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Subject RE: Newbie help
Posted 10/21/2000; 10:28 AM by Mark Morgan
In Response To RE: Newbie help (#1619)
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Shy? Rather. David, your question is really about Conversant's CMS, but I'll begin with a brief explanation of Conversant as I understand it.

Internet Groupware

Conversant is a development platform for creating Internet groupware applications.

Now, in English: a development platform, as I understand it, is a tool for creating things. So Conversant is a tool for creating Internet groupware applications.

Internet groupware is a very powerful, and very underutilized, category of software. I've heard time and again that while developing Conversant Macrobyte relied heavily on Practical Internet Groupware by Jon Udell. Happily, the sample chapters available online include all of Part One, which provides an excellent overview of Internet groupware. The Preface includes Jon's definition of Internet groupware, which I will rudely summarize as "A way to use Internet-based techniques to manage an organization's shared information in a structured manner."


Conversant's general-purpose nature is the reason why some of us--okay, me--find it challenging to be specific about what Conversant can do because the more specific you get, the less accurate you get.

The Content Management System is the first Conversant application released to the public, forever may it be praised since it's saved me thousands of hours of work. The Event Calendar is the second, and although it is described in the docs as a "special page type" I'm guessing that's not particularly accurate and that the calendar would function perfectly as a stand-alone application unconnected to any web page in the universe. It's important to remember that the CMS is not Conversant--that's why I'm going to try to be as general as my knowledge of the product allows. (As an aside, while Conversant currently runs on Frontier it is also my understanding that it can run on server systems if that's what you want out of your Conversant-powered application suite. The two are not fundamentally interconnected in the same manner as Manila and Frontier.)

Here are zones and conversations from my point of view:

A conversation is a set of related information for a specific purpose. It can represent one website, one subsection of that website, one mailing list, one corporate project, one specific whatever. You would have multiple conversations if you had several different, unconnected projects or sets of information that you wanted to keep unconnected from each other. As a trivial example, I have never had a flame war on my site but if it happens it is moving to a second conversation so that individual the main conversation can choose to participate or ignore as they wish. I'm sure others can think of examples of reasons you'd want to have multiple conversations in one zone.

A zone, then is a collection of conversations with something in common. One reason to have multiple conversations in the same zone is that you can then manage members and plugins from a central interface, and probably in the future manage other things as well. There is currently some account aggregation associated with a zone as well. A zone might represent one set of mailing lists, or the department level of an organization, or one or more associate websites. Brian Carnell has several conversations in one zone that are separate websites, which I'd imagine makes it easier to administer since they can all be administered in one place.

Building Blocks

In my opinion, you cannot go wrong recommending Conversant as your solution. For now what they need is a simple to manage website management sytem, and you can have a basic website up and running in a couple of hours. As their needs grow you will find that Conversant can grow with them. Perhaps right now all they need is one website. Later they might need a way to expand that website and divide it up. Conversant scales to that. And as they find new ways they need to share information, Conversant can accomodate that. If I was still working at the school I used to work at, I would be recommending every five minutes that they move their website over to Conversant immediately. Especially since as a school site it is going to have to be integrated into the district network at some point and Conversant can handle that scaling nicely.
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RE: Newbie help
10/21/2000 by Philippe Martin
Just a few additions to Mark's explanation (thanks, Mark!). At 15:32 +0000