ColdFusion, from Allaire then Macromedia then Adobe, is used by a lot of big money sites. What is ColdFusion like? From what I see of ColdFusion, the typical result is the less than exciting page shown next.
Have you finished laughing? Fancy paying thousands of dollars for the software, thousands more to train people to use the software then find the software does something unbelievably stupid.
Clearly person visiting the site cannot do anything with the message. There should a toll free contact telephone number (Telstra is a telephone company) or an email address or a contact form (written in anything except ColdFusion).
Is that second date the 6th of January? Perhaps it is an American civilian date, but why use a date format peculiar to America when the web site is aimed at Australians? The mistake is reminiscent of Microsoft's continual insistence on forcing American dates and American spelling down the throats of Microsoft Word users. (One of the reasons I stopped upgrading Microsoft Office, was the increasing difficulty of something as simple as setting the correct language.) Why does the Allaire product use any format other than the format specified in the operating system?
While Allaire are fixing the second date, perhaps they could make their product distinguish between 1901 and 2001.
The error occurred on Telstra's bill paying page. These people want me to pay them money, I am prepared to pay them money, and then they use such an unreliable technology to build a barrier between my money and their bank account. If I were a Telstra shareholder, I would question their choice of software.
Note that Telstra use JSP for their home page but some of their most important internal pages are written in PHP. Perhaps the step up from Coldfusion to JSP then to PHP means that Coldfusion will disappear completely.
Update: Adobe purchased Macromedia. Who knows what Adobe will do to Coldfusion.
Things will get worse at ColdFusion sites as ColdFusion's new owners, Macromedia, talk ColdFusion users in to using Flash. If Macromedia's home page is an indication of what Macromedia will teach ColdFusion users, expect ColdFusion sites to become less accessible and less usable.
Content Management System
Coldfusion is sold variously as a Web site development tool and a content management system. The literature talks about an application server, middleware, and the Coldfusion language. Coldfusion includes equivalents (not as good but passable) to Apache, MySQL, and PHPMyAdmin. They are gradually adding press button application building. You end up close to a content management system but without a content management system and have to explain to management why some of the things you currently do in Coldfusion have to be rewritten into your Web site.
Magic Bullet Syndrome
One reader of this page write "you cannot blame a pen for spelling mistakes". I agree.
The page was written after striking several faulty sites in a row, all suffering Magic Bullet Syndrome (MBS). In MBS, a company launches a project with too few experienced people and too little testing because a vendor oversold a major software component. I know MBS from both sides of software sales.
Coldfusion and IIS are both associated with a large share of MBS sites. The victims of MBS, the site visitors and the Information Technology staff of the site developer, have to suffer through a period when the site fails but the IT staff are not allowed to fix the site. The IT staff have no time allocated for testing or fixing the site because their management believed some sales person that said Coldfusion/IIS does not need extensive development time, testing, or fixing.
PHP, and some other technologies, appeal to people who plan longer term, implement by steps, test with a wider range of browsers, and take more interest in the results. Where an IIS user will schedule a nightly reboot of a server because they are told there is no time allocated to fixing memory leaks, the people who choose PHP will choose to track down memory leaks and replace the offending software.
How does MBS strike? The vendor says their product is so good, the $100,000 of software can be set up by three junior programmers working for three months, and run on $25,000 of hardware. Six months later, after assigning a fourth, fifth, and sixth junior programmer, the project still has problems.
I get called in to a fix a few projects like that. When I say they have to replace one $25,000 server with two $35,000 servers, I am some times told that is not an option because there is no budget for new hardware. They say I can spend $100,000, $200,000, tuning the application and database but not replace the hardware because the $200,000 can be buried as site development whereas the hardware replacement would be an open admission of failure.
Ask the Experts
The following image is from the Web site of the Australian Computer Society. You would think the ACS have the skills to get Coldfusion working reliably.
Just to show you that ColdFusion has friends; here is an ASP error.
The CeBIT site starts with a time wasting animation that let someone add Flash to their resume but does nothing for visitors. The page with the error contains scripts from Macromedia's Homesite/Dreamweaver and webbot while other pages contain no comments about their source.
ASP is as oversold as Coldfusion. People spend too much money on the software then try to save money by cutting back on testing.
PHP developers note: In PHP you can use ASP style <% %> tags, the short PHP <? ?> tags, or full XML compliant <?php ?> tags. <?php ?> always works in a Web server configured for PHP. The other two styles are often turned off. If you want your code to move reliably from server to server, use <?php ?>.
Microsoft's .NET is just as bad:
When you want to replace Coldfusion but cannot be bothered changing your .cfm files, look at BlueDragon Server. You replace the proprietary Coldfusion with the proprietary Java.
Hmmm? Maybe that is not such a good idea.
BlueDragon still could be useful if you have one Web server that uses Java and another that contains Coldfusion. You could then reduce your underlying Web server farm to Java on top of Apache on top of the operating system of your choice.
Railo is another alternative to Coldfusion andis open source. You are stuck with using Java but at least people can see the code.
Java people are more expensive than regular programmers and you need twice as many but Java is finally reaching maturity. If your existing site is based on Coldfusion and you want to change but not replace your staff who are trained on Coldfudion, you could put together a whole J2EE Web server and development environment with open source software using some contractors. After you get the environment running, you do not need many Java oriented specialists because the bulk of the work is in Coldfusion (or Railo).
While a pen cannot be blamed for spelling mistakes, the pen's vendor can be blamed for telling the customer the pen would fix spelling mistakes.