Forum OpenACS Q&A: End users network

Posted by Ben Koot on
Technies and end users... world apart, that shouldn't be...
I have been playing around with ACS for the better part of this year.
I discovred what ACS is capable the hard way and can assure your have
found some implemantion areas the asteemded designers never thought
about. Yet, on the forum it is difficult to distinguish the designers
from the end users. I would like to volonteer to coordinate this
effort. I have little technical knowledge but  am sure can help you
folks create meaningfull it solutions, based on users demands. I am
convinced this will result in less techno savy questions being asked
on the main forum so it it will help to  create a more effective
customer service section. Maybe we can call it the creativity forum?

What about it folks? You might even get questions you never thought
about beeing a serious problems for us "techno consumers".
Ben Koot

Posted by David Geilhufe on
Well Ben, I'm in the end-user category. My background is in Product Management, so I tend to be of the opinion that all functionality flows from the end user. I don't think we need another forum, but it seems like the user-centric (as opposed to developer-centric) folks should get together to do some work that we think is important.

The kind of work I'm thinking of is UI reviews package-by-package and produce HTML skeletons for new UIs. Documentation- I'm already working on newbie docs, as are others. Product roadmaps... when somone decides to build a package that scrathes their itch, it would be great if they had some design documentation that articulated a number of other folks' itches also.

I would suggest you post some threads over the next 30-60 days that bring up issues that you would like to discuss... we probably have enough user-centric folks in the community to make those discussions lively.

Posted by Ben Koot on
Hi Dave, Good to hear from you. I will be publishing my experiences building an interactive network of Dutch and Belgium secretaries over the last 8 months. This will act as a user interface showcase, and we can take it from there. I am working on a website for this, so stay tuned to Timedesk
Posted by Don Baccus on
UI reviews would be great - I'm sure David knows that Michael Feldstein is another user-centric person that's very much interested in UI issues.

So would HTML sketches of proposed UI changes.  It would be really nice to work on the UI of a package before writing the package...

When the beta version of OpenACS 4 comes out, I intend to start putting together a proposal for a second release cycle.  A couple of other folks have been contributing ideas.  When there's something available, say at the end of January (I almost typed "June", boy, wouldn't that freak people out!), it will be posted as a target for all to take potshots at.

Posted by Ben Koot on
Dave, One thing I forgot. I like your concept about the html Skeletons. I have tried this on Timedesk and Klessebes. It works great. Instead of expecting the users to work their way trough the modules, I act as a moderator and gradualy teach the smartest people to do things themselves. This helps creating a core group of experienced users that at the same like to play around. A similar concept could also work within organisations. The end result of this aproach has been that one of the secretaries in the Klessebes network is now advising the 35 Milion Dollar turnover recruitment company she is associated with, to start adopting acs technology to connect the recruiters to the organisation and eachother in a more informal way.

If the pathfinders as I like to call these intercompany contacts would have a startingpoint that takes them one step deeper into the system's capabilities, without turning them into nerds, that would be a great step forward connecting people and market ACS. to be continued... Ben

photo courtesy Philip Greenspun

Posted by Michael Feldstein on
Oops! I somehow missed this thread. Yes, I'd like to help out,
Posted by Bill Dale on
First, excuse the short book (though I've been looking in on this and other forums here for at least 6 months, and this is my first posting - so I may have some "banked space" coming?)...

To me, a person who may be as close to being a "pure end-user" as one can get (while still having the ability to ferret out this particular page in the complex of pages), this is one of those "incredibly important," yet (apparently) "most overlooked" topics associated with whatever openACS actually is.

Allow me to play real world end-user devil's advocate for a moment:

  • Does anyone who understands what ACS is, how it works, etc., have a (real and clear) understanding of how little I actually know about computers, software, the internet in general, let alone things like its potential for whatever this stuff called "collaborative opportunities" is? ("Is it like email then, or what?")
  • Am I more likely to discover and wind up a user of AOL/Time Warner's, or Microsoft's answers to those questions, or is it even remotely possible that I will somehow discover the ACS system, recognize those things about it that make it such a better alternative, and, ultimately, wind up using it to communicate, cooperate, collaborate?
  • Not to be cruel - don't forget the devil's advocate aspect - but referring to the home page, this system has 3,753 registered users as of today, and somewhere in the neighborhood of 10,000 downloads of (both versions of) the system. What exactly that means or translates to in terms of the number of people actually using it, I have no clue. It probably means the number of actual users is somewhere in the high thousands, maybe hundred thousands, maybe low millions (probably not that high, but maybe).

