Battle of the CMSs

So far, we've looked at several CMSs to create our online collections. This week, I am comparing most of them-- Drupal, DSpace, EPrints, the PKP Harvester, and Omeka. The comparison is from the point of view of a person using my websites. My comparison is based purely on what I can do with them. In other words, I have seen very cool things done with EPrints, but I can't do them. My EPrints website is horrible looking. In the real world, the same criteria would apply. If I'm deciding on a CMS, and I know I can do ABC but not XYZ, it doesn't matter much if other people can do XYZ. I can't, and my website will reflect that.

I think it will be easy to ferret out my preference.


Me as a farmer

This week I became a data farmer, and I harvested collections from other repositories and archives in order to populate my own fictitious website. I sort of felt like the Lady of the Manor, what with all the power felt in thousands of digital objects now in my control. Sort of.

At any rate, another assignment was to poke around the Open Archives service providers list and look at some of the sites, do searches, etc. Personally, I find the list a bit confusing, even though names, URLs, and descriptions are provided. I think it's because any one service provider doesn't do (or isn't) exactly the same thing as other providers on the list. So, I wasn't ever 100% what I was looking at.

I checked a few out. One is the Perseus Digital Library, because I knew it has some Classic material and my collection has some as well. I didn't really like the layout and I felt it was a bit difficult to navigate. Unlike a classmate, I didn't think it was clear what repository an item was harvested from-- unless most are at Tufts, where Perseus is located. Another site I looked at, whose layout I also didn't like, was Avano. Both of these sites had stark-looking search boxes. The browse feature in Perseus was pretty good, but all I found on Avano was a way to browse providers, not topics.

Cyclades was undoubtedly the strangest site. That they recommend new users read an explanatory document before beginning on Cyclades should tell you something. It had very few materials on it (that I could find) and they were of "minutes." Not sure of what. Maybe I should have read the manual.

The layout on GEO-LEO was a step up. Obvious browse topics pop up on the home page. I could find search results easy enough-- but never could actually get to the object itself. So that was no good.

Without a doubt the "best" site I visited was the Sheet Music Consortium. It had attractive images, easy navigation, and search. The browse feature was pretty terrible, as it actually brought me back to search; other browse-type menu items were crummy too and hard to read. But in using search I could find items easily and was taken to the original site in a new window.

The best type of federated collection would include:
  • Attractive site
  • Obvious navigation points
  • Browse by topic, collection, and providers
  • Thumbnail images (if images) that link to original
  • Metadata that is listed in a non-library way that will make sense to users and will link to other metadata (e.g. subject/topic metadata)
Huge federated sites would need to break apart tasks to different work groups so that objects are not lost in a sea of data.

Europeana is an excellent example of a consortium that, while not perfect, has many of what I consider to be important elements.


Consistency? What's that?

I absolutely love, love, love metadata. For whatever reason, assigning names, subjects, dates, and the rest makes my heart go pitter-patter.

The problem? I'm a bit over-analytical. Sometimes you can really think yourself into a hole when decided how to organize things.

At first I tried to apply metadata similar to the way The Arizona Memory Project has done. The problem, though, is with my collection, that wasn't a great fit. I need to be able to say, for example, "What kind" of hero the object is about, for example, "real-life," or "comic-book." Those aren't normal subject headings. I did also try to use the LCSH as much as possible in Drupal and DSpace. In these two CMS, we can enter the subjects free-hand, so I was able to do that. With EPrints, you select from previously supplied subject terms. I had originally thought I was going to be able to use LCSH and the Name Authorities, but I misread: EPrints had the LC Classification previously installed. That was absolutely incompatible with my collection! The closest I could get to assigning a subject to the song "The Ballad of Paladin," for example, was History-- United States. That narrows it down.

So with EPrints I went back to some of the items, such as Type of Hero, that I created in Drupal (used in addition to the free-hand). So, I guess I'm sort of consistent (which doesn't sound very consistent at all).

The best part is, though, I feel as though I'm getting a little better at devising taxonomy each time I try. And it's still F-U-N!!


