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Leng
Nucleus Guru
Nucleus Guru


Joined: 19 Sep 2004
Posts: 2830
Location: Australia

Post Posted: Sun Apr 25, 2010 12:42 am   Post subject: [EXPERIMENT] Nucleus vs Wordpress - A Showdown
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Prologue

Some of you are probably familiar with my personal blog, Leng-Lui.info. Leng-Lui.info was first started back in September 2002 as the culmination of my junior high school years of tinkering with static HTML pages and moved over to Nucleus exactly 2 years later. Since then, I've been very happy with the flexibility of Nucleus, exploring all the different ways you could do things with just the core installation and all the wonderful worlds of possibilities that plugins open up. It took me a while, but I got my head around the whole skins and templates concept and even ported a few skins to Nucleus.

I think one of the best things about Nucleus is its friendly and respectful community which really recognises people who contribute. You don't have to be an expert in PHP, CSS/(X)HTML or whatever, you can just be someone who wants to help! I went from being a complete newbie to being a forum moderator, then to running the Skins site, the Skins contest and the FAQ site, because the wonderful people who looked after the Nucleus community then saw that I wanted to help. As with any community, people's lives change and they move on to other things but there's always new people who come along. And one of the best things about the Nucleus community is that there is no "barrier" to becoming a key part of the community; there's no secret club or initiation rituals or hoops you have to jump through, just as long as you have the willingness to help and you are respectful of others. It means the community can keep growing over time.

The Experiment

I've been re-assessing a lot of things lately and made some big decisions. As a result of those decisions, I've decided to redo Leng-Lui.info from scratch, using Wordpress. Some of the reasons are:
  • I'm no longer a high school girl who doesn't think before she writes. There's is an increasing trend of how things we say online when we're not thinking clearly can come back and hurt us professionally. For prudence, I'm taking this opportunity to start again with a fresh slate.
  • I want to stop blogging aimlessly and start blogging with a purpose. Right now, I look back over some nearly 6 years of blog posts and I think the blog name "Diary" I picked was very apt. It is very much a diary, rambling on generally about nothing much in particular, with only a few posts which drew interest. I want to write more on the topics which drew interest and stop writing about those things which don't.
  • Over the years, while we've gained a lot of new Nucleus users, we've also lost a lot of Nucleus people - including key developers and community members (e.g. moraes, ketsugi, danielck are those who come to mind) to other blog systems (e.g. Wordpress, Drupal, etc). I want to find out why and to see if there's anything we do here at Nucleus. I still believe that anything we want to do, can be done with Nucleus.


I'll be using this thread to chronicle my experience and I hope it will be useful - or at least interesting! - reading for those who are wondering how Nucleus stacks up against another blogging system.

Contents

This section will get updated with links to each significant post.
  1. Overview: Site configuration
  2. Round 1: The Installation Process
  3. Round 2: Customising Appearance
  4. Round 3: Customising Functionality
  5. Round 4: Customising Everything Else (next topic)


What Do You Think?
Feel free to post if you think there's something else I should investigate during this experiment or if you have some thoughts to share on my findings and suggestions for Nucleus.

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Last edited by Leng on Tue Apr 27, 2010 3:21 pm; edited 7 times in total

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Leng
Nucleus Guru
Nucleus Guru


Joined: 19 Sep 2004
Posts: 2830
Location: Australia

Post Posted: Sun Apr 25, 2010 4:01 am   Post subject: Overview: Site configuration
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SoStudio.us
A music blog aimed at providing free, high quality piano instrumental backing tracks for singers - primarily to rehearse with but could be used for auditions, competitions or performances (though ideally of course you would have a live accompanist). Mainly for me to keep my playing skills sharp and hopefully will eventually bring in some income through affiliate links and direct referrals for accompaniment work.