    Last I heard, AOL/Time Warner had something like 23,000,000 people sending them money every month to use a system no one who visits these pages would be caught dead even thinking about using (for good reason). And when it comes to the M word's relatively new megaplex of "online communications opportunities," who can even begin to venture a guess as to how many people are finding themselves signing up for their "passports" so they can do whatever the idea there is?

In order to keep the book as short as possible, one of the main personal points is this: I'm in the beginning stages of working with an actual, physical, well-defined community of people who are: A) "technologically disadvantaged"; and B) could really put a great online communications, cooperation, collaboration system to beneficial use.

Because of my exposure to Philip Greenspun's more "ancient" (but still amazing) online comm offerings (particularly this program - LUSENET), I've kept loose tabs since late 1997. And even though I am probably the next best thing to a pure end-user (I can make simple web pages, "get" some of the bigger "concepts" involved, and can connect easy to connect dots to make web sites more "end-user empowering"/"interactive" - things like LUSENET, Boohoo, SPAM), I'm capable of appreciating the "true internet genius" and "spirit" involved in everything going on here. BUT (to get back to that local community that could really use a great system), here's my real world, real time, end-user problem: Even though I've made about a dozen trips to the web site over the past few months, I still have no real clue as to:

  1. What the system actually is
  2. How it actually works
  3. What, from the administrative point of view, it takes to use it (besides a degree in computer science)
  4. How, from the end-user's point of view, it is used
  5. Where I can find out those things in a way that doesn't take that degree, and won't take me two or three weeks of digging (for things I can't seem to find anyway)
In short, where are the basic, simple, "user friendly" pages that give "average people" the idea?

Or, for completely graphic example (and thanks to an earlier posting on this topic by David Geilhufe, and a little extra searching around), where is the stuff that does what these people are doing to explain their online community/collaboration system? And, more specifically, where is the openACS equivalent of their "Tour"? (Check it out... It really is a good one).

And yes... I'm sure openACS is a different kind of thing when it comes to the "idea," "underlying philosophy," "spirit," or whatever the abstract aesthetics are. But when it comes to those things, let me see if I can grasp and communicate one of the most basic (as I seem to perceive it):

  • The ACS/openACS system is a (truly) wonderful alternative to the usual load of commercialized crap the majority of the world just can't load onto the internet fast enough. It is a system that comes as close as anything can come to embodying the best the world has to offer when it comes to online communication, cooperation, and collaboration. It's a (true) labor of love that shouldn't be bastardized, adulterated, or lumped into the aforementioned in any way, so on so forth.
  • Everything going on in connection with it and is being done by people who are (mostly) not only highly proficient software engineers or adept "managers" (who comprehend and are fluent in things most computer users don't and aren't), but are, in a sense, true artists who share a set of values related to keeping the "original spirit" of the Internet alive and well;

  • Part of that "value system" is a deep (and well-founded) digust with the "commercialization" of the Internet; and

  • Anything that smacks of "sales" or "marketing" is (by default and often "unconsciously") a part of that commercialization; and

  • Anything that "looks and feels" like the Javascripted front page of the site linked above, or anything as "sophmoric" as the "Tour" linked above, smacks of "sales" and "marketing," and is therefore "off limits."

  • Or something like that.

But Here's the Thing...

Everyone can adhere to that approach/perspective if that's what their sensibilities demand. But while everything's being kept "pure," AOL/Time Warner and "M" will just keep poluting everything in site until 90% of the Internet population so entrenched in their vision of what's best that they'll never be able to pry themselves loose, and all genuinely superior ways of using the "greatest communications medium since the telephone, radio, television" (not to mention the most important practical parts of the "spirit of the Internet" equation), will be religated to the big fat Land of Obscurity where a tiny handful of people use tools like openACS and wonder why "the masses" were so stupid as to allow themselves to be fooled into using such second-rate crap...

