An Investigation of BuddyPress vs Drupal Commons

(I’ve recently posted an update about Bud­dy­Press 1.5. With the 1.5 update, Bud­dy­Press is bet­ter than ever, though Dru­pal Com­mons is still the only choice if you need enterprise-class support.)

Let me start with my soft­ware eval­u­a­tion biases and then a quick sum­mary of why I’m look­ing for a social plat­form, before shar­ing my explo­ration into these two very inno­v­a­tive and inter­est­ing platforms.

My Biases

Soft­ware eval­u­a­tions are irrelevant.

Of course, that’s an inflam­ma­tory state­ment. They’re not irrel­e­vant, but I believe most com­pa­nies do them wrong. In this case I have the ben­e­fit of just pick­ing some­thing and start­ing for my small non-profit. There are no inte­gra­tion require­ments that I’d need to test against, no exist­ing cor­po­rate stan­dards to impede a “best choice” selec­tion, and no exist­ing soft­ware licens­ing I’d be expected to take advan­tage of even if the prod­ucts licensed don’t really meet my needs. In the course of this eval­u­a­tion my require­ments con­densed, but even before that they were truly min­i­mal com­pared to what any large com­pany has to think about.

I don’t believe I can make a wrong deci­sion. Both Word­Press and Dru­pal are enterprise-class sys­tems. Both have robust com­mu­ni­ties that I can turn to for help. Both cost the same. Both are going concerns.

Which means, what I’m really look­ing at are two or three things:

1. Which has the bet­ter out-of-the-box experience?

2. What plu­g­ins are avail­able for any key fea­tures I need? (This made me think again about what key fea­tures I needed. As a result, I stream­lined how I think about pri­or­i­tiz­ing my features/requirements/milestones.)

3. What’s the plat­form “phi­los­o­phy”? How does that align with my phi­los­o­phy around what I’m doing? This is some­thing I’ve always pitched as impor­tant in com­plex cor­po­rate tech­nol­ogy, and didn’t think would mat­ter for my small project. But, at one point the phi­los­o­phy thing really hit me, and sur­pris­ingly changed my mind about my selection.

Why Am I Doing This?

I recently founded Where’s Your Heart? Foun­da­tion, a non-profit meant to improve people’s lives through altru­is­tic liv­ing. What does that mean? Well, you know that good feel­ing you get when you do some­thing? Where’s Your Heart? will spon­sor events that cre­ate that good feel­ing, in ways that nur­ture and mag­nify the feel­ing, and then pro­vide a com­mu­nity to share it. You see, just like a smile, that good feel­ing is con­ta­gious… and it’s impor­tant because it makes us feel good even when we’re not hav­ing such a good day for other reasons.

There’s more, but that’s enough for the pur­pose of this tech­ni­cal comparison.

So, I want to cre­ate an easy to use com­mu­nity around events for peo­ple to con­nect in the spe­cific way of com­mu­ni­cat­ing around event par­tic­i­pa­tion. Acquia wrote a (use­ful) white paper about their tar­get mar­ket for Dru­pal Com­mons, and it fit me quite well in solu­tion intent (though not in tar­get com­pany pro­file). I’m not look­ing to let peo­ple cre­ate their own com­mu­ni­ties (like Face­book, Ning, etc). It was a plus for Acquia that they could express their tar­get mar­ket so clearly, and since it res­onated with me, it gave me a very good feel­ing. And, con­sid­er­ing that there’s not sim­i­lar con­tent around Bud­dy­Press I assumed the worst in terms of align­ment… or worse yet that Bud­dy­Press would try to be every­thing to every­one and just bog down in a morass of being every­thing to everyone.

I ran our first event, Cleanse for Your Cause(™), in Decem­ber. It was very suc­cess­ful, and taught me a lot about what the plat­form needs to do. In par­tic­u­lar, through this process and based on that expe­ri­ence I learned that my key features/strategies are:

1. Donor man­age­ment; effi­cien­cies here max­i­mize the abil­ity to entice par­tic­i­pants and connect

2. Min­i­mal but delight­ful func­tion with respect to “social connectivity”

3. Form over func­tion other than the fea­tures in #2 and pos­si­bly #1 above. I’m sure I could jus­tify this com­ment, but I won’t. Suf­fice it to say, it’s really impor­tant to look pretty and be easy to look pretty.

