Forum OpenACS Q&A: Call for Volunteers: Redesign inside and out

Redesign of has been a frequent topic recently.

There are two main aspects to this

1) Visual design of the site. It doesn't look as modern as it did when it was last redesigned.

More importantly
2) Organization of information on the web site

This is vitally important. Visitors need to learn about OpenACS and developers need to find the answers to their questions.

So someone who has good understanding of the shortcomings of the site is needed to volunteer and help rearrange the content so its more accessible to those who need it. I don't mind helping on this type of project, but since I have been using OpenACS for so long, I am not familiar with the types of questions people are looking for answers to.

Anyone who is willing to help out to imporve the OpenACS web site please reply to this post. I will help get the volunteers organized and make sure you have any resources you need (that I can give.)

count with me!
I will certainly help as much as I can. I've already written an article on some of the things I find wrong with it and some suggestions (including a diagram) here. Among the things I call for is a list of reasons why OpenACS users use it. We need to colate this into a list of reasons why people should use it.
Count me in as well. Although I am a simple enduser with no hacking skills, I have been playing with the toolkit for about 4 years. One thing strikes me as odd. We don't use all features in the toolkit to create E.G. I fail to see why the core distro and CVS is not available from one source, the oacs download module.

I checked bugtracker today, and most reported bugs don't seem to be bugs, but :

1. Error messages on a local install, so outside controle of Oacs distribution.
2. Simple typing errors in the code.
3. Creative ideas to enhance user experience.
4. Referals to problems not related to the packages, but related to dependancies. In that model, the package maintainer concept won't work, as each hacker will have his/her pet project.
5. Bugtracker doesn't seem to have a function that allows bugs to be closed, anyway, I couldn't find it.
6. Many user problems are caused by conflicts between packages. These are referenced, but mostly never solved.

If the bugtracker would be monitored from within the project management module, problems could be tackled more effectively.

I think we need a bugtraker editor, who monitors bugtracker and forums and evaluates what needs to be done to solve problems. I volonteer to do the editting and analyis, but would need a programmer to double check my newbie assumptions. Based on that analysis, we could create a billable hour job exchange.

I will follow up later with my own requirments to to give this idea more body.

Some logos that I got Dorian to design using the .LRN logo have been uploaded to the file storage
Some of the logos use OACS (pronounced "oaks" as in the tree) instead of OpenACS.

I would like a consensus on whether the community would adopt a name change to OACS instead of OpenACS. There are some advantages in going with OACS.

1. The Open prefix is kind of redundant in this day and age of if it isn't Microsoft then it must be open source.
2. OACS is easier to remember.
3. OACS is preferred by graphics designers as it makes designing logos easier.

What does the community think?

Is it too much to ask to take it one step further and call it

Oaks are long living, strong, big. They provide a nice shade to communities,... just like openacs 😊


OACS is the abbreviation of Open Architecture Community System and would therefore be fine with me, just TIP it once discussion has settled.

OAKS on the other hand is a nice word, but has nothing to do with OpenACS. This has also an implication for the URL. As all versions of oaks are taken ( does not help either though), we would still have to mention Openacs so people can find the website.

OACS => OpenACS is an easy translation
OAKS => OpenACS ... welll.....

If we are going to stick with the name, logo number 4 is great. If we are not going to stick with it and change to oacs, a tree would be in order, following Caroline's example.

Either way kudos to Dorian for doing this work.

In terms of a site redesign, I think we should base it on OpenSolaris. It is a nice and simple three column page, with appropriate meuns on the left, content in the middle, and maybe have forum and blog content on the right. I know, I know, it is the reverse of what we have, but their site just looks cleaner.

PS. So much for my previous statement on saying that "open" is redundant and out of fashion. :)

Content middle, teasers to the right is standard layout in most websites, we could argue if we keep the navigation on top (as does postgresql) or put it to the left.

The forum postings and news should be treated as teasers and go to the right I think.

The teasers should have a different color background and the heading for the teasers should not be so high (our blue background is to large for my taste, as is the font size).

You could also look at for some ideas where to place the elements (e.g breadcrumb or search bar). We use a split of main navigation and subnavigation.

I really like this logo:

Great idea Nick (asking Dorian).

We should go with that logo and a clean css based look.

Here is a tableless example:

It is a clean css based design. I put it together an hour or two ago (before the OpenSolaris link) based on something I worked on with a colleague for a medical site at work. Take the css list based menu for the menu at the top of the page from my example, take the logo from Dorian, and plug it into the OpenSolaris example (which provides a place for the teasers we have for forums, news, etc.) and we have a new design (the OpenSolaris site is a table free design and seems to work well). After we get a new site master up we can start reorganizing the content.

Thanks for starting the thread Dave.


P.S. I do not think we should drop the Open in OpenACS, but I am not in the mood for bikeshedding. If the masochistic renaming plan does continue I do hope it results in something totally different (would be a waste otherwise: Oaks, OACS, OpenACS... we have all been there and done that).

I agree with Carl, keep OpenACS, or change it to something completely different.

Asking around the office here, to get a wider opinion and any consensus:

Oaks (oacs) is to learning as owls are.. too.. over used in education industry to really differentiate.

Comments about the logo choices:

1. like the strong colors
2. "looks like logo" (which is not a favorable association at this point)
3. "what's new about circles?" Maybe because we use services.
4. the whole concept of using the name to create the logo was also frowned upon by one (as being too uncreatively corporate).

They could not agree on any suggestions of their own, but I have a couple for the logo:

What does "OpenACS" look like in Chinese (and other ideographs/symbol based) languages with significant populations (and therefore target market)? An image of such an ideograph/symbol could be forward thinking.

What about making a logo from the symbols of the key component technologies: feather (tcl), pyramid (aol), elephant (Postgresql).. and maybe a cloud of four or so crests (which in esoteric theology sort of represents a field for one or more symbols of oracles)?

In any case..

The front pages should be more accessible to various browser standards, such as via pda, phone, palm etc. to reach a wider world audience where some of OpenACS' best features may be featured.

In that spirit, maybe the frontpage could be split into a page for end-users, subsite admins, marketers etc of all kinds (non-developers), and another page for development/developers?

Regarding combining the technology symbols into a logo, I'm not suggesting anything looking like Disney's Dumbo! rofl. =)
Hi All,

Pleased to hear there's some discussion on this, but before we go any further can I say...


Lets not get ahead of ourselves, already talking about logo's etc (easily the least important aspect of the site).

We (TCB) agree that the site could do with a re-org and we'd be happy to help on the content/positioning side. However, for the exercise to be worthwhile there would have to be significant improvement on what we’ve got already. If that’s not going to be the case then I think we’re far better off just applying minor tweaks only.

But lets assume that a major improvement is the goal, to my mind there are a whole range of questions and issues that should be tackled first. Answers to these will help create a vision of what the site should be. I don’t want to dampen any spirits but I don’t think that well meant enthusiasm alone is the way to go about this.

There are a lot of commercial organisations who use this toolkit (they may even be the majority) and I think we need to consider their (our) needs primarily, simply because the site itself can have a + or – EV on revenue.

The non-commercial/casual users, I would argue, have far less to gain or lose from how the site appears than we do. For them getting access to good information and help is probably more important, and of course would be part of any good site.

    Before we start

This is by no means a definitive list, but as a starter I think we need to answer some of these questions.

  • Who are the primary stakeholders in the website (this is distinct from ‘users’ of the site)?
  • What message are we trying to communicate?
  • Who are our competitors/rivals/partners?
  • What is our ‘market’ position.
  • What metrics can we apply to measure other successful communities by?
  • What resources/finances do we really need. i.e. can this really be done on a shoestring, and if not where are those resources to come from?
  • What structure should the community take? Do we retain the ‘educated amateur’ feel, or do we pitch at the professional enterprise (or both, if that’s possible).
  • What services do our members need most?
  • What technology do we need to provide? (I am assuming that it is a given that the entire thing will be a OACS deployment and therefore exemplar).

    I’m sure you get the idea.

      Some comments
    I’d like to put forward a few observations on some of the comments already made.

    The name OpenACS. I personally find the ‘Open’ redundant and dated. Can we not simply return to ACS?. Any other shift of name is likely to lose us what exposure we already have. Rebranding is a big undertaking and for it to be successful requires time and energy in getting out the message. The idea that a new name by itself will bring in lots of new users is ‘optimistic’ at best. Unless there’s some serious commitment (commercially) I say stay closer to home. BTW, if there is a big push for a change then I’d like to at least suggest we go for a verb rather than a noun (think Hibernate or Spring). These names imply action and have very successful communities.

    The Logo. This for me is a candidate to spend money. I personally think logo’s are overrated. We’re not McDonalds. We don’t need to be spotted on the high street. The technology and the content are our best image, lets keep the logo professional and minimal. My vote here would be to pay a professional organisation to produce something for approval. It will be far easier for us all to be critical and remove the emotion from the decision if its done this way. (I’ll come on to funding shortly).

      Eat your own Dirt
    A popular phrase where I’m working :). Basically the site must be an exemplar of the use of the OpenACS. Any commercial organisation should be able to point to the community website itself as a reference site. This is definitely not the case at the moment. I am suggesting we think in terms of doing the maximum rather than the minimum. We are guilty of having a site that espouses virtually non of the principles originally conceived for it. i.e. Collaboration = We have a forum…. Not really that impressive is it. Personalisation = I have a name and a picture… and so on

      Some strategic suggestions

    I already alluded to things like finance and strategy. I think this needs to be considered more seriously. I’d like to suggest the following:

  • A smaller subset of the community be appointed to deal with creating the new site. This should be made up largely (but not exclusively) of commercial organisations and should report to and be answerable to the community as a whole. This exercise needs a small, highly focused group, not a large, loose affiliation.
  • Some financing should be sought. I’m not talking a massive spend here, but enough working capital such that we don’t have to grub around for everything. How this is managed is a more nutty issue, perhaps we form a non-profit company and appoint directors. Quite apart from anything else this gives out the right message about how seriously this community takes itself. Lets suppose each commercial organisation contributed £1,000 (not sure what this is in dollars). I think this would give us enough working capital (you can’t even buy a decent laptop for that these days).
  • Get in some experts. There are many successful OS communities out there (Apache for example). Lets try and get some key players from those communities to advise/consult and how we can improve. This isn’t about competition, there’s room for us all.
  • We produce a plan. A proper, concrete expression of where we are going and what we hope to achieve. Make that plan public!
  • We adopt an approach to building a new site that can be documented and cited as a case study. I.e. lets gain big PR by demonstrating how effective an OS community can really be. Lets demonstrate the commercial and technical power of OS as way to get things done.

    Ok, I suspect that for some this will seem like a *lot* of work and a lot of it pretty dry too. Well, no apologies there, that’s exactly what I propose. It’s the kind of activity that I suspect will need commercial companies to get it to fly. However, there is quid pro quo. If we do this right, there is payback to be had. I want to do more ACS business. I see an exemplar community as an important part of that.

    We should be aiming to create a proper industry-strength community that can put itself forward as a serious contender for peoples attention.

    From our pov, we can contribute in the following ways:

  • Planning and management.
  • Strategy and commercial arrangements.
  • Finance (we’ll chip in if others will).
  • Development.
  • Content.

    Where we can’t really contribute is

  • Art and Design.
  • Hosting.
  • Support/operations


    In my opinion the next generation of OS communities can and will be viable alternatives to traditional organisations (apologies if I’m coming over all Holonic). They can be commercially astute whilst retaining their core values and most importantly they can be innovative in ways which are beyond the traditional software company. This is a great time to take a lead. ACS could become a de-facto standard for how OS communities should be, and the website is the external expression of that.