Running:
Nucleus CMS v3.40 (upgrading to v3.51 is on my to do list)

Skin:
Stylized by NodeThirtyThree and ported to Nucleus by Suvoroff

Plugins:
  • NP_FancierURL2 - for friendly URLs
  • NP_MetaTags - to insert meta tags in headers for items
  • NP_Tagex - tagging system (categories not used)
  • NP_FlashMP3 - powers the embedded Flash mp3 player
  • NP_znItemFieldEX - adds extra data input fields to each item, e.g. musical, lyricist, composer, etc
  • NP_BadBehavior, NP_Captcha - spam fighting
  • NP_MailForm - custom contact form


Leng-Lui.info
Personal blog site for me to track my journey from my current day job (external audit) to my dream job (writing Broadway musicals). I've previously blogged about my reactions and analysis of various shows I've seen so I intend to continue that, but also to document what I've found out about options for studying, etc and to keep myself accountable. I'm also interested in seeing if I could write collaboratively over the internet through Noteflight.

Running:
Wordpress v2.9.2

Theme:
Grid Focus by by Derek Punsalan

Widgets:
Recent Posts, Archives, Categories, Tag Cloud, Meta, RSS (as far as I can tell, these things are specifically designed to go in sidebars or footers or headers)

Plugins:
  • Akismet - spam fighting
  • My Category Order - to keep categories in a certain order
  • Organize Series - to group a number of related posts in a series together (like this one)
  • Shadowbox JS - Lightbox type effect

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Last edited by Leng on Tue Apr 27, 2010 3:19 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Leng
Nucleus Guru
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Joined: 19 Sep 2004
Posts: 2830
Location: Australia

Post Posted: Sun Apr 25, 2010 5:25 am   Post subject: Round 1: The Installation Process
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Nucleus:
When I did my first Nucleus installation, I had no idea what a mySQL database is, what PHP is and what to do with any of it. I somehow followed the default Installation section in the Nucleus Manual and got it working but I remember it took me a long time to figure out all the steps.

Since then, we've improved the documentation a lot now that we've got a How do I install Nucleus? FAQ. These days, now that I sort of know what a mySQL database and PHP are, I can get a Nucleus installation up and running in about 5 minutes.

Let me also highlight here that Nucleus v3.51 is a single 642 KB .zip file which for me downloads in less than a minute. Uncompressed, it is 1.88 MB, with 223 files in 32 folders.

Wordpress:
The Wordpress installation guide is more newbie friendly than the Nucleus default, as it's written for a less technical audience, and has links to further resources at the bottom in case someone feels like they need a guide with a screencast or more details for a specific configuration, such as local installations, other languages, multiblogs, etc and a quick trouble shooting section.

The installation process itself was very quick, just as quick as Nucleus. But GETTING to the installation took a long time. Wordpress v2.9.2 is a single 2,458 KB .zip file, which almost 4 times as big as the Nucleus installation. Uncompressed, it is 7.29 MB with 753 files in 81 folders.

Evaluation:
Installation Documentation - Wordpress
Installation Speed - tie
Time taken to download, unzip and upload to server - Nucleus, by a factor of 400%.

Round 1 Winner: Nucleus.

I admit I might be a little bit biased here, but I feel like the thing that Nucleus loses out on is documentation and we can easily improve that by:

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Leng
Nucleus Guru
Nucleus Guru


Joined: 19 Sep 2004
Posts: 2830
Location: Australia

Post Posted: Sun Apr 25, 2010 8:17 am   Post subject: Round 2: Customising Appearance
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Nucleus:
It took me about 5 minutes to get the Stylized skin up and running, from downloading the .zip file from the skins site, unzipping then uploading it to my /skins/ directory using an FTP client, importing it and changing my site to use the new skin.

Of course, I also acknowledge that I am quite biased in this aspect, having used Nucleus for so many years and having a detailed knowledge of how skins and templates work. I know many new users to Nucleus find the process more difficult, again probably because the documentation for Nucleus is a bit scattered. The skins site is also very much separated from the main Nucleus site.