By the way, as a free­lance con­sul­tant I’m also look­ing beyond Where’s Your Heart’s require­ments for a tool I can get expe­ri­ence with that I could then use on my work with cus­tomers. The fact that peo­ple make their first impres­sion on how some­thing looks makes me want to have a tool that I can make look good easily.

The Eval­u­a­tion

Well, let’s just jump in and start with that last point.


One thing I noticed early on was that I liked the way the Bud­dy­Press sites looked, but not the Dru­pal Com­mons ones. This was con­sis­tent. I kept think­ing… it’s just the themes and the way it’s imple­mented. You can do any­thing with a theme, so try to look deeper at the plat­form to make the “right” deci­sion. It was quite funny. I’d like a Bud­dy­Press site, then remind myself that it didn’t mat­ter. Or, I’d not like a Com­mons site and ratio­nal­ize it in my mind. Either way, I ALWAYS NOTICED before telling myself not to.

Then it hit me. Form over func­tion is crit­i­cal. And, if it’s eas­ier to look pretty with Bud­dy­Press, then that’s what I’m look­ing for.

Think­ing oth­er­wise is a trap, dis­count­ing (as I was) the user expe­ri­ence by think­ing “oh, it’s sim­ple to fix” which is why no one does. If it were that sim­ple, just fix it and be done with it.

By the way, I under­stand the trade-offs made to the theme in Com­mons. They write about it in one of the white papers men­tioned above. How­ever, if is their show­case, I sug­gest some­one pretty it up. It’s noble to show what’s out of the box, but there’s room for both — out of the box, and what can be done. I know that most com­pa­nies feel that form is sec­ondary to func­tion, but at the same time instinc­tively eval­u­ate how some­thing works by how it looks (not dis­sim­i­lar to dating).

My Inves­ti­ga­tion

I started look­ing at Dru­pal first. Really glad I did, but doing so telegraphed (to me) my pref­er­en­tial plat­form. I wanted to pick Dru­pal from the get go. I have what I believe are typ­i­cal Dru­pal biases:

1. Dru­pal is bet­ter for enter­prise scale. I real­ize it’s not (or really, it’s not that sim­ple a fact), but that it’s my per­cep­tion that it is.

2. I wanted to use Dru­pal because I felt it would give me more flex­i­bil­ity. There’s also a lot of excite­ment around Dru­pal right now. Word­Press is (rel­a­tively) boring.

3. Dru­pal is more com­pli­cated. I got my first Word­Press site up (this blog) and run­ning in min­utes with­out read­ing any­thing. You might say “it shows” but con­sid­er­ing that, not bad. I’ve installed Dru­pal, then not known where to start. I’ve pur­chased and read books. I get it, but my bias is that any­thing I do in Dru­pal will be more com­pli­cated and there­fore more expensive.

I started with a cou­ple of book chap­ters that I was able to down­load (legally) using my Safari Books Online account. I fol­lowed the trail to social mod­ules, look­ing at func­tion­al­ity and phi­los­o­phy. Though I remind you, I didn’t and never intended to install any­thing before pick­ing a plat­form. I looked at sam­ple sites, read posts by plu­gin authors, and fol­lowed com­ments (and com­menters) to build a pic­ture for myself about the state of a social Dru­pal (and then WordPress).

The two books/chapters were (affil­i­ate rev­enue is donated to charity):

In par­tic­u­lar, a great place to start is the pre­sen­ta­tion Social Net­work­ing in Dru­pal on Slideshare by Isaac Sukin. Slides 25 & 26 are a great list of require­ments and a great place to jump in to get in the weeds. I got really excited by the mod­ules and the capa­bil­i­ties he talked about. That was before I decided on the strat­egy “min­i­mal but delight­ful func­tion­al­ity, oth­er­wise func­tion fol­lows form”. Read­ing and fol­low­ing this trail was a great education.

By the way, I highly rec­om­mend you to read another arti­cle by Isaac The Road to Social Net­work­ing Nir­vana. It really gets the juices flow­ing to get you into the social zone. Issac is def­i­nitely some­one to keep an eye on in this space.

I had known about Dru­pal Com­mons, but hadn’t thought about it to this point (because I for­got that it was the social bun­dle for Dru­pal). I was think­ing about how the var­i­ous (and over­lap­ping) mod­ules would fit in to the vision I have of my site. It’s pretty excit­ing stuff… and I fin­ished my Dru­pal inves­ti­ga­tion val­i­dat­ing my bias. That is, decid­ing there are no red flags to using Dru­pal based on what was in my mind.

