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Book Review: Community Server Quickly
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by Sreejath S. Warrier
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Introduction

Community Server (www.communityserver.org) is a powerful collaboration platform developed by Telligent systems that helps us to quickly build a community that incorporates several features such as blogging, forums, file sharing, etc. with a remarkable amount of flexibility. Community Server can be configured to suit a wide variety of requirements. However, while the Community Server site offers detailed documentation (http://docs.communityserver.org/), someone tasked with administering a Community Server installation would appreciate having a single information source featuring a task oriented approach to Administering Community Server. Please note that the target audience of this book is a Community Server Admin and not a developer.

Anand's Community Server Quickly is a book that addresses this need. I had the occasion to review this title and would like to share my impressions with you.

Inside the Book

This book is organized into 12 chapters.

The first chapter provides a brief overview of Community Server, the various versions, the feature set, evolution and a brief comparison with DotNetNuke. This provides a good introduction to a newbie while serving as a quick refresher for more experienced users. A more detailed description of the differences between various versions of CS would be a good addition to this chapter.

The second chapter describes how to obtain, setup and start running Community Server. It discusses the various installation packages, the installation procedure, how to configure the admin account and how to verify whether the installation is working fine. A few more screenshots of the installation procedure and a listing of the common error messages and their causes (e.g. SQL Server does not exist) would be helpful to someone new to installing .NET applications.

Chapter three describes creating, managing and modifying blogs in Community Server. This chapter explains how to configure blogs in considerable detail and takes the reader through creating blog groups and blogs, adding posts and moderating comments.

The fourth chapter covers Forums and starts with a brief history of Forums and how they were used. It then goes on to discuss how to create a Forum, how to post to a forum, edit posts and delete posts. It also discusses moderating posts, assigning tags to posts and managing forum settings.

Chapter 5 discