Two months ago (give or take) I mused over photo gallery options for my sites. For Ipstenu, I’m now using a WordPress plugin and treating it like a photoblog. For JFO, however, I couldn’t answer it that easily.
I really do like the Gallery project. I do! I learned a great deal about photography from it, and I’m thankful for it. But. I needed to move on as a user, a developer and a photographer. On that last one, I’m not a profession one, I’m just a goofy girl with a camera who likes to remember where she’s been. As a user, Gallery2 did the job well and without major issues. As a developer, it made me want to cry. Many times. Once I had to log into my friend’s server to fix his install. That just whomps.
Even the developers admit that Gallery2 suffered from bloat:
The code base is too complex and over-engineered because it was designed to fix every single thing that was wrong with Gallery 1 (Second System Effect) leaving its scope hazy and broad.
The whole idea of it was “Your photos, your website.” And personally I love that. I hate having flikr or picasa in charge of MY photos. Let alone FaceBook. I have a blog on my domain for that same reason. But Gallery2 was too much. I never used half of it and it was 16+megs at its slimmest install. That the developers agreed with my feelings delighted me. And the Feature List was also exciting. As soon as G3 popped out, I grabbed a copy and started playing.
With each version of Gallery3’s beta releases, I would get excited and then disappointed. Excited for the new toys and disappointed for how the overall effect felt. It just felt wrong for me. It wasn’t really Web2.0, even though it was, and the usage felt off. It didn’t make intuitively as much sense as G2, though it was still far better than Coppermine (which frankly I hate, and I know more people who argue with it than anything). At first I thought it was because I was so used to G1 and G2, but then I realized that over the last 10 years, I’ve used so many different systems that I’m fine with subtle differences. I’m savvy, I’m smart, I can code, so why did G3 feel wrong to me?
It was too hard. Too much was built in and not plugable. Too much was hard coded in itself. Theming was impossible in the first release, and way too hard in the third. Understanding the theme system in G2 was easy, though implementing it was hard. Understanding it in G3 was hard and implementing was horrific. And before someone reminds me, AGAIN, that this isn’t even a beta product but an alpha, quite frankly that’s not an excuse. The basic things you need to be able to do with a first public release (be it beta, alpha or whatever) is to use it: Upload photos, change options, theme. That’s it. Those are the three things at it’s most basic that photo gallery software has to have, or you may as well be using an off-site solution.
And while I may sound like I’m ranting, I’m not. I’m sad and frustrated and … You know, I really like Gallery! I really do. But it was starting to feel like Movable Type. They made a big shift and suddenly I wanted to know who peed in my coffee. The code felt wrong, it felt klunky, it felt raw. It was like starting over, and I didn’t like where it was going. And I realized the fact was that I was going to say goodbye to an old friend.
Personally I’m all about the simplest, best, tool for the job. I wanted a way to update news on JFO and, when that was ALL I needed, I used CuteNews. When I realized the site was going to need something more, I weighed my options, tested software, and decided that while WordPress was a bit of overkill, I knew how to support it and customize it to be what I needed. In the end, that proved to be a perfect choice. When I had a forum (the first time around), it was IPB, which I liked, but it always felt too big. Now I use the very basic bbPress and it’s what I need and nothing more.
If WordPress had PhotoPress, I’d probably have snagged that. Instead, I shopped around. I installed Coppermine, again, to test. I put up G3-alpha3 and then 4. I went to WikiPedia and dug out the compares and ended up in a head to head battle between ZenPhoto and Gallery3.
ZenPhoto won by feeling better.
Seriously, it’s asthetics at this point. There are only two features I miss: Being able to re-upload a picture and keep it’s MetaData, and having ‘new’ images show up with a different background color. But I can live without those.