wordpress.com vs. blogger.com

September 23, 2007

So, I’ve been trying to figure out if I want to move to wordpress.com or use wordpress.org on my domain, or do something entirely different (I’m running drupal on my domain). Occasionally, I have considered moving over to wordpress.com as well… I like wordpress. It’s not so much that I hate blogger, it’s ok, but I’ve been wanting to do something with all of my baby* blogs for a long while. Anyhow, back when I created the baby* blogs, blogger didn’t offer labels or categories (well, they still don’t offer true categories). WordPress.com wasn’t available. I used the baby blogs as a primitive form of categories.

The main reason I started using blogger was for an example for a class project journal. I wanted blog software that was free and easy to use in hopes that it would become an acceptible alternative to creating static html pages (yuck!) on the university’s website. There weren’t alot of alternatives then. I continued using blogger because I received a little bit of traffic from blogger (next blog, or searching in blogger), and I thought that was kind of nice. So, is it better to host on a domain or using a public blog software like wordpress.com or blogger?

..but maybe it’s time to rethink my whole blog presence. Neither wordpress.com or blogger is great, both have limits. When I started thinking about moving over to wordpress.com, I was excited about the ideas of true categories (wouldn’t it be nice to collapse all of my baby blogs into categories here?) but the lack of customized CSS is an issue. I do like wordpress and I would support it, but I don’t know… considering I can do all of those things for free if I host it, then it seems silly to pay extra to have it hosted elsewhere.

So, the dilemma. I read this article about blogger vs. wordpress vs. livejournal and I read this one, too. Basically, all of the same stuff. WordPress = categories good, Blogger = customize CSS good.

Here is my list of pros and cons. Here is my site mirrored here and here it is at blogger. Yes, it does not look like my site at blogger (the not able to customize templates, only headers issue). I’d love to hear from others who have used wordpress, blogger, or any other publicly hosted blog software. What were the advantages and disadvantages? Was it truly better to just host on your own domain? How easy (or not easy) is it to export from a public site (wordpress.com) to a domain?

*baby blogs = Not a blog about babies or small children, but a blog that is part of a larger blog. 😉 (just in case you didn’t catch on to that….)

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e-zine using wordpress

September 17, 2007

I’m going to add this to my e-zine list, but I think this e-zine template for wordpress looks really good.

I do wonder about the pre-publishing and issue creation, though. One of the advantages of pacercms is that I can create the issues prior to publication. I do think draft posts could accomplish some of that, but…


opensource alternatives to common commercial products

September 13, 2007

Although the introduction of this article is overly simplified in terms of the changes in library technology (I couldn’t help but laugh a little in a couple of places) , once you’re past that, the rest is a good little overview of some of the more popular opensource products. I’ve hotlinked and listed the products below, the article gives a more indepth overview.

The products are:
ubuntu (ms windows alternative based on linux)
firefox (web browser; ms internet explorer alternative)
openoffice (productivity suite with wordprocessing, presentation, and spreadsheets; ms office alternative)
thunderbird (e-mail + rss reader; ms outlook express alternative)
songbird ( media player; windows media player alternative?)
gimpshop (image editing; adobe photoshop alternative)
pdfcreator (pdf creator; adobe acrobat alternative)
Audacity (audio burning software)
avidemux (video creation)

Other stuff (web publishing, etc.):
wordpress
drupal
mediawiki and also twiki.

As far as libraries go, there is
koha
evergreen
vufind
liblime

I’ve talked a little about evergreen and vufind here. At home, I still run MS for the operating system and commercial stuff for my server; but then everything else is opensource or web based services (Firefox, gimp, ghostwriter+pdf, openoffice, etc.) Setting up these products on a small personal computer is fairly easy (really!). I’m not sure how that would translate to a large network, which could possibly be a hidden cost factor: installing these, configuring them as needed, and upgrading. Of course, admins already have to do that for any programs that they support. Training issues (oh the fun of trying to teach a group of web editors to use Drupal…) as well as potential security risks given the opensource nature would be other potential costs.

http://www.degreetutor.com/library/managing-expenses/open-source-library


Opensource ILS projects and how I learned to love the library catalog

September 11, 2007

okay, pardon the bad pun on dr. strangelove…

I’ve been following some of the opensource ils projects with interest. evergreen (launched by the Georgia Public Lib System), is still in heavy development. From my understanding it originally launched without acquisitions or serials checkin (eeks!) ; however from an upcoming presentation flyer it appears that acquisitions will launch or has launched very soon.
Anyhow, it’s an interesting project and I finally got around to checking out their wiki.

At one conference I attended, the evergreen presenters (truly it is trotted out at every possible opportunity) was demonstrating its ability to save searches as RSS feeds, which would then be updated.

Another project is scriblio, which is a wordpress installation that works in conjunction with a library catalog. Plymouth State Library is now using scriblio. You can read an article about here and see it in action here.

I couldn’t find an example of a Voyager library using scriblio, but I’m sure someone out there somewhere is using it.

