Content management for academic dummies
September 10, 2010 12:17 PM   Subscribe

Needed: content management/collaboration for a new lab. Details inside.

I am setting up a new lab (psychology/social science) in a university setting. We currently use a hybrid of Google Docs and Dropbox for sharing, storing, and collaborating on documents. I like the former because it integrates well with the other google stuff that I use (gmail, calendar, etc); and I love dropbox because its the best thing I've used so far for sharing, storing, and collaborating on documents. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons this will likely become unwieldy as we add new team members and the research gets rolling. So I am looking around for a content management / collaboration system.

Our workflow is pretty simple: we generate and edit documents primarily using standard Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, Powerpoint) and statistical programs. These documents may be edited by multiple people, possibly (though rarely) at the same time. We will be storing some sensitive information so security must be good. I would also like to add a team calendar and a fairly simple wiki. So the basic attributes would be:

Must be: very simple to use, with a shallow learning curve, as some of my colleagues are slightly techno-phobic; free or relatively cheap (we are funded but not extravagantly so).

Must have: document collaboration, storage and backup, ideally in the cloud since we don't have server space (yet); calendar; wiki; good security.

Would be nice: some kind of integration with Google Calendar and/or Google Docs.

I have reviewed previous questions on this subject, but none seem to address exactly my criteria. Thanks in advance!
posted by googly to Technology (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Drupal is about as easy as a solution as you'll find. Plug-ins add calendar, Google doc support and wiki-like functionality. But it's not "cloud-based" unless you pay a hosting service to manage the site and database backups.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:39 PM on September 10, 2010

I work on a project where MediaWiki is used for this purpose (not just the Wiki, but also as a place to store documents). There might be better tools but it has a couple of big advantages. First, almost everyone is familiar with Wikipedia and how it works, even if they are less familiar with editing. Secondly, anyone can fix things up or change how the site works, which lessens the need for administrators to fix things. They basically keep the server running and that's it.
posted by grouse at 12:52 PM on September 10, 2010

Microsoft Sharepoint was pretty much designed for this, minus the google integration. If your school has an MSDN contract this would be a very nice solution.
posted by somacore at 12:53 PM on September 10, 2010

Looks like you are looking for two things.
- A content management system or a wiki (like Drupal, Mediawiki)
- and a file/source management system/repository to store and manage access to word/excel files

Try Trac

Technically it's there to manage software projects.
- it can manage your word/excel file in it's source repository so that conflicts (two or more users changing the same file at the same time) won't occur
- It has a wiki.

You can buy some web space and host it.
posted by WizKid at 12:54 PM on September 10, 2010

Not sure how many of you are on Mac but if you guys are mostly windows you may want to give a shot to Officsync which lets you edit documents in Office and sync them with your google docs account. If two people edit the same file at the same time it alerts the uses of the changes made by the other and lets them accept or reject. Here is a nice video that explains it.

You can also use Google Sites and set up a password protected space for documents etc where you can have versions of google sheets (say schedules) and docs visible to all and ability to share files, calendars and gadgets and customisable front pages.

All this can be free in the basic version of google apps.
posted by london302 at 1:15 PM on September 10, 2010

Thanks for the responses so far!

We're mostly Mac, so a Windows-centric option is less desirable.

Trac (especially the ticketing/workflow system) and Drupal both look good, and I'll check them out, but also open to other suggestions.
posted by googly at 2:39 PM on September 10, 2010

Basecamp is a low-cost option that I'm a huge fan of.
posted by kryptonik at 8:20 AM on September 11, 2010

Hey, Googly, are you still looking for content management system recommendations?

You've probably already selected one and moved on, but if not, consider Alfresco:

Alfresco on wikipedia
Alfresco organization site

o Open source / free.
o Developed by folks with experience at Documentum and Oracle.
o Huge installed base.
o Huge support community.
o Decent third-party support (see books by Shariff and Potts).
o Personally, I found it pretty easy to install and administer by myself (not a programmer or network engineer).

As to Google Docs, there's this:
o Getting Started with Using Google Docs with Alfresco (PDF)

posted by Herodios at 4:46 PM on November 22, 2010

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