Onto Bud­dy­Press

I looked Bud­dy­Press a while ago when I first thought of Where’s Your Heart? (Sum­mer ’09) and remem­ber that it didn’t seem to have any depth. I real­ize now it was first released in April ’09 which would explain the 1.0 feel! And, funny enough when I looked at Com­mons I felt that Com­mons’ August ’10 release made it more rel­e­vant (since it would have incor­po­rated the lat­est think­ing in build­ing social inter­ac­tion). We are so eas­ily swayed by our biases!

The first thing I noticed was how well it was pack­aged. I’m a tech­ni­cal per­son, but not so much hands on. So an easy to use bun­dle is sweet. It made a real impres­sion, and I wished there were some­thing like that for Dru­pal (that thought even­tu­ally led me back to Com­mons after my Bud­dy­Press investigation).

As I men­tioned above, I really liked the look/feel of and the sam­ple sites.

I took a bit of time to fig­ure out how it all fit together. Bud­dy­Press is a Word­Press plu­gin. It pulls all the social stuff together into a “social release” for Word­Press. There is a theme frame­work based on Gen­e­sis called Gen­e­sis­Con­nect, as an add on (I didn’t see any advanced them­ing help for Dru­pal Commons).

Very quickly I had two feel­ings about BuddyPress:

1. Really nice bun­dle, would make it much eas­ier to use/deploy/manage

2. Gen­e­sis has a really good rep­u­ta­tion so I knew I’d be able to theme it up nice and easy (I love CopyBlogger’s blog — it’s a must read, and the con­tent qual­ity of his blog gives Gen­e­sis more credibility)

I got this feel­ing I could do any of the “fea­tures” I wanted with Bud­dy­Press… and found myself wish­ing there were an out of the box expe­ri­ence like Bud­dy­Press with Dru­pal. This feel­ing prob­a­bly related to the biases I men­tioned ear­lier about Dru­pal scal­a­bil­ity and flex­i­bil­ity. Inter­est­ing that I was still resis­tant to the idea of using Word­Press as my platform.

It was at this point that I remem­bered Dru­pal Commons.

Dru­pal Commons

As I men­tioned ear­lier, it was released in August 2010 to com­pete with Jive & Teligent and help com­pa­nies build “busi­ness ori­ented social web­sites”. The theme was specif­i­cally designed for func­tion­al­ity and the abil­ity to be branded by enterprises.

Com­mons did what I wanted. It pro­vided a social bun­dle to Dru­pal with a great out-of-the-box expe­ri­ence. I con­sumed the mate­ri­als on the Com­mons site, some good white papers and their own mar­ket­ing. I checked out other sites run­ning Com­mons, and I kept com­ing back to “hate the look and feel” — in fact, just as strongly as I was stuck on “Dru­pal is scal­able” rel­a­tive to WordPress.

Here’s a great Dru­pal Com­mons overview analy­sis by Isaac. I also found an arti­cle that dis­cussed the Com­mons bun­dle in good depth. This arti­cle was a great jump-off point to learn more about the mod­ules that were included (and not included) in Commons.

To sum­ma­rize, Dru­pal Com­mons is a bun­dle released by Acquia who offers ser­vice, sup­port, and host­ing. You can eas­ily down­load the bun­dle and install it any­where you can install Drupal.

I had made up my mind it would be Commons.

But, I was hes­i­tat­ing? Why? It was the expe­ri­ence. I just liked the Bud­dy­Press sites bet­ter. Infor­ma­tion about Bud­dy­Press was harder to find, but it was there. And, I kept read­ing. I sat with my deci­sion over night, and that was where I devel­oped the 3 key points I shared above.

I also found an arti­cle focused on non-profits and CRM. This sorta backed up my feel­ing about ease-of-use, but also val­i­dated the abil­ity to use Word­Press on large scale. It also pointed me at two tools for donor man­age­ment (Civi­CRM and Donor Tools). While it seems there’s out of the box inte­gra­tion between Dru­pal and Civi­CRM, I don’t know what I need there yet… so want to start by deal­ing with what I do know first.

It was at this point that I started to have some clar­ity on my gut vs my brain. I devel­oped the 3 rules above (recapped here) and had some observations:

Rule #1. The most impor­tant thing I learned from run­ning Cleanse for Your Cause was that get­ting peo­ple con­nected to par­tic­i­pate socially is going to require some real habit chang­ing, and time. But, the need for donor man­age­ment is imme­di­ate and dri­ves my busi­ness (yes, my non-profit is a busi­ness). So, I need to fig­ure out donor management.

Rule #2. Since it’s going to require some seri­ous user behav­ior devel­op­ment around inter­act­ing socially on these events, it’s going to need to be an ele­gant and sim­ple imple­men­ta­tion. So, less is more.

Rule #3. In order to make it fun, build engage­ment, and estab­lish cred­i­bil­ity (we got asked “who’s Where’s Your Heart??” a lot!) we’d have to make it look good and be really easy to use. So I will pri­or­i­tize user expe­ri­ence and look-and-feel over social func­tion­al­ity (and in turn, pri­or­i­tize event admin­is­tra­tion, includ­ing donor man­age­ment, over social functionality).

Obser­va­tion #1. Not all open source is the same.

This may be a “no kid­ding” for many of you, but let me explain. First, a lit­tle dis­claimer… I think Acquia is going to be hugely suc­cess­ful, and would (and do) rec­om­mend them uncon­di­tion­ally for their prod­uct, peo­ple, and intent. That said, in my mind I drew a dis­tinc­tion between Bud­dy­Press and Dru­pal Com­mons. Dru­pal Com­mons is Acquia. It’s their tool to pur­sue their mar­ket, and as a small user I’m not sure how much atten­tion I’d get from them even were I to be a cus­tomer. How­ever, since Acquia is self-interested in Com­mons, oth­ers in the com­mu­nity with dif­fer­ent inter­ests could frac­ture Social Dru­pal (as it’s rep­re­sented by Com­mons). In fact, just today the author of the pre­sen­ta­tion men­tioned above tweeted one of his new year’s resolutions:

“More New Years Res­o­lu­tions: cre­ate a social net­work­ing #dru­pal distro…”

So, there would be two Social Dru­pals. I get it, but I’m look­ing for sim­ple, con­sis­tent, and sup­port­able by the com­mu­nity as a solu­tion, not in bits and pieces.

Bud­dy­Press on the other hand is “pure” open source. I sus­pect there might even­tu­ally be a sup­port­able ver­sion of Bud­dy­Press (like Acquia/Commons but for Bud­dy­Press) but it’s a true com­mu­nity project. And, as such, there are peo­ple in the com­mu­nity more directly inter­ested in pro­vid­ing com­mu­nity sup­port to grow­ing Bud­dy­Press with­out any com­mer­cial conflict.

I hope I’m explain­ing myself with­out shoot­ing myself in the foot.

Obser­va­tion #2. I’m not man­ag­ing (tra­di­tional) content.

When I real­ized this, I really made the switch in my mind from Com­mons to Bud­dy­Press. I’m not man­ag­ing con­tent, I’m man­ag­ing social events. In that regard, it’s new ground for both plat­forms (though admit­tedly there are var­i­ous plu­g­ins that could help and exist­ing cus­tomers doing things in this area with either plat­form) and nei­ther aligns bet­ter philo­soph­i­cally one way or the other. Once I broke away from the con­tent man­age­ment bias, and Dru­pal being “the plat­form” for con­tent man­age­ment, it broke me out of think­ing I’d be sac­ri­fic­ing too much with WordPress.

In sum­mary

I’m quite excited to put this to rest. I learned a lot, espe­cially in some of the tan­gents I took to look into plug-ins fea­tures (they impacted how I thought about my site’s func­tion­al­ity) and donor man­age­ment soft­ware (not sure what to do with that yet, but glad I’ve got more knowl­edge). In fact, the two days I spent doing this research I could hardly sleep at night as I was so wired with ideas and cre­ativ­ity. I also iden­ti­fied quite a num­ber of inter­est­ing peo­ple who I hope to fol­low (stalk?) because they said (and shared) really smart things or sim­ply seem interesting.

If you liked this please leave a com­ment or share a link to this post. And, con­sider donat­ing a pint of blood or spon­sor­ing a blood dona­tion as part of our sec­ond event, Bleed for Your Cause™. Each pint donated helps 3 peo­ple, and there’s no syn­thetic sub­sti­tute for blood. Par­tic­i­pate in Bleed for Your Cause and when you donate blood (in any coun­try), we’ll donate $15 to a cause you pick as our way of say­ing thanks and help­ing a cause you care about in return.

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  1. says

    Hey –

    Raanan here with Automattic.

    Great write-up and i think you’ve hit on some really good points.

