Web Portals Suck

At some point in the past, I had this great idea to buy a catchy domain name and build a website. This was back in the hayday of the dot-com, so of course I thought I was going to get rich off of selling advertising on a popular site.

Well, needless to say, that didn’t work out.

I did get a chance to play around with PHP-Nuke and DaCode, though.

Why DaCode sucks

First off, both of these packages use PHP, the best web programming language, period.

DaCode is a collection of php scripts which build a web portal site, similar to slashdot or anandtech. It is extremely easy to set up, which is a good thing, and it is relatively mature. When I used it (August of 2001), it had a few bugs which would need to be fixed before it was ready for primetime.
You can select a “theme” which alters how the scripts present the web page. Unfortunately, DaCode would accidentally “forget” which theme you were using in certain screens. This was reasonably annoying. Further, almost all the documentation (all the useful stuff, anyway, like the stuff explaining the code) was written in French. I have nothing against that, but the rudimentary French education I received in college just doesn’t cut programming-speech. There were a handful of other issues, none of them major in themselves. Some pages had French words which would need to be translated, some of the settings were hard-coded and the source needed to be hacked to alter them.

Actually, the reason why DaCode sucks, in my opinion, is because flexibility was apparently not the designer’s intention. Although you can select a theme to work off of, users don’t really have any freedom to alter their display settings to even near the extent they do off of slashdot, which I consider a basic feature.

So, I turned to PHP-Nuke, which seemed to be the most popular program for this sort of thing on the net.

Why PHP-Nuke sucks

First off, the PHP-Nuke web site was disgustingly slow the day I tried to play with it. I mean, the WHOLE day.

Well, it really annoys me when that happens.

To my surprise, though, PHP-Nuke seemed to be a mature, and well thought-out peice of software. The web site claimed that there were somewhere around 15,000(!) web sites running it in one form or another. Very impressive. There are 3rd party modules available, which add functionality such as message boards, weather forcasts, calanders, etc to your web portal. I was actually startign to get excited, until…

Now, all of these portal backend programs have some sort of SQL database running underneath them. Essentially, they are simply a collection of scripts which query the database for the news of the day, and whatever else you might want displayed on your home page, and them format them nicely for the user. PHP-nuke even boasted 97 different themes, or ways in which this info could be displayed! That’s more than enough for the average web site admin.

Unfortunately, PHP-Nuke has hardcoded all of the SQL queries into a mySQL database.

Not to say the mySQL is a crappy database compared to Oracle or PostgreSQL (which is also free, by the way), but it does.

Further, there are plenty of servers around which would like to run PHP-Nuke, but already have a different database running to support other applications. It is a sin that PHP-Nuke, a so otherwisely well thought out program, be completely lacking a database-abstraction layer.

I fall into this category, as I have PostgreSQL running for other reasons, and I can’t justify running two databases on a single web server.

Well, that and the fact that I really don’t have enough information to warrant such a capable system as PHP-Nuke.