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Geeklog place under the sun

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Geeklog

I've spent some time with Geeklog after spending time with other CMS out there and would like to share some thoughts. Currently CMS functionality is a commodity. Geeklog stands out in several ways. Any idea where is it heading?

Geeklog provides a layer of basic services and does it well. Its security system allows personalisation of content. This is still rare among CMSs, and especially when it is so solid. On the other hand I like that system is rather lean and fast. I also appreciate the approach when existing code is being cleaned rather than rush towards new functionality and new design. Gives me hope than I'll be mostly busy dealing with content and users on my site, not with upgrading. Geeklog seems to be a working tool rather than a mean of self-expression.

And now for something completely different. It has to do where Geeklog actually fits in the marketplace.

Geeklog name means it's a blogging software. If so, then it is a very average blogging software. For two reasons. First, it has limited options of categorization and tagging of content. A blogger is a prolific type (think of a journalist). At least he/she need an option to several topics to one article. Ideally, a blogger needs a “metadata tree” and ability to tag articles with keywords from this tree. And of course, there should be a way to give reader search/retrieve capability. I’ve read on this site that due to Geeklog database structure multiple categories are not possible. Maybe, a separate “metadata” or “keywords” plugin is still doable? This would make Geeklog a strong contender in the blogging software field. It goes without saying that most of bloggins software does not have security model to speak of. This makes it impossible to run subscription sites, for example, on MovableType. If Geeklog gets better on content organization/retrieval side you can run a small newspaper on it – and add great community features as well.

Then Geeklog is also portal/community software, whatever this means. If we define portal as framework to provide access to applications (forums, messaging etc) then Geeklog seems to offer at least as many features as “nukes” (nukes are hopeless, anyway). It seems to be apt at integrating with third-party apps. And it’s written much better than competing "portals". One obvious question then. Why no e-commerce plugins? It seems that a simple shopping cart combined with existing user management functionality will make Geeklog a great candidate for many small/medium webshops. We all know that companies like to create “community” around their products. Philip Greenspun had no problem combining commerce and community in photo.net and his platform only benefited (OpenACS.org is still alive). Geeklog may use, for example, a paid subscription module (aMember script is an example). Again – this would expand its user base beyond family websites towards small businesses.

Thirdly, let’s think of hobbists as target group (no, I’m not working in marketing). For many hobbists website is an act of art. Webdesign is art. So website has to be distinct. Take blogging community. They spend tons of time decorating their websites. If you have a boring theme (or copied theme) you have no points among your friends. And if you want to be trendy among webdesigners you have to use the latest technologies. So tables will not do. You should use CSS/XHTML and comply with web standards.

Is Geeklog a good platform for a trendy web-designer? It should be! It has a templating system that separates content and presentation. It offers lots of functionality in a box, so a designer does not have to learn PHP (and many are learning now). Look at MovableType template tags. They are almost introducing a new scripting language and there are a lot of people spending nights learning it to make their sites dynamic.

Let me say what I think is missing in Geeklog for a web-designer. I have not found a simple list of all templates tags (please, forgive me if it is in an obvious place and I’ve missed it). I mean all these {story_options} or {whats_related_story_options} etc. with definition in which context a tag could appear and what it does. So far this knowledge can be obtained from comments in code and to some extend from an existing theme as an example. I believe that after small effort of documenting tags (and putting such document in a prominent place) there will be many designers itching with desire to develop a couple of great themes for Geeklog. To get rid of all tables, replace them with CSS layout etc. And to impress their own friends with incredible community features of their personal blogs. (Oh, well, there is still need to purge some remaining HTML from code).

Finally, let me comment on plans for Geeklog 2. I’ve noticed a goal to make Geeklog “enterprise”-ready. May I mention my opinion that enterprise market may not be the best place for Geeklog? It seems that there is trend towards “Software empowers small players”. Of course enterprise market seems like a noble goal. But there are many many small players… It’s a huge market. And there is an opportunity to become a dominant force there. Think of Radio Userland and MovableType. They do not target enterprise but they came to be quite a success. What I hope for is continuing optimization and documenting of existing Geeklog branch rather than development of GL2. Maybe better to focus on bringing more plugins into the mainstream… And on developing new ones… Cheers!