and .NET. For the last few weeks, I’ve been working to introduce blogs and the concept of blogging internally at work and trying to pilot the use of blogs instead of the standard project portal. To that end, I figured I should really get the latest offerings from all of the blogging server software out there and put them through the paces to see which one works better than the other.
I’ve personally only used Blogger, Movable Type and WordPress in the past 5 years. The primary blog ran on Blogger for many years before I finally moved everything to WordPress. To make sure we’re eating our own dog food, I decided to download Roller and Community Server (formerly. Text) and give them a whirl.
Being a Java guy, I was excited to download and install Roller, as it’s one of the most popular Java blogging software out there. Boy, was I disappointed. I know this is free and open-source but installing and getting Roller running was a royal pain in the neck. The installation is documented fairly well for Tomcat but I have tons of servers running WebLogic and so I tried to deploy Roller under WebLogic. So I configure the appropriate datasources and authentication realms and try to deploy the application. I killed the server before I got a seizure from the fast scrolling stack-trace. Without boring you with all the details, it took me almost 8 hours to get Roller to work correctly under WebLogic. Having worked with J2EE containers for over 6 years, I know the reality of deploy-anywhere but this is ridiculous. How easy is it to create a web application that works on a bunch of different containers? I could not believe the effort it took to get this simple web application deployed. Take a look at Confluence – Java web application that configures itself and runs on every container out there. And other major issue I have with Roller is the lack of support for any other database platforms besides MySQL, PostgreSQL and HSQL-DB. I love MySQL but I have Oracle running internally on big boxes that are backed up several times a day and actively monitored. But I can’t use Oracle with Roller as it only supports MySQL, PostgreSQL and HSQL-DB out of the box. With technologies like Hibernate, why do we still have applications written in Java that are so database platform bound? My next mission is to get Roller working with Oracle and then document (and blog) the hacks necessary to get Roller working under WebLogic and Oracle.
Another problem with Roller is the lack of community support and plug-ins. Coming from the WordPress side of the house, there is a plug-in for everything including the kitchen sink. Before you can think it, someone has already written a plug-in for it. (I should really look at Pebble and Blojsom)
Moving to the .NET side of house is not a pretty picture either. The blog engine that used to be named .Text is now rebranded as Community Server. The installation is pretty easy and product looks fairly robust. Telligent Systems is the company that’s taken over development of .Text and the new product includes a discussion system, blogging system, and photo gallery system. The same lack of plugins or add-ons exists here and the 3 listed add-ons require a commercial license. Beyond the base blog functionality, there is nothing available.
Roller and Community Server work well once you get them installed. But anything beyond the basic requires custom development and I just feel that is not a good use of my time. To me, blog server software is a commodity and so I want to find something that’s easy to use and has the most features. I know I am developer and I can sit down and write anything I need but my company pays me to add value in a different capacity.
WordPress on the other hand is unbelievable. It’s written in PHP, which I can hack (if I had to) but all the plugins I’ve downloaded simply work. Download a plugin and just drop it in the plugins directory and you’re off and running. The big deficiency for WordPress in my opinion is that it only supports MySQL as a database platform but the value proposition provided by all the functionality is just incredible. I just hope Roller can catch-up as competition is great and really helps drive innovation.