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Darren
November 13th, 2005, 10:31 PM
Hi, kids!

This thread is only of interest to Web developers and tech dorks.

GateWorld is currently on the hunt for a content management system (CMS). Actually, that's a bit of an understatement: I have been searching for, researching, testing, configuring, post help requests, tweaking, getting pissed off and abandoning the current CMS candidate for two years. GateWorld is almost entirely hand-coded HTML, and we've grown to the point where we can't do any more without a robust, flexible CMS.

So, we need your recommendations! Please only suggest a piece of software if you have enough experience with it to be able to offer some sort of evaluation / review, and if you know (or are pretty sure) it fits our list of basic requirements (below).

Among those we have already tried and rejected (not a complete list):

Typo3
OpenCMS
Mambo
Textpattern
(Drupal - not fully examined, but enough to discourage me)
Here's what we need in a CMS:


- Preferably open source or GNU General Public License, but paid solutions are on the table
- MySQL database-driven
- Unix-compatible
- Can create multiple templates in HTML and assign them to content pages and/or content categories
- CSS style management
- Ability to add unlimited custom variables to a content page, and output those variables in a template. (This is key. Ideally, we could add different custom variables depending on a content item's section/category.)
- Includes some sort of 'draft,' 'unapproved,' or 'inactive' mode that saves content while not displaying it on the public site
- Manages multiple users, assigned specific rights (publish to draft, publish live), and rights only to certain sections
- Can structure content levels to an unlimited depth (subsections and sub-subsections) (Some CMS applications, believe it or not, are only built for one or two levels of categories and sub-categories.)
- Clean URLs (We'd prefer something smart enough even to be able to duplicate our current URL format, so we don't lose all those links and bookmarks when we convert)
- Can display content in a variety of ways, including reverse-chronological (such as news headlines), alphabetical (Omnipedia entries), or alpha-numeric order by a specific custom variable (such as episodes, which are sorted from 901 to 920).
- Can create custom "blocks" or "modules" (snippets of HTML with variables and such) for use on any page (e.g. polls, TV listings, ad blocks, etc.)
- Outputs syndication files, such as RSS, for specific content sections (such as news)
- Preferably organizes content in an intuitive way, such as a directory tree
- We'd prefer a system with built-in newsletter and user management
- We'd prefer a system with a few built-in bells and whistles, such as polls
- We'd prefer a system that provides for end-user registration, and the ability to serve specific content to signed-in users based on a variety of variables ("My GateWorld" customizable home page, paid subscriptions, etc.)

I'm amazed that some of these features, especially the flexibility of creating custom variables for content items, are not only not out there, but many CMS developers have an attitude against them for one reason or another.

If we cannot find a CMS that will meet our needs in the near future, we will have to consider (finding and) hiring a top-notch, GW-loving developer to modify an open-source package for us.

Thanks!

Nathan
November 14th, 2005, 01:20 AM
Darren, trust me on this. Joomla. Difficult at first but when you get the hang of it, it is an amazing little package. Has everything you ask for. Can integrate into VB's database to allow cross user registration.

The problem? You have discounted it already. Joomla is the new name for Mambo.

Can I urge you to reconsider? I've spent many an hour looking at CMS and quite frankly Joomla seems to be the bee's knees.

Typo3 is aparently ultra professional but waaaaaaaaaaaay too complicated if you don't live and breath it.

Also take a look at http://www.opensourcecms.com/ which has a huge list of CMS packages.

You asked for people with experience in them.

I've used mambo, Joomla, Typo3, LDU, and a few others.

I'm currently using Joomla on one site that isn;t exactly active, and will most likely use it again on another site - if and when the need arises.

Nem2k
November 14th, 2005, 02:49 AM
ok, I would highly recommend you stay away from a prebuilt CMS, keep things hand coded because it'll save you a lot of headaches

A prebuilt CMS can easily get hacked purely because it is prebuilt and just about anybody can download and use it. So if an exploit was found for the CMS on another site, then GateWorld (given its probably the largest SG site around) will probably suffer as a result of this

It might sound rare, but trust me, it does happen. It happened to us on a game that Im working on, we were using phpNuke as our CMS and we were DoS'd so badly that the host were forced to take our site offline because the number of MySQL queries per second kept crashing their server (yes, it was that bad). All of this happened due to an exploit in the nuke CMS

So basically we were forced to abandon Nuke and we had to build a CMS from the ground up with nothing but php and MySQL integrating the forum sessions with the main website. It took a lot of work, but it was worth it because its unique and gives hackers a harder time to break :)

Nathan
November 14th, 2005, 03:44 AM
Nuke is the buggiest CMS out there though. Avoid *nuke at all costs

Darren
November 14th, 2005, 01:03 PM
nathanaus, I've spent much time at OpenSourceCMS.com. I looked briefly at Joomla this last week, only long enough to discover that it's Mambo all over again. The Mambo developers apparently quit and all went across the street to build something new, but they liked Mambo so much that they basically reinvented the same wheel.

Of those listed above that I've already tried, Mambo was probably the most promising (and therefore the biggest disappointment). But the biggest problem was that I was simply unable to create custom variable fields for content items. You've got the built-in fields, such as Title, Body, and Excerpt, but beyond that you are screwed.

