Note: This is mostly meant in jest to point out how religious we tend to get with our tools and even more so to play with the image below. Several people will react viscerally to my assertions. Please take this with a giant grain of NaCl. A does of Snark. All of this is based on my own experience. No web sites were injured in production of this blog post.


I know and respect drupal enthusiasts. I know and respect WordPress enthusiasts. I myself associate with the latter, but I do use drupal for the bulk of the web presence of my day job. Have I set this one up with too many disclaimers?

So take with some gross judgment that there are drupal people and WordPress people (and we love the extremists). And largely, those that are really successful in bending drupal to their whim are programmers, developers, people who can get deep down into the modules and hooks and can breath the “drupal way”. On the other hand, people who use WordPress can go a long ways without having to get down into the soul of the code. They use a WYSIWIG interface, and mostly, It Just Works.

This is so totally like the Mac / PC fanatics game. I lost track of the source, but remember one writer who claimed that ultimately, the reason why PC’s rose to dominate the market in personal computers in the 1990s was because diving into DOS and BAT files poking in the BIOS was more “masculine” than using a graphical interface. I cannot really say I believe that, but there is something in that that makes me nod, “maybe”.

Does that fly as well in these two modern web publishing systems? I dunno.

I had a recent frustrating experience in trying to get drupal to do what I needed for the NMC web site. A problem had vexed me for a while. We were getting messages from some users that certain web pages viewed in Internet Explorer would just bomb with an un-useful “an error occurred page”. I managed to narrow it down to ones that were using some embed code to insert Flash video content from our media server into the pages. I got around it temporarily by putting some of the video on, and using its embed code, but it told me that the method used on our site was bad.

Our developers had written me 2 drupal functions to look for a custom tag in our content like:

and I could see in the code it was using some variant of the swfobject method; yet noted we were using an older version of that code library (1.5); the newest version was more than just a replacement with the newer version.

I did find a reference on an MS site about certain issues with the way javascript code was used to re-write content; and surprise! hacks were necessary to wrap things in divs a certain way for IE not to go off and cry… But no matter how many different ways I matched by code to theirs, it refused to play nicely.

So I thought maybe what I need is a newer drupal tool to embed FLVs. I went shopping in the drupal module place. I scanned a long list and many of the module were overkill; things designed to enable uploading of video and conversion to FLV formats; FLV Mediaplayer looked promising. I downloaded the 5.x version, where the entire documentation page reads:

Fixes flashvars merge issue

On activating this module, it indicated I needed to download, and activate another module. I did that. The new embed method did not render anything except PHP errors. I traced through the code and it was littered with debugging dump statements. Back to the drupal forums, where I found someone asking a similar question, where the developer response is:

Fix is in CVS, bad validation due to regression. Thanks for the catch.

Now this is where I break and jump to how you install plugins for wordpress. You download the code, upload it to your own server, go to the plugins page, and click a link to activate it. You dont have to go elsewhere to scrim other pieces or comb through CVS repositories to find fixes.

I bailed on the FLV Media Player and started wondering if I;d be putting all of our video in the cloud. I really preferred to have our videos on our media server; that is what it is there for, and we get very detailed data on usage.

But this is where the community saves me- some tweets of frustration got some direct messages, even and email with a phone number from Bill Fitzgerald. I met Bill last year at Northern Voice, and really respect him for his work, drupal expertise, and ability to take our WordPress ribbing and sling it right back without getting nasty.

Bill got me pointed in the winning direction with a recommendation for SWFTools (which for some reason is a “project” not listed on the modules page for media) that in the end solved my problems.

And now I had found the definitive signal for good drupal code- it had multipage documentation, written in something close to English. I’ve scanned quite a few modules in the last 2 years, and often you feel lucky to get a read me.

Yes, drupal peeps will quickly hop in and tell me errors of my ways. But I am an experience developer, and have installed many kinds of PHP/MySQL systems, and I still fail to fully grasp the way drupal works. I find the details to be usually be deep down in the code, and to go beyond just the basics calls for someone at the developer level to fix their PC drupal.

