EOTB Web Site Technology

For those interested in the technology behind the scenes or considering setting up their own web site:

The current EOTB web site runs on the Zikula Web Application Toolkit. This was a natural evolution from the previous site which was built on PostNuke. Back in 2006 we looked at PHP-Nuke and found it unstable and not secure enough for our liking. PostNuke had come out of PHP-Nuke but had been tightened up and ran a lot smoother. The upgrade from PostNuke to Zikula was accomplished by “freezing” the PostNuke site over the winter and upgrading offline. The upgrade process was not without its challenges but in the end we are happy with the result. The biggest change was the theme which had to be rewritten as a Xanthia theme. It was time anyway for a new look & feel.

Notable modules used:

  • News – the site is primarily a Content Management System (CMS) with most of the content handled by this module. We made a few modifications to the module to better handle our specific permissions requirements. We wanted to restrict members-only content to just members and we wanted the Trail Reports Overview to be available to all but only members to read the full report.
  • mGallery2 is used to integrate Gallery2 with Zikula. We had to tweak a few settings in the Zikula core to make mGallery2 work and we needed to disable pnRender caching. mGallery does not seem to be supported right now but with thousands of pictures in Gallery2 we are just happy it works!
  • PostCalendar is used to manage events on the web site. PostCalendar 4 on Post-Nuke was frustrating at times but PostCalendar 6 has been greatly improved and runs smoothly and maintained our history of events
  • Downloads is a module used to handle all the extra PDF and Word docs and other resources that under PostNuke we just dumped in the filesystem. It implements permissions and categories and allows content to be uploaded without direct filesystem access.
  • Formicula is used for the feedback form. It’s a big improvement over the old PostNuke Feedback module, it allows feedback to be categorized and the capatcha will hopefully prevent a lot of incoming spam

There are many more modules available in the Extensions database. This gives us room to grow and the ability to implement new features on the web site without building everything from scratch.

The EOTB theme is built on Xanthia. Pictures are stored in Gallery2.

All components are Open Source. The price is right and there is community support. Zikula is built on PHP and all the source is provided which is good because we find ourselves digging into the source code quite often if only to understand how to configure it properly. A bit of PHP and mySQL knowledge and understanding is probably necessary if you want to be happy with Zikula. Both Zikula and Gallery2 use mySQL to store data.

We prefer to run our own site with our own database so in the future our options are open to upgrade or migrate to a new platform. We’ve seen too many people invest a lot of time in hosted CMS or forums and be locked in, leaving most of their content behind when the hosting provider goes down or they want new features or move to a new provider.

The mailing list runs on LISTSERV. While many organizations have gone to forum products we feel it is important to “push” messages to members to encourage their participation. And they can easily respond by just clicking reply in their favourite email program.

If you have questions you are welcome to use our feedback form to contact us.