SxSW 2009
The registration booths don't open for another 10 days and the moment of truth for what is being called the Ultimate Showdown of Content Management System Destiny is not until 11:30am on March 16th. Nevertheless, the teams competing for the prized moment of Web CMS glory have had their sleeves rolled-up for a while now, and their competition websites have just been turned in and are now available for public viewing and, of course, critiquing. 

The Showdown

At the 2009 SxSW event our dear CMS topic is getting a rare moment in the spotlight. This year a little CMS pit fight has been cooked up, Iron Chef style.

We're pretty far from convinced that such events are very useful to customers trying to select a new content management system, but like the web idol events CMSWire readers are familiar with, they can be a little educational. Mostly though they're just a bit of fun and a good opportunity for vendors, open source projects or consulting shops to strut their latest stuff.

The content management showdown -- a concept put together by George DeMet, owner of interactive firm -- is a face off with three teams of web developers from the Drupal (news, site), Joomla! (news, site) and WordPress (news, site) communities competing against each other. The task is to develop the same website with each of their chosen open source web content management systems.

ExpressionEngine (news, site) was originally slated to be included as well, but for reasons unknown to us -- perhaps because EE is not open source -- they are not in the current line-up.

As an aside, the EE team does appear to be readying their 2.0 version for an near beta sneek peek at SxSW. That should be interesting for PHP CMS geeks as well.

The Teams

The three teams are being led by Colleen Carroll (Drupal), Arno Zjilstra (Joomla!), and Matt Mullenweg (WordPress). They will also be panelists for the SXSW presentation.

Other participants include Drupal team members Jeff Eaton, Larry Garfield, and John Wilkins, and Joomla! team members Ryan Ozimek, Amy Stephen, and Alex Kempens. Tiffany Farriss has also been assisting with the project specification/requirements, and the site's design concepts were developed by renowned interactive designer Mark Boulton, author of the recently published “Five Simple Steps: A Practical Guide to Designing for the Web”.

The Panelists

The Evaluation

Once all the teams have finished building their sites, they will be turned over to Mark Boulton, who will evaluate how well each team articulated the design concept, as well as to the community leadership consultant, who will evaluate how easy each site is to use.

Planatir will also be testing the sites for things like validation, page weight, number of lines of custom code, etc. These results will be presented at SXSW, and then the audience will get to offer their opinion on which site is the overall winner.

The Specification

The full details of the competition website project spec are more than we want to include here, but as of February 17th they have been posted in PDF format by George DeMet on the blog. Here's the general idea of what contestants must accomplish.

The Project

This project will build a Web site that could be used by a community organization to run a leadership program. Utilizing Web‐based social networking tools such as blogs, forums, and wikis, program administrators, facilitators, and participants will be able to disseminate information and collaborate with each other in a centralized virtual space both in and out of regular sessions. By generalizing these tools as much as possible and making them freely available to the public, a wide variety of organizations and communities will be able to download them and customize them to match the individual needs of their particular program.


In today’s troubled economy, many community organizations lack the capital to adequately fund community leadership programs. At the same time, increased unemployment and decreased tax revenue means that our communities are facing serious issues and need qualified leaders more than ever. Using widely supported and freely available software, the objective of this project is to provide these programs with low or no‐cost tools that will help them make them more effective and efficient.

Main Features

A downloadable set of pre‐configured Web tools designed to facilitate the operation of a community leadership program:

  1. General information pages about the program
  2. A calendar that lists upcoming events and class sessions
  3. Pages that contain supplemental downloadable materials for each session, including Word and PDF files, MP3 recordings, links to other Web sites, YouTube videos and other social media content.
  4. A "community classifieds" section where program participants can post services offered, services needed, help needed and other opportunities or community resources.
  5. A discussion forum where users can continue talking about issues between class sessions.
  6. Photo gallery pages where program participants and staff can post photos from class sessions and/or group projects.
  7. Individual blogs for each program participant and staff member.
  8. The ability for program participants to create groups to facilitate group project planning. These group pages should allow members to upload Word, PDF, and other common document formats for peer review and commenting, as well as collaboratively edited wiki‐style pages.
  9. The ability to rate pages and posts using either a "+1" or "five star" rating system
  10. Web‐based contact forms for outside (anonymous) users to contact program staff for information about the program and/or submit an application.
  11. A directory of current program participants.
  12. Banner advertising allowing local businesses to "sponsor" different sections of the site.

The Project Websites

The respective teams have just wrapped up their work and the contest is officially now closed. Want to play judge? Of what, we're not 100% sure. But put your favorite critical hat on and have a gander.