Installation: Almost Impossible

OK, Jim, I chose to accept my mission and installed eprints. And I'm glad I did. But, boy, I earned my paycheck!

I think I had more trouble installing this than Drupal. And I kept making the same mistake over and over, entering one password when I should have been entering the other. So, I guess I'm the goof-up, but it doesn't mean it took me any less time to install.

I also pretty much sucked at branding eprints into something cool, though I will say that I really got to know the files and directories, having to go through them to look for all mentions of the "logo.gif" and changing them to my new logo, Luke Skywalker. Oh, I guess Jim Phelps wouldn't know anything about Luke Skywalker. He's an orphan who carries a sword that shoots laser beams, almost kissed his sister, discovered his dad was really alive when his dad cut his hand off, and then saved the galaxy. Anyway.

After having looked at other eprints sites, I know that a lot of cool things could be done with the branding, look, and feel. I hate to say it, because I still have a grudge against Drupal that goes beyond this class, but Drupal has the best look and feel to it. DSpace is still the most intuitive from the administrator end for me, and eprints the least. I do feel that if I worked with eprints a while, I could do pretty well with it. But if I had to work with one right now, and be pretty much responsible for it, I'd probably put eprints at the bottom of the list and go for DSpace.


A gaggle of CMS options

Wow-- I don't think I ever realized how many CMS options were out there. When I first started the DigIn program, I heard a lot of people talking about Fedora. I wasn't sure what it was, though I was pretty sure it had nothing to do with hats. I'm still not sure I understand exactly what Fedora is, though at least I understand it better, as well as other content management systems as well.

It's pretty exciting to see the work being done to help store, organize, preserve and allow access to content. Digital objects that might otherwise remain in obscurity are now (potentially) available for others. Not only that, but the CMSs I've seen can add value as well. As much as DSpace is more intuitive to me, I see that Drupal really has a lot of flexibility and functionality, a combination website / CMS. It offers various modules and allows people to interact with the objects and each other.

It's also pretty daunting. With so many CMSs out there, interoperability is a big issue. As is preservation, of course. But the glimmer of hope in the data deluge is that we're aware of the problem and trying to stay ahead of the danger.


DSpace Rocks! DSpace Rocks!

Unbelievably, I had absolutely no troubles with the installation. Bruce's directions are always dead on, but I don't always follow them without making mistakes... heh heh heh. In fact, when installing Drupal, I had so many problems and had to clog up D2L with all kinds of goofy questions. This week was a breeze. I think it was partly due to the fact that I broke up the installation-- I didn't try to do it all in one sitting. Also, partly luck.

As for whether I could do it without any IT help, heck no! That is, I would have to have some kind of help, even if it were to Google the instructions. Hopefully I won't lose the instructions Bruce made, because they may come in handy some day.


How do I feel ambivalent about thee?

Oh, Drupal. I hardly knew ye. Really. I just don't get you.

That's because I'd have to spend months with you just to understand how to even talk to you. And then months after that for things to really work between us. And I just don't have the time, Drupal. Not now, anyway.

You're a confusing piece of work, Drupal. I managed to download a few modules, and even a theme. But did it work? No.Well, yes and no. I found the modules, I configured them, but they just sit there, stupidly, not knowing that I want them to do something. And you didn't tell them to do anything, did you, Drupal? Because I didn't know how to tell you to tell them. So my plans of allowing "Top Terms" to show users the most popular terms used on the site went up in smoke. So did the thesaurus I thought I was building with the module "Similar by Terms." They would have been useful, I think. Especially if my collection were bigger. But, it was not meant to be.

And the theme. We could have had a grand time with CleanFolio, with its professional-looking colors of green, cocoa and brown. But you ruined that, too, didn't you, Drupal?

I'm sorry.I shouldn't lash out. It was just as much your fault as mine. I don't really understand you, not like I should. Can you provide interactivity to users? Can users group and collect items into their own, personal gallery? Can you be that flexible, Drupal? If you can, maybe we can get back together some day. But for now,

see ya.