Thoughts on CMS for FOCUS Net

It is not the first time that occurs to me in my mind, and there are some discussion in the Catalyst designer mailing list today on picking CMS for church websites. How about re-implementing the FOCUS Net website using an existing established Open Source Content Management System (CMS)? There are plenty of professional-graded web-based CMS software out there that does much more than what FOCUS Net can do at the moment. They have large user base, and usually they have more than one developers working on the project. For some of them, new features are added quickly, and many of them have nice web-based admin tools as well, i.e. no manually fiddling with SQL directly (as I have to do sometimes with FOCUS Net). Some of them advertised in the way that they will transform your websites over night. I'm tempted. The current FOCUS Net website starts its life in 1999, when I first wrote it with Perl CGI and PostgreSQL back-end. I wrote the whole back-end myself because there wasn't a nice 'understandable' open source CMS at the time, and I just had too much time at hand. The website incarnates quite a few times in different forms, and it is now powered completely in PHP4 and MySQL. It has got a weblog-style article/commenting system, a forum, integrated gallery, calendar, wiki, etc. I've spent count-less hours over the years coding the back-end (and fixing up stupid design mistakes), but now it still does not do what many CMS can do. I'm frustrated.

But how likely is it going to be for me to migrate the site to an open source CMS app? Because of shift in ministry, I can no longer afford to spend that much time in the front of computers coding. However, I don't want to spend too much time migrating the data either, as I still want to keep all the articles we have on the FOCUS Net website. What about the customisation? FOCUS Net has a lot of hacks to make it adopt to the ministries in FOCUS. Migrating these hacks might mean I have to dig into the codes I've not written, trying to make sense out of it, and try to port these hacks/scripts over. Another time consuming exercise I guess.

However, the most frustrating part in FOCUS Net development is actually the content. With the multi-author web-log system implemented right from the beginning, the contribution from other FOCUSers is still minimum three and half years down the track. Out of all the article posts, I have made 95% of the contribution, at least. I have to subscribe myself to all the mailing lists and monitor all the activities there so I can make announcement posts every now and then for the groups that I don't even belong to. Yet at the same time, some people are still complaining, "where are the updates?"

Not just the amount of contribution we have, but also the usage of the FOCUS website. At the end, sometimes I wondered whether a church website for FOCUS is really worth while. We have more external visitors than visitors from FOCUS everyday. Maybe this model just does not work with the student church? This issue definitely needs to think through - am I using the time God has given me effectively? How edifying is this website to the FOCUS partners and regulars? Frustration casts over me when I think more about it...

For now, I'll probably not fix anything that's not broken, and stay as it is now. CMS? I have no time for that...