As at the date of writing this post, there are 178 different skins available on the Skins site, not counting all the entries in the Skin Design Contest which haven't flowed over to the main skins site as the plugin which manages the skin is currently not coded to do so. That's a lot of different skins. Many of these skins are ports of open source designs. We have very few original designs.

With regards to modifying Nucleus skins or creating custom Nucleus skins, I've found it does take a long time but once you learn enough about Nucleus skinvars and templatevars and if you have a good working knowledge of html and css, you can generally figure things out enough to do some slick customisations of your own, create your own skins and even port other designs over.

Wordpress:
It took me about 10 minutes in comparison to get Grid Focus up and running, largely because I wasn't familiar with Wordpress and I had to look up how to use themes. But all in all, because my server runs in PHP Safe Mode, the installation links within the Wordpress installation don't work for me, so I still had to download the theme, unzip and upload through FTP.

Once uploaded though, the theme was automatically installed and I didn't need to import or export anything. I just had to click an "Activate" link and that was that.

With a bigger user base and a higher public profile, Wordpress has 1,192 themes available as of the time of writing this post. Many themes are originally written for Wordpress and many of them by high profile designers, such as Derek Punsalan and Khoi Vinh. There is an entire niche industry of developers who sell Wordpress themes as products and developers who exclusively work with the Wordpress templating system.

I haven't delved into the details of customising themes or writing custom themes yet, but just a quick look at their FAQ on theme development was enough to give me the shivers. It seems like the templating system is built around a working knowledge of php, css and html, enough to hack something together. While I'm comfortable with wading through a lot of system docs and existing skins to figure things out and I'm comfortable with css and html, php is definitely beyond my comfort zone so at this stage, I won't be attempting this. It'll be a project for a rainy day.

Evaluation:
Documentation - Wordpress. Documentation around this area is quite polished and extensive. Nucleus documentation on skins and templates - while it has improved - clearly lags behind.
Ease of Installing Skins/Themes - Wordpress. I gave this one to Wordpress because it has a built in "Add New" themes function within the admin area, which automatically searches the themes repository and adds it to your Wordpress installation. I've used it on a Wordpress.com hosted installation, and it works very smoothly.
Ease of Customisation - Nucleus. While it does requiring learning a new "language" of sorts with skinvars and templatevars, it's less scary because each variable is well documented and has a logical sounding name. There is less "code" cluttering up skins and newbies even without elementary knowledge of css and html feel sufficiently comfortable to mess around with skins and templates. The overall learning curve for Nucleus I feel is not as high.
Design of Customisation System - Tied. I think Wordpress seems like it has a more sophisticated architecture for themes - I particularly like the idea of child themes. I also like the simplicity of the Nucleus skin and template system, which has improved a lot with special skin parts.

Round 2 Winner: Wordpress.

In the end I gave it to Wordpress because of the breadth of themes available and the simplicity of adding new themes and changing themes for low end users and the sophisticated system for bigger sites which need that kind of architecture and have the expertise to fully utilise it.

At the moment, Nucleus is sort of stuck in the middle ground where there are just sufficiently enough barriers to prevent the low end users from wanting to get stuck in (e.g. need to use an FTP client, extra steps to click on import the skinbackup.xml file then need to find another setting which is buried in the Admin area somewhere) and there's not much incentive for high end users to learn a new system (why bother when Wordpress already exists?).

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Apocryphon
Nucleus Newbie


Joined: 24 Apr 2010
Posts: 21

Post Posted: Mon Apr 26, 2010 3:36 am   Post subject:
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Excellent work! This is a very cool project, please keep it up? My main concern is Nucleus' community seems to be smaller than Wordpress at the moment, and there is possibly less support for Plugins or Skins? The wiki with all of the plugins seems to be dormant...

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Leng
Nucleus Guru
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Posts: 2830
Location: Australia

Post Posted: Mon Apr 26, 2010 1:19 pm   Post subject:
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Thanks for the feedback. Yes, it's true that Nucleus has a much smaller user base and so there is 100% reliance on the goodwill of the plugin and skin authors, the developers and the whole community to pitch in and provide support on a volunteer basis.

