Back to top

HostMaster vs. Organic Groups vs. Sympal vs. ?

Let's take a hypothetical situation: a drupal-based service offered to groups of people where they can somewhat customize the installation and create their own private content for sharing and discussion within the group. Each group has a leader who is the main configurer of the site and who can approve other members to be able to view the site. The group "leader" is a non-technical user and should be able to create the group themselves from within a browser.

There are at least four approaches that I can think of for this:

  • Organic Groups which would is very simple for individuals to create and manage and provides all of the features listed above but is somewhat limited in terms of the configuration that the group manager could provide. For example, they would not be able to enable/disable modules or really edit the theme very much.
  • HostMaster HostMaster is the basis of the Bryght hosting platform and I believe is also the basis of the CivicSpace ASP. It is available under the GPL, requires Python (which I actually like) and seems very powerful. My major concern is with the performance of Multi-site vs. Organic Groups and with the extra complications of upgrading a large number of multi-site Drupal installations. That is, upgrading a 4.7 site with Organic Groups and a few limited modules seems relatively easy compared with upgrading a multi-site installation.
  • Sympal the sympal scripts by Ber Kessels are a set of php scripts for quickly installing a Drupal site. These have the same potential drawbacks as HostMaster and the additional drawback that they are command line php meaning that I would need to create a UI layer on top of them (which isn't terribly scary, but it is extra work compared to the OG solution).
  • RYO - Roll Your Own Rolling my own solution has the obvious benefit of being exactly what I want and need, but has the significant drawback of requiring me to write something from the ground up. I am fairly certain that this will not be my solution.

So, I'm mostly writing this in the hopes that other people will send me their feedback on their experience with these solutions.

And yes, I've contacted Boris to get access to HostMaster to play with it and see how it works.

People Involved: 


Nothing to share yet

We're just getting started on something somewhat similar for a client. We're going multisite, mainly for the, um, simplicity.

og advantage

og is the only one that lets a piece of content reside in multiple groups. further, that content can only show up once in search results and can only have 1 url. these are usually considered good.

in og, there is one site so only 1 login and user prefs and management place.

Hostmaster does the upgrading

Hostmaster is meant to work with an install profile -- that is, a defined set of modules, themes, and configuration (module X is enabled, is set to promote automatically, profile has Y fields filled out, etc.). This is essentially the automation of Drupal-based vertical web apps.

The whole groups vs. separate site comes down to what you want to do. In some cases, a large group site makes sense. One that shares lots of users, which has minimal customization needs (think Yahoo Groups), and which doesn't have a sensitivity to being in the same "shared space".

At some point, the complexity of adding more flexibility / delegation of control to groups means it is easier to deploy a separate site.

Some things to look at are a single userbase (looking at LDAP, SXIP, OpenID and Drupal-integrated implementations of the same) and sharing of content (my favourite here is still publish and subscribe, but RSS works, too).

Of course, the work needed to turn a bundle of Drupal modules / a separate site into something that is easily usable / admin-able by a non-technical end user is...a lot. We have all the bits and pieces, but all the hard work is in UI, design, and upfront work into getting an install profile perfect. This alone may mean that a large single site with OG is a good starting groups need more features, they can "graduate" to a full site.

Hope some of that helps.

sections.module (with range of themes) + taxonomy + subdomains

on I am currently developing a fifth solution in this list: taxonomy-subdomain-sites. It works as follows:
each tag is redirected to a subdomain: should be a list with all nodes in term 23, lets say term is called "Wales".
I redirect that to, so is both an alias for and on the site all links to are rewritten to

Then, using sections module, we can (optionally) set a different theme for subdomains such as
I am also working on some concept to change the database prefix based on the active subdomain.

All this has passed concept phase and is being prepared to get into testing phase really soon. It works and is a very good solution for sites that want the "myspace" model: everyone has a personal "page list or even view" and based on that page, we change some parameters, such as the active theme/style and possibly some other things such as private database-tables.

What is the maximum number of

What is the maximum number of users that this myspace style site can achieve? Or is it something that can increase over time? Nevertheless I imagine that it can ever run into millions? Would I be right?

Groups around content


h3>Using Organic Groups to organize and manage content views and access.

I've been experimenting with the, "Organic Groups", with og_forum( which seems to only see a flat list of forums). I've just installed og_content_type_admin, og_perm, og_reg_keys, og_user_roles. I'm hoping with cck and views will give me most of the leverage I need.

I am trying to have groups administer the content needed for group such as book groups to study groups and other groups that are of special interest. Such as, those that like to hang out at X or people that own a specific breed and like to share their experience.

After deciding on most content and how it can be administered. I'd like to have content sent automatically to other sites that I know people. The content would need to be filtered and then a push action would be most desirable.