Forum OpenACS Q&A: Out-of-the-box, or new package?

Posted by Radam Batnag on

We're planning to build an alumni portal for one of our clients, a secondary school. Here's a brief overview of the specs:


We want to support the following groups of people and their respecive goals:

  1. School Administrator
    • gather demographic info from alumni, and possibly identify outstanding alumni
    • spam alumni list re: donations, or alumni activities
  2. Alumni
    • keep abreast of school events and activities relevant to school alumni
    • keep in touch with old school friends
Use Cases
  1. Allow school administrator to spam alumni list
  2. Allow school administrator to maintain a calendar of alumni-related activities
  3. Allow alumni to register online
  4. Allow alumni to search alumni database
  5. Allow alumni to keep in touch with each other through an online forum
  6. Allow alumni to view calendar of activities
Here's how I plan to implement this using OACS 4.5:
  1. create a group named "alumni" and create a calendar for this group
  2. give alumni members read-only access to the alumni calendar
  3. give school admins admin rights to the calendar
  4. create a registration page. This is a modified user registration page that collects additional info about alumni (i.e. college enrolled in/graduated, company, etc.) and automatically enrolls the new user into the alumni group
  5. create an alumni report page, accessible only by school admins, that provides the following info:
    • total number of registered alumni
    • number of registered alumni, by batch
    • some other report, based on the alumni details collected in #4 above
    • provide a friendly interface to the spam module and allow school admins to spam alumni from here

I'm planning to put the UI, data model and supporting procs for #4 and #5 inside a new package ("alumni-portal"?). However, I have a strong hunch that:

  • this is the 3.x-ish way of doing things and not the 4.x-way, and
  • I can accomplish my goals with out-of-the-box OACS4.5 using acs-subsite and some other packages that I don't know of

What do you think? Should I build a new package, or RTFM?

PS. We need to deploy this immediately, which leaves out the upcoming dotLRN-Postgres as an option. Our client can't afford Oracle, so dotLRN-Oracle is also not an option.

Posted by Michel Henry de Generet on
I would double check Oracle pricing for education sector.
Posted by C. R. Oldham on
Unless things have changed recently, Oracle offers no educational discounts.
Posted by Jeff Davis on
Except in california where they can surely save you millions of dollars
but only if you sign right now.
Posted by defunct defunct on
You can get significant edu discounts but not directly from Oracle. You need to get in touch with a big reseller (ThinkSparc etc). It is they who have the 'power of discount'
Posted by C. R. Oldham on
Thank you Simon--I was unaware that Oracle even worked through big resellers...
Posted by Alfred Essa on

I think you should re-consider using dotLRN. We have been using our current instantiation (SloanSpace) extensively to support alumni and plan to continue to build more functionality for that constituency. The dotLRN-Oracle version is nearly ready for prime time. We are planning to go live Aug. 1 - 15th time frame. What if we offered you a box and let you use our Oracle license for dev. work until the Posgres version is ready? My understanding is that dotLRN-Postgres is not far behind. Berklee is pushing aggressively with dotLRN-Postgres and have similar deadlines. In any case, let me know if there is any way we can help.

--Al Essa

Posted by Jun Yamog on
Hi Radam,

4.5 maybe used for your requirements but you will still ofcourse customize the code so its not really out the box. A good OACS developer will be able to get done probably in a month. Although you may want to consider dot-LRN as suggested by others too since its a educational client it may use other dot-LRN features in the future. Al Essa's suggestion of using Oracle to familiarize and develop is actually being done by us while we are waiting for postgres.

In case you need help with OACS or dot-LRN you can contact us in the office or drop by. (look at our website for details). You should ping Deds or Hamilton since these are the guys that are doing dot-LRN development at infinite. I am bit away of OACS this days due to some projects.

Posted by Radam Batnag on


Wow! Thanks for the generous offer. My problem is - the alumni system will be integrated with an already-deployed school intranet running on OACS 4.5. I'm not sure if it's wise to switch midstream (the schoolyear started last June 2002). I'll just probably do a quick hack - just enough to satisfy our deliverables, and I won't spend trying to build what dotLRN already has built-in. I'll also see if extra hardware is available, so that we can run the alumni system on a separate dotLRN-powered server.

dotLRN is clearly in our sights. We'll probably migrate them fully next school year.


Why not an OACS EB? (For the non-Filipinos in the list, EB, or eyeball, is our equivalent term for 'social')


Posted by Jun Yamog on
Hi Radam,

No problem with me.  Maybe you can start and organize it on the mailing list.