For example, ftruscot spends many, many hours not only as part of the main development team, but also in providing high quality tireless support in the forums. He does this all in his spare time.

Wordpress has been able to offer higher tiered support because they get revenues from "premium" blog hosting at Wordpress.com and they charge through the nose for it. Example:



If you take every upgrade on that page (ignoring the 2 higher tiered upgrades for storage, that's $169.82. Most serious bloggers (i.e. amateur, hobbyists and professional bloggers hosted there) will probably want to have their own URL ($15), custom css at some point to distinguish their blog ($15), no ads unless those ads are driving income to their pockets ($30), and probably unlimited private users as their readership starts growing ($30) since the default limit is 35 users. Now consider these charges are recurring yearly charges. That's about $90/year per blog, since Wordpress.com only does singular blogs, not multiple blogs (that's a different version I gather). Wordpress also has revenues coming in from other more lucrative things like VIP Hosting, Advanced Services.

According to their stats page, there are 10.6 million blogs hosted on Wordpress.com as of February 2010 (i.e. excluding self hosted Wordpress). Some of those will actually generate perhaps thousands or tens or hundreds of thousands (NYTimes for example). Some will generate nothing (e.g. people like me who are just trying it out or your casual blogger). For simplicity, let's take a baseline figure of $90/year as an approximation for the average revenue per blog and let's assume each of those 10.6 million blogs generates an average of $90/year for Wordpress. That's $954,000,000 in revenue. A pretty big, staggering number. And plenty of revenue to support the full time development AND a support team AND the marketing efforts and a whole host of jobs as well as an entire niche in the web development industry built around Wordpress.

In comparison, Nucleus is just a very small player. But that doesn't mean our blogging engine is inferior in any way. Very Happy

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Leng
Nucleus Guru
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Joined: 19 Sep 2004
Posts: 2830
Location: Australia

Post Posted: Tue Apr 27, 2010 3:13 pm   Post subject: Round 3: Customising Functionality
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In this section, I am looking from the end user perspective only. The things I believe are important to an end user are when looking for plugins:

  • Ease of finding the things I need
  • How easy is it to install once I've found it
  • How reliable is it and does it really do what it says it does?

At this stage, I won't be considering the plugin development documentation or how new plugins are released and how the submission process works (I'll try to get to that at a later stage).

Nucleus:
I love Nucleus a lot for its flexibility with plugins. As of the time of writing, we have 346 plugins documented on the main plugins wiki, with even more on the Japanese plugin wiki and those announced on the forums but not updated in either wikis.

Installing plugins is generally quite straight forward, but using the pluginvars and configuring the plugins varies greatly depending on how well the plugin authors have documented their plugin.

The main problem with Nucleus plugins is that they are reliant on the plugin author to maintain them. Quite often, authors of plugins move on to other projects and communities and without them, development and maintenance of that plugin ceases. We have plugins like NP_Gallery or NP_CustomField which many users are interested in using, but cannot because those plugins are outdated and buggy.

We also have the problem of duplication of efforts. Such a light core means a lot of plugin authors need to write extra code. Sometimes, many plugins all write some code in different ways to do the same thing! A few plugin authors have developed some base plugins (e.g. NP_Pager, NP_Friends) which have APIs for other plugins to hook in to, but these have not been widely used by plugin authors other than the originating author.

Wordpress:
Similar to the previous post discussing Nucleus Skins vs Wordpress Themes, due to the much larger user base, Wordpress has more plugins (9,344 plugins available at the official Wordpress plugin directoryat the time of writing).

Plugins on Wordpress are handled no differently to Nucleus. Predominantly, the installation process is much the same:

  1. Find a plugin you like and download it, unzip the files then upload to the /plugins/ directory
  2. Go to admin area and "activate" the plugin then configure plugin options appropriately
  3. Modify the theme if necessary to accommodate the plugin

I have had no problems installing any plugins. It is just as quick and easy as Nucleus.

