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REALLY "low end" content management systems?

I am working with a non-profit organization in which the people who want to contribute content to the web site probably don't have the technical skill to cope with City Desk and probably don't own PCs that are "clean" or updated enough to get through an install of a large app like CityDesk without problems. They can run a web browser but stuff like formatting rich text (even in a cloistered environment) will just confuse them.  And I've dumped enough unrewarded time into their web site that I'm personally loathe to spend my own money to buy them a contributor edition of CityDesk, even if I knew that they would use it, which I don't.

So, what are the alternatives for *really* low end web content management? I do not really know this territory at all (aside from CityDesk) so just saying something like "use PostNuke" or "use Zope" doesn't help me at all. (I've checked these sites out, BTW, and my reaction is WTF? Typical open source culture, if you aren't with it from day 0 you're left in the dust.)

The "best" solution would probably be one in which it's possible for an end user type to review, edit and add to preformatted news columns while online in a web browser, and to post accompanying images without that many formatting options. If it's as complicated as the Slashdot posting format, for instance, they won't use it or will screw something up. I would like some template capability, and I'd set the templates up for them, but beyond that they'd be on their own.

I host their site on my own Linux root host so I can probably struggle through installing almost anything suggested on it - just got through installing Qmail, so my confidence is pretty high. :-) 

The territory of this stuff is so vast that I figured  I'd ask first. Thanks in advance.

Bored Bystander
Sunday, August 31, 2003

PHP Neucleus sounds like what you need.
http://nucleuscms.org/index.php

Or if you want it really simple
http://cutephp.com/
Actually, I recomend cute php. Just get a PHP enabled server, drop it in a folder, log in for the first time and it will guide you through the settings.

Eric Debois
Sunday, August 31, 2003

If they don't get CityDesk, then take away their PC and give them a typewriter and a photocopier instead.

Brad Wilson (dotnetguy.techieswithcats.com)
Sunday, August 31, 2003

Bored,

I'd say the simplest CMS is a Wiki.  This has the added benefit of keeping version history so you can easily fix things when they screw up.

The main problem is having them learn the formatting standards.  This may be a positive thing in that it keeps them from messing about with formatting.

If your not familiar with Wiki then check out one of the following and play with the sand box.

PHPWiki for PHP or OpenWiki for ASP

http://phpwiki.sourceforge.net/

http://openwiki.com/

Tiki-wiki is looking especially promising:

http://tikiwiki.org/tiki-view_articles.php

Ged Byrne
Sunday, August 31, 2003

"contribute content to the web site probably don't have the technical skill to cope with City Desk"

While I've never used Citydesk, I've watched part of the demo and I have to say that's pretty simple.  If you users can't cope with that than pretty much any web-based content management system will be out of their reach.

But I'll suggest:  http://www.webmotif.com/wips as a relatively simple (but not cheap) content management system.

Almost Anonymous
Sunday, August 31, 2003

If they're so unfamiliar with technology and so unwilling to improve their skills, why do they think they need a web presence at all?

Warren Henning
Sunday, August 31, 2003

The problem with CMS for non-techies is the formating part.  I don't know if there's any web-based CMS that uses IE's HTML edit box and enforces the use of CSS so that formating is applied by the server instead of each user formating contributions themselves.

Frederic Faure
Sunday, August 31, 2003

Try Macromedia Contribute.

Johnny Bravo
Sunday, August 31, 2003

What about one of those blogging apps? Blogger, Radio Userland, etc. They seem pretty simple to use.

Darren Collins
Sunday, August 31, 2003

From the sounds of it you could roll your own form-based CMS-like solution. If there is a small set of things your users can add/edit forms could do the trick particularly if you leverage something like the MS text editor component.

Another alternative might be to tie the solution into something they are comfortable using. This is clearly going to take more work on your part,  but you may feel it's worth the effort. For instance you could write a MS Word macro that exports text entered into Word to the content database/via SOAP/etc.

Walter Rumsby
Sunday, August 31, 2003

"I am working with a non-profit organization in which the people who want to contribute content to the web site probably don't have the technical skill to cope with City Desk and probably don't own PCs that are "clean" or updated enough to get through an install of a large app like CityDesk without problems. They can run a web browser but stuff like formatting rich text (even in a cloistered environment) will just confuse them. "

It sounds as they are too stupid to use a pc, why are you bothering?  Good thing breathing is an involuntary action.

