Textpattern CMS or Blog?
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Textpatternians are as happy as sandboys because Textpattern's flexibility is perfect for content management systems ranging from small blogs to large enterprises. There is evidence that non-users, however, either don't know about Textpattern or have the impression it is neither a good CMS nor a good blog. This article suggests ways to make Textpattern more visible and reverse mistaken perceptions.
Is Textpattern a Blog Tool?
When I became interested in blogging about 5 years ago I was told there were 3 main contenders: Textpattern, Wordpress and Movable Type. After struggling with the installation and documentation of WP and MT, it became a no-brainer when I installed TXP in a few minutes and quickly fell in love with its intuitive interface and simple, minimal approach. More blogging tools have arrived since then but a search today for blogging software doesn't often find Textpattern mentioned even though it is better than it ever was. I would expect TXP to at least be listed by Weblog Matrix, About.com or this blog software comparison chart but it isn't. It is listed on some comparison charts but is far less prominent than it used to be. Why?
Is Textpattern a CMS?
It is listed on some comparison charts but is far less prominent than it used to be Textpattern.com describes the software as a flexible, elegant and easy-to-use content management system. Textpattern Pro says Textpattern has left the fertile mud of weblogs and reaches out for the enterprise market. CMS Matrix lists all kinds of content management software and its breakdown of Textpattern 4.0.4 shows it was lacking with regard to commerce, performance, built-in applications, management and flexibility. 4.0.7 no doubt ticks more boxes but Textpattern is in a different league to expensive commercial systems such as those in the Excel spreadsheet at DotNetNUke. Site builders looking at software listed at CMS Watch, A3Webtech or CMS Review are more likely to be interested in Textpattern. For some reason, however, Textpattern is not listed on those sites either. Comparisons with Drupal such as this one also don't mention Textpattern even though the 10 reasons to use Drupal could all be applied to Textpattern. Why?
The Market for Social Software
A recent survey of social software interviewed over 2000 IT and business professionals from a wide range of industries and companies. Only 24% of the 2000 sampled businesses currently use social software - an indication of how immature this market still is. Significantly, 23% of the respondents use open source and that does not include the many custom solutions using open source as a base. Textpattern is maturing nicely and could be in a great position when the other businesses realise social software's importance. TXP is mentioned as open source blogware in the report. But how many of that future market will discover that Textpattern is perfect for many of them or that it even exists?
How can we make Textpattern more visible and popular? I think we have to face the facts and admit that Textpattern's visibility and image is not great, as Bloke pointed out nicely here. The core developers are as passionate as ever about Textpattern as can be seen by the new tags and tag parsing, the changeset and their enthusiasm for the textpattern.com relaunch (Wonderful opportunity for web designers, by the way). Without developers Textpattern would go nowhere and they work so hard that I would love them to be rewarded with money as well as inner satisfaction. There is more chance of that happening if TXP becomes more visible and popular. So how can we make Textpattern more visible and popular?
Textpatternblog and Textpatterncms
If Textpattern went full throttle down the CMS route I think it would succeed. If it went full throttle down the blog route I think it would also succeed. But in my humble opinion, Textpattern is not a victim of its own flexibility, of either or or neither nor. I do not think the Textpattern software or direction has to change one bit. It is simply the image, the perception, the marketing and the SEO that has to change. This is already under way with the textpattern.com relaunch but I think the blog/cms dichotomy might persist if we don't do something about it. Here's what I propose: register two new official Textpattern sites called Textpatternblog.com and textpatterncms.com to assist textpattern.com.
There can be Blog Edition and CMS Edition downloads both using the regular install but perhaps with different documentation Textpatternblog.com will be aimed at anyone wanting to use Textpattern as a blog tool and will give advice such as how to use the sidebar for recent articles, recent comments, a tag cloud, social bookmarks, calendar and other 'bloggy' things. Also which plugins are most suitable, how to make an archives page etc. The regular Textpattern install will be available at textpatternblog.com but it will be the blog edition, perhaps with blog specific documentation included in the download.
Textpatterncms.com will be aimed at professional designers, developers and site builders with demanding clients. Again, guidelines on tags, front and back end plugins and typical CMS needs will be available, along with the regular Textpattern install (CMS edition). If there is a difference between the CMS edition and regular TXP download it will simply be documentation.
It would be good if the main plugins were available to download on both sites along with clear explanations and cool ways to use them so users will feel they can select a "package" well suited to their needs all on the one site. Textpattern Resources, Textbook and the forum might be information overload for newbies, but with all the essential information easily available on the one site they can now get started with confidence. SEO needs to be optimised so one site is all blog and the other all cms and any crossover of keywords and descriptions should be kept to a minimum. Both sites can be submitted to Dmoz, Yahoo, Google and other directories, immediately doubling present coverage. Links between textpattern.com, textpatternblog.com and textpatterncms.com will also help boost ratings if they are all on different IPs. I think it should be possible to avoid duplicate content. Textpattern.com could become a bit slimmer, more promotional and more community focused. There will still be the one software but now with one general site plus two extra distinct dedicated sites optimised for either cms or blog.
It makes a whole lot of sense to me to have some organization and direction to market Textpattern So who is going to do all this? Definitely not the developers, they already have enough to do. No, this should all be done by a marketing team, imho. In last week's interview, Kevin Potts said the "business" of Textpattern needs to have a design dept, a writing dept, both housed in a marketing dept that regularly interacts with the R&D dept. Exactly how this could be brought about and how it will operate I do not know but it makes a whole lot of sense to me to have some organization and direction to market Textpattern. There is a lot of Textpattern busy-ness going on which is great, but not much of it is designed to present a clear and unified image of what Textpattern is all about.
Kevin knows what he is talking about with regard to this stuff and I think we should listen to him. He's respected enough to have written articles at A List Apart. His book is positively reviewed here and here and here is an excerpt from it which is full of sensible advice.
My ideas often turn out to be not so great but if there was a "marketing team" to discuss it in relation to the grand scheme of things, I feel sure the perception that Textpattern is not quite good enough can be turned around and people will accept that Textpattern is a great example of open source content management software which also happens to be a superb blogging tool as well. Do you agree, Textpatternistas, and if so, how do we get the marketing department up and running and who will volunteer to be part of it?