    One quick thing I’d like to add to:

    I sus­pect there might even­tu­ally be a sup­port­able ver­sion of BuddyPress

    We pro­vide com­mer­cial Bud­dy­Press sup­port as part of our VIP Sup­port pro­gram: — and com­pa­nies such as Volk­swa­gen and Microsoft have launched sites on Bud­dy­Press recently:

    In addi­tion, there are some great agen­cies out there with Bud­dy­Press skills to build out a large scale Bud­dy­Press sites. You can find many of them listed here:

  2. says


    There you go. I didn’t look too closely, so I’m not sur­prised. Thanks for shar­ing. And, thanks for reading.

    It’s an inter­est­ing com­par­i­son. Acquia has cre­ated a solu­tion in order to develop a value-added ser­vice. They’ve then shared the solu­tion to the com­mu­nity (because in fact the solu­tion is just a bun­dle of open pieces). Com­pare that to Bud­dy­Press and Automat­tic, where Automat­tic has sim­ply adopted an indus­try solu­tion in order to deliver a value-added ser­vice. I won­der if it’s a dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion that mat­ters. I’m by no means an expert in (or even mod­er­ately famil­iar with) the open source devel­op­ment mar­ket dynamics.


  3. says

    Thanks for the kind words and review David!

    I par­tic­u­larly liked when you wrote:

    Bud­dy­Press … is “pure” open source.

    Even though both projects are licensed under the terms of the GPL, it’s inter­est­ing to hear that Bud­dy­Press feels more open to you. If you’re inter­ested in elab­o­rat­ing where that feel­ing comes from, I’d love to hear it. :)

    • says


      I wasn’t sure I liked my own phras­ing there, but went with it. There are times when words are care­fully cho­sen, and times when not. Not so much that these were not, but I’m a total open source novice with respect to under­stand­ing mar­ket dynam­ics, play­ers, and mechan­ics. So, take my phrase in that context.

      What I meant is described bet­ter in my com­ment to Raanan. It’s more about how the solu­tion came about, and as a 1-man com­pany what my per­spec­tive is. I feel like Bud­dy­Press is “in the com­mu­nity” whereas Com­mons is assem­bled totally from things in the com­mu­nity. Let me say it another way. What the com­mu­nity does, Acquia is behind… but is the com­mu­nity behind every­thing that Acquia does? It’s a sub­tle dif­fer­ence and I’M NOT SURE IT MATTERS. It cer­tainly doesn’t from a tech­ni­cal per­spec­tive. Does it from a mar­ket­ing one, or from a “how suc­cess­ful with this plat­form be?” one… we’ll see.

      With respect to open-ness and the com­mu­nity, if it were a Dru­pal vs Word­Press deci­sion, it would have been hands down Dru­pal for me. There is so much hap­pen­ing in the Dru­pal com­mu­nity right now, 2011 will be a great year for Drupal.

      When I was at Progress I’d always have “argu­ments” (con­struc­tively I hoped) with the open source teams… my posi­tions were dis­counted because I don’t have expe­ri­ence in that com­mu­nity (they don’t have expe­ri­ence sell­ing stuff… and we were argu­ing about soft­ware we sold usu­ally). It’s not so much that my lack of expe­ri­ence means I don’t know what I’m talk­ing about… but it means that when I express things, I’m express­ing them more with a begin­ners mind. I really mean just what I’m say­ing (in the con­text of what I’m say­ing), and noth­ing more. Sorry to dis­ap­point you!


  4. says

    David -

    great write-up! This saved me so much time. I’m putting together a net­work that has pretty much the same goals as yours. I’m build­ing a site for a church youth group which is focused mainly on events. And as more of a designer than a devel­oper, I need some­thing that’s going to be sim­ple to deploy and look good. I know it’s pos­si­ble to make Dru­pal look how­ever you want, but you raise a good point that it takes more work, so why bother? (I already have plenty of work at my 9 – 5). And thanks for link­ing to all your read­ing mate­r­ial. This is my new trail­head for research.


  5. says


    Nice to meet you, and thanks for shar­ing your expe­ri­ence. It would be great if you could keep in touch with your progress and your expe­ri­ence. Either here, or via email. I’ll be shar­ing mine… as I can. I too have lots of other com­mit­ments, so am look­ing for some­thing that offers quicker results, with­out sac­ri­fic­ing capabilities.

    By the way, I had come across a social event site… I don’t remem­ber where, but you might want to do some googling.