Wosniak
Sunday, August 31, 2003

I'd suggest using a blogging application like GreyMatter (home here  http://www.noahgrey.com/greysoft/  and user forums here  http://www.greymatterforums.com/ ), which is for free. This will allow people to do very basic publication (just a few allowed tags like bold, italic, etc) and you can setup the CSS and dynamic html templates to make the whole thing pretty.

Why do people need to be so arrogant? Not everybody feels comfortable using a computer, and that doesn't mean that people are incompetent.

uncronopio
Monday, September 01, 2003

"Why do people need to be so arrogant? Not everybody feels comfortable using a computer, and that doesn't mean that people are incompetent."

If people not comfortable using the computer they probably aren't all that competent using it either. 

Just because someone isn't comfortable/competent using a computer doesn't say anything about their intelligence or their ability to get their job done.  And nobody here is claiming that. 

But if they want to be able to update their own website they do need some level of competency at using the computer -- period.

Almost Anonymous
Monday, September 01, 2003

I think that Joel has discussed the issue of interfaces more than a few times, and *it is possible* to have clean, lean interfaces. The request is for a system where people don't need to have any idea about tags, deal with CSS  or know the underlying architecture of the system and to be cheap (or even free, sensu beer). Some of the blogging systems are pretty much like the posting interface of this forum with a bunch of buttons to bold or italicise things and a post message.

That should be enough for keeping the web page up to date, while any changes to the overall appearance of the site would be managed by the system administrator.

Thus, the system would require almost no computer user competence (they need to know how to launch a browser and fill in the blanks, even avoiding tags). My point was "try to adjust to the users without assuming that they are idiots because they have little computing experience".

uncronopio
Monday, September 01, 2003

What content are they wanting to manage?

Is it structured?

Is it document-centric?

Does it need updating regularly and quickly?

Is it for public consumption or an internal or subscribed group?

Content Management isn't a single shaped object you can throw at any situation.  It sounds like whatever the solution they use they are going to need considerable hand holding and support.

A not for profit organisation doesn't always mean it has to be cheap or low end, so I suppose it means they have no money at all.

What benefits are they expecting to get from this?

Are their expectations set too high for their ability to achieve them?

Simon Lucy
Monday, September 01, 2003

Oh, but on the whole I'd recommend City Desk

Simon Lucy
Monday, September 01, 2003

Maybe something like DasBlog ( http://www.dasblog.net/ )with the email to weblog interface ( http://www.dasblog.net/documentation/CategoryView.aspx?category=Mail%20To%20Weblog ), that way, if they know how to sent an email, they can update their site.

Just me (Sir to you)
Monday, September 01, 2003

I don't have *that* much experience with CityDesk, but I'd say it's _extremely_ easy to use...

But in any case, if you want to have a look at other alternatives, I'd suggest going to http://www.opensourcecms.com/ There you have _working_ installs of quite a bunch of OpenSource CMS systems (all of them PHP+MySQL based) that you can try out as a "simple member", and you have forums where you can ask people about their experience / opinion on those CMS systems.

I think it's worth the visit :D

HTH

Javier Jarava
Monday, September 01, 2003

I am quite the Google fan, and now they have gone and bought Blogger, which is a well-known blogging platform.
So, I signed up for an account, downloaded the latest Google toolbar, and got a nice "Blog this!" button on it.
So, now I am a button away of posting something on my weblog.

It is extremely simple to use. Go check out my blog for an example (quite boring though, I use it as a kind of online favorite links page, and it only contains links to other sites).
<a href="http://yablan.blogspot.com">Click it!</a>

Yablan
Monday, September 01, 2003

Damn, I did not read the "Do not use HTML tags."-text. So I screwed up the link above. Well..  It is  http://yablan.blogspot.com (paste it on a web browser).

Joel, I'd really want a preview post button on the submit message page.. :-(

yablan
Monday, September 01, 2003

I appreciate the many excellent links. Right now on a whim (and cuz it's labor day) I'm messing with installing Phpnuke and Mysql.

I think the idea about doing a customized interface has a lot of merit. I could slap some forms together and tell them "go to this page and enter text here and here and click submit to put it on the site". The stuff could pile up in a queue and I could post it.

