CMS features

An interesting thread about CMS modules has started “again” on the cms-forum list. As usual, there’s a debate going on on what features should a Content Management System have. Many people seem to think that features like calendaring, discussion forums, polls and surveys, etc. should be a part of CMS. I disagree. These features are certainly very cool and form a part of any web initiative that requires collaboration, including employee intranets and customer facing websites. However, we must separate them from core content management systems. The problems that a CMS tries to solve and those addressed by this applications are very different.
One can always say that the data generated by, say a voting application is content and hence by definition, any application that handles that is a content management system. If we were to follow that line of thinking, then pretty much everything will be a content management system. An ERP, a CRM system, a search engine (Google??) – you name it and it’ll be a CMS.

In my opinion, a CMS should provide core capabilities like:

  • Content Creation – Web based forms for content entry, integration with content creation software like MS-Office
  • Content Management – Repository Management, Workflows, version management etc
  • Content Delivery – Some kind of templating that separates content from presentation and a mechanism to publish content

It would be good to have interfaces to search engines and other applications for dynamic delivery of content. This includes applications for security, personalization and so on. If some of these are built into the CMS, that should be considered additional.

Open Source Portals and CMS offerings maturing

More and more clients (even the large ones) have started taking Open Source Portals and CMS offerings more seriously. I and a friend of mine (Pranshu – http://pranshujain.blogspot.com/) who’s an expert in this area have been discussing this trend and we did some research. We basically searched for jobs on a popular job site and here’s the number of jobs for keywords that we entered:

Zope 7
OpenCMS 0
Vignette > 150
Interwoven > 150

Other job sites also returned similar results. I am stumped. If the use of Open Source is increasing, who is actually implementing it? Are the organizations doing it themselves?

Learning Management Systems

Until recently, I used to think that LMS or LCMS falls in the same category as other 3 letter acronyms like WCM, DMS, CMS, ECM etc. I had a need to evaluate learning management systems for our internal KM activities and I assumed it would be trivial to find a Content Management system that can be easily used for implementing a Learning Management System. I couldn’t be more wrong. I tried a lot of CMSes (Mostly open source) but could not find anything that suited my needs. Major ones that I remember are:

OLMS lacked enough documentation and i had to do too much work to just get it up.
For Eledge, if you have a course that has large number of files (PPTs, Docs, pdfs etc), you will need to manually put links for all of them. Secondly, for every course one creates, one has to create a new database, new context etc. Basically it involves too many steps and cannot be used by business users. However, its really a cool product within these limitations.
I am still playing around with A-LMS. Haven’t had success yet to have it up and running.

Finally, i chose moodle (http://www.moodle.org/), which i must admit is an excellent LMS.
I would have preferred a J2EE based solution though.

Internal and External Content Management

There is already a lot of confusion in the CMS space because of the numerous categories that products fall into. There is Document Management, Asset Management, Web Content Management and many such categories based on which CMS products are differentiated. An analyst firm has come up with another categorization – Web Content Management for internal and external web sites. I wonder if the products have actually become so specialized that this categorization is necessary or is it just a new trick by the analyst firm to differentiate its reports from those of other analyst firms?