  6. says

    David — nice write up. Just wanted to let you know that Dru­pal Com­mons 1.3 has come out with a brand new look and feel — see it at

    We also have a sev­eral more themes com­ing soon (of course you can change the com­mons theme to what­ever you want using Dru­pal but it is nice to have out-of-the-box options).

  7. says

    How will this func­tion for peo­ple look­ing to build a large orgniza­tion? I know sites like and have data­base man­age­ment and so forth. does offer sim­i­lar prop­er­ties for data­base management?

    • says

      Hi Chris,

      I’m not sure what exactly you mean by data­base man­age­ment. If you want to clar­ify that, I’m happy to share my experience.

      The great thing about Bud­dy­Press is that it’s just a plu­gin to Word­Press. While it’s always a good idea to check com­pat­i­bil­ity between Bud­dy­Press and the plu­g­ins you are using, there are many mature Word­Press plu­g­ins to man­age the database.


  8. says

    Thanks for this great write-up. I am look­ing to scale a client’s site up and am con­sid­er­ing exactly these 2 prod­uct. Your years of expe­ri­ence w/ these plat­forms and gen­eros­ity to write about it is to my immense ben­e­fit!

  9. says

    @Raanan -

    You men­tioned that Microsoft launched a bud­dy­press site. This would be sig­nif­i­cant infor­ma­tion in the “bud­dy­press vs. dru­pal” dia­logue. How­ever, I’m hav­ing a hard time find­ing ref­er­ences for that fact online;…387.51582.0.52260.,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_cp.r_qf.,cf.osb&fp=a366a72422fd9740&ion=1

    Could you send over a ref­er­ence? Thanks,

  10. Samila Kosala says

    Even after an year, the things dis­cussed in this arti­cle are true to the best of my knowl­edge. Dru­pal Com­mons is the true win­ner and Bud­dy­press is still a crip­pling orphan

    • says

      I think that’s a bit harsh on Bud­dy­Press. It’s come quite a long way, and there’s a really great push around it. How­ever, hav­ing a com­pany that’s the qual­ity of Acquia behind a dis­tri­b­u­tion makes it much more sub­stan­tial. I think both are great, but for dif­fer­ent things and situations.

      • says

        (NOOB ALERT)

        What’s the point of a Dru­pal dis­tro? Or rather, what’s the value added?

        Is it just a bundling of exist­ing mod­ules that I could have installed myself if I had a list of them? Or is there cus­tom code, and/or an elab­o­rate set of pre-built con­tent types and views added “by hand” by Acquia?

  11. says

    Also, Com­mons con­tin­ues to not have a Dru­pal 7 ver­sion… should I be con­cerned about this?

    If it’s so well sup­ported by Acquia, how come it lags?

    I’m feel­ing like it’s a major bar­rier to my adop­tion of DCom­mons as of now — I need to work with images, and I think D7 is bet­ter for those, and I don’t want to have to update every­thing to D7 in 3 months or something…

    Are my con­cerns ill-founded?

  12. says

    Hey Daniel,

    I’ve reached out to Acquia and hope they respond here as well.

    The value added is that you can just have a dis­tri­b­u­tion instead of hav­ing to put it together your­self. It ensures that all the parts work together, and you can get sup­port from Acquia if that’s impor­tant too. It prob­a­bly would be if you were a cor­po­rate customer.

    I don’t know enough about the specifics of Dru­pal ver­sions, I work more with Word­Press myself. I wouldn’t be sur­prised if what you’re say­ing is true though.

    Hope this helps.


  13. says

    Thanks for this thought­ful com­par­i­son. As a mem­ber of the Dru­pal Com­mons team at Acquia, I wanted to respond to a a few points in your com­par­i­son, as well as in the comments.

    Com­menter Daniel Schulz-Jackson writes:
    > Also, Com­mons con­tin­ues to not have a Dru­pal 7 ver­sion… should I be con­cerned about this?
    > If it’s so well sup­ported by Acquia, how come it lags?

    A com­pletely redesigned Dru­pal 7 ver­sion of Com­mons is under pub­lic devel­op­ment. You can try the an inter­ac­tive pro­to­type and read about some of the key improve­ments (such as sig­nif­i­cantly improved out-of-the-box user expe­ri­ence and mobile sup­port) on

    Regard­ing the tim­ing of the Dru­pal 7 ver­sion, con­tributed mod­ules and dis­tri­b­u­tions have his­tor­i­cally lagged behind new ver­sions of Dru­pal core in the tim­ing of their full releases. Indeed, some of Drupal’s most pop­u­lar dis­tri­b­u­tions such as Open Atrium also lack a full Dru­pal 7 release, and it’s not because of a lack of com­mit­ment to these platforms.

