I am currently looking for a good choice of Content Management System/EPortfolio/Social Network tool to start the activity on wavemol.org . I don’t know exactly what kind of information wavemol will provide, although I know the argument: theoretical and computational chemistry. I believe that the main objectives of wavemol should be:
- Provide community tools like a blog to communicate the recent news and facts about the community
- A wiki to provide documentation
- The possibility to login and have a personal page/blog
- … store relevant files (such as pdf)
- …. and keep in touch with people through workgroups, and forums
- It must support LaTeX formula editing and display.
- It must be easy (to use, and to administer)
So long for the features, but I ask for more
- It must be opensource
- It must run on PHP/MySQL
- Should have good themes. CSS is not my favourite tool, and my sense of style is horrible.
I will update this post as I try more and more. Stay tuned. At the end, I will choose what I consider the best option from the ones I tried. All my experiments were made in one hour of tinkering (for some, a bit more). Although some would consider this time probably not enough, I want to have something easy with a gradual learning curve. If the developers had this focus in mind, it gives me a clear impression of the kind of care I can find in the product.
I will update this post as I try more solutions, stay tuned.
The first one I tried is Drupal. Drupal is definitely very customizable. There is a plethora of plugins to address all the requirements I have, and then some. It is a very mature and stable platform, with a very beautiful and pleasant default theme, garland. I actually started putting content into it, when I realized that it’s not what I want. Albeit all the pros I gave above are a good fit, Drupal appears to be very difficult to use not only for the administrator, but also for the users. A lot of options are always available even when the context does not make perfect sense. The forums are not what I expected. Creating content is not immediate, not at the level of mediawiki or wordpress. Administration is very fine grained, too fine grained I would say.
This solution is definitely interesting, although is probably not powerful enough for my aim. WordPress-MU allows every user to have his own personal blog, bbPress provides a very pleasant forum experience, and buddypress adds social network features. The main issue with this solution is the lack of an integrated wiki, and the very limited set of themes available, with the default one not very professional.
My experience with Joomla is kind of strange. I was not able to do anything with it. I found difficult to do even minimal changes on the default page. I set it aside very soon.
Mahara is astonishing. Very nice design, very nice themes. It allows every user to create “Artifacts” (any kind of content, from blogs to files) and make them visible and accessible through personalized “views”. You can create workgroups, and create discussion forums. At the moment, it seems a very promising solution, but I am currently facing two issues: first, it deals very badly with the settings I currently have about email sending via php. I did not have time to check, but working around it could be a problem, or maybe not. The second issue I see is the lack of a wiki. Mahara seems very socially oriented, but as a network of singles. There’s, as far as I see, no common area where to paint. I could be wrong however. Something I noted is that the Mahara wiki uses Mindtouch.
At the moment, ELGG is the best of the lot. It matches all my requirements. It is very easy to use, and very extensible, with a broad range of plugins available. I am using 1.6.1, and it seems very promising. I think I will definitely use it, and stop my search.