Trying to coordinate an evaluation of corporate portals that takes a few months and involves not only eWeek Labs personnel but also employees at several businesses, colleges and government agencies can be a tall order. In fact, its the type of thing that a portal is perfect for.
And thats just what we did, building a Web-based portal that made it possible to have interactive discussions about the portal tests, conduct polls, store documentation and reviewers guides, post reviews, and in general serve as a central information point for the portal eValuation. To do this, we turned to the open-source community, which has produced several free discussion portals that have a similar look and feel to the popular Slashdot.org Web site.
Our choice was PHP-Nuke, which is available for free at phpnuke.org. As the name implies, this portal is based on the powerful and popular PHP dynamic scripting language, but almost no familiarity with PHP is required to run the portal. The creator of PHP-Nuke is Francisco Burzi, a Venezuela-based developer.
In addition to standard Slashdot-like running discussions, the portal also included a nice polling feature, user-to-user private messaging, downloads and linking features. A wide variety of add- ons to PHP-Nuke offer features such as chat, bulletin board forums and event calendaring.
The only requirements to run PHP-Nuke are PHP, Apache and the MySQL database. This means the portal will run on pretty much anything: In eWeek Labs, we have it running on FreeBSD, Solaris and Windows 2000. Setting up the portal is simple, although we did have to do a few tweaks of some configuration files to get everything working well.
One of the strongest points of PHP-Nuke is its excellent administration interface, which is as good or better than some found in corporate portals costing six figures. From this interface, we could easily add content, customize the look and feel of the portal, and manage users. PHP-Nuke also includes a very good interface, called File Manager, that let us edit files or delete, copy or rename files all from a Web browser. We could also view and approve content submissions and create delegated administrators.
Although we found that we could figure out most problems on our own, there are also a few excellent community sites where PHP-Nuke site managers can find information and support. These include www.nukeforums.com and www. nukesupport.com, both of which, obviously, were built using PHP-Nuke.