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Case Study: Content Management System vs. Wiki for Community Websites

Why JBoss.org chose an open source CMS

Wikis are a great software tool for collaboratively creating and editing content. They seem to be an obvious choice for building a community Web infrastructure. Yet they have serious drawbacks that made JBoss.org choose a Content Management System (CMS) instead of a Wiki to build its new community website.

Managing Content of High-Traffic Community Sites
JBoss.org's website currently serves 20 million page views per month and hosts over 40 community projects within that website. Each project area has a navigation menu on the left and a content area on the right. Some projects need more pages than others because of their project structure.

JBoss.org currently uses an in-house system they developed, but wanted to focus on adding value for the more than 40 software projects it hosts, instead of maintaining a self-made CMS. Initially in April 2008, JBoss.org evaluated Wikis when starting to look for a solution, but soon discovered that a CMS offers more advantages than a conventional Wiki. Since its infrastructure is Java-based and open source, the natural desire was to use an open source, Java-based content management system. That is when JBoss.org started to try out Magnolia, which is both easily integrated into their Java infrastructure and open source.

Reusable Content Is Hard to Achieve with Wikis
One of the differences between a conventional Wiki and a CMS is that in a Wiki you can edit information very quickly, but if you are trying to re-use information, then it becomes difficult to do so. For example, when using information from one page to a summary page or pulling together different pages representing different areas of interest.

That's where JBoss.org saw a CMS like Magnolia really helping out. It allows for a new community website that can be more flexible, comprehensive and rich, because it can reuse content from all over the site.

Benefits of Typed Information
The reason why a CMS performs far better when it comes to reusable content is because it applies the concept of typed information to the data it manages. How it works in Magnolia is that information is being typed while it's being captured. For example, the teaser of a press release could be automatically typed as "pr_teaser" by the system once the text has been entered in the respective form field of Magnolia's graphical user interface and saved by a user.

That content bit can be retrieved dynamically and displayed to website visitors in different places on the website. For example, the front page of a website would only display the title and teaser of a PR message together with a link to the complete press release. That press release page then shows the whole information, including the PR title, teaser, body, and press contact information.

Templates for Content Inclusion and Formatting
Templates define how typed information is used within Magnolia. Examples for typed information are a title, date, image, teaser text, author or any other content-bit entered through Magnolia's easy-to-use web interface. A template merges typed content with static data to generate output, such as a web page or an RSS-feed. Through the use of templates the same information can be reused for different output formats.

In a similar fashion, templates can display the same information in different ways. For example, on a front page, you want a PR teaser to be formatted in normal style, while you want it to be in bold style when viewing the press release in its entirety. That could be achieved through different templates. For example, one displays the teaser text in normal style, while another template can display the teaser text in bold style.

Templates can also be configured to give users the ability to easily influence the design of their page or micro-site. While this can be also true for some Wiki systems, the template concept is a much more fundamental part of Magnolia.

Business Benefits of a CMS
With a CMS, JBoss.org is able to benefit from reusable content and template-driven output in various ways.

Content reusability ensures a faster time-to-publishing and reduced manual work. Instead of copy and paste, content can be included dynamically. This minimizes errors that can happen when manually transferring content.

Reusable templates make the life of website developers and administrators easier and save time, while enabling customization for an individual look & feel for micro-sites of a community portal. For example, on the new JBoss.org community website, projects like "Hibernate" or "Seam" wish to keep a "corporate" identity that supports their branding and differs from the main JBoss.org design. Even though projects are managed by the same CMS installation, each project can have its own area look different from the others if desired.

In sum, JBoss.org found that the CMS in comparison with the conventional Wiki fostered better identification for individuals within their community, as well as richer information delivered and greater customization in the visual appearance. These benefits lead to a vibrant and growing community and that is why JBoss.org chose Magnolia CMS for its new community Web infrastructure.


More Stories By Boris Kraft

Boris Kraft is Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and Co-Founder of Magnolia. Since 2002, he has been focusing on the development of Magnolia CMS from a strategic and marketing perspective. In 2007, he launched the New York-based Magnolia Americas, Inc. to establish a stronger presence for Magnolia in the American market. His career in IT includes object-oriented software development under NeXTSTEP, several years of active involvement in a leading Internet security company, the development of a distributed real-time simulation environment, the use of Oracle web technology, databases and CASE tools as well as programming the first-ever intranet solution for Roche Vitamins AG.

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Most Recent Comments
shirley 12/25/08 11:30:25 PM EST

I think Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 is something you definitely want to look at. We specialise in this. There is more information on this at http://www.nsynergy.com/Products/SharePoint/Pages/default.aspx or please mail to [email protected].

mwiseley 12/23/08 10:30:49 AM EST

I've thought a lot about the differences between and overlap of traditional CMS and wiki software. As wikis become more advanced, many of the features considered the realm of traditional CMS are now available. Specifically, templates, reusable content, and complete control of the design. Just like many CMS packages were born from the Blog phenomenon (ExpressionEngine, Wordpress), I think we'll start to see wiki systems (EditMe, Wikimedia) start to blur the line between wiki and CMS.

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