Another interesting project is VUFind, which I’ve read will work with a Voyager library catalog. VUFind is touting itself as having the ability to search (and display) seamless results between the library catalog, digital collections, and institutional repositories. I like a lot about VUFind — very easy to read. I love the ability to pull out citation info (wonder if this works with EndNote?). Other features include faceted search results, citations in MLA or APA (not sure if other choices), tagging, commenting, reviewing, and oia syndication.

I couldn’t find RSS feed/search, but it would seem like that would be a feature (?)

Give the demo a whirl yourself. OR better yet… go see it used with a Voyager catalog.

George Mason University (a Voyager library) has a test installation up at
http://zoombox.gmu.edu/vufind/

Update: 9/12: test installation is not working. ;-(

For those who are interested, the MARC view/technical view is under the tab “Staff View”

To read more about the features of VuFind, check out VuFind’s website:
http://www.vufind.org/features.php


5000 resources to do just about anything online

September 9, 2007

5000 resources to do just about anything online

I love mashable and I can’t possibly summarize everything in this article, but if you are looking for new things to do with your blog/website, or just to have a little fun on the ‘net, do take a look. You can find things such as 30 widgets for a wordpress blog, 70+ podcasting tools, 12+ twitter tools, etc. Lots and lots of wordpress stuff. 😉


creating a e-zine — software choices

August 13, 2007

So you want to create an online newsletter, a magazine or e-zine? What should you use?
There are many choices, some of which depend on budget size. My budget size= ZERO dollars.
My investigation actually began in May with Drupal. These were reviewed as of August 2007.

System requirements for most of these (but not all): Apache or IIS server; MySQL or another db server; PHP ; also: installation experience; templating; CSS, patience

  • Drupal => Opensource. Largescale CMS (content management system); hosted on your server.

Not really magazine software but flexible enough to build most anything; also appears scalable with support for multiuser/multiauthority levels. I see a few drawbacks to Drupal — first the terminology is a little hard to wrap your head around if you are used to folder/subfolder/index/page thinking of web design. Drupal out of the box is eh…. ugly, too. Once the site is setup, then it has been structured and built with modules. No offense to the developers, they have done a great job, but they are in desperate need of some graphics & design folks. Although, one of the latest templates is following CSS/Zen Garden model, so at least one template provides some customization. Biggest drawback in creating a magazine is that it involves many modules and it takes quite a bit of time to put together.

I have wrapped the rest of the art site in drupal and will be working on pulling the site together into a more cohesive look. However, the lack of bridging between drupal and things like coppermine (image gallery) means that I may end up dumping drupal. Not sure. I’m trying to decide if I should choose choose flickr or coppermine or both. Another topic. 😉 Anyhow, Drupal does have modules for blogging, image galleries, etc. but definitely not as rich in functionality as some of the opensource stuff out there.

For my project: Third choice. With the various modules, Drupal does meet MOST of my requirements. However, its big sticking point is the lack of good module just for a magazine. There is a periodical module, however, I didn’t have satisfactory results with it; it seemed very limited and inflexible. Of course, I didn’t spend a lot of time trying to bend it into what I envisioned, either. If you have time to setup a magazine in Drupal and want an overall robust & dynamic site (beyond the magazine), it would be a good choice. Beyond the Drupal installation, you should be willing to spend considerable time building the architecture for your publication.
Templating will be another issue. Can you give a true magazine feel? Not sure. Is there help? Sometimes. The user community is big, but it seems like a lot of questions just go out to a void, where they are never answered.

Wikipedia’s overview: Drupal

So Mambo was “the” CMS for a little while and then the developers left and started Joomla and then somewhere along the way Drupal arrive. At least, that is my take on the situation. Throw in a few egos, some developer politics, and well, there ya go. ;-D Several Mambo sites that I explored have changed to Joomla sites now. Mambo still exists. Joomla is around. Both are supposed to be more user friendly, but I don’t know. The graphics are kind of cutesy, and the development seems to be lagging. Mambo ( oops, only Joomla now offers this!) has an add-on commercial magazine module but it is a little out of my price range. Without being able to test and know for sure that it would work for what I need, I wasn’t willing to risk the money. Why didn’t they offer a trial? Probably because having a trial of a module is a hard thing to do. Oh, well, their loss! Also, all of the weird stuff going on between Mambo and Joomla seems a little sketchy. Both seem scalable; module built sites.

Wikipedia’s overview: Joomla
Wikipedia’s overview: Mambo

For my project: Fourth choice (Joomla); Mambo (unsure)

  • WordPress => Opensource. Originally blog software, but with plugins can work as a miniCMS. Runs either at wordpress.org or on your own server.

Pros: WordPress is amazingly easy to install. It has a huge user community. It is easy to template. It supports just about everything on my list although the prepublishing thing would probably be accomplished by marking posts “draft”. I’ve seen a few magazines done with wordpress but they still felt a little bloggy. This was my second choice because it is easy to use, the user community is strong, lots of plugins, and easy to format. Multiuser/multiauthority levels, built in. Cons: Not really magazine software; definitely bloggy.

A template for a e-zine using wordpress: morning after

For my project: Second choice.
Wikipedia’s overview: WordPress

  • PacerCMS => Opensource; newspaper publishing specific; runs on your own server.