Whereas with a Mac WordPress, though not perfect, lends itself to people who want to be able to customize their web sites without peering into the code.

Now let me re-iterate; I very much love what drupal does for our NMC site; and there are somethings that would have taken a lot of code and duct tape to do in WordPress. I love views, and make heavy use of them. I like creating my own CCK content types– but I am again and again facing a wall in drupal because it seems to defy my way of thinking. My angst comes down more to my own short comings in learning this system… but I really do not want to have to ramp up to the level of being a drupal developer to be a drupal user.

I’m a WordPress….


Featured Image: The classic I’m a Mac, I’m a PC ad (source unknown, most likely copyrighted, sue me( with drupal and WordPress logos swapped for famous heads. Background is my image! Across the Crest flickr photo by cogdogblog shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

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An early 90s builder of web stuff and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person. And he is 100% into the Fediverse (or tells himself so) Tooting as


  1. meh. I use both, love both. each one has its place, and each one has its own ways of doing things. I’d say it’s easier to hack Drupal sites without touching code, especially with views and cck. wordpress makes you edit a bunch of theme files to do similar things. but that doesn’t matter – use the tool(s) you’re comfortable with. that’s the whole beauty of this stuff! 🙂 (just as long as you’re not manually managing stuff with Dreamweaver and its ilk, it’s all good…)

    D’Arcy Norman’s last blog post..RiP: A remix manifesto

    1. @D’Arcy Norman: Fence sitter!

      But you, master of both platforms, are an exception, so all of it is “easier to hack” for you. Besides, you talk abut command line rsync being something for 8 year olds to do.

  2. First, let me try a Bill Fitzgerald impression below:

    Mr. Levine,

    Seems that you think a squalid blogging software can make up for the power and precision of my druballs, and in that you are wrong my friend, and here is why:

    In which follows a very smart attack on WordPress and elevation of Drupal to apotheosis. So, my first remark is I do love Bill and can’t wait for his response, it will be a doozy I assure you. But I made it here before him, so let me add this.

    While I want to agree with the Drupal vs WP/Mac vs PC comparison, which works on many levels, there is a part of me that want to fight it. And here is why, WordPress is significantly different than Drupal and it’s not simply because it’s more chic or has an I’m cool and you need me like you need a pair of crocs mentality that fuels apple fanboys, it”s deeper, more metaphysical.

    WordPress Multi-User is the de-centered web, it reflects the way we think and publish, it is not a series of box-like appiaries, it is the hive web we inhabit. I can’t stress this fact enough. Almost three years ago when Chris Lott said at NV that the two are different and WP will never be a good CMS, and Drupal will never be a great blog, he was right. The only thing that has changed is that CMSs are deader than blogs these days 😉 The technologies haven’t changed half as much as the web has, and that is a metaphysical shift, not a technical one.

    Amen, mass is over, go in peace.

    Jim’s last blog post..Nighthawks (1981)

  3. Many fields are crammed with raucous debates like this, though (as a onetime English major) I think technology breeds fiercer and longer-lasting ones. Mac-vs-PC is the great-grandchild of mainframe-vs-micro. I’m sure there are legions of loyal WordPerfect users out there somewhere, hugging the joy of “reveal codes.” Heck, there are probably WordStar diehards. Somewhere.

    For most people, when it comes to technology (in digital or other forms), it’s not about how it works but what it does. If you want to blog and can do that by picking the default Blogger theme, have at it. If your idea of a great afternoon is futzing around with code, have at that.

    I remember a guy explaining endlessly why Beta videotape was inherently better than VHS, long after the last Beta tape had disappeared from the video store. Yes, they use Beta in broadcast — but most of us aren’t broadcasters. And those who are, use Beta.

