OMG, is that WordPress?!

I’m a Perl guy. I like the language a lot – how it looks, how it works… Even if it isn’t perfect, I like it a lot. But I also love things that work, and WordPress works.

I tried out Movable Type today, and while it is obviously a professional package, it doesn’t have the polish that WordPress does. There’s little to no AJAX, there’s no rounded corners, theming is a disaster, and updating uses a popup that flickers at you as it refreshes for each stage of the process, but makes it look like something’s about to crash. Still, it is rock-solid, and has an excellent track record. And it’s Perl. It’s good… but it’s not great.

Finding and installing plugins and themes with Movable Type just cannot compete with the ease and elegance one finds in WordPress. The interface is well thought-out – beautiful and functional simultaneously. That’s really the crux – the Perl competitor works, but it’s clunky and old-fashioned.

So, I’m using WordPress. I’m not exactly ashamed of this, but I’m not happy that Perl doesn’t seem to have a credible alternative CMS. Why did WordPress attract an overabundance of web and UI/UX designers? Why are Perl hackers so bad at making pretty things? (Okay, not everyone, but it’s a problem) And most importantly, what can the Perl community do to ensure our packages are as attractive (in every sense of the word) with the more polished competitors?

Comments
Comment from tempire - January 29, 2011 at 10:41 pm

It’s a self-selecting group of folk that don’t understand aesthetic.

Go to a Perl conference, and take notice the style of dress across the board: clashing colors, incorrect fittings, etc. Take note of Larry Wall, and his personal presentation – he fits into this group, and he started the whole ride.

There’s nothing wrong with it, there’s simply a percentage of the population that appreciate aesthetic, but it’s not important to them; @ this point, it starts to delve into personality theory, which is a full area of study in itself.

Contrast it with Ruby, which always has pretty things. Take note of the personal dress of the Ruby’s authors. You’ll notice a 100% contrast when comparing the presentation of Ruby programmers at their conferences.

A self-selecting group.

There are exceptions, of course. Sebastian is probably the most notable exception. Suggest a code change to Mojolicious, & the first thing he’ll consider is whether it’s pretty. Performance is important, but “does it feel right?”.

Some folks don’t understand that. I do; it’s as clear as day (one of the reasons I love Mojolicious), but some folks don’t, and will never understand. Again, there’s nothing wrong with either perspective. Different folk have different priorities, & in order to understand the effects, it’s vital to understand that the thought process in relation to priority differs on genetic level.

Comment from Jay - January 30, 2011 at 12:43 am

And then you signed up to improve the openmelody project, right?

WordPress is in its position of popular CMS not because of some shiny features (which it didn’t start out with when it became popular) but because of the licensing problems of MT (then the popular CMS) at the time WP started. If MT had maintained its popularity (and been more open in its development model, perhaps) it would also be AJAXy, rounded and theme-friendly.

Comment from Stevan Little - January 30, 2011 at 3:36 am

@Tempire – To start with, I am quite sure I would find plenty of neck-bearded, moms-basement-dwelling rubyists out there, the Perl community does not have a monopoly on those any more then the Ruby community has the faux-hawked, Axe-Body-Sprayed, wanna-be-rockstar market cornered. A fair degree of the “professionalism” you perceive at Ruby conferences is directly related to how expensive they are to attend, whereas most Perl conferences are more grass roots oriented (read: much cheaper) and therefore more casual.

Secondly, what Sebastian is doing is called good API design, in the end the goal is a consistent and easy to use API, which is basically the code equivalent of good aesthetics. But you must remember too that aesthetics are *highly* subjective and are not judged on surface alone. This is true not only of art, where good technique and pleasing color palette alone do not make great art, great art requires depth beyond just the visual. And this also is true of code, a nice surface-level API is not enough, the abstractions beneath that are just as important.

Finally, to bring this around to the original post, while WordPress might look nice on the surface, it (as well as PHP) has a pretty poor record of security vulnerabilities. While on the other hand, MT (as well as Perl) has a fairly good record when it comes to security (at least comparatively that is ;)

In the end, judging a book by its cover is almost never a good idea.

- Stevan

Comment from Zbigniew Lukasiak - January 30, 2011 at 8:45 am

Stevan – judging book by the cover is not a good idea and it is perhaps a good description of of the situation with Perl and how it is perceived. A programming language is much more then the glyphs used for rendering its programs. But there are product where ‘looks’ matter much more, for example in a CMS, and it is a bad situation when the disregard for the shallow prettiness of the surface percolates from the language to those products.

Comment from Iñigo - January 30, 2011 at 5:05 pm

I’ve my blog at wordpress (.com). I looked at MT one day and also I’ve looked at other alternative engines, like ikiwiki etc

But… “Does not matter _what_ I’m solving, I always end doing: HTML and JS at the end.”

I work as sysadmin many hours, and I like to keep my home infrastructure maintainable, and also I don’t like to go home to continue optimizing databases, reviewing monitors and logs. I’ve had many years blogs, static HTML, drupals, template based sites, markup based, etc at home when I had a lot of free time, but, outsourcing a personal blog (and so lamp server, etc), I’m happy with the result.

Always you may sing at blogs.perl.org, it’s a nice theme !! :)

Agree with the WP theming power and facilities… maybe that the next killer “blogging app” we haven’t see jet (html5+websockets?)… could take an easier road if one of its features is: “wordpress theme compatible”.

Other common argument (not in my case) is that a side of themes, there is a mini “CPAN” of “plugins for wp” available, tested, rated, etc…