by Jeff EatonNovember 3, 2009

White House Drupal Coverage: The Roundup


October's announcement that the White House website had relaunched on Drupal brought cheers from the open source community. Even outside of the Drupal world, the high-profile government site was seen a vote of confidence for open platforms and collaborative development. The teams at Acquia and Phase2 helped deliver a great site that silences outdated claims that OSS can't be used on "Enterprise" level sites, and impresses anyone who thought that that Drupal sites have to look like blogs.

Naturally, there's been a lot of chatter about the switch, some good and some bad. I thought I'd take some time to round up the most interesting articles for the community and study what they say about how Drupal and its role in the White House's web presence are being perceived.

The Associated Press broke the story on the morning of the 24th, confirming rumors that had been circulating about a high-profile government site launch. (At DrupalCon DC in March, hallway chatter was buzzing about Dries Buytaert's invite to the White House to discuss Drupal and its technical underpinnings.) The story cast Drupal in a pretty favorable light, and touched on some basic Open Source issues like crowdsourced security.

News and tech blogs like CNet News, TechPresident, and the Huffington Post followed quickly. A few commenters chimed in with "They should've used my favorite CMS, instead!" posts, but for the most part, Drupal's success was seen as a tipping point for greater government adoption of good OSS. Tim O'Reilly had some fascinating thoughts about the transition and its implications for Open Government: it's probably one of the best commentary pieces about the switch. The New York Times' Bits Blog covered it too, and had a lot of flattering things to say about Drupal.

The first of the 'backlash' post was found in Slate Magazine. The article "Messaging Error" by Chris Wilson was met with some head-scratching: it painted the Obama administration's use of Drupal as an ideological choice rather than a technical one, and warned of grave but unspecified consequences. (I like to fancy myself one of the Drupal community's resident contrarians, ready to point out the software's shortcomings and quick to admit when other solutions are better. The author's complaints were more than a bit odd, though, and betrayed a disconnect with the real challenges that administrators of large-scale high-profile Drupal sites actually face.) The article was widely circulated, but the author later posted that responses ran about 50 to 1 against it.

A number of detailed responses followed, led by the DatabasePublish blog. Even Information Week actually published a point-by-point takedown of the Slate article. The Information Week piece didn't appear to come from one of the Drupal community's resident greybeards, so it's nice to know that other folks in the general tech community have our back when it comes to fighting FUD.

It's been fascinating to watch news spread about the site's relaunch and Drupal's role in it. While other people learn about Drupal, we're also learning about what the rest of the tech and Open Government world thinks of Drupal. Here's to the teams that made the project happen, and to all of the developers, designers, and users who've helped improve Drupal. Today we can all point to the White House site and say, "Hey! I helped build that!"