Give Me a Portal, Please!
August 10, 2010 5:49 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for an online solution and don't know if it exists. A customizable and private web portal that is widget-based (or similar) that I don't have to code myself, which a small group of people can have access to.

Would love to give a far-flung group access to the following:

-Blog feeds from a handful of blogs (Blogspot, Wordpress) that are already private blogs which we all have access to.
-A specific Twitter account related to our work
-Our group Flickr account
-A repository for document sharing (possibly a Google Docs folder. Issuu doesn't seem to be working so well for us.)
-Links to specific websites that we are using for research
-A calendar that we could change or update

Bonus features:

-Free! (It's for a group of university students)
-Aesthetically pleasing!
-Intuitive with smart usability!

I would usually put in a lot of time researching this type of thing myself, but I'm in the middle of a 6 week project and crunched for time so I am asking the smartest group of Internet folk I know instead.

posted by jeanmari to Technology (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I think I'm confused. Is the list at top everything you want to do, with this portal being a component, or are you wanting something that will actually manage all that stuff(Twitter, Flickr) from within the portal tool?

You're also kind of asking for a lot with both no coding AND free. How about cheap? And how cheap? Be honest. Ning's low-end plan is three bucks a month, but one level up with more features is $20/mo. You can spend that on a single night of drinking, each.
posted by Su at 6:08 PM on August 10, 2010

Response by poster: That's fine if it costs money. As I said, free would be a bonus, but not a necessity.

The portal would be our one-stop place to view all of the items in the first list. All of these items exist now, in different places, and we're hoping that the portal would pull them together. The portal would be the interface that shows us this information. (Some examples of what we have. Flickr. Twitter.)

It is very possible that what I am asking for IS too much. However, if I never ask, I'll never know. At one point in time not so long ago, someone would have laughed at me if I asked where I have access to a free dictionary or encyclopedia on my desktop that was constantly being updated. But hey, here were are and there is OneLook and Wikipedia. Not so crazy after all.
posted by jeanmari at 6:54 PM on August 10, 2010

Why not a simple wordpress theme with widgets providing the feeds you need for flicker, twitter, blogs, event calendar, links etc. It could do it all simply and for next to nix. Add a donation button for your users to help affray any costs.
posted by Kerasia at 7:01 PM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

You might be able to build something like this with Wordpress (I'd suggest Dreamhost, as they can keep your installation automatically up to date) plus the Absolute Privacy plugin. I'm not sure, but it might be a place to start.
posted by gd779 at 7:13 PM on August 10, 2010

Google Sites ticks just about every box:
  • Customizable (Includes support for themes and templates)
  • Aesthetically pleasing! (Plenty of good looking themes to chose from)
  • Private (You can chose who can access your site to view or collaborate)
  • Widget-based (Google Gadgets)
  • Intuitive with smart usability! / No coding (As easy as using a word processor and as a Google product it's has the smarts too)
  • Calendar / document repository (Tightly integrated with other Google services such as Calendar and Documents)
  • Links to specific websites (You can enter these in any number of ways but Google Sites has a great lists feature)
  • As far as pulling together external blogs such as Blogspot, Wordpress or Twitter and Flickr accounts there's a Google Gadget likely for that. As a last resort you can even insert a Google iframe Gadget in your page to embed external content.
  • Did I mention that it's totally FREE! :-)
Have a look at the official Google video about Google Sites.

Note: Despite how it may look I don't actually work for Google marketing. :-)
posted by Ask Ives at 8:07 PM on August 10, 2010

BuddyPress (which is a WordPress plugin, really) with the aforementioned Absolute Privacy thing might work for you. I'm running our library system intranet using that, and another website, and I believe it does most of what you want. Please feel free to memail me if you want more information/advice.
posted by newrambler at 8:54 PM on August 10, 2010

Speaking as someone who is this week, picking just such a place for my co-workers to work on things in secret. I'm liking the Google sites.
I was thinking a private word press site as Kerasia suggested. We already publish our sites with WP so making a extra private site would be easy, shake it out of the box easy.

But if we have a host issue, failure, compromise or have to move (i love my host) it would be just one more thing to remember and to deal with.

So for me, Google Sites gets it off of our host, stores documents, has calendar and is private. Bonus: I don't have to do much or fix it or update. We already do gmail and too many other Google services so it's a good fit.
My 2c, I go now to welcome the google overlord.
posted by blink_left at 9:42 PM on August 10, 2010

Ah, okay. If it's more of a display question, then WordPress(plus some plugins) is definitely worth looking into. People have made themes to fulfill some pretty divergent functions. There are definitely plugins that will pull down and display Twitter and Flickr streams, often as widgets you'll just drag into pre-defined spots in the theme. I don't know too much about BuddyPress itself but it'll probably get you a good way there. You should probably re-post your question in their support area for some more system-specific suggestions on extending it with what you want.
posted by Su at 9:54 PM on August 10, 2010

posted by nicwolff at 10:26 PM on August 10, 2010

Response by poster: Both Wordpress and Google Sites look promising, and I know next to nothing about Squarespace except that I've seen a couple of their blogs and they are beautiful. Has anyone used Squarespace for a portal that you know of? Any examples?
posted by jeanmari at 4:31 PM on August 11, 2010

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