Thursday, 11 December 2008

Notes about MySourceMatrix

A few weeks ago I attended a half-day seminar on the MySourceMatrix Web Content Management System (WCMS). Better late than never, here are some of my notes from the presentation.

Firstly, I think we should point out that unlike other free open source WCMS (such as Drupal), MySourceMatrix really operates as a commercial open source product through, which they describe as follows:

"MySource Matrix is offered as ‘Supported Open Source’ whereby Squiz provides an application warranty, and product support under an Service Level Agreement, underpinned by an extensive range of available professional services."

There are a number of benefits with this approach that combine the protection of a commercial product with the ability to get under the hood of the product and contribute to its development. It also encourages a demand driven approach to improving the system and the kind of transparent and collaborative support environment that is generally associated with the open source movement. Incidentally, recently announced that they had "re-licensed its MySource Matrix tool under the popular GNU General Public License (GPL), nearly two years after facing criticism the software's previous licence wasn't 'open' enough". But if you want access to all the bells and whistles you do need to subscribe to the supported version. So, while I don't think you should approach this simply as a free product this doesn't mean there isn't any value in the model.

Now that we've got that out of the way, lets focus on what it actually does. The MySourceMatrix is pitched against other commercial WCMS like Red Dot, Interwoven and Vignette. With out me saying it, this hints at the fact that MySourceMatrix is a flexible and sophisticated WCMS with a mature and polished content management interface for site administrators. And naturally in a platform pitched at this level it meets requirements that are particularly important to government departments, like work flow, accessibility standards, content archiving and metadata. Probably the one key difference from its main competitors is that it only runs on Linux servers and either a PostgreSQL or Oracle as its primary database.

However, and this was a key point in the seminar, to get the most out of MySourceMatrix you need to focus on fully leveraging its capabilities in content reuse, templates and some features that I personally really like around remote content, data sources and asset listing-based programming. You can do a lot with MySourceMatrix to build interactive and dynamic content with requiring any actual development. For example, this can be used to aggregate different types of content across a system to make:

  • A staff directory;
  • An image library;
  • A document library;
  • A single page that summarises the content of your site;
  • An RSS feed; and
  • A product selection page for shopping.

Really describing this in words doesn't really do this capability justice - I would recommend that if you are thinking of short listing MySourceMatrix as a solution you arrange a demo of this functionality to understand better what you might be able to do with it.

Talking of RSS, one of the other important areas that I'm interested in is of course is Web 2.0 and Intranet 2.0. MySourceMatrix claims to support features such as social networking, mashUps and blogging etc through a combination of native capabilities, 3rd party solutions or the data and asset listing functionality I described above. Unfortunately we didn't really any of this demonstrated on the day, but incidentally, the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy Website uses MySourceMatrix and you can check out the blogging functionality there on the Digital Economy blog. Craig Thomler wasn't too impressed with it as a blogging platfrom, as was APC. However, many of those criticisms are as much about how the blog is being used rather than the tool itself. We also have to remember that MySourceMatrix is a broad WCMS, not a social computing suite.

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