Hotaru CMS – A Better Pligg?

A quick glance at Hotaru’s demo site and you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s just another open source Digg clone, similar to Pligg, Drigg and SocialWebCMS. First impressions can be deceptive though, because the moment you’ve installed Hotaru, it becomes apparent that it’s not a social bookmarking platform at all… unless you want it to be that is.

Hotaru CMS is merely a shell, consisting of a front page, an Admin Control Panel and a Plugin Management section. From there, you can choose from dozens of plugins available for free at to bring your website to life. Since Hotaru is the brainchild of the SocialWebCMS team, it’s not surprising that the first batch of plugins are geared towards a social bookmarking site.

What Plugins Does it Have?

Pretty much everything is plug ‘n’ play. Hotaru has plugins for user registration, story submission, sidebar widgets, admin email, comments, and much, much more. Anyone who has used Pligg will be thrilled by Hotaru’s working Akismet plugin – yes, it actually works for comments and plugins, placing questionable content in a moderation queue and reporting false positives back to the Akismet server.

As well as Akismet, there’s a plugin for which enables Hotaru sites to report spam users to a central database so they can’t register at other Hotaru sites. But if we’re going to get into anti-spam features, those two plugins are just the beginning. Here’s a list that will make Pligg users drool:

  • ReCaptcha – Email confirmation.
  • Block by IP.
  • Block by email address.
  • Block by username.
  • Email notification of new users with an option to approve or deny them access.
  • Ban, killspam, or physically delete users.
  • Place users under moderation (so you can approve their posts or comments).
  • Group and individual user permissions to submit, vote, comment, etc. – Block posts from being re-submitted.
  • Block posts by url or domain.
  • Limit daily submissions for posts and coments – Restrict the submission rate (e.g. set 10 mins before being able to post again).
  • Moderate first X submissions or comments.
  • Enable/disable comments site-wide and on individual threads.
  • Close threads, but retain existing comments.
  • Limit the number of urls allowed in posts or comments.
  • Hide or physically delete posts and comments.
  • Flag posts – a bury button that shows the number of buries and their reasons.

Are Themes and Plugins Easy to Make?

It would seem so. For a start, everything is in PHP so you don’t have to mess about with Smarty templates as you do in Pligg and SWCMS. In fact, the default theme is a measly six template files, and should appeal to anyone who is familiar with WordPress themes.

Likewise, plugins are well documented in the Hotaru forums and appear easy enough to make. In a nutshell, you write functions specifically for plugin hooks, so if you see a plugin hook like this:

< ?php $hotaru->plugins->pluginHook('sidebar'); ?>

You can write a function like this:

function sidebar() {
echo "Hello World";

On the topic of programming, Hotaru’s developers don’t claim to be experts. In fact, they admit openly to being amateur PHP hobbyists with a love for open source. Anyone is welcome to join them and contribute to the project, just how open source should be.


While Hotaru CMS holds a lot of promise, it is still in beta and lacking comment votes, private messaging, friends and favorites. If you can live without those and are keen to get started, you won’t be disappointed. There are more than enough other features to keep you entertained, such as comment subscription, Gravatar, Smilies, and best of all, a Pligg Importer.

To think this has all been done in about six months. If Hotaru isn’t limited to social bookmarking, might we have blogs and forums as part of the CMS a year from now? I wouldn’t bet against it!

Visit, Demo and Download: Hotaru CMS

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Article Details


Author: on November 28th, 2009

Category: HotaruCMS

Tags: , , ,

  1. Nick says:

    Thank you for the review! For anyone who has made a WordPress plugin or theme, Hotaru should come quite naturally. We’ve got a good set of tutorials to show budding developers and designers how they can get involved, and I’m usually around to help in the forums.

  2. Chris says:

    This system looks absolutely incredible for something that was nothing six months ago. I cannot believe the amount of truly useful spam protection methods that have been developed so far and the template system looks very similar to wordpress as described in the article.

    From what I can see thus far hotaru is an excellent effort and one of the most exciting cms prospects I have discovered in 2009, a truly modular CMS that is what you make it is a fantastic idea. This one could be the pligg killer we have been waiting for at long last as it’s definitely a more refined, well coded and thoughtfully produced product than pligg.

    Time for Pligg to sit up an take notice, it would seem you have a serious competitor on your hands that don’t screw over their users for time and or cash for crap.

    Great work Nick i can’t wait to get involved in the community.

  3. Lincoln says:

    Hey Nick we were happy to review such an exciting prospect in the open source CMS community, congratulations on what you have achieved so far and i look forward to what you guys produce in the future.

  4. nwng says:

    I really believe that this particular CMS is the thing we are all waiting for. good luck

  5. stefan says:

    i don´t really get it – what are the advantages of hotaru (comp. to drigg)?

    Why not put your efforts into helping with drigg. It´s open-source and drupal has so many incredible projects going on besides drigg – feeds, managingnews, open-atrium, solr-integration, auto-tagging, extractor,…

    thanks for answering

  6. A4D says:

    Hi Stefan .. one of the sites I develop is using Drigg and whereas it has been attached to Drupal, there does not seem any activty happening with Drigg for quite a while

    unless things have changed in 2010


  7. wannabe says:

    Drigg seems to be abonded, to me. And the managing part is way outdated for my taste. but i am happy if someone can convince me otherwise

  8. Nick says:

    “Why not put your efforts into helping with drigg?”

    Because Hotaru CMS is actually a rewrite of Social Web CMS. We wanted to provide an upgrade path for existing SWCMS users.