Forum OpenACS Q&A: Running a multi-community web site

I've started my journey by reading Philip
and Alex's Guide to Web Publishing, which lead me to the arsdigita web site.  A few forum posts there led me here.  I'm still trying to absorb the ACS culture and the the big picture of what it is and what it can do. So, I'm here to ask of those who already have the knowledge.

I'm looking at a business model of becomming an ASP and hosting online communities almost exactly like  What I'd like to know is this: how difficult would it be to create a system such as communityzero's in ACS (or openACS). The communityzero site is currently in ColdFusion and is headed for J2EE, if that matters.

Also, before I download openACS and start playing, is there a preferred free unix?  freeBSD or a particular Linux?  I'm currently using (and like) Suse, but I don't want my distro to add to the complexity of learning ACS.



Posted by Don Baccus on
Last question first: if you've got linux up and running, might as well stick with it.  Some folks prefer a *BSD variant but there's at least one AOLserver patch required (there are threads on the topic here), I believe (I'm a Linux user myself).

As far as the rest goes, the toolkit provides most of the tools described at communityzero.  The current release version of OpenACS, 3.2.5, doesn't support any notion of subsiting and the user group capability is quite primitive.  You could build up the necessary structure without all that much difficulty but a fair amount of programming's necessary.  Some of the packages are more "group/scope aware" than others.

OpenACS 4.x, currently available only in as a pre-release snapshot and supporting both Oracle and PostgreSQL, has a very useful package for building subsites.  Using this package you can mount forums, shared bookmarks, ecommerce, etc under each subsite and restrict user access to particular subsites.

Not all packages are subsite aware at this point, and we've not completed the porting of all packages from the original ACS 4.2 framework into our OpenACS 4 framework (which differs mostly in that it supports multiple database backends).  However we're making rapid progress and people have actually rolled out a couple of sites using OpenACS 4 despite its pre-alpha status.

So the short summary is that our stuff can't be used off the shelf to immediately recreate, but OpenACS 4 in particular is
close to being in a state where it would be fairly easy to build a site of that type.

There are unanswered questions about the scalability of the acs-subsite package - how many subsites and how many users can be supported on a server of given capacity?  We don't know at this point.

Posted by S. Y. on

If I understand correctly, there are plenty of ACS/OpenACS developers using a variety of Linux distributions, including Red Hat, SuSE, and Debian, so assuming that you have a reasonable grasp of a Unix-like operating system, you shouldn't have much problem. The choice of OS/distribution mostly impacts the initial installation since most of the learning comes from the OpenACS toolkit, Tcl and some sort of SQL (Oracle or PostgreSQL).

Historically, Red Hat Linux was recommended for ArsDigita's Classic ACS-Tcl because Oracle Corporation qualified the Oracle8 RDBMS on the Red Hat distribution first. Installing Oracle (for Classic ACS-Tcl) was by far the hardest part of building an database-backed ACS web server, mostly because Oracle installation tools were buggy and generally sucked. Times have changed though for the better.

Installing Classic ACS/OpenACS isn't the Macintosh-style "Click the Continue button to continue" installation experience, but if you've been using *nix for a while, this shouldn't discourage you. Again, if you're comfortable in your Linux distribution and you're conscientious and careful at editing the configuration files, the installation of OpenACS should go relatively smoothly.

If there are SuSE-specific differences in the installation process, you might try a quick search on this bboard and maybe Google and hope that someone published a little laundry list of idiosyncracies to the web.

I'm sorry I can't answer your questions concerning communityzero since I've never heard of it until today. Hopefully someone else will address those topics.