    A major cause for this lag has to do with the way that resources tend to get allo­cated to many Dru­pal dis­tri­b­u­tions, which is as the result of paid project work.

    For exam­ple: His­tor­i­cally, Com­mons has been a part-time project for Acquia, funded by a mix of project-based invest­ment in the plat­form (a fea­ture is imple­mented for one project and con­tributed back to the Com­mons code­base for every­one to use) and part-time engi­neer­ing resources. Mov­ing between Dru­pal core ver­sions on any site, mod­ule or dis­tri­b­u­tion is a major effort, so it tends to be less com­mon that a funded project wants to invest in that effort when they can just use the fully devel­oped ver­sion of the dis­tri­b­u­tion (albeit not on the lat­est ver­sion of Dru­pal core).

    How­ever, recently, Acquia has made an even greater com­mit­ment to pro­vid­ing resources towards Com­mons, with major efforts going into a redesigned, Drupal-7 based ver­sion that’s now in pub­lic devel­op­ment as described above. I encour­age you to view our inter­ac­tive pro­to­type and pro­vide feedback.

    In the main post:
    > Bud­dy­Press on the other hand is “pure” open source. I sus­pect there might even­tu­ally be a sup­port­able ver­sion of Bud­dy­Press (like Acquia/Commons but for Bud­dy­Press) but it’s a true com­mu­nity project. And, as such, there are peo­ple in the com­mu­nity more directly inter­ested in pro­vid­ing com­mu­nity sup­port to grow­ing Bud­dy­Press with­out any com­mer­cial conflict.

    I’m not sure that I under­stand your char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of“pure” open source nor what the alter­na­tive model would be. A com­mon per­cep­tion of Open Source projects is that they’re the result of all vol­un­teer work that hap­pens for free, purely out of altrusim. How­ever, upon closer exam­i­na­tion, it’s com­mon to dis­cover that the work of those vol­un­teers is actu­ally funded in one way or another. For exam­ple the ker­nel for, Linux, one of the quin­tes­sen­tial exam­ples of open-source soft­ware, is writ­ten by approx­imtely 75% paid devel­op­ers.

    Addi­tion­ally, Acquia has under­taken major efforts to increase open-ness in the way we work with the Dru­pal Com­mons project, which has resulted in a mea­sur­able increase in com­mu­nity par­tic­i­pa­tion and con­tri­bu­tion to Dru­pal Com­mons. From our point of view, it’s crit­i­cal that Dru­pal Com­mons flour­ish as an open-source project on its own merit, because we rec­og­nize the ben­e­fits for Acquia as well as every­one else using the platform.

  14. says

    Thanks for this, Ezra! I’m excited to go play with your inter­ac­tive pro­to­type!
    (I assume this new ver­sion isn’t avail­able yet for down­load for us to put on our own sandboxes…)

    I think the main com­par­i­son about “purity” here is less about “are the con­trib­u­tors paid by their employ­ers” and more about “how many dif­fer­ent sources of con­tri­bu­tion are there to the shared prod­uct?” It’s still at least partly altru­is­tic even if it’s a com­pany donat­ing the time rather than a vol­un­teer — still donated, (as opposed to Google who’s been using Linux but not con­tribut­ing). And in fair­ness, the more dif­fer­ent con­trib­u­tors, the more “altru­ism” is at play, because none of them get to “claim” the prod­uct as their own.

    That being said, I’m not sure “diverse con­trib­u­tors” nec­es­sar­ily lends to the “robust sup­port base” that Bressler talks about; I’ve received very robust com­mu­nity sup­port on, and that’s fairly directly man­aged and devel­oped by

    (Also, thanks David for reach­ing out and con­nect­ing with the Dru­pal­is­tas on this :-)

  15. says

    > And in fair­ness, the more dif­fer­ent con­trib­u­tors, the more “altru­ism” is at play, because none of them get to “claim” the prod­uct as their own.

    Within the Dru­pal project (and prob­a­bly other Open Source projects in gen­eral) it’s com­mon for folks who are rec­og­nized as strong con­trib­u­tors to use that fact to help bring in paid work. How­ever, because work on Open Source isn’t a finite resource, folks aren’t com­pet­ing for resources. This allows peo­ple to work directly in their own self inter­est in a way that hap­pens to also ben­e­fit others.