  4. I’m a Drupal (but my shirt’s still untucked).
    I’m also a Semantic Web (why not mix that in, too?)
    (And notice that RDF is being mixed into the Drupal core soon)

    The commonality that I think pushes this beyond Drupal people being programmers is that it’s all about wanting/needing/thinking tight structure. CCK allows you to create much more structure for a site in a way that, I think, strongly echoes Object Oriented programming (though you don’t need to know OO to use it). And Views lets you work with the structure you create in complicated ways. If you love structure, you’re more likely to be a Drupal. If you love the opposite, you’re more likely to be a WordPress. Has anyone ever accused Jim Groom of being structured? 🙂

    So in some ways Drupal is not at all Edupunk — it needs someone to dive into the structure (and sometimes code) to make it do what it needs to do, and general users shouldn’t have admin privileges where that structure is created, they should just be able to use it. WordPress lets people do some of those admin things, but at the loss of the tight structure.

    Then again, if there could be such a thing as well-structured Edupunk, Drupal would be the tool for that.

    Patrick Murray-John’s last blog post..Talked with Talis

  5. @Patrick Murray-John: and we know how cool semanticism is/will be! I appreciate the expected balanced (and no holds back) comments. And to be honest drupal is way better than a PC. I am inching my way to understanding The Way, and ofciuse, in the right hands, they can both be different ways to the same goal.

  6. I agree with those that said that Drupal and WP are different and each of them can better serve different needs. WP was originally meant to be a lightweight and easy to use blogging platform. Drupal is a CMS Framework where you can develop web sites with different functionality and different sizes. From the beginning Drupal was made as a multi-user platform with very extensive user and content management capabilities. WP in, most cases is a single user platform, and not a community portal.

    In my opinion you can’t really compare 2 systems – it just doesn’t make much sense unless you compare similarities in their functions. You can’t compare automobile with an aircraft – which one is better? I think it depends on the way they’re being used.

    Drupal’s flexibility allows non-programmers to create very custom web sites with different functionality that WP is not able to provide. But nothing is perfect, sometimes you get stuck and have to tweak things, and of course, there is a learning curve. Drupal is definitely a more complicated platform for a novice, non-techie user. But I think Drupal has far better documentation at than WP. Even though I work with both and like WP for simple projects, I can’t stress enough how bad and limited is WP documentation.

    BTW, if some one is interested in Drupal, you should check out their showcases – you’ll find out that many universities, libraries, government sites, online stores, portals with thousands of users, video social networks and others successfully using Drupal. NASA has a web site based on Drupal, so as MTV in the UK – you’ll find many awesome examples that a simple blogging platform like WP is not able to handle, just because it was never designed for it.

    So, if you want a really nice and cool blog or a small business web site that doesn’t require custom functions outside of the WP plugins scoop, I say – go with WP and you’ll probably won’t look back. If you need far more flexibility, customization and functionality in your platform, granular user administration and access management, then Drupal may be your answer. Drupal is a web development framework and cms, so it’s only limited by its developer’s imagination.

    Max’s last blog post..Simple Sidebar Navigation Plugin for WordPress

    1. Thanks Max, I owuld agree that the too offer different approaches and may be considered apples and oranges, but then again, they are both fruits.

      I’d have to say I have had the reverse experience with documentation; I get lost in the drupal site, and I almost never look at WP’s docs besides looking up functions. It’s interesting how varied experiences are. hmmmmm

  7. This sounds so much like my experience with Drupal. It’s a great system – but you have to comprehend the Drupal way (which I apparently don’t). I do plenty of development but I don’t recommend Drupal to anyone because I can never be sure if they will be able to use it.

    I once had a project where our company was taking their design inspiration from a WordPress site and trying to design it in Drupal. When the deadline approached they fell back to Dreamweaver because there were 4 times as many people who could help meet the deadline using Dreamweaver.

    David’s last blog post..Mists of Fog

  8. Hi Alan,
    do you remember Umberto Eco writing that Apple was ‘Catholic’ and MS ‘Protestant’? Wonder if that metaphor applies to Drupal/Wordpress?
    I mused that I think people tend to be monoamorous with regards software in particular sectors. Ie we only love one blog platform, one VLE, etc. I think it’s a form of cognitive parsimony:

    Martin’s last blog post..Blogging impacts on formal academic output

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