However, the main difference is Wordpress has much, much better documentation around their plugins. Wordpress plugin directory is better organised and designed well to let users find plugins easier. The first thing they see is a search box and plugins are tagged with relevant terms. Search results can also be sorted by relevance, highest rated, newest, recently updated, most popular. These are all important because as a user, I want to know whether this plugin I'm going to use is going to do what I want (relevance, highest rated, most popular) and how reliable it is (recently updated, most popular, highest rated). There's also an ability to filter by Wordpress version and cross-check compatibility with the plugin version, supported by user results.

By having all this information available, I can find what I need much easier and I have more confidence in the quality of the plugin I am downloading.

I also found that there is a validator for plugin helpfiles. So this may be a hint to the submission process.

Having said all this, I think Wordpress is also subject to the problems of Nucleus plugins - duplication of coding effort and plugins may fall into disuse once the author abandons the plugin. But with the larger user base and larger plugin pool, this is not as noticeable.

Evaluation:
Ease of finding plugins - Wordpress.
Variety of plugins available - Wordpress.
Speed and ease of installation process - tied.
Reliability of plugins and maintenance - Wordpress. I gave this one to Wordpress because similar to the Themes, there is a niche industry built around developing Wordpress plugins and selling them. This means there is a large incentive to continue to maintain such plugins and provide support.

Round 3 Winner: Wordpress.

Some things we can learn from Wordpress:

  • Better documentation is vital. Plugin authors only have so much time and try to provide us with the best documentation they can. But the rest of us who use the plugins can help by filling in the documentation gaps and improving it so new or inexperienced users can use the plugins too.
  • Better method of organising plugins. The current wiki is not sustainable. 346 plugins is already making the wiki hard to manage. Wiki also is limiting because it does not have an advanced search function, making it hard for users to find plugins.
  • There should be a central plugin repository on Nucleus CMS servers (i.e. reinstate plugins.nucleuscms.org). The current plugin wiki is maintained on xiffy's server. Xiffy has not been an active member of the Nucleus community for a long time (the main site is running Drupal) and maintains the plugins wiki out of goodwill. If xiffy's server goes down or if xiffy can no longer maintain the wiki, we may lose many plugins.
  • Encourage plugin authors to work together and not alone. While I don't think anyone wants to make the Nucleus core heavy like the Wordpress core, I think it could be a good thing for there to be a more defined framework for plugins to build upon. For example, NP_Pager is an exclusive pagination plugin. Many other plugins (e.g. NP_ShowBlogs, NP_Gallery) need pagination. Why not have a library of such plugins for other plugins to hook into?

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Adib
Nucleus Fan


Joined: 26 Jun 2009
Posts: 49
Location: Jepara, Indonesia

Post Posted: Fri May 07, 2010 5:16 am   Post subject:
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nucleus is my very first self hosted blog engine that I used, it took me months to understand the skinvar and templatevar, love nucleus until the very end, Sad I dont know what should I and the rest of nucleus users can do IF mr.ftruscot is gone and xiffy stopped his server... Then we all lost in fight...
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ltoozcms
Nucleus Disciple


Joined: 23 Sep 2009
Posts: 178
Location: Fremont, CA

Post Posted: Fri Jul 23, 2010 6:33 pm   Post subject:
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I agreed plugins documentation of Nucleuscms is awful. The people who wrote these may be good with codes but have no idea how to show it to non-technical people.

All blog systems have + and -, I tried most of them, and I don't like commercialized blog systems like the popular ones, everything good you have to pay, even with plugins on some of them.

I'll have a video of screen shots, how to get a blog up fully functional with videos, pictures, music in less than 30 minutes with NucleusCMS... May be... Smile

Cheers,

Louis

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WillyP
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Post Posted: Sat Jul 24, 2010 4:40 am   Post subject:
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The documentation is poor in many areas. A lot of information, but hard to find when you need it. And it is not clear when something is outdated.

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