Available software different, free option
The UH Texas Learning and Computation Center is advocating for the campus community to use the same software that the CIA and NASA has used in the past to build efficient Web sites, UH officials said.
Plone is based on open-source software, meaning that it allows for collaborative development and creation from a team of people rather than one person and is free for all users, said Austin Smith, communications director for TLC2.
"Five years ago, we were setting out our Web site and looking for solutions, and we wanted open-source software," Smith said. "It’s part of our mission fostering research to take on initiatives like that."
TLC2 has used Plone to create its own Web site, and with the unveiling of the new UH Web site, Smith said UH could have potentially gotten the same results.
Plone lets users and its creators remove or add content to digital folders without taking space up on the user’s hard drive. Users also can add discussion forums, if needed, Smith said.
"Plone is a content management framework that works hand-in-hand and sits on top of Zope, a widely used open source web application server and development system," according to the TLC2’s Web site.
On Nov. 8, TLC2 invited the creators of Plone to discuss the benefits of using the software and its coding software, Python, over others.
"The great wonderful things about it is that you can pop over to any discussion forum in a community Web site, post your question and have an answer within seconds," Smith said.
Smith said Plone enables the community to provide input on how the program should improve.
Other software that is not open source can run from hundred to thousands of dollars, depending on the content, Smith said. Additional cost of technical support is usually not considered in this, either, he said.
Other universities, such as Cornell University, have started using the software, Smith said.
Josten Ma, TLC2 manager of application solutions, said almost 40 Plone sites have been created for UH’s ongoing research. Plone has been instrumental in the effort of spreading knowledge and handling content to help the University with its "custom-skinning product," he said.
Ma gives classes on campus for Plone users who want to learn how to navigate the program.
TLC2 has also hosted conferences where attendants received intensive training in Plone and Python – with users ranging from beginners to experts, Ma said.
"Technology is great as long as you have the business processes to support and sustain the needs of your users and customers."
Plone is able to run on Windows, Linux, Mac OS and other platforms. For more information, visit http://plone.net.