Okay... I've probably used up my 6 months worth of server space. In my own defense, allow me to say I've been THINKING of posting something along the lines of this note for several months. I think of it every time I return to this site to see if there's any (apparent) easier way for me to answer those basic questions above (not to mention answer/demonstrate them for the Completely Pure End Users of that actual physical community I'd have to convince! A community that has thousands of members, and is just one of several hundred similar communities, by the way).

So, in a nutshell, Yes! I agree. It would be tremendous if an effort could be made to communicate the basics of the openACS system to the "lowest common denominator" of computer users. It would be wonderful if some of the obviously brilliant people here would collaborate on putting together something that is even better than the examples linked above (when it comes to explaining things - not necessarily the "sign up" and "download it now!" things, but the "clear picture/simple story" things - and, by the way, an abbreviated, interactive set of demo pages would be nice too).

Given the level of expertise most postings reflect, and, no doubt, most openACS community members possess, a person wouldn't think it would be that hard to do. Frankly, I'm amazed it hasn't happened yet. It baffles me every time I visit the site and still find myself unable to understand just how great the system actually is. It's like it's some kind of very well-kept secret.

And now, having said all of the above, it's entirely possible I've simply overlooked the kind of thing I'm talking about. It may already exist, may have a prominent link on the home page which would be just one more example of how idiotic some people can be when it comes to displaying their ignorance. If so, please don't hesitate to point it out to me (I'm not an overly proud person). But please don't suggest I look through these forums, or check one of the FAQs, or read the "Scalable Community Systems" chapter in Phil and Alex's online book (been there twice - at least). Excellent material (of course), but not the kind of thing I'm talking about, and definitely not geared for people who think email qualifies as an advanced communications tool who don't like to read any more than they absolutely have to (too many important emails, ICQ, and Messenger messages coming in as it is!).

Please just put something on the home page that's as clear, simple and straightforward as the home page graphic that will take me (and people even less literate) to something that will show and tell me (us) everything a person needs to know in order to wind up wanting to get an openACS system running ASAP. And then tell us what it takes to do that, how we can get that done, and where we need to go after that to learn how to use it.

And when it comes to "sales" and "marketing," even though those terms may disgust you, remember: You probably don't mind at all when you get an email that tells you all about the latest groundbreaking developments in modem technology, or in the openACS source code or overall system. As you probably know, those messages are what "sales" and "marketing" are all about, when sales and marketing are "at their best": Those words CAN be code for "communication of worthwhile information in forms people can understand."

And as one last subtle related point, I'm not talking about the kind of "sales" and "marketing" that has to do with broadcasting or "advertising" the openACS system to people all over the net so they'll see the hot banner ads, click, and wind up on the home page. No. I'm just talking about the form of it that happens after people arrive. The kind that's already happening here, but to a very "narrow," "highly targeted market segment" that seems to consist almost exclusively of accomplished computer scientists.

And that's great. Nothing wrong with it at all. The only thing is, if people are serious about superior tools being used by people who use the Internet, and that includes people less technologically able than computer scientists... If people are serious about trying to do something to help keep the AOLs and M-softs of the world from dominating the whole works, there is simply no escape from the necessity to "broaden the market appeal" and "dumb-down" at least some of the communication to the level where it can be understood by those who get a little tingle everytime they hear their computer say, "You've got mail!"

Posted by Torben Brosten on

Bill, Thank you for the long detailed post! I think the OpenACS community needs some more input in this area. Your specific questions are most helpful:

  • What the system actually is
  • How it actually works
  • What, from the administrative point of view, it takes to use it (besides a degree in computer science)
  • How, from the end-user's point of view, it is used
  • Where I can find out those things in a way that doesn't take that degree, and won't take me two or three weeks of digging (for things I can't seem to find anyway)

Questions/points have been added to the list of ones the documentation (and website) needs to answer.

OpenACS suffers from a certain syndrome that I call the "plumbers syndrome" for lack of a better phrase. [Danger: generalizations ahead] Plumbers homes seem to have poor plumbing, electrician's homes tend to have bad wiring, and software development websites tend to have, well, poorly organized websites from a user perspective... [That's been my experience, though I know the opposite is true also, it's not relevent to this message.] Maybe it's the nature of not having the external perspective or will to complete it. Perhaps a lack of resources has meant giving up on some aspects to complete more important ones. Whatever the reason, priorities have been focused elsewhere.

