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Are Zope-based products really usable?
Newbies Posted by Richard Prosser on Saturday September 13, 12:10PM, 2003
from the dept.
I have been looking for a good-yet-cheap CMS for some time, yet the various Open Source offerings do not seem to provide the same functionality or ease of use as the commercial ones do.

Is this just a matter of perception? I know that few OS projects have good documentation or presentation, because they tend to be developers' playthings, rather than customer-oriented solutions. Yet I see examples like www.cbsnewyork.com and cybercentre.greenpeace.org, which give me some hope that 'user-friendly' sites can be developed.

So are Squishdot, Plone, etc. really any good? Can they compete with commercial offerings like www.membergate.com? Is customisation feasible, as for example a decent threaded Discussion Forum module?
I can't find the answers to questions like these, yet there must be many other people wondering about the same issues. The potential seems to be there, but finding out what really is possible (and 'sexy') is surprisingly difficult.

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  • The Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them.
    ( Reply )

    Yes and No
    by Chris Withers on Wednesday September 17, 02:33PM, 2003
    They really are that good, just maybe not that well packaged. All of the Zope options you mentioned are fully customisable once you learn the necessary scripting and templating languages.

    Squishdot, for example, is just such a Discussion Forum module...

    I'm suprised you can't find the answers, since they're staring you in the face in the sites you list that are implemented using the technologies you mention :-) Look at http://www.squishdot.org/sites.html for a list of Squishdot sites.

    One intersting point. I've never heard of "MemberGate". What happens when they go bust? With open source, you have the source code and can find someone to maintain it or do it yourself. That simply isn't an option with commercial offerings...

    Anyway, do reply if you have more questions :-)
    [ Reply to this ]
    • Re: Yes and No
      by Bill Myers on Friday September 19, 01:27PM, 2003

      MemberGate is the content management tool used by companies like General Motors, schools like UCLA San Diego, government agencies, and plenty of small publishers.

      The company that developed MemberGate has been developing software for more than 18 years - pre internet - and continues to do well today.

      Open source is definitely one way to acquire software - especially if you are inclined to learn some programming skills and don't mind taking care of your own support.

      On the other, many commercial solutions (including MemberGate) are designed for those that want a 'all in one solution' installed and set up for them, with hand holding support when they need it.

      And MemberGate does have some interesting features - subscription module, shopping cart, affiliate program, discussion modules, google optimization, recurring billing, group member plans, even a google tracker (which records the action of the google robots when they arrive at the site, and opens specific paths for search engine robots).

      Other interesting features too . . . for example it notified me that someone posted a message somewhere on the internet with the word MemberGate it in . . .

      That's how I (the developer of MemberGate) found this post, and replied to it.

      Again open source is great for those that like to 'tinker' - but for others, a fully tested, turn-key package that has all the problems worked out, is a preferred choice. (And in the case of MemberGate, they do get the source code and can make changes if they desire - so they get the best of both worlds).

      The fact that both options exist (open source and packaged commercial code) gives consumers a wider range of options.

      Bill Myers
      [ Reply to this ]
      • :-)
        by Chris Withers on Thursday September 25, 02:42PM, 2003
        I'm glad to hear MemberGate has been so successful. That doesn't change the fact that I haven't heard of it and it doesn't remove the possibility of your company going bust. In which case, what would happen to your userbase? Who would be able to maintain the source code fo your product? Your customers certainly wouldn't ;-)

        As for all-in-one solutions, there are plenty of those, Squishdot is one. Plone is another. If you want hand holding, you can pay for that too, and you may even be able to get it for free. The difference is that users of open source don't HAVE to pay the company originating the software (or their parters) for things like customisation.

        I'm sorry that you feel threatened by open source and have to come to this forum and try and belittle it by refering to people who use it as "tinkerers", although I'm afraid you won't find your views shared by many people here...

        [ Reply to this ]
      • Re: Yes and No
        by Mike on Monday October 27, 05:53AM, 2003
        The internet's been around for longer than 18 years my friend. The web, no. Internet, yes. :)

        [ Reply to this ]
    Re: Are Zope-based products really usable?
    by cle on Friday September 19, 03:19PM, 2003
    Plone is really the best thing since sliced bread CMS-wise espacialy with EPOZ as WYSIWYG Editor. Most things you need are allready included (like publishing Workflow), easy to skin/theme and it is easily exensible. Have a look through the News at plone.org and find out what products are available. Most of them just run out of the box only little customization is needed. It can compete and even outperform comercial solutions. the major drawback is the poor documentation. A nice Boardsystem is available on www.zoper.net
    [ Reply to this ]
    • The problem with Plone...
      by Chris Withers on Thursday September 25, 02:44PM, 2003
      ...is that all Plone sites look the same unless you try very very hard to make them not look the same ;-)

      (Not to mention the abhorent n-layer deep code, which Squishdot only suffers from in its presentation layer, which is very easy to strip off and start again from...)

      Squishdot is just as bad for looking the same though, but I have some future plans that may change that...

      [ Reply to this ]
      • Re: The problem with Plone...
        by cle on Wednesday October 08, 05:43PM, 2003
        yeah sure, but thats something most CMSes have in common.
        [ Reply to this ]
    Re: Are Zope-based products really usable?
    by Tom on Saturday September 27, 11:27PM, 2003
    Zope products are excellent. Easy to modify, scalable and stable. Zope documentation is notoriously bad, but having said that, the community, which can be tapped through mailing lists, is extremely knowledgeable and helpful. Plone is a great out of the box product, but uses Page Templates, which (in my opinion) give no benefit and add a layer of complexity. Squishot currently does not use ZPT (Zope Page Templates) and is a great, customizable product. My site, modscape.com, is a Squishdot site and shows that they all don't have to look the same. Customizing Zope products is basically only limited by your creativity. One of the main reason I love Zope is the flexibility it allows me. That's from a guy who's primarily a designer, not a developer. In addition to all that, Zope and Squishdot are free. I'm not sure if you can get anything cheaper than that. :)
    [ Reply to this ]
    Re: Are Zope-based products really usable?
    by Jack Ungerleider on Thursday November 06, 03:39PM, 2003

    Useable is dependent on what you are willing to do.

    I teach in a small technical college and we teach Zope as the main tool in our course on CMS. I was hired primarily to teach that course and a follow-on course. In the CMS course we look at a lot of instant website products including Squishdot.

    I run a team project in that course that I call the Zero to Website Challenge. Students get about one week of class time (4-6 hours usually) to build a weblog on a given topic with customized appearance and sample content. We do this with Squishdot and I hav yet to be disappointed in the results. To date the students were taking this course at the same time they were taking HTML. So for many they had little or no HTML skills when we started to tackle Zope. By the end of the quarter the had all built several websites using the various tools. Some of those projects have become working websites for organizations the students are involved in.

    One other thing about Zope, with a little effort from a knowledgable Zope developer its possible to integrate several Zope products. In class last quarter we extended Squishdot with the exUserFolder to create a simple membership option and added RDF Summary to show a feed from another site.

    Its all about flexability.

    [ Reply to this ]
    • The speed challenge...
      by Chris Withers on Friday December 12, 06:16PM, 2003
      I used ot have a thing in presentations where I'd bet a member of the audience I could get a Squishdot site up and running in 30 seconds.

      I seem to remember I usually won ;-)


      [ Reply to this ]

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