CMS watch: Queen’s Engineering Society adopts Drupal

I’ve written about CMS platforms before and how they’re finally getting greater usage among large institutions like universities. Back then, it was about how Queen’s adopted Apache Lenya, perhaps a lesser-known CMS, in a pilot project to unify Faculty and Department websites. Having a common “look & feel” is important to an institution such as University, if it wants to present itself as professional and competent; besides this it also makes content much easier to manage. That was why I was pleasantly surprised to see the Engineering Society of Queen’s adopt Drupal to manage their website.

Firstly, I am an engineering student, so it’s good to see other engineers out there who have seen the same interests as me. Additionally, it’s good to see that a CMS such as Drupal was chosen, as it’s been making headway in other universities as well. I’ve been playing with Drupal on my test box at home for about a month or so, and so far I’m very impressed with the quality of the system and the modules that are used to extend or add functionality. All of the modules are very structured, and adhere to a strict format, making them easy to install and configure. All things considered, it’s a very professional system – proof that open source software can be up to the quality of “professional” solutions.

Though one thing bothers me a bit. The main Queen’s site is apparently being run off of Apache Lenya, as mentioned above, and a pilot program is currently in the works. It’s been slowly introduced, so far, to manage the ECE Department’s site, and this is intended to test the viability of the CMS. If all is good, it’ll eventually be rolled out to a wider audience, as I understand it. However, with smaller sites such as EngSoc using Drupal (and other groups undoubtedly using something different, or no CMS at all), I wonder what will happen when the time comes for everything to be brought under one umbrella.

I generally don’t like being rigid, but for a site-wide website, I believe a single CMS or at least a unified system should be used. Obviously, this doesn’t mean the current actions towards Lenya or Drupal are bad; they’re obviously better than what was previously being used. But, a single CMS makes things easier to manage. I can understand EngSoc being a bit more independent, since it’s not run by the University, but oneness can have its advantages. Personally, I would have been happy to see everything run off Drupal, but I’m sure the web folks at Queen’s had their reasons for selecting Lenya.

Well, whatever happens, I’m using this opportunity to get involved. (finally) I’ve volunteered to help maintain the EngSoc website for next year, my last year of university, so hopefully I’ll be able to learn a thing or two and maybe improve a few things. We’ll see!

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