I suspect this syndrome on this website is an underlying reason some people want to change the OpenACS name... to get a fresh start on a new website.. It needs it. An analogy would be working in an office until it's completely filled-up, disorganized etc, and then move to a new office (or building) for a fresh start --instead of cleaning/organizing the old one.

For the record, some end-user material is being written with the help of people like myself who thankfully have strong self-esteem and lack tack --important qualities for creating voluminous amounts of useful feedback.

Keep coming with the questions.. and if you don't like the answers... keep asking, please! They will eventually be answered to your satisfaction if this project is to succeed.

Posted by Roberto Mello on
For the record, Torsben and David Geilhufe are working on a "Beginners' Guide" to OpenACS 4 which hopefully will solve the problems described here.

Talli Somekh will be the editor for the guide and will be pitching in with some writing too I bet.

Please keep questions coming, but we would appreciate if hands to work would show up as well.

Posted by Talli Somekh on
Bill, among the many things that you are asking for, I think one is a new website. That's been recognized, and I think that you can visit to see what the next version will look like. The reason it hasn't gone live is because there has been a small performance issue in the PG version of OACS (which Don has done yeoman's work to fix).

But soon there will be a site that is more "marketeer" friendly, if you will. Really, it was built with the precise kind of user you're referring to: the end user with no sense of or idea about how the OACS can or should work. If you check out that site and offer some insight into how it can be further improved, I for one would be really appreciative.


Posted by Ben Koot on
User Experiences...

Well folks, thank's for the feedback on my initial question. I am honored with so much reponse. We have used the latter part of last year to make some sense out of ACS, and although we have not yet fully mastered all modules, and still need a fair bit of customisation I feel confident enough to go live officialy on Jan 11. What I have created is based on the feedback of a group of Dutch secreatries who I confronted with the raw ACS environment. They shared my learning curve, told me what they liked or disliked, didn't understand or would regard usefull to them. They even didn't matter the site changed about every week. Some of the girls liked to experiment themsleves and as of February will be using ACS to manage their own project, "Hell's Kitchen". A combination of a gastronomic website, and events management organisation, operated by people working form home, and some times from the office. The first project is an attempt to organize a marketing & team building seminar, based on the experiences of a famous Dutch mounteneer, Ronald Naar I am sure this project will hel;p us discover more ways to use ACS, and increase the user friendleyness. To be contined...

Posted by Ben Koot on
Hi folks, You may have seen my questiosn on chat earlier. Over the weekend I have gone through the the current system, and think there might be a relatively simple format to turn it into a usefull tool. I agree Jabber is more sophisticated, but unless somebody can prove me wrong, a chat solution that does not require client applications to be downloaded will be easier to be implement in a corporate environment, I am convinced these simple adjustments will help market OpenACS more, than use Jabber. I have over 8 months expereince running a corporate caht system, and can guarantee nobody will ever download a jabber client in this neck of the woods, unless it is authorized by management. And that's where the bottlerneck lies. It's great to have a more sophisticated jabber infrastructure for internal use by companies that decided to adopt this technology, but is useless if marketeers try to "sell" OpenAces as a business tool AT THIS MOMENT. I hope I am wrong b the way.
Posted by Michael Feldstein on
Ben, are you aware that Jabber has a Java applet client? You
don't *have* to download a fancy client-side application in order
to use it, but it is available if you want it.

My basic problem is that the chat app that I've seen is unusable
as-is. I can't imagine using it regularly.

Chat is a fairly complicated thing to do right. I'm happy to
piggyback on the work of a team that's dedicated to solving the
chat problem as long as it doesn't cost too much to do it. If your
main objection to the Jabber solution is the client download,
then I don't think we have a big problem here.

Posted by Don Baccus on
  • Everything going on in connection with it and is being done by people who are (mostly) not only highly proficient software engineers or adept "managers" (who comprehend and are fluent in things most computer users don't and aren't), but are, in a sense, true artists who share a set of values related to keeping the "original spirit" of the Internet alive and well;
  • Part of that "value system" is a deep (and well-founded) digust with the "commercialization" o f the Internet; and
  • Anything that smacks of "sales" or "marketing" is (by default and often "unconsciously") a part of that commercialization; and
  • Anything that "looks and feels" like the Javascripted front page of the site linked above, or anything as "sophmoric" as the "Tour" linked above, smacks of "sales" and "marketing," and is therefore "off limits."
  • Or something like that.
Well ... I've got to respond to some of the above ...

