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Input Needed On Community Portal Software Packages

For those who know me, you know I'm working on a couple community sites to compliment the Bend Blogs site. I'm finally getting to the point where I really want to attack this and get a better presence for all the domains I own, and get a good community site setup, and am starting to look at software to pull this off.

If you have a developer mind at all, or know of any good software packages to pull of what I'd like to do, read on. I know I'm taking a risk making this public, but I may have found somebody to help pay for this project (as I know I'm going to need a bit of help), so it's a risk I'm willing to take. Read On....

There are several projects that are on my plate that I'd love to be able to put all under one roof.

  • Bend Blogs is obviously a local blog aggregator. Unfortunately, the software I originally set it all up with isn't really flexible, nor is there an easy way to automate the submission of feeds to people can submit feeds (I'd really like to not have to add them by hand all the time). I also can't store additional information about a site: Just the feed, and hope that all the info is correct in the RSS/Atom feed. It's also very slow loading when it's pulling all the feeds.

    I'm obviously looking to replace the software that runs that site with something that's a bit more flexible, can output an RSS feed (that I can customize), and can easily setup an automation queue for new sites. And something that doesn't take a year and a day to load when it's pulling all the feeds -- I'd rather be able to setup an hourly cron job.

    I'm also looking to setup a free (and optionally paid) blog-hosting service on that as well so people can have xxxxxx.bendblogs.com blog addresses.

  • I'm also looking to setup a local link directory -- a local Yahoo!, of sorts. It will be strictly local focused. I'd ideally like it to be able to support automated sponsored link signups (like pay-per-click Adsense type of ads) for categories with ties to some sort of Payment processor, ranking/voting on links (this is a community, after all), automatic submissions into an approval queue, etc... . Basically, I want this package or this package. I'd ideally like it to have an RSS feed as well of new links (not absolutely required).
  • I'm also looking for a forum package that is flexible enough for a lot of cool features, but isn't a total pain in the butt to customize the look and feel. Ideally, I'd like an RSS feed for this as well. I know all about phpBB, and originally planned on using it, but the more I played with it, the more I realized how much of a pain in the butt it was to customize things -- templates, modifications, etc... -- and how much needed to be added via modifications that weren't there out of the box (and how modifications didn't always install properly or overwrote each other). I'm going to try playing with it again, just for giggles, just to see if I was just losing my mind when I first working on things.
Ideally, I'd like all of this in one software package so I can administer things easily from one interface and people can login/publish with one login (and not need logins to 3 or 4 different sites). I've come across a few solutions, but am always open to more (especially if they are a) cheaper, b) open source, and c) cheaper).
  • In-Portal does 99% of what I need it to do, minus the RSS aggregation. I e-mailed them about it, and they can customize things to make it do what I want -- for the right price. It's a bit steep to me, but their In-Link package is really top-notch, though I don't know about their In-Bulletin or In-News packages.
  • I've found phpLinkDirectory, which (sort of) covers the link directory portion of things, but it doesn't have a ton of features, and it's very much stand-alone.
  • I can hack together Joomla with Mosets Tree and Mambo Charge to cover the link directory with payment options, and I've seen hacks to get some of the various forums software working in Joomla (like SMF), but my last experience with Mambo/Joomla was less-than-stellar so I don't know if I want to tackle this again. I still haven't found an RSS aggregator for it, either (still looking).
  • I know Drupal has an RSS-aggregator and there are hacks to get it to work with vB and I know it could probably do some sort of community blog hosting feature, but my searches on Drupal didn't turn up a useful Directory-type of module.
What I'm slowly figuring out is that there's not going to be one ideal solution for everything. While I'd love to support open-source software as much as possible, I have a feeling that OS software is going to be more of a base for this and custom development is certainly going to be needed (or I'm just going to have to accept the fact that this will have to be done in pieces). But if anybody has suggestions, I'd like to hear them, as I truly want to make this a community site (and if I can make a few bucks on it, all the better, but the community comes first). If any local developers want to help out, by all means feel free to e-mail me at utterlyboring strudel gmail punt com (huh?).

Posted by Jake on 12/13/05 @ 06:01 PM
Posted in Jake, Site Info | 7 Comments | Permalink


Lisa Williams said on 12/13/05 @ 07:32 PM:
Hi, Jake -- I run a community site for Watertown, MA, and I use Drupal. Given your requirements it may not be what you're looking for, but I love the multiblog and aggregator features, and I use the "book" module to do this restaurant directory. I have the folks at Bryght.com hosting this for me. They also developed the ourmedia.org site.

Aaron Wormus said on 12/14/05 @ 12:58 AM:
It would be very easy to hack a module for the link directory. I've used drupal for several sites, it really works well.

Dave Shenk said on 12/14/05 @ 04:31 AM:
There are a few options that you haven't mentioned above that I tend like a little better. First is Civic Space which I haven't used in the past, but would seem to be geared towards what you are looking to do. Second is Plone which is a great application. Both are open source, I'm not familiar with Python, but Plone looks pretty cool and is very easy to use. The other option is to simply use a hacked up WordPress install. If you stick with something open source I think you're going to find that the communities involved with each project will have plugins or modules to accomplish pretty much anything you want. I would avoid Drupal and Joomla, as I think we've reached a point where they are fast becoming legacy software, similar to what they did to PHP Nuke...

You could always learn Ruby on Rails and write yourself a custom backend pretty quickly, I guess it all depends on what your priorities are.

Mark Turner said on 12/14/05 @ 12:57 PM:
Hey there Jake,

Nice to see ya making some of this public. I will keep my look out for some software packages that may fit your need(s).I'm a pretty good PHP developer(at least I like to think so).
You may want to check out http://www.opensourcecms.com and experiment with some of those.

nishi said on 05/21/07 @ 10:34 PM:
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Prashant said on 08/19/07 @ 09:05 AM:
even i am looking for a complete financial cms for my website but its sad that there are none available.. i want to give my site visitors more than just blogs and chat room.. its need to be specific to finance.

Burke Sisco said on 11/23/07 @ 05:48 PM:
Have you looked at TownSource Interactive [www.townsourceinteractive.com]?

I am interested in your findings as I am planning on a community portal for Atlanta's BeltLine @ BeltLine.net.

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