    After all, isn’t that exactly where this all came from in the first place, an OS community underpinned by a commercial organisation.



  • /me delurks, gets to for his shadow and replies

    A few problems may be seen in the reply. Right now the design of the web site works, but yes it may be dated. The content is often sited as useless at this point. Ask anybody that doesn't hang around the project long. Oh wait, they don't hang around because the can't find the information.

    Of course, many of the post here involve the logo and the name. Ironically, if the information was available on the site people might understand the logo and the name. Avoiding questions like "Why Not Switch the Name to ACS?" See, the content is a bit lacking unless you want to spend days search the forums.

    I have the say that right now the web site offers little value.

    Instead of giving the site a boob job why not worry about a major concern that most people express and fix up the content and organization on the site. Any plan that doesn't focus solely on content issues could be just a waste of time. A pretty web site that doesn't' provide information, answer questions, and visitors has no real value to the project, developers, and users.

    Thanks Mat,

    I think Simon and Mat have the best points here. A logo is getting ahead of ourselves. The idea is to make the site accessible to people who need information. Making it look good is a good idea, but not the major problem here.

    Thanks for the contributions on the visual design of the site, they are helpful, but lets not forget that people need to be informed by the web site and focus on who needs to learn from us and what they need to learn.

    One of the main problems cited by people is that its hard to learn what openacs is from the home page. Let's decide what it is as part of this effort.

    I started a thread for folks to say what OpenACS is to them and why they use it. Let's put this into words so we can share the benefits with visitors to

    There is certainly a lot of work to be done, and I agree that not all of the effort should be applied to aesthetics. If you think content is of value to you, then how about contributing in that area?

    A name change is a bit drastic, especially since it will be difficult to grab a domain name. However, OACS is doable for the sake of a logo.

    The logos above were created in about 10 minutes just for the fun of it. The purpose of which was to stimulate ideas and discussion... I think mission accomplished. We are still a long way off from a site transition, but at least we are starting to see some active contributions.

    We have forums, a wiki and a blog. The forums are very active, but the blog and wiki aren't. The latter two need a presence on the front page. Going with the three column design, the teasers on the right should contain forum threads, blog entries, and latest wiki postings or most viewed wiki pages (using the Views package).

    We should also think about displaying open bugs on the front page. I know it may come off as a negative, but all software projects have bugs, lets not hide it. I think it might be good as a constant reminder of what bugs need to be fixed. It may also coincide with the WorkerBee concept discussed in this thread. It may also make the release process more visible, as the releases are generally delayed by open bugs.

    By having all this on the front page we will be able to showcase a lot of OpenACS packages or at least provide a segue to a few of them, such as forums, wiki, blog, bug-tracker, news, notifications.

    Nick said:

    If you think content is of value to you, then how about contributing in that area?

    I think one of the problems is a lack of coordination. I have spare time I can give over to this kind of stuff, but to be frank, I don't have the time to second guess, or figure out what it is I should be doing and whether it has value.

    Documentation (or lack of it) gets a lot of air time but where's the plan? where's the prioritised list of items?

    Everybody hates working to moving goalposts or on projects where there's a lack of direction.

    I don't think relying on people to just provide things ad-hoc is likely to be effective.

    What I'd like to see on the site is one place where there are a list of prioritised tasks waiting to be done. I can go in, pick one off and get it done in the full knowledge its worthwhile.

    It needs to be pretty fine grain, there's no point putting up task like 'write the installation document'. Break it up into little bit-sized chunks and I guarantee people will start doing them.

    I want the site to visiually represent items crossed off a list. I want tangible feedback about progress. I want to see regular annoucements of work completed.

    This 'tangible feedback' is a critical component of any successful commcercial software project (for good reason) and I think applies equally to an OS group.

    People get satisfaction when their contribution is effective and immediate and can be seen to move things forward.

    Quoting Nick:

    ``There is certainly a lot of work to be done, and I agree that not all of the effort should be applied to aesthetics. If you think content is of value to you, then how about contributing in that area?''

    I would be more than happy to contribute to the content and help improve the access to informatin via the website. Where is the plan? What areas need to be improved? What is the overall goal?

    Personally I can not help define those goals because I seldom use the website. I just use my experiences and expertise to overcome any problems I have.

    Is this just going to be a reorg of the current information or will a new plan to improve documentation and informatin be done. This is a large question.

    Many areas of documentation on the site involve pointing to forum threads for people to read. While I don't like the practice it does provide a level of uniformity to the site and encourage the forums to be visited. Is this practice to be continued or will information from the threads be rewritten into a document, citing the forum thread if further information might be needed or for research value.

    There also is the question of how the documentation will be contributed and editted. Will there be and editoral process that is followed? Should there be? Will there be a translation requirement for documentation?

    At this point there many issues that need to be discussed, and I am not alone in thinking this:

    Right now things are not as simple as "contribute", it needs to be fixed so contributions can be useful.

    I can't offer to coordinate the project, I don't have the time or information, but I can contribute to the discussion and will contribute once a reasonable plan is in place.

    Ok, so we need a plan. I was going to suggest creating a documentation component in bug-tracker, but we already have an one. We can use this component for creating tickets for things to do on the site... including documentation. Documentation items can be assigned to "unassigned", and volunteers can choose to fix that ticket.

    For this to work we need visibility of this todo list. Not many venture into the bugs section, so we need to bring the bugs section to them. So we should create an "Action List" on the front page of OpenACS that just pulls tickets from the component in bug-tracker.

    This is where personalisation would be nice. Ideally I would like to see a personlalised Google-like home page where you can drag around blocks of content from bug-tracker, wiki, forums, blog, etc. That way developers can display a bug-tracker block, and casual users can choose not to.

    Lets start from scratch by firstly identifying things that are wrong with the site. This includes usability, content, aesthetics, etc.