First of all, you're probably right about some of us being disgusted with some of the worst side effects of commercialization of the internet and web. Recently I've been getting spammed by people who send me soft porn photos right in the mail, rather than just the usual HTML hyperlink text crap. Yes, that annoys me.

But I don't think folks here are totally opposed to marketing. After all, several of us who are key players are making our living doing custom client work with the toolkit and the better known it is, the better our chances of being able to continue doing so.

There's no way that I'm volunteering as OpenACS 4 project manager out of sheer altrusm. I'm not paid to do so but if I don't do so I'm less likely to get paying freelance jobs.

Comparing the site you point to with this site's a bit strange. That's an end-user site providing end-user services. It could be built> easily enough using OpenACS, but isn't going to provides such services.

Now ... as far as the "Tour" goes .. yes, it would be nice to have a demo site. We want our new version of this website to be more attractive visually, organizationally, and functionally too (and Talli's gang have gotten a great start - we're holding off because OpenACS 4/PG is just now getting to the point where it is stabilizing).

And we do encourage people to list sites they've built using OpenACS, too.

Our audience at isn't the end-user per se, but rather the user who will build end-user sites. Yes, we need to make that task as easy as possible, and as well documented as possible. But we're building tools you can use to build something, not the "something" itself.

Other than this site, which we do want to become something of a showcase for what can be done.

The biggest problem we face is one of resources. Most of the folks working on this project our doing so on their own time, or only as a portion of their job. Those who are able to help out as part of their job are mostly involved in nitty-gritty client site development and are leveraging that by porting code to Postgres, or adding new features, etc. They're not being paid to write beginner documentation, package things to install more easily, etc.

And there's an immense amount of programming work left to be done until we'll be satisified with what we have.

If you or anyone else wants to help by publicizing sites you've made, write white papers extolling the fact that the toolkit saved you time, works well, etc - hey, we'll publish your contributes. Have no fear. Write case studies and provide other backup documentation galore that we can shove at clients. We'd *love* to have that stuff.

And if we had time we'd work on that kind of stuff ourselves. I'm sure we will over the next few months now that the mountain of work associated with porting OpenACS 4 to our bi-RDBMS platform is largely complete. We have a lot to do to improve it, stuff that will take a lot of programming, but nothing like the effort that's been undertaken over the last several months.

When dotLRN is done, I'm confident that Sloan will be putting energy into promoting it. dotLRN is probably more along the lines of what you're looking for, i.e. it's a canned vertical application built on top of the basic toolkit and therefore presents a polished exterior to the user.

As time goes on and OpenACS 4 matures, it would be *great* to have a demo site that gives examples of things you can easily build with the toolkit. It would be great to show off subsiting and the ability to alter look-and-feel for each, for instance.

Yep, it would be *great* but these things don't happen by themselves. People need to step forward and work.

15: Jabber (response to 1)
Posted by Ben Koot on
Michael, I have nothing against Jabber as such, and am sure it will fit many needs, once it is integrated in ACS it will be the best solution. Why I am not convinced of Jabber at this stage is the fact it's Java. I am currently using a Java chat system, which is blocked by almost every corporate firewall, so most of my members can't chat.( ) My needs are limited, When I went over the design documents this weekend I noticed the following statement:

"The HTML page cannot have a Refresh: header for client-pull autofresh. If you did this, the user would be at risk of losing what he or she was typing into the post form."

In our 8 months experience with people on-line from 8 AM-11 PM we have found this to be irelevant, because chatters won't be writng mega articles. We have tried ACS chat and found that because the auto refresh is disabled people didn't like it. That is the main reason why ACS chat is not effective IMHO.

Could you, or anybody else on the list tell me how to enable this function, so I can try the diference on my test panel.

All I require is a simple adjustment as described. here Maybe I am looking at the issue from a diferent perspective. I am based in Holland, and overhere I have found few people interested in AOL , Yahoo and other AIM systems exept computer professionals. My market is Joe/Jane User, mostly aged over 30. Anything I offer that requires additional sign-up procedures for external systems will be an additional barier in accepting my services.