On the issue of stupid users, and "undeserving" people who "should" learn but who won't. This is typical techie arrogance that everyone should be at some predefined level that is "correct" in the speaker's eyes. Kind of a techie "Logan's Run" mentality, sterilize anyone you think isn't smart enough. (PS, the audience and some of the users are elderly, AKA limited and paranoic computer skills.)

Look - the web is ubiquitous, but the skills to do useful things with it aren't.  To  most people, computers are another appliance and functional entity like VCRs and toasters THAT THEY DO NOT WANT TO THINK MUCH ABOUT (HELLO!!!!), not something to base one's life on, and talking to them about Microsoft Word and the fact that their document lives in a .DOC file is enough to give them an aneurysm. Hello...

And the comment above about formatting options being the most confusing aspect of a user interface in an application like this is dead on. In fact, the less flexibility in this instance, the better.

Bored Bystander
Monday, September 01, 2003

Bored,

do these people already use computers? Quite a few "seniors" seem comfortable with email and Messenger. If so, try to use the stuff they already know and feel comfortable with. New stuff, even the most trivial such as webform/submit, might be an added hurdle.

As posted above DasBlog (and I am sure others too) will allow them to just mail to the page. A little customization could also allow them to IM the site with updates/comments etc.
The code is free (completely free, as in non-GPL) AFAIK.

Just me (Sir to you)
Monday, September 01, 2003

"To  most people, computers are another appliance and functional entity like VCRs and toasters THAT THEY DO NOT WANT TO THINK MUCH ABOUT (HELLO!!!!), not something to base one's life on..."

Exactly. For example, I want to get across town, but to do so I have a bewildering array of options: car, bus, taxi, walk, etc.

To use a car, I have to learn how to drive. But I just want to get across town, I don't have time to learn how to drive. I don't want to have to be a car "genius" just to get across town.

I could take a bus, but they have this complex ticketing system that's too hard to understand. I don't want to have to become a bus expert.

There's a taxi, but how do I find one? And when I do, how do I tell the driver where I want to go? I'd require money to pay for it, but I haven't got any because I haven't got time to be an ATM expert.

I could walk, but my shoelaces are undone...

Can someone please carry me across town? I haven't got the time or the inclination to get there any other way.

[Seriously, I'm sick of people complaining that computers are too hard to understand. If they're too hard for you, then don't use them. But if you want to accomplish something then you have to put in at least a small effort.]

RB
Monday, September 01, 2003

People like RB above seriously make me want to vomit. I could understand if, in some sort of corporate setting, this issue came up and it was determined that in order to accomplish their jobs effectively these employees needed to figure out the web.

That's just not the way it is in this case study. This is a nonprofit; the normal rules do not apply. Perhaps the people putting the information up are "Peer Specialists," sometimes former service-receivers who are now service-providers. Maybe they're domestic violence survivors who are just getting their feet wet with computers by updating a website, on the slow road to learning some marketable skills. Maybe they're in a drug-abuse counseling program and are sharing their stories online.

Anyhow, get over yourself and your pathetic techie bullshit. That's all I wanted to say. Oh, and some sort of blogging mechanism is probably the right way to go. I know Moveable Type has been hacked up before with direct links ("To post a story, click HERE")...

J
Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Vomit? Seriously?

I probably laboured the point, but I did state it at the end: "... you want to accomplish something then you have to put in at least a small effort."

So I'm stating that in my opinion, if these people want to use computers to maintain a website, then they will have to put in some work to learn how to use the software. And this makes you want to vomit?

RB
Tuesday, September 02, 2003

I'm a techie myself, and I have to say that some of the arrogance I'm hearing is a little sickening.  My customers are very non-technical. They run small businesses, and they have their hands full with that. They're very technically skilled. Those skills aren't with the computer, and there's no payoff for them to learn the computer skills.

Conversely, they might think that it's reasonable for you to know how to train a strong-willed dog for protection work, build and finish a table, or help a wealthy woman find just the right pair of shoes for a charity dinner. My customers can do these things. I can't. There's no reason that I should, any more than they should have to figure out how to configure a complex CMS and format HTML. 

The reason that we get paid the money we do is because we know how to do things that other people don't.  It makes no more sense for us to expect other people to know how to do our job than it does for us to know how to do theirs. Don't expect your mechanic to know how to format a web page or organize a hard disk unless you know how to replace a leaky water pump or a rusted-out exhaust system.

Clay Dowling
Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Check out Manilla.

http://manila.userland.com/

$899

fool for python
Wednesday, September 03, 2003

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