    > That being said, I’m not sure “diverse con­trib­u­tors” nec­es­sar­ily lends to the “robust sup­port base” that Bressler talks about; I’ve received very robust com­mu­nity sup­port on, and that’s fairly directly man­aged and devel­oped by

    I can’t speak to your expe­ri­ence with Vanil­laFo­rums, but I know that within the Dru­pal project, hav­ing a large num­ber of con­trib­u­tors has absolutely lead to a large and diverse list of com­pe­tent ser­vice providers. For exam­ple, see a par­tial list of “vet­ted” Dru­pal ser­vice providers.

    • says

      Weird; how come Acquia isn’t on that list?

      Also, I had a fun time look­ing around the visual pro­toype of Dru­pal Com­mons v3 that you sent me to. It looks great and I’ll be excited to play with the real thing when it’s released.

      I’ve learned that Com­mons is much more than a bun­dle of mod­ules that I could have installed myself; it appears to come with built-in con­tent types, a host of views/templates specif­i­cally for the social net­work feel, a pretty, cus­tomize­able theme… It looks to be an entire net­work solu­tion out of box, rather like Bud­dy­Press, only (PERHAPS? Could you verify/clarify this for me Ezra?) eas­ily inte­grat­able with the flex­i­bil­ity of all things Drupal.

  16. Bill KM says

    Really! You dont mean it do you? The whole the com­mu­nity place of dru­pal com­mons is aban­doned and no longer mod­er­ated. Go and see with your naked eyes. On the other hand bud­dy­press has man­aged to attract a nice small com­mu­nity that is much more alive, posh and dynamic. I have been to and it was live­lier than com­mons even

    • says

      Remem­ber how old this arti­cle is. The com­mu­nity around BP is quite active right now. Acquia’s been much more suc­cess­ful in the enter­prise than BP (to my knowl­edge), so per­haps that dri­ves the dif­fer­ent inter­ac­tion styles.

  17. Bill says

    Acquia’s been much more suc­cess­ful in the enter­prise than BP

    your utter­ing Acquia like a spell. The cul­prit is not Acquia, its Com­mons. If it doesnt man­age to attract a nice crowd around it, it wont sur­vive. how its going to convince?

    • says

      They don’t have to “con­vince” they have to “exe­cute”. And, they are doing that quite well.

      I under­stand how you feel though, I feel how you do about Jive. I think their prod­uct is a bunch of crap (based on my expe­ri­ence as a cus­tomer), and am always amazed when they con­vince some­one new to adopt it.

    • says

      I don’t, unfortunately.

      A lot ha changed. Bud­dy­Press is way more real and well writ­ten. Acquia has raised a lot of money and grown their enter­prise offer­ings dramatically.

  18. JC says

    Really infor­ma­tive arti­cle, thanks! The issue I have is that DC 3.0 [at this point] is just a dis­tro with many unde­liv­ered promises and missed roll­out dead­lines. The inter­ac­tive pro­to­type was pulled a long time ago. And even 2.x seemed to be more of a developer’s tool rather than a ready-for-prime-time social app. At least for most gen­eral users who are already accus­tomed to the very fluid social expe­ri­ences from sites like Face­book, Twit­ter, etc. (Even BuddyPress!)

    What’s really frus­trat­ing though, is just the lack of real world exam­ples of businesses/institutions who have suc­cess­fully deployed DC inter­nally or exter­nally. It’s not hard to find exten­sive client lists for col­lab­o­ra­tion tools like Jive, Thought­Farmer or even Share­point, however.

    It’s also impor­tant to note that sites using Dru­pal Com­mons have employed it as a stand-alone col­lab­o­ra­tion tool, rather than inte­grat­ing exten­sive ‘sta­tic’ con­tent from their tra­di­tional mar­ket­ing site. [i.e. Syman­tic, Green­peace, Mecedez-Benz].

    Aquia seems to sell Com­mons as a com­plete site solu­tion for even large intranets. But I have yet to see that.

    Can ANYBODY point me to these sites?


  1. […] Bud­dy­Press 1.5 is Com­ing! (It’s Very Excit­ing) 19 August 2011 By David Bressler // Had the oppor­tu­nity to hear 1st hand from Boone Georges about the excit­ing Bud­dy­Press 1.5 update. Wanted to share my thoughts and notes as an update to a post I wrote (one of my most pop­u­lar ever) ear­lier this year com­par­ing Bud­dy­Press and Dru­pal Commons. […]

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