Posted by David Geilhufe on
I think Bill Dale represents a "silent minority" in the OACS community that is far more end-user focused. This is the group that will consume packages developed for OACS by either adopting existing packages or commissioning the creation of packages.

Don points out that the target audience for the OACS community is more the developers, not the application-consumers that I reference above. While OACS is in Alpha/Beta, this is more than appropriate. BUT it is up to all of us non-developers out there to start creating our own spaces in the OACS community.

The only current place to start, I think are the beginner documentation: install guide, getting started guide, perhaps problem sets, etc. Once the new OACS site is up and running there will be an opportunity to start new forums, workspaces, and sub-communities.

But for the moment, I think us non-developers should do the brain-storming that prepares us to do the work once the platform becomes more stable.

Having said that, these are the immediate deliverables that I'm interested/willing to work on:
1. Beginners install guide (idiot proof from a clean box)
2. Getting started guide (something useful/usable/basic step-by-step after a clean install)

After the new site is up:
1. Assembling vertical installs of OACS "applications" (e.g. a rpm of the OACS web-site, an rpm of .LRN, etc)
1a. Assembling the community space for people to post/ download/ rate different vertical installations (at the very least, the same thing as aD had for downloading packages)
2. Working with all the existing vendors (Musea, OpenForce, Furfly, etc.) to get stuff they have done under GPL avaliable to the community as OACS applications (i.e. useful out of the box).

There is probably lots more... what interests other people out there?

Posted by Ben Koot on
Just a thought... David, Thanks for your comments. I have made a beginning with your ideas over the weekend. beginners diggings is available for starters. It does not take up capacity from the development folks and could act as breading ground for ideas. Once we have something we feel the design pro's need to look at we could formulate the design/developmnet specifics, and post it on the main openacs board. Maybe this results in a more condensed Q&A session, so everybody can concentrate on what he/she is good at. It would be great to have a few design pro's listening in but I also believe this will allow them to devote their precious time to the core development issues, i.e fewer "dumb" questions and more internal understanding of each other's needs. If the Musea people would like to add this to their new site, that would be great, as I have no intention to become a competitor. I like your idea of the clean install, and am sure my techno colleague, Hans Gaasenbeek, will have some interesting experiences to share in that department. Hans by now manged to understand my naive requirements, so should be able to translate some problems connected to getting the system up and running. Cheers Ben
Posted by Michael Feldstein on
I think there are more than just two classes of users to worry
about. There are developers, sysadmins, and non-administrative
end users of the apps.(There also are the managers who
approve purchasing and adoption decisions who, although they
are not technically users, are also very important. We need to be
cognizant of *all* of these groups.
Posted by Michael Feldstein on
I would add that we also need to think about documenting the
templating stuff for graphic designers and HTML jockeys.
Posted by Don Baccus on
I don't want anyone to misunderstand me ... it would be *great* to have end-user documentation for various packages.  "help" pages for, say, users of a site that features the photo album package.

And this kind of documentation is an area where less technically-minded folks can contribute.

They should be incorporated right in the toolkit, right? That way every site that is built on the toolkit has documentation for users RIGHT THERE.

There's no reason to send them to  Of course if we can get such documentation integrated into the toolkit, then new visitors here will  benefit as well.

Posted by Michael Feldstein on
Don's right on all counts. I've been itching to write this kind of
stuff myself for some time now, but I think we're not quite at the
point where we can do this effectively. *First* we need a
completed, stable first release. *Then* we need to evaluate the
UI to fix the major problems. (Some of the UI is pretty bad, but it
doesn't make sense to tackle this until the porting is done and
the basic architectural fixes are finished.) Once we have done
these two things, *then* we should kick the non-technical user
documentation into high gear.

UI testing and fixing needs to come first, since you won't need to
document nearly as much if you have a good UI to begin with.
We don't yet have a real process for doing this; I believe Talli is
leading the charge on this.

