Bonum Certa Men Certa

A Short History of Content Management Systems or Data Shuffles in Boycott Novell and Techrights

posted by Roy Schestowitz on Sep 23, 2023


WHO would have guessed that a US-hosted WordPress blog (shared hosting with cPanel) would turn into a self-managed affair with a whole set of tools, many of which custom-made (for the site alone)?

In 2006 the site was 'purely' WordPress (Gemini expansion would take another 15 years) and later on, just months down the line, some Webspace was used for additional files (especially in 2007). In 2008 we adopted Freenode for IRC hosting (but no sooner than 2021 would we create our own IRC network!) and the following year we added a wiki to assist navigation and organisation of information. Drupal was added in 2013, but it was never used to craft important pages. It was mostly experimental. We added nothing of value to it, but it looked nice as a front page for a few years (until a more minimal page was coded in PHP in 2020 when we added daily bulletins, public Git, and IPFS).

The wiki was impossible to sustain with open registrations due to excessive spam and so, in due course, the wiki was mostly used for version control of one person's edits. In a sense, a wiki overhead was no longer justified given this workflow. So it's time to branch out. Going back to basics...

When it comes to WordPress, in 2013 we already cautioned about the company behind it pivoting or deviating in a worrying/increasingly worrisome trajectory. It was becoming too obvious that this was the wrong direction. The intention was, in due course, to stop using WordPress. But that would not happen until 10 years later, i.e. this month.

To the credit of the WordPress project, it did maintain and support (security patches) some very old versions of WordPress until months ago. This meant that some old system could keep on going. In 17 years of this site and nearly 20 years of Tux Machines we never experienced any known security incidents and we wanted to keep it that way. So it's time to take whatever we have in the wiki and in WordPress (about 40,000 pages combined), transforming that into static pages that can be carried on decades into the future, no matter what version of PHP or MySQL or WordPress deprecates whatever functionality. Self-deprecating software with brittle moving parts can require a great deal of maintenance and occasional repair. That costs a lot more time than money and at the end one remains hostage of the software.

More needs to be said about the technical debt associated with "modern" (bloated) Content Management Systems. They only "work" as long as you constantly "upgrade" things, accepting that many existing things will break along the way because they're "no longer supported" (as if that's a reasonable explanation).

The new site of Techrights has Gemini support 'built in'. Time will tell how things can mature, but it's definitely better than clinging onto WordPress for another year and another year and...

Many sites just shut down completely due to technical debt. Some news sites went offline for this reasons. When presented with bills for "modernisations" they choose the cheaper way out.

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