Strong opinions, weakly held

Building a community site these days

What’s the state of the art these days in building your own community site? The basic idea is that you start with a blog, but you want user registration, profile pages, forums, and perhaps the ability to give users their own blogs.

Yesterday I read some horrible things about Joomla in a private forum. There’s also Movable Type Community Solution. I expect that the UI is very nice, but I can’t get over the idea that Movable Type is slow. That’s a conclusion I’ve come to running this site on Movable Type. (I’ve even installed FastCGI and eAccelerator, but some operations still feel slow.

I have installed Drupal, and impressed by how finished it seems. (There’s a FreeBSD port for it, which is really nice.) I’m still not sure I like it, though. All of the themes are pretty ugly, and I don’t love the tools for laying out the site particularly well.

There are also plenty of people who are building sites using forum software like phpBB and the various extensions that other “community site” features people have become accustomed to.

There are also sites where you can set up social networks like Ning and Tribe.net. Heck, you can even just set up a blog on Vox and try let other people who are interested in the community set up their own Vox accounts.

So what’s the right answer these days. I’m going to continue pushing forward on the Drupal path for now (for a site other than this one), but I’m curious to know what people think of the market these days.


  1. I did my time with Drupal and have the scars.

    Right now, the love of my life CMS-wise is Expression Engine, which has community features baked in from the git-go. Adding fora is an additional license fee, but I’ve built a couple of sites with it so far and am kinda smitten. Great support too.

    (N.B., it’s a commercial product and wildly affordable, not open source and/or free.)

  2. I used CodeIgniter, a PHP framework from the guys behind Expression Engine, for a project, and I found it to be pretty solid.

  3. Dolphin looks interesting, but I haven’t tried it.

    Community Server is excellent, but is commercial and ASP.NET based which might be a show-stopper for you.

  4. I’ve been using vbulletin for a while now, it’s not open source like most alternatives but it does have a large community and it’s easy to modify.

    I’m not that experienced with php, but right now I’m building a basic cms around it. There are mods available that do this as well but the control you get is a bit limited.

    The only downside I think is the html markup, it’s a bit old (based on tables, with layout properties inserted in the tags..).

    There are a few mods out there that connect vbulletin with CMS systems like drupal and joomla, but it’s not a great solution to be honest..

  5. I’ll throw in my vote for ExpressionEngine as well. I’ve used it for about a year now, and love it.

  6. Drupal is probably most complex and requires more time for learning, but it’s also most flexible open source cms. It comes with everything you need for community building.

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