Posted by Ben Koot on
Another dumb question...<p>

ACS 4 is not yet a production ready system. This is not problem, but I think many new ACS users would benefit from a simple adjustment. At the moment the portal function  (in 2.25) has no real value. However, from an educational point of view it could be used to allow non tcl savy people to create something usefull. We have now been using the intranet in the same fashion, but that still means we need the experience of the system manager. If all modules would be preloaded in the portal, instead of the 5 or 6 available right now, potential customers would have more tools to play with. BTW, I also noticed not all ACS mnodules are available from the admin function (e-commerce, photodb, and submodules to e-commerce taht could be used for other than e-commerce applications. ( mailing lists for example)

The portal concept as such is not realy usefull in acs 2.25. I do understand the idea, but as potential client It's unlikely I will be using it as a portal. But I am sure this simple adjustment would be helpfull for commercial customers to get a feeling of the system.

The bottom line, why not use the portal as a tool to let clients play around with the tools, without them having to bother their system administrator to activate modules?

Posted by Don Baccus on
Well, OpenACS 4 may not be a production system but if we put our energy into 3.2.5 then it never will be.  We don't have the people to do both.  3.2.5 is getting bug fixes, and that's it at the moment.

(and OpenACS 4 actually *has* been used on several production sites - in Oracle, not Postgres.  The Oracle version's in reasonably good shape).

dotLRN will be providing an entirely new portals package for OpenACS 4.  I think it's fair to say that we're well aware of the importance of a good portals package and I think the new one shows promise.

And Michael's right about UI issues.  One of my priorities for our second development cycle will be to improve the UI, as well as "under the hood" issues.  Ideal would be to try to set some UI standards and then to get some end-user documentation going while we're implementing them.

Posted by Ben Koot on
Hi Don,
I fully agree with your priority. I just thought hooking the current 2.25 modules in the portal would not be such a big issue. Here you see the diference in experience between architect / programmer and dumb solution creator. Sorry for that and the fact I have no idea how much time this would demand.
Cheers, Ben
Posted by Ben Koot on
I now have 48 hour user experience of ACS chat with 5 - 8 people in serious conversation. I have compared the performance with, apperantly the best chat system in the world. ( we have used it for 8 months, but becaiuse of major eerro messagaes, and the fact it's java based so no use for people behind firewalls, ( 90 % of our clients) in desperate need for an alternative.

ACS chat offers the same functionality as chatspace, but the major assets are not clearly visibile after you convince people this chat will realy works. The available documentation, and the general sentiments on this board are also negative, however in my mind a few simple adjustments can help to bring it up to the same professional level as chatspace. Wouldn't that be a nice challenge. it'all a matter of perception.

Just a thought for the esteemded programmers. ... Here are my suggestions... chat redesigntcl . some may be difficult and time consuming, some may be a piece of cake. I am not a programmer and can't judge. But. If take the chatmodule as core communiction tool, and enhance it with other pure communication tools - bboard - news - e-mail ticket and todo, all somehow interfaced, you would end up with a sub module, just like in e-commerce. This simple string of communication can easily be turned into a ready to use package that would help newcommers to get started without fuss and the need to understand tcl programming language. ( We are using acs 3.2.5, ready for upgrade once release 4 is available in a production stage. Right now I have not been able to see a reason to migrate, although we did manage to get ACS 4 up and running. We do have a number of realy good corporate contacts that might be interested, once it goes in production.

I have also talked to my secretaries about giving you (designers) some feedback regarding user experience. What about organizing a user / designer chat to give you folks some feedback? The girls have been looking at my ACS exploits for 8 months, so may have some great questions for you. Likewise, you may be able to shed some light in the inner workings of acs, better than I can do as a dumbo. One general remark. It has been said there is little ACS documentation. I would like to add one comment. The documentation is there, it's a matter of personal experiecne to figure out what it all means. I agree the presentation is miserable at most, but re-editing the information into a usable format is not realy difficult, but it takes time, I am willing to put into the efforts you guys have invested in creating this wonderfull piece of software. I think I will have a complete dumbo ACS (3.25) enduser guide available within 14 days. This will also include a number of easily implemented adjustments to the core distribution, an a number of end user implemenation scenario's, just like in Groove. Incase anybody else is working on a similar set-up, please let m know, so we can combine efforts. If you need betatesters, again, I am available, aswell as some of my secretaries. I Look forward to your reply

26: Oops (response to 1)
Posted by Ben Koot on
forgot my alternative chat module design... redesign
Posted by Malte Sussdorff on
Finally we have a new version of the Jabber Client for AOLserver. This one is easier to install and has been cleaned of some bugs. New documentation and download instructions can be found at

Have fun