Ovid (publius_ovidius) wrote,

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Why Bricolage Rocks

The Wall Street Journal has a fascinating Online Article about why Windows Vista had to be rebuilt from scratch. The problems it faces are the sort of problems that I work very hard to encourage developers to avoid. They even mention how testing used to be done by hand instead of being automated. Testing by hand when you can automate is stupid, stupid, stupid.

What's more interesting to me is how the story was published. Take a look at the URL:


If someone emailed you that URL and said "take a look", would you? If you're really busy, you might not. That URL conveys no information to you other than the fact that this is an article on WSJ's online version (and if you don't know what WSJ is, that's just as useless). The problem is in the document name:


What the hell is that? That tells me right off that bat that WSJ uses Vignette's "StoryServer" to publish their Web site. StoryServer is what is known as a "Content Management System", or CMS for short. Content management systems allow you to manage huge Web sites. As for Vignette, a long time ago someone apparently decided that they would build URLs based upon information in their database. As a result, though many search engines use URLs to help index information, you cannot take advantage of this with Vignette. It's also very difficult, when debugging, to just look at a URL and get a sense of what's going on.

Compare that URL to how Bricolage might create one:


Now if someone emails you that URL, you can actually figure out if you want to read it or not. You can figure out if it's timely or some story published a few years ago. And more importantly for those who manage Web sites, search engines can figure this out too.

Other differences between StoryServer and Bricolage, my employer's flagship product: StoryServer typically forces you to have their software running on the server that's handling your site. We don't. As a result, they have to deal with numerous security holes. We don't. Our server pushes content out to the main servers and you can use any technology you want to serve it. We don't tie your hands. You're free to pick and choose the technology that's most appropriate for your needs.

Interestingly, because we don't force you to use a proprietary front-end solution, this also means you can do something with Bricolage that other content managements systems usually don't allow: use it for something other than Web sites. For example, one organization talked to us about using our software to management a bank of monitors in their lobby. You could use our software to manage magazine production. You could use our software to manage just about anything you would write software for to manage content.

Of course, there's the little question of price. We're free. We're also open-source. You can take our product, use it, change it, manage huge Web sites and not pay us a dime. Of course, given how huge the product is, it's still more cost-effective to hire us for installation, training and consulting. We also have great support contracts. These are things you have to pay for with Vignette, too.

However, given that our core product is free and open-source, what about Vignette's? Well, try and find a price on their Web site. Just try it. They don't want you to know. One person contacted us after he discovered he needed a more scalable solution than Plone (another free, open-source content management system). He initially contacted Vignette. Apparently, the first question they asked him was who was authorized to sign purchase orders. After going back and forth a few times, they kept asking him who could sign purchase orders but they wouldn't name a price. After they finally did, it turned out to be a rather large six figure sum.

We, of course, are free. While I can't name the gentleman who described this horror story with Vignette's sales team, I can say that he's one of the world's largest distributors of a very popular product.

My father, on the other hand, asked an obvious question: if Bricolage is so good, why is it free? Well, to those used to developing something and selling it, the open-source business model seems strange. It's tough to describe how we benefit from people and companies all over the world adding new features and giving them away, thus increasing the value of this product immensely. By giving away our product we increase its userbase in a way proprietary software can't. Training and consulting is where the true long-term money is.

And we are good. Just read what eWeek has to say about us:
Bricolage is quite possibly the most capable enterprise-class open-source application available. The Web content management application features excellent administration capabilities, and it is highly extensible and capable of managing even the biggest and most complex Web sites.

And who are the companies using Bricolage? Try RAND Corporation. Or the World Health Organization. Or the Congressionally funded Radio Free Asia. The latter uses our software to maintain a Web site published in 10 languages including Mandarin, Cantonese, Lao, Khmer, Uygher, amongst others. (Heck, have you even heard of Uygher?).

And as an added bonus, we just added the ability to write Web template pages in PHP, not just Perl. I don't know of any other CMS which allows more than one language to do this. We rock :)
Tags: programming
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