ELGG – Another Multi-User Weblog Server

I just started playing around with ELGG – an open source multi-user weblog package. It also claims to do some e-portfolio stuff. It’s a really nice app. LDAP is a required feature. It can be deployed on any server you want. Templates are customizable on a per-blog basis (with selection of templates from a list of options, and the ability to create and extend templates).

It mimics Flickr in its use of tags and friends to create webs of content. And it seems to strike a nice balance between complexity and ease of use. It’s complex enough to be useful. Simple enough to not be scary.

So far, I’m very impressed. I’ll keep playing with it over the next little while, and will hopefully see how it fits in with the other options.

At first blush, it appears to be an ideal compromise between the flexibility of Drupal, and the standalone blog style of MovableType.

Drupal Vs. MovableType: Round 3

I’ve just finished installing the Kubrick template for both Drupal and MovableType. The template does a decent job of hiding the complexity inherent in these systems, and looks relatively pretty, too.

In my mind, it’s back to a dead-even horse race. The biggest drawback of Drupal was the complexity – too many widgets on the screen, so novices could get easily confused. It’s immediate benefits are LDAP authentication, and extremely flexible content types and easy publishing. Drawbacks include the mash-everything-into-one-website-with-multiple-views strategy, where it becomes difficult (impossible?) to create truly unique weblogs as part of the larger system. They all feed into the same content store, and are all displayed via the same interface.

Now, the biggest advantage of MovableType isn’t the simplicity for the end-user, but in being able to set up distinct weblogs with their own templates and groups of authors. This would be much more useful for something like a departmental website. Where Drupal squishes everything into essentially a single weblog with multiple views, MovableType creates silos of content, which can be shared (or not), and mixed (or not) as desired.

Suddenly, I’m craving a trip to IHOP, what with all the waffling I’ve been doing over this… :-)

Evan the Mountaineer

P2210161.JPG

This was Evan last Monday at Kananaskis Village. He loves climbing, and loved toboganning down the side of Mount Kidd even more.

I only posted this to test out the Photon iPhoto plugin. It works, but seems a bit rough with what it does to the new post. Had to come in and clean a bunch of stuff up.

Playing around with MovableType

I’ve been playing around with MovableType to test it out for a potential weblogs@ucalgary rollout. It’s really quite nice. I’ve used MT 2.x before (and it’s still running on our main commons.ucalgary.ca webserver), but 3.15 is a nice and polished package. I can’t seem to get it to recognize my NetPBM installation to generate image thumbnails, but that’s not critical. I also can’t seem to get LDAP authentication working, and that’s a bit more critical. I’ll try to tinker with that when I get time.

I’ve also set up an extremely simple page (actually, it’s a blog with no content of its own) that lists the last 20 posts on all blogs in the system. Works well, and I’ve got a crontask set to update it every 15 minutes so it should scale up nicely with a balance between up-to-the-minute posts and not hammering the system. It also provides an RSS feed for the whole system, which is pretty cool.

These are things that Drupal does as well, but in a rather more clunky manner, with more complexity on the screen. MT hides all complexity behind the Admin interface, so readers aren’t exposed to any of it (which is a Good Thing).

Personally, I prefer WordPress, and will continue to use it to power this weblog. But it has issues with scalability, making it less desirable for a large-scale multi-user multi-blog project on a campus scale.

It’s interesting that this non-project has gone from an idea tossed around between Paul and myself on the flight back from Northern Voice, to something attracting the attention of Information Resources, and of Information Technologies (who apparently are hesitant to come near this puppy for fear of being left to support it).

UPDATE: reworded some text to sound less confrontational.

XML Parsing into MySQL

I had to write a utility for the Mavericks project to allow me to import asset descriptions that were exported from ContentDM via a tweaked XML format, into a MySQL database for use in Pachyderm authoring. I was going to write a simple python or php script to do it, but realized just how much simpler it would be in WebObjects. Using JDOM to parse the xml into a DOM Document, and then passing the data into an EOEnterpriseObject to be persisted into the database. Access to both libraries made my code insanely simple.

It’s possible that it would be as simple in another environment, but I doubt I could have done it any faster or simpler in anything else. WebObjects really does rock.

My code is essentially one line to trigger parsing of the XML to the Document, 2 lines to create the EO and insert it into an editing context, a bunch of lines to populate the attributes of the EO with the various values in the XML ( nothing more complicated than record.setTitle(xmlElement.getChildText("Title"));), and a line to save the pending changes in the editing context. Easy peasy.

Help Wanted

King announced yesterday that he has accepted a position at a company in downtown Calgary. Congratulations, King! You’re going to enjoy it. Projects in the Real World are different than University projects in so many ways, and I know King will do well in that environment.

Which leaves me trying to figure out how to fill his chair here in the Learning Commons. Replacing King is just flat out impossible. Anyone who has ever worked with him will attest to that. He is by far the most gifted programmer and all-around-developer that I have ever met (and I’ve had the distinct pleasure to have worked with him for 4 years now).

King’s work on APOLLO and Pachyderm is nothing short of sheer genius. Elegance in code and design. I’m humbled daily, and will definitely miss that.

What I’m hoping to do is to bring in some students to help fill in the gap that will be left when King’s contract is up in April. Likely, one person to handle the video processing and compression, and probably another one or two to help out with APOLLO and Pachyderm (and any number of other projects).

If you want to be a part of some absolutely amazing projects, working with a great bunch of people (and myself :-) ), and can hit the ground more-or-less running, then please get in touch with me.

Attack of the Long Tail

Well… I guess the writing’s on the wall… Leon Tightlips is about to take over the blogosphere. It was fun while it lasted. I, for one, welcome our new Lightship overlord…

Now, if only Leon Tightfist could have easier-to-type URLs. He might get linked to more often… Oh, yeah, and maybe if he had some meaningful content on his blog. That might help a bit, too… All that’s up now is some odd Ali-esque ranting monologue…

Not sure what Mr. BlightMist’s problem is, but he sure is one angry little dude…

Massively Multi User Weblogging

UPDATE: Since there seeems to be some serious interest in this topic, I’ve started a wiki page to compare the packages.

I’m starting to toss some more ideas around for a proposal to kickstart a weblogs@ucalgary.ca project. Ideally, the system would be able to integrate via LDAP to the university’s authentication system, so people wouldn’t have Yet Another Login to remember. It should also scale to thousands of weblogs.

There are several software candidates I’d like to test a bit more before moving forward: (in no particular order)

And no, there isn’t an existing weblogs@ucalgary.ca project (what’s up with that?), and I’m not heading one up (but am willing to do so if need be). I just want to get my shit together so I can put an informed proposal together when I get the time.

I’ve been thinking about this for a long time now (even tried to provide some services on the Learning Commons webserver, but that never took off for anyone but myself :-) ). It was pretty much sparked into the forefront by the NorthernVoice conference, and the Academic Weblogs session in particular.

UPDATE: I’ve set up a test install of Drupal 4.5 to try it out. It seems pretty impressive, but I may decide to turn off some of the bells and whistles so noobs don’t get too freaked out…