Aargh!

So after yesterday’s post, and Meg’s going all Nike on me, I just did it: began the process of starting up a multiply-authored site at ElectraPress.com. In fact, I’ve started up two such sites, one using Drupal and one using Joomla, both of which are there and available for your registration and participation.

Why two sites? Because I can’t get either of them to work just the way I want them to. The Drupal site is easy-peasy, and is doing pretty much what it’s supposed to, but it’s not quite extensible in the way that I’d like it to be, or at least I’m not yet figuring out how to make it so. It allows for multiple authors and multiple modules; among those modules are a front page that allows any registered user to contribute “stories,” and individual user blogs. What I’d like, though, is a front page that basically lays out the organization of the content, with glimpses into the various sections of the site, and then a bunch of sections that actually contain the various content elements of the site (such as a group-authored blog, a repository of electronic articles, a collection of links, and etc). I’m sure Drupal can be massaged into doing what I want, but I’m not up to figuring out how right this second.

On the other hand, there’s Joomla, which is tremendously powerful and lends itself to precisely the kind of organization I was imagining. But it’s awfully complex, and — and this is absolutely stunning to me — the software does not include a built-in commenting system, and so I’ve had to install a third-party component, which gives every appearance of working right up until you click “send” to actually post the comment and absolutely nothing whatsoever happens.

I’m the teeniest bit beside myself on this, and really really have to get some other work done right now. So here’s where this multiple author thing might come in handy. If you are of a mind, and would like to work on this ElectraPress project, in whatever form it winds up taking, visit these two sites and create an account. Email me if you’d like more privileges than registration automatically provides. And let’s see if we can be collectively smarter than I can be on my own, right now.

(By the by: I reserve the right to delete the accounts of trolls, and to change account creation to a moderated process, if I must. I’m just saying.)

3 thoughts on “Aargh!

  1. “…a new electronic imprint that will focus on publishing book-length manuscripts in the area of new media studies.”

    Any chance that ElectraPress will evolve to encompass new media studies and Milton studies?

    Oh well. It was worth a shot.

  2. Sounds really interesting. Some general thoughts and personal opinions on picking a CMS portal for this project, for what it is worth:

    1. Did you choose both of these from opensourcecms.com? Not to complication things, but they also have other well-reviewed portal alternatives, like XOOP, Xaraya, Mambo… More importantly, you can so basic evaluations of running versions there – or send other people to check them out.

    2. I’ve had groups of 3-10 people do portal evaluation before, and it doesn’t usually go well – most portals are so customizable (by functions, plugins, and “skinning” the interface) that evaluating them and picking a preference doesn’t always answer much – people often make choices on factors that are trivial to change. A better question is “what do we want it to do?” and then looking for a portal / configuration that can do *that*. Although working from both ends towards the middle is good too….

    2b. Another way is to shop around for the perfect portal that does what you envision doing (at a meta level) and then seeing (or asking them) what they use.

    3. You don’t already know what you want, so the two priorities are flexible and portable. The three projects I started on a CMS all changed CMS platform after a year, because the things we thought were live-or-die requirements turned out not to be such a big deal, and vice-versa. For instance, when shopping for blogware for WRT, we thought blog channels and complex author management was really important, so we went with b2evolution. Six months later, we switched to WordPress. Better to pick something that has well documented inport / export functions into a number of other packages – otherwise the switch later will be really tedious.

    4. Portals are usually really top-heavy (example: AOIR’s drupal install), and their admin interfaces can be intimidating to people who want to get involved with one aspect of a project (as an editor, reviewer, etc.). Sometimes the integration is nice, but sometimes it is worth considering handling each segment of what you want to do as a separate package – run the wiki in a wiki directory, the blog separately, and the actual article publishing system separately. The duplicate accounts aren’t always that big a deal, and the ability to easily switch out one thing (e.g. the blog, the wiki) is nice. Biggest advantage: having the people that get involved with your project work with whatever software they are already comfortable with. Worth considering…

    Good luck!

  3. You know what, Jeremy? After a little over a week of attempting to figure out the various clunkinesses of both Drupal and Joomla (Joomla, incidentally, being a rebranding of Mambo, just FYI), I have decided that I GIVE UP. The structures and interfaces are extremely top-heavy, as you point out, as well as clunky and intimidating. I think you’re right about the portability question, not to mention that separate tools have been created to do separate jobs much better than any of these integrated packages. So WordPress/MediaWiki/etc, here we come.

    For those of you who have already created accounts, I’ll transfer the accounts to the new system, and email you when it’s up.

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