    We've stated content is a problem, but what content are we talking about? And exactly what is wrong with it? We need specifics on the problem before we can proceed with a plan to fix the problem.

    Second, we add each item to the bug-tracker component, and prioritise the list.

    Third, we call for volunteers to action those items.

    Wouldn't the project manager be of help to get things structured? after all this seems to be a project. Added bonus could be we discover usefull tidbids that could add value to the package in the process, like things you can't do with it right now. 😉 I think this reconciles Nick's approach and the earlier comment we underuse the toolkit's features to make the OACS statement.

    The features in project manager also help to organise the commercial aspects of the workerbee idea (timesheets etc). Maybe in an ideal world it would make sense to combine bugtracker and projectmanager, in the same way logger integration is created or as optional plug-in.

    This may create duplicate functionality, in that case it would be an interesting excersise to trim down the code. From personal experience I can can tell there are more candidates for such an approach, Eventmanager and Room reservations spring to mind. Both packages would benefit from the same plug in approach.

    Just a thought

    Let's consider what works well as well as what is "wrong."

    We need to compile a list of requirements, to help measure what is going in the right direction, what needs work, and what is irrelevant.

    A comprehensive summary of the documentation requirements overlaps with site requirements:
    Should this significant community input distilled from all related discussions in the forums to July 2003 be overlooked in this process?

    Ben, you are right. Following project management phases would be helpful in this redesign, whether or not the project manager package gets used. Here's an overview of PM phases in the documentation project context:

    Ben, though your calls for the PM remain unheard, you are 100% right about it anyway. But it only helps once we have an idea and areas (clearly defined) that need improvement.

    I usually would call for a brainstorming session along with mindmapping at this point, but well, there is no collaborative mindmapping tool out there yet.

    I'd suggest we split up this discussion into questions that need to be answered by the website (after all, it is mainly our content that needs to be improved along with the navigation to it, only after that comes design, name and logo). I created a wiki page, where I would like all to write down questions first and structure them into parts later ( Once we have the questions and the parts, we could use the PM to create an improve project and let the volonteers deal with the groups and answer these questions.

    This would also be the time to thing about the new design and the name, if need be, so work could be done in parallel.

    And once this is done the marketing group can start and get things rolling.

    Three things which jump to my mind out of this dicussion:

    - Dicusssion forums are for discussions, not collaboratively getting work done. Thats why I started the wiki.
    - Volunteers need an easy method of helping out. Docbook is not easy. Coding isn't either. We need to provide them with the tools to make contributions easy (apart from the discussion forum).
    - Eat your own dogfood. OpenACS should be one of the showcases for the tool itself. Don't be restrictive on installing packages, just because it might increase the maintainability.

    Re PM. It's early days yet. My experience shows that as long it's available, and 2 people start playing, the rest will follow. Right now it's not even installed on Irrespective of it's usage, I feel that could be a small start.


    Changing the name from "OpenACS" to anything else would be foolish, and even suggesting it is a profound waste of time. Whatever problems the OpenACS project might have, its name is not one of them. Please focus on something more productive.
    I like Malte's mindmap format. Would it be feasible to create an oacs based package of Freemind?
    I think this would be a real showstopper to have on-line. I talked to the folks that are marketing Mindjet in Holland yesterday, and any question related to connecting to databases resulted in "Huh.. well maybe it should be possible".

    Just a newby thought

    mind mapping....


    I think introducing mind mapping is a top idea!

    We use MindManager extensively for all sorts of things, including as an interesting way to lay out a web page. Mind Maps make great 'front pages'

    As for integration with a database, I think it depends on what you mean by that. MindManager can export to XML amongst other things meaning that it should be pretty straight forward to have some kind of mind map 2 database translation.

    Given that Mind Manager can also integrate with other Office applications (and that it has an extension architecture) I suppose it may not be that difficult to integrate with ODBC for example... Great software, shame its windoze only.

    Howevever in terms of 'dynamic' maps this way be more tricky. Some kind of interactive mind map interface would be great, but I seem to recall that freemind etc are fairly basic applications.

    Anyway, in essence I see no reason why documentation stored in the database couldn't be translated into mind maps.

    When talking about online mindmapping, you might want to check

    And just a reminder, original topic of discussion is not about mindmapping ;)

    Have a good day,

    I think we should be using the Survey package on the OpenACS website for community feedback for things like "What is wrong with the website?" or "Should we change the logo?". I just don't think we should be using the Wiki for these kinds of exercises. At least we'll be showing off another OpenACS application.
    I am completly agree with Nick, what we need is a tool that give us an easy way to collect information.

    On the redesign od openacs website we have to think in having tools like poll, survey.. tools that can give us information about what user needs, the most wanted modules (packages =) ), rate packages.. We need a way to know what they are looking for..

    To get the redesign process started I suggest we:

    - Install OACS 5.2 on (all packages mounted), to showcase the progress of the toolkit and concentrate on the latest developments, rather than catering for all historical installations people may be using.

    - Create a subsite named "OACS Redesign", and have all folks that are interested in participating in the project sign up as members.

    3. Appoint a "Redesign coach" as project lead, and maybe a few secondants to monitor the progress.

    4. Make sure the input of endusers is not ignored, by launching a public ENDUSERS WEBLOG (reverse engineering), not related to hackers / developers, i.e. a place where everybody can put up feature requests without beeing flagged down. I am confident that the majority of feature requests we will receive that way, will already be available in the toolkit, but have remained undiscovered/disclosed.

    5. Get cracking and make sure in 2006 everybody understands what OACS has to offer, geek or non geek.

    6. Get some graphic designers on board that like a challenge and set up a pool of artists that offer their services to help customise OACS sites.

    Just some thoughts, published at a time (1.47 GMT+1) when I should not be fussing about these kind of issues 😉


    Website requirements that parallel the documentation ones have been added to: per above.

    Are there enough requirements listed (that will result in significant use improvements) so that we can move to the next step?