The section with the most variables per content item is the episode guide. Excluding the sub-sections (reviews, transcripts, 'In the Making,' etc.), the variables on this page (http://www.gateworld.net/sg1/s9/901.shtml) could include:

Title
Episode Number
Original Air Date
Syndication Air Date
Excerpts Written By
Story By
Teleplay By
Written By
Directed By
Guest Starring
GW Rating
Fan Poll Rating
SCI FI Rating
Syndication Rating
Extract (logline)
Summary
Analysis
Character Development
Notes
Unanswered Questions
Producer Comments

[Omnipedia block]
[Poll block]
[Amazon.com block]
[Episode sub-menu block]

Twenty-six total, for this section alone. Those in brackets may not be required as separate variables, depending on how the CMS is set up. Some of these can obviously be combined / consolidated in a less-ideal scenario, but the sheer number of variables makes it obvious that most CMSs, which simply do not allow for custom variable-creation (let alone [i]different custom variables from section to section), won't cut it.

I don't mind rethinking what I have in my head as far as structuring our site, but the last thing I want to do is bend and splice the site to fit a CMS's rigid restrictions so badly that it becomes more of a hassle to use the CMS than to hand-code.

So, tell me about Joomla's flexibility when it comes to custom variables, section-by-section custom variables, and so forth. Is it any different from Mambo?

Nathan
November 14th, 2005, 01:16 PM
nathanaus, I've spent much time at OpenSourceCMS.com. I looked briefly at Joomla this last week, only long enough to discover that it's Mambo all over again. The Mambo developers apparently quit and all went across the street to build something new, but they liked Mambo so much that they basically reinvented the same wheel.
<snipped>


How soon do you need the answers? Mind if I take your question and run with it a little?

You are right about Joomla being Mambo. What happened was the company that sponsored mambo development decided to take it off the open source list and make it pay for use. The developers weren't impressed with that so they split. So mambo is now or soon to be pay-for-use while joomla is open source.

As the the variables question, give me a little bit and I'll get back to you.

*edit to add*
I'm wondering if you couldn't simply make a form that is filled out that then inserts the relevant data? For example the form could say the title, episode number etc. on submit of the form it goes to whomever for approval or instant publish.

like I said though, let me get back to you soon.

Nathan
November 14th, 2005, 01:20 PM
Out of curiosity then, what do you currently use? I know you have some includes happening etc - I assume type in title of the given page once and that propegates to the title, headings, etc? That's evident by the malformed HTML code appearing in the title sometimes (for example the <em> tags).
Are you hand coding at the moment?

mazzmatazz
November 14th, 2005, 01:25 PM
I have a friend that took OSCommerce, stripped it down, and recoded it all to be more secure... I could ask his advice on CMS's?

Darren
November 14th, 2005, 02:31 PM
The sooner the better, but we have some time. Like I said, this has been an unfruitful road two years in the making. A few more days or weeks won't kill me.

Everything is hand-coded right now except news, the Omnipedia, fanfic uploads, and a few other bits and pieces here and there. The news section is really the only front-and-center content that is CMS-driven (Coranto), which is why you'll see <I> tags in some page titles there.

The Omnipedia uses a second, heavily modified Coranto install. Far from ideal, but it gets the job done.

Qasim
November 14th, 2005, 02:38 PM
which is why you'll see <I> tags in some page titles there.So thats the reason :D

I always thought it was firefox

Nathan
November 15th, 2005, 03:53 PM
Right, back with answers. Short answer is, yes verything you ask for can be done in Joomla. Including the variables.

As I thought, the most efficient way to do this would be to have a form. You (or whoever updates the given episode [using the example you provide]) can go to the relevant area and fill out the form with all the details, press the submit button and the page is generated to appear how you want it.

An example. Click here to take a look. (http://costa-rica-guide.com/travel/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=174&Itemid=314) That page - the items on the right hand side (the images) was done with a form inside the joomla CMS. If you mouse over any of the icons you get a brief description.

It takes a little bit of tweaking but it can certainly be done.

*edited to add the following*
Just further to that. If you use the form module, and someone comes and modifies the page in any way, the form module keeps a record of all changes so you can see what was changed and potentially go back to if you need to. The beauty of database driven sites :)

Darren
November 21st, 2005, 10:58 AM
nathanaus, thanks for the leg-work on this question. I spotted your post and the reply while searching the Joomla forum today. Thanks for going the extra mile for GateWorld!

I'll keep looking over Joomla and will probably give it a(nother) try.

Nathan
November 23rd, 2005, 03:36 PM
No problem. Good luck. It's a little daunting at first (Joomla) but it really is a remarkable product when you get into it.

brihana25
November 23rd, 2005, 04:26 PM
I'm amazed that some of these features, especially the flexibility of creating custom variables for content items, are not only not out there, but many CMS developers have an attitude against them for one reason or another.


Actually, it is out there.

http://www.xaraya.com

It's got a bit of a steep learning curve, but once you get the hang of it, it can do absolutely amazing things, including using DynamicData and custom variables that you can assign to different subsets of content types, which you can also define for yourself.