A New CMS and Why

As some of you may know, I launched a new, simple cms system yesterday called Clover Content. I thought you might be interested in understanding why I spent the last year developing yet another cms.

There’s a real problem with content management systems. I’m not talking about the big enterprise platforms. I’m talking about the basic content management software that simple web sites need and use. They often do too much. That’s right. Modern content management software does too much.

For example, I have a friend with a pretty average technical acumen. This friend needed a simple website for an organization that he had started and I, being a web nerd, decided to help him set up a site. So we did the usual. I went to Godaddy and bought a suitable domain along with a basic Linux hosting account, while he stared over my shoulder in wonder. I found a template for his site and we paid a fair price for a nice pre-made design. So the next step was to get him up and running with a cms so he could manage all of his content without needing any further assistance from me.

My first instinct was to go with Drupal. I have tooled around with Drupal in the past and it has a good reputation among the web-savvy. So I installed Drupal, started configuring the site and I soon realized, this is way more functionality and configuration than my friend needs. Not to mention, it’s way more than he can handle. A little time with Joomla presented the same dilemma. These systems have too much complexity; too much functionality; too much configuration. Not only that, but working with the template frameworks of these systems was going to be a nightmare. Remember, I already spent some money on a pre-made template for this site. I was going to have to make the template fit the cms. Not fun.

So, with all these issues before me, I realized why so many developers end up rolling their own cms system. It’s because what’s out there is more than a simple site needs. A simple website needs a simple cms. Don’t get me wrong, Drupal, Joomla, Worpress and the like are all great systems and they have their markets, but often they are more complex than necessary for small sites. Another major issue with the standard content management system is the need to have a database running on your server and the need to install software. It’s always a problem to have to patch your cms because of some update, or deal with setting up a database to run your cms.

Just like software is moving more and more from the desktop to the cloud, it seems advantageous that server based systems might do the same. Instead of installing 10 versions of WordPress on the sites of 10 of your clients, on 10 different servers (all separate, all requiring maintenance), why not host your content in a central location? This way all of your client’s content is in one place and there are no software installations or databases to maintain. Centralizing content makes good sense. Using a CMS as a services makes good sense.

I realize there are lots (thousands) of content management systems out there and there’s no one system that’s right for everyone, but I think that Clover Content is right for most small sites and for people who manage a lot of sites for clients. Anyway, that’s why I boostrapped this startup and entered the arena. Let me know what you think.

Hacker News

For the past year I’ve been an avid fan of Hacker News. It’s THE site to get the latest news about web / tech startups and the best part is the huge community. The discussion is relevant and the community is really smart. Check it out if you haven’t seen it: http://news.ycombinator.com/

Peaks and Valleys

I should really be working on my startup right now. But, I’m not. I’ve been in a valley for the last few days. Other days it’s peaks. Today it’s a valley. That’s how it goes when you’re bootstrapping a product on your own. I suppose that’s how it goes when you have funding, co-founders and a staff as well. Nobody is immune from the peaks and valleys.

When I decided to create a web based product and I really committed to it, I was pretty excited. I could envision myself working on it, marketing it and reaping the benefits of my hard work. I knew from the outset that it would be a long road, that it would be hard work. At that point, it was a vision. After it’s a vision, it becomes real work.

Real work is good, and for me, the coding is fun. But, there are un-exciting aspects of creating a product. Sorting out all of the ancillary details has been a challenge: doing design work (I’m not a designer), figuring out how payment gateways work, creating an LLC, learning about SEO, etc. But amid the technical and logistical difficulties inherent in any worthwhile endeavor, there is one intangible struggle that has to be dealt with along the way.

It’s the interior voice always reminding me that I don’t have to do this. There is any easier way; a path with less resistance. I have a good job and I make good money. It’s funny how this voice becomes louder when my day job is going well. Likewise, the voice is much quieter when the day job is boring or requires me to attend many worthless meetings. Either way, that voice is always there reminding me that I could be doing something else with my free time.

The internal struggle is not surprising really. I believe that anything worth doing will force you to constantly evaluate your values and your purpose. But even then, when you find that what you are doing is in line with your goals, that all your hard work is in fact amounting to something, the internal questioning does not stop. It may quiet down, but it’s never gone and you have to deal with it.

So if you are familiar with this internal voice that I’m describing, whether you’re trying your hand at bootstrapping a startup or just trying to exercise three times a week (another time when this voice becomes loud) and you find yourself in a valley, know that it won’t last. And when things are going really well and you find yourself on a peak, know also that it won’t last.

The worst thing an entrepreneur can do is believe that the peaks will last (when it’s easy). And the worst thing an entrepreneur can do is believe that the valleys will last (when it’s hard). I learned this from C.S. Lewis and it really helps keep me going. Once we realize that the internal voice of opposition is going to stay, and that it’s something we have to deal with, we begin to learn what perseverance is and we can get on with creating awesome software despite its presence. I’m going to go finish integrating that payment gateway now.