    Nick, Vivian, the intention of the wiki was for brainstorming, which allows you to collect the question which to ask in the first place. If you prefer doing this in a survey this is fine, but how do you come up with the questions to ask in the first place (assuming you want to have a collaborative effort which involves multiple participants). This is the power of Wikis, not of our survey module.

    Looking forward to the next step (as I think we do have enough information what questions *visitors* of the website will ask the website). Note that this is a different approach than asking what is wrong with our website :).

    The Ruby on Rails crew have a new website at

    Take note that they don't have a forum for their community. They just have a blog and a wiki, and some info about their IRC channel. Very simple, clean, and organised.

    They don't have any news items or latest postings on their front page. Just some information about their project and the community. Makes you wonder whether you really need to have news items and latest forum postings on the front page. Especially since the developers would be subscribed to their weblogs RSS feed, and curious new comers would just follow the link to the blog.

    So really the rails website is just a place card for new comers to check out the project. Their developers would either be hanging out in their IRC channel or subscribed to the blog's RSS feed.

    Should we adopt this design and organisation as well?

    The Rails project also has a very active mailing list.
    Sorry Nick, gotta say that the Ruby site is miles away for what I'd hope for in a site. IMO it lack depth, breadth, impact, imagination and so on..

    A site like that looks like its had about a weeks thought/work on it. If thats all we're aiming at we may as well leave things as they are.

    Either raise the bar, or head to the bar ;)

    However I do like Ben's suggestion.

    Lets get a full project going, make its remit a little bit larger than just site presentation (I've discussed these items before) and make a full on attempt to move things to the next level. This means forming a team from a subset of the community and reporting back out..

    Design coach/lead/manger ... ok.. I volunteer.

    Now, ]project open[, suitable for running a project like this ?


    No offence to ]project open[, but in the spirit of promoting OACS toolkit, it might be more logical to use OACS prjoject manager module. I do like Nick's idea of using weblogs more prominently


    Or one might argue that it highlights another facet of OpenACS... but perhaps you are right.
    I should have added that i suggested this due to my lack of familiarity with the projetc manager package in OpenACS.

    What I'm anxious to avoid is the same problem we had with trying to run collaborative testing a few years ago where basically we spent more time setting up and managing servers for supporting the testing than actually getting testing done.

    If however the PM module is up to scratch then of course we shouls use it.

    Let's open a project-manager instance. P/O is probably suitable as well, but involves more installation work on the site.
    Maybe it is time to do something, this forum is getting bigger..
    Define roles or maybe list the task to do somewhere and see who volunteer to do what.?
    I am going to try upgrading this weekend to 5.2.0 final. Let's hold off installing any additional software until then.
    I have not used the OpenACS project manager, but..

    Should there be a plan before using project manager?

    How well does project-manager handle projects that are not on a strict time-line or "floating" dependencies? Given that this redesign may not be well worked out ahead of time?

    Do we want to expose the possibility of using a potential flagship package in an inappropriate way?

    Would configuring the bug/ticket tracker to use project/tqm phase ticket types be more appropriate? For example: Observation, Problem report, Suggestion, To do. OpenACS almost has this configuration on the bugtracker.

    I would go for the simplest method possible to organize in a transparent manner. Say using the Wiki or an Edit-this-page page to list the tasks and who is working on what, any projected dates of completion. Next in complexity is probably bugtracker, where we could setup a coponent. There is the generally unused bugtacker at that also could be used.
    That said, I will back off and let the people who are volunteering to do the work to decide :) I'll let everyone know when the upgrade is done, obviously and anyone who needs software installed can email for assistance.
    Here is another site to take inspiration perhaps. It definitely lists what it is, and why you might want to use it.

    I would definitely like to lobby for the use of project-manager on and will make myself available to fix any problems and implement feature requests that arise from it's usage.

    I think the rails site has superb marketing and branding. That site is all about selling and I think that's the way it should be.


    Re the project manager, one valuabe addition would be to add rss suport to the messaging part. Should be pretty straight forward I would think.

    Just a thought

    Simon, I am struggling to understand what your expectations are for the openacs site redesign. If you can, please provide an example of a site that closely resembles what you have in mind. I think an example will help align our expectations.
    Interesting article about how people use web sites.

    * Users approach information spaces with a specific mission in mind. The best sites design the scent for those missions.
    * Users first scan the page for 'trigger words' -- the word or phrases that will trigger them into clicking on a given link.
    * If they don't find appropriate trigger words, they'll often resort to the site's Search function. (In essence, they are creating their own scent.)
    * As users start to click, scent is more about eliminating choices -- things it's obviously not. As the user continues to click, the scent becomes more about honing the right content.
    * Users deduce part of a link's scent from its proximity to related links. Groups of links can increase the scent of each individual link contained in the group.
    * Users expect every click to make them more confident they will find their result. When the page that results from a click doesn't increase the users' confidence, their frustration increases and they consider abandoning the quest.
    Hi Nick,

    I'll have to have a think about what makes good examples. However, the problem with finding examples is that in the same way that its hard to find another piece of software that mirrors the ACS its also difficult to find a site that encompasses all the aspects I'd like to see.

    I've already had quite a lot to say on the subject earlier in this thread and therefore I'm in danger of repeating myself (and boring everyone rigid), but perhaps I can explain by way of 'thin slices', i.e. there are sites out there that have aspects of what I'd want, but are not in themselves complete. Also, there are sites that demonstrate exatcly what I don't want to see. I dislike using negative examples, but if you'll bear with me perhaps it will help.

      Ruby on Rails

    Ok, I'll start with the exemplar you gave. First impression of the site is that it looks like an advert. The very phrase 'Web development that doesn't hurt" sounds like a strap line. The front page is committing lots of horrible sins about how websites should function. The quotes fading in and out are make it look like a video billboard. I absolutely hate the fact that its got a central column (nasty to read) and that its wasting valuable screen space. Its my browser and I expect sites to use the space I provide to the fullest.

