wounded in the line of duty
As a long time (but somewhat burnt out) Drupal fan, I have a lot of sympathy for the Onion team. I develop and maintain one main Drupal site, but it has been continuously upgraded and developed (by me) using every version since 4.4. I'm in the middle of a Drupal 6 upgrade plus site reworking to include Views, CCK, OG and new themes etc.
As for The Onion, 95% of their coding was properly done as modules, and they only hacked core where necessary for scalability. Lots of big sites had to do that with Drupal back in the 4.5/4.7 days, they were only doing what they had to. We never had to though luckily.
One telling fact that emerged was that their 4.5 to 4.7 upgrade took them the same amount of time as rewriting from scratch with a different language and platform. I think they has decided on the rewrite quite some time ago.
And the API churn since 4.7 has been increasing exponentially. Not only that, but the whole approach to building a Drupal site and what modules to use is also being continually thrown on its head too. It seems like every Drupal upgrade I've ever done has involved migrating off at least one orphaned module.
It was this aspect that the Onion guys alluded to. Moving to Python and Django gives them a much more maintainable and stable platform to code on into the future. They are doing this for well thought out System Engineering reasons.
These days with Views, CCK, Panels, Features, etc etc contrib is now far more complex than core. Contrib is becoming extremely difficult to keep up with.
My current upgrade is being done with an eye to making the Drupal 7 upgrade easy, but after that I'm seriously considering a move to a Python MVC-style framework (maybe Turbogears instead of Django though).
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