Never heard of it? Me, either, until I stumbled across it at opencms. The developer posted a little blurb that he had created this for his student newspaper. Hmmmm… Interesting, but could I turn it into a magazine? Does it meet my needs?
Just about everything!

  • Almost “One push” installation — very easy
  • Issues with category & article support
  • RSS feeds for categories(sections) + overall site
  • HTML in articles; image/media upload (not sure about mp3; I have embedded youtube)
  • Database driven; template files & css
  • Archives
  • Pre-publishing
  • Articles can be edited/moved/etc.
  • User submitted articles/review process
  • Very good user support via the development group at google groups (really excellent!)
  • Spam control (everything goes through a review)
  • Security (no server problems yet, but not really sure)

I can’t really say enough good things about PacerCMS. It is easy enough to template it to give a different feel but still use all of the built-in features of newspaper publishing. Additionally, as it is very much in development, you’ll want to keep up with the new files releases as they come out.

For my project: The winner! See it in action at http://www.moonshine.southerncreativity.com

Products that absolutely would not work:

  • PhpCow => For 19.95 you can host a magazine/newspaper on their site, using their software. Hmm. For a LOT more, you can host it on your server. Out of my price range.
  • Bricolage => Opensource. Bricolage is only backend magazine/periodical publishing and wouldn’t run on my server due to some security issues.
  • Campware => Opensource. Really looks cool, but I wasn’t sure if I could install it. I have to secureftp into my server; so although I have root access; it’s not easy to get shell access.
  • Serendipity/Expression Engine: Both of these seem bloggy and if I were going to go that route, I would go with WordPress. Expression engine is commercial software which is nice (and I currently use it for my art blog), but probably out of my price range for a small magazine.

Products which I looked promising/would consider/found after the site was up:

  • CoFAX: Developed and used by the Knight Ridder newspapers. I did look at this earlier, but wasn’t sure if I would legally be able to use it. TOS is a little unclear.
  • Props: Yet another project that seems to have fallen by the wayside. Yet, very promising.
  • Prensalibre: I feel more comfortable working with php + mysql (this is perl), so although this looked promising, I took it out of the potential list at some point.
  • Phpnews => A definite possibility although I couldn’t seem to get a clean download from the sourceforge site. I really wanted to test this one!
  • Hyperjournal => Nice looking opensource software for academic journals. Hmm. Maybe one day we’ll grow into that.
  • Open Journal Systems => Another outgrowth of the academic journal publishing; very largescale. I thought this one might be flexible enough in licensing to encompass an arts magazine, but a little bigger than what we need.
  • Collegepublishing => Web based service free “for their partners”. Only for college campus newspapers. I’m sure there are tons of this kind of thing out there.

RESOURCES

Resources/reviews for Academic publishing

Free virtual sandbox to test opensource CMS before you download & install


creating a e-zine — lessons learned to date

August 12, 2007

1. Have a vision.
Check. I had that one a year ago (a regional arts magazine with topics both about art and by artists)

2. Funding.
The amount of $ you have to spend will affect everything else

3. Hosting? Find a place to host it.
I used some extra webspace I have.

4. A software list of features that you need (and a list of those you would like to have) in order to identify the best product for you.

Here are my 2 basic lists: required are those items which are deal-breakers (or almost deal-breakers); wishlist are functionalities that I’d like to have but am willing to do without.

REQUIRED:

  • Ease of installation: I know a smattering of php, configure/write new templates, setup most opensource stuff, CHMOD, run scripts, etc. However, less time spent installing = more time for other things. ;-D
  • Database driven
  • Magazine/newspaper like feel:
    • Categories/Sections
    • Articles (with unique ids, so can be hotlinked)
    • Articles in a web friendly format (not pdf, flash, etc.)
    • Support for basic html in articles (links, images, etc.)
    • Issues with numbering
    • Upload images, media, video, mp3s which can be embedded in articles
  • CSS or other templating
  • Clear navigation throughout site
  • RSS feeds by category/section
  • Archives
  • Flexibility: Ability to move articles as needed, edit, etc.
  • At least a little bit of security. No grievous security holes.
  • Spam control
  • Support for external scripting (del.icio.us, flickr, etc.)

WISH LIST:

  • Contributors can easily upload own submissions
  • Review, Hold & Draft process (just check off)/Batch processing
  • Pre-populate issues which publish on date without manual intervention
  • Podcasting/videocasting
  • Friendly urls
  • Users can post comments/feedback for specific articles
  • “Email this article” feature
  • Magazine templates available (prepackaged)
  • User support via an active forum, help, kb, etc.
  • Hierarchical support (categories in sections)
  • Statistics built in (at least: came from, page views, referrers)
  • Scalability
  • Tagging/tagclouds
  • Regular backup feature
  • Metadata

5. Software. If you go to any of the forums (opencms, drupal, joomla, wordpress, etc.) and read reviews, you’ll see that there are alot of options. Even more so, there are alot of opinions from very passionate users about why one is better than the other. I went through many lists and explored those that sounded like they might fit my needs. These are just my thoughts.
In my next post, I’ll explore my options in a little more depth.