    I can't really make much comment on the content or collaborative nature of the site because there a) isn't enough and b) what is there isn't jumping out at me.

    On the other hand its fairly clean and uncluttered and quite direct and to the point. In fact it seems to be saying 'come on in, this is easy to use, this is for newbies'.. perhaps this is a reflection of the relative lack of sophistication of RoR? Either way I don't think this kind of site would be a good reflection of ACS. What kind of newbies are we aiming for? Acs is for sophisticated applications. This is somewhat orthoganal to the goals of many newbies. We surely want to attract 'experienced' newbies?

    Anyway, I don't wish to be overly critical of your exemplar, but hopefully you can see where I'm coming from. We should be aiming for a site that is more than simply an online brochure/sales leaflet. Incidentally I suspect that where the site really wins is in its subject matter. People are saying warm fuzzy things about Ruby, and I think almost any site would benefit from the association... A shame TCL does not seem to attract the same warmth.


    This site has always had a lot going for it. Its simple, clean and purposeful. It lacks the 'advertising' feel of many other sites and it resonates nicely with web developers (i.e. white background, black text, blue links... )

    However theres only one aspect that interests me here and that's how Apache presents itself as a focal point rather than a product. What I would take from Apache is the way it treats sub-projects. There is obviously the core product (apache itself) but along side that is over 20 related projects. Each is fairly autonomous with Apache being the unifying theme. I would like to see this approach with Acs packages and related projects. OpenACS should be the body around which other projects orbit. There have been various comments from people who claim that its hard to commit their work to the community. They should be encouraged to become orbiting satellites, prominent and yet autonomous.


    Ok, there are plenty of things wrong with this site but it does do a number of things very, very well. Read through some of the FAQs or docs. They are *extremely* bullish about their product. Now, as a database centric kind of guy I'm no fan of Hibernate; yet more middleware for the Java boys. However the product itself if you ignore its motivations is first rate. The site knows exactly who its audience is and appeals to them. It know that is main user base is in the middleware space, it is sympathitic to the fact that this is 'enterprise' software and it presents itself in such a way that it appeals to the middle-manager-mindset. It avoids advertising in favour of justification through argument. It is not particularly newbie centric but I think this is the correct approach. The product is not intended for the faint hearted and is squarely aimed at professionals. Correctly so.


    Ok, this is an easy and I'm sure popular choice. This site is really good and I think a lot can be gleaned from it both in terms of presentation and purpose. I won't even bother going into detail because it so obvious for all to see. However I will say that when I first came across it it reminded me a bit of the kind of sites the ArsDigita folks used to bang on about building. QED.


    Now this is unusual as it must be a contender for the worst looking website in human history! But, whats important here is that this site is therefore the embodiment of the idea that content is king. Its looks absolutely appauling and yet its hugely popular. It has one of the most active forums/communities out there. It contains a wealth of useful information and has community members who really know what they are talking about. It shows that substance on the web is far more important than appearance.


    Many of the comments that applied to Hibernate apply here. However this also looks quite nice (subjective of course). The reason I mention Spring is that these guys are getting the attention that we could/should/would be having. Everything about Spring is about how you take a wholly inappropriate technology (Java) and try fit-it-in. If you've spent more than about a day with a dynamic language then you'll understand what a giant red-herring Spring is. The kinds of problems that Spring solves (agile, SOA, IOC, lightweight development) are problems that barely even exist within a framework like OpenACS. Where they have it right is in exactly that word 'framework'. The aspect I'd take form here is the idea of Acs as a framework for solutions.

    Ok, I could go on all day and still not make a complete argument, however hopefully the principle comes through. The site must match the community and the product. As our product is distinct so it follows the site must have its own character. We cannot find another site and say 'like that', we must analyse what we are, what we do and what we like from whats out there; and create something individual.

    I suspect that we all know what sites 'look good' (take the bbc for example). The real key is whether they have the substance. Anyway, perhaps this is a good first step. Lets find aspects of other sites that would be a good fit for Acs, from there we can build a list of requirements and from there a plan...

    After reading this thread, I immediately had the urge to scream loudly, "why does everyone care what color the bike shed is?"

    The OpenACS nuclear power plant is melting down and people are spending vast amounts of time proposing new (very bad) project names and logos. At least half of the packages are broken in 5.2.0 in small or large ways, the bug-tracker at has a seriously annoying bug that prevents users from closing their own bugs, bugs remaining unanswered for months or years is par for the course, documentation is wrong, following the tutorial results in non-working code.

    The OpenACS logo is just fine. While it may be fun to imagine that a slick new image will make OpenACS vastly more popular, it's not the logo or project name that is keeping people away from OpenACS in droves.

    Fixing the real problems does not require a new logo, a new website design, or even a project manager (despite it being a cool package, that I find very useful), and in fact, arguing about them merely distracts folks into thinking that they're doing something positive for the project when they're just arguing about the color of the shed.

    What needs to be done for OpenACS boils down to (this is not new...I'm not the first to notice these things):

    • Documentation. Correct documentation, more specifically, since currently there's lots of documentation that hasn't been correct in years. A user that is introduced to OpenACS development with a tutorial that results in non-working code is not going to come away with a good impression of the project.
    • Bugs need to be brought under control. There are hundreds of bugs that have been open without response for months or years. Even patches to fix problems don't always result in closing of a bug. This is also very frustrating for new developers--enthusiasm for helping out dies very quickly when not only bug reports but bug fixes are ignored.
    • New development information needs to trickle up out of the forums. I learned of a slew of function deprecations in 5.2.0 only when Torben pointed me to a forum post from February of 2005 that mentioned them. A wiki documentation project might be the way to make this happen. Clearly the DocBook-based process is not working.
    Joe is spot on.
    58: Call for OACS Reloaded (response to 1)
    Posted by Adam Aggeusz Jaworski on
    I am 100% with you Joe,

    for me (as newbie, but still excited) it is totally strange, people here are spending time on discussions about 'surface', while key and real problems are untouched - how can I believe there are still old bugs because there is not enough people/time available? sounds a little... I better stop here

    as of "project manager", I am unsure we are talking about the same, Joe

    in this thread:
    Matthew posted idea which seems to be really in good direction, but it doesn't refer to _package_ but to position Project Manager, I believe it is really worth to 'implement'

    in short: Programmers should be free of any "project management", I have never seen good coder and good manager being the same person, and if you look at OpenACS current state, this is obvious there is no management, and this is real urgent problem, I am sure there are many talented programmers able to fix broken code and develop new code, but this project needs not only techie-governing body (which is of course necessary in such complex project), but also management responsible for all these not-coding parts - I hope there is no need to explain here what management is..

    wishing everybody here OACS Reloaded 😊

    60: "Show Me the Docs" (response to 1)
    Posted by Adam Aggeusz Jaworski on
    unfortunately, case well explained:
    I wish I am wrong here...
    Posted by Joe Cooper on
    as of "project manager", I am unsure we are talking about the same, Joe

    in this thread:
    Matthew posted idea which seems to be really in good direction, but it doesn't refer to _package_ but to position Project Manager, I believe it is really worth to 'implement'

    Torben and others mentioned the package Project Manager. But my point applies to either the Project Manager package (which is really cool, and would be impressive in any context) or a Project Manager person. It is not the lack of either that leads to bugs remaining in the bug tracker for months or documentation being hopelessly outdated.

    I suspect what has happened with OpenACS is that the codebase is simply too wide-ranging for the current number of developers--there are areas that simply are not maintained and have not been for years. It is a project that once had a large corporate developer, and now only has volunteers and a few small corporate occasional sponsors. No amount of management can make the code smaller or the developers have more time to devote to their particular pieces of OACS. In fact, heavy-handed management in an Open Source project has negative results in the vast majority of cases--these folks aren't being paid specifically for OACS work, so no one can tell them what to do. (And anyone that wants to without being willing to do an equal measure is not worth having involved in the project. I've got my OSS merit badges from years on the Squid and Webmin and other projects...and in issuing these complaints, I'm volunteering to help fix the problems I'm complaining about.)

    Anyway, there are two possible solutions to this problem, and they're both really simple (but hard), and only involve management in the sense that someone with the right privileges here at the website has to make them happen:

    • Increase the developer-base. I know this is what this thread is all about, but a glossy website isn't going to overcome real problems. And bringing in developers with big promises only to have them leave frustrated by even the simplest experiments is not going to increase the active developer-base.
    • Decrease the code to a size that can be managed by the current developers.

    I suspect the latter will be required in order to achieve the former.

    Those discussing site image/logo are not necessarily different from those working on code etc. I for one need to do something artfully creative after working on code abstractions for awhile. Why not discuss *all* aspects asynchrously to optimize human resources?
    Here's the doc about contributing:

    Post a new thread in the forum or suggestion in the bug tracker to initiate changes to that (or most anything else).

    63: "Fresh ideas" (response to 1)
    Posted by Adam Aggeusz Jaworski on

    I agree with some points, but let me explain some of my points to make the picture more clear

    as of "management" - it is obvious we are not talking about management in a corporate sense, it is rather about community leadership, where - because of project/code complexity - it is impossible to make things moving on only by occassional volunteers, working almost independently on their "islands" of code

    look what Torben posted here:

    in short: yes, it seems we are "reinventing" old ideas here, all this was discussed many times, in detail, and here is the problem: there is large codebase, there is HUGE discussions base, ideas, started efforts, etc. but mostly never completed

    I can imagine, reading Lars explanation why he leaved OACS, all this current chaos is not simply because there is too big codebase and too little development team, I wish it could be that simple

    but at this point I have to repeat myself, please, don't start (at this point) any fundamental discussion, there were many such HUGE discussions in the past, with almost none result

    please START with SIMPLE things, make simple spring-cleanup, it doesn't require any changes in codebase or community structure, and AFTER comeback to harder problems

    why I am repeating this call for spring-clean-up on surface level before starting with these harder parts ?

    simple, to avoid further looking as almost dead project and dead community, and dead website, to breakthru that feeling that there is no chance to change anything for better

    I have strong feeling the problem is not too large codebase and too little developers base, the problem is:

    too little people believes in OpenACS future !!!

    Lars lost his vision about OACS, he lost any hope anything can be done here, and this is why he quit

    give them hope and simple facts, let them see it CAN happen !!!

    I for one am starting to get tired of the "people should stop focusing on logos" bashing. For what purpose does this serve if not to be completely demoralising and deconstructive?

    Look at how we started this thread... we had some discussion on a logo design, with some mock ups provided for feedback. This then inspired Carl to scratch up a site design for feedback. We actually *saw* some progress on a fresh new look for the site, even though it was just back-of-the-envelope ideas. Like Torben said, it is good to take a break from coding and do something "artfully creative".

    Now look at this thread... nothing but hot air.

    While I'm venting (hot air), if a logo redesign or new site design is so bad then tell me why they get so much exposure on slashdot?

    Other open source projects like FreeBSD, NetBSD, SeaMonkey, Debian, RoR, have all appeared on slashdot repeatedly for something deemed in this thread to be so trivial.

    How about Drupal's Druplicon on the cover of PHP | Architect? Do we not crave this sort of exposure? I think Drupal is a piece of crap, but hats off to their marketing skills.

    I for one am bewildered (and jealous) that other community projects can get so much attention, and they seem to be doing it not because they have a great product, but because they are great at marketing their product.

    Logos and brand identity are not a waste of time. And if you think they are, then Trump will fire your a$$ from The Apprentice.

    Posted by Adam Aggeusz Jaworski on

    I agree, "Logos and brand identity are not a waste of time", but when you have that level of chaos, confusing information, broken packages, you have something to do _before_ you can expect new logo will make OACS famous

    this is not a rocket science, I would like to see fresh, clean design, logo and content here, but market says market wants something different first, market wants working apps, not just new framework release, not just new logo

    you always have two options: listen what market wants, or guessing what market wants

    if you have to see this yourself, nobody can stop you, but why not to take this opportunity to avoid further frustration being "in the shadow" ?

    please continue with redesign efforts, it is also very important, but don't think this will change anything in the near future if you will not put some effort to simple spring clean up here as explained in many posts


    I really don't see what all the fuss is about. If some people want to work on a fresh new look, then they can do it in parallel to the other work with very little impact on the rest. How is this possible? Well isn't that what ADP templates and CSS are for?

    What is the point in having a framework that imposes Separation of Concerns, and not being allowed to work separately on smaller projects?

    Anyway I feel there is too much friction, or I'm causing too much friction. Either way I'm going to bow out gracefully and let others get the ball rolling on this issue.

    I think it’s great we are getting all this excitement about improving OACS. I want to remind people that this is an open source project not a company. The OCT is a decision making body, we do not command any resources. There is also not a fixed pie of resources. People do what they feel is important and have the skills to do. Thus an argument over whether A or B is more important is not that useful.

    The following questions are useful.

    1. Is A something we want done? (The OCT has the final decision on this in general)
    2. Is there someone who wants to and can do A? (Each individual volunteer decides this)

    And the same questions on B.

    Arguing that A shouldn’t be done because B is better is often pointless. There is no fixed pie of labor. If we agree that both A and B should be done then please be supportive of people who are doing both A and B. If you don’t think A should be done then please make that argument based only on the merits of A. That you think B is more important is really not that relevant. Bashing B is likely to make a volunteer who wanted to do B go away and not do anything, so think if that is what you want before you post.

    At this time we are a community of volunteers. I’d ask everyone to find a place where they can pitch in and do something helpful that they feel is important.

    If you would like a decision made please let the OCT know. You can reach us at We meet on Tuesday (as in tomorrow) 11pm UTC 6pm EST 3pm PST in the #openacs channel. Procedures for official TIP decisions are here:

    Who is on the OCT can be found here:

    Caroline, Nick,

    please accept my apologies in case you feel I have made something inappropriate here

    I hope we can discuss and get some results without taking it all too personaly

    my 'barbaric rants' has only one intention: to give you fresh external feedback, but what you will effectively do (or not) with this feedback, it is entirely your choice

    I hope all this "fuss" will help to not only discuss, but also make OACS better

    nice to meet you 😊

    Adam, I am open to criticism, so no need to apologise. I just get frustrated and annoyed when good progress gets shot down because of a case of too many chiefs and not enough indians.

    Like Caroline said, this is not a company, nor would any of us want it to be. For some, the toolkit is their livelihood, for others it is just a hobby. For me it is a bit of both.

    The people that form this community are extremely passionate about the toolkit, and contribute out of their own free will. So if I can't be allowed to express myself freely, then I can just as easily do a Lars and find some place else where my contributions will be welcomed. That is the reality of open source projects.

    I should however state that I am not Lars, nor do I plan on jumping ship anytime soon. I am very passionate about the OpenACS toolkit and the Community. In fact the Community is why I ditched Sakai in favour of OpenACS. It is also worth reading the entire thread to gauge just how passionate people are about OpenACS.

    So, where do we go from here? Well you can either be a chief and stay in this thread, or you can be an indian and help out with the wiki project in this thread.


    in short:

    longer version:
    thanks for reply, I am also passionate about OACS, and found it just
    a few days before I planned to go RoR after _months_ of trying
    every groupware in LAMP world, so I am kinda Lars-reverse 😉

    new design/layout/logo/content still wanted!


    Just to keep the song alive,

    We had a great discussion over the christmas period about changes, so it would be a shame to sink back into "sit & wait". I created an oacs 5.2 ETP section, based on the assumption that to new users it'll make more sense reading about the latest release, than all the historical considerations.

    What would people like to have added to this? Maybe the folks that participated in the christmas discussion would like to have edit access so we can get things moving.

    I know ETP is not ideal,and XO wiki is superior, but that's not available yet. Maybe we need to upgrade first, before we start playing, so ETP can be depriciated.

    Just a thought


    you guys overshooting the problem by a wide margin i think.

    it is far more important to get the infrastructure in place to allow us to do cms like things and add/remove useful features and content before doing a full blown redesign.

    website design is a task entirely separate from website utility, and frankly it's a one person job.

    website utility on the other hand is something that requires quite a bit more work and thought and this is where we need to spend more time.

    here is the set of tasks that we need to focus on:

    1. get something like xowiki in place. this will allow everyone to keep the entire site content fresh. i understand it is possible to do this now if you have permission to do so, but hopefully xowiki will give us some facilities between a cms and a wiki. that should make it easy to keep various pages fresh, delegate responsibility over sections of the site and hold people accountable.

    2. once xowiki is up and running, we need one todo like page up and running with all the infrastructure/content changes that need to take place. it would let everyone brainstorm and keep track of ideas and then allow us to pick off all the ideas one by one. it could be as simple as a wiki page, or as complicated as a full blown project management tool.

    3. once we have used xowiki/whatever for a while and know its nuances and have expanded the utility factor of the website by perhaps enhancing our ability to manage documentation, get tutorials up faster, add more resources for people trying to learn/step into oacs ... then we can look at a site wide redesign.

    dave no pressure on the site i know you are working on that. i am volunteering to maintain as much content as you guys need and look at proposing website changes as soon as you guys are ready.


    1. Mount XOWiki.
    2. Find out who would like to participate.

    dave was working on the 'mount' part over the weekend.


    all of us should be pitching in and buying this dude like a dozen cases of beer and a life time supply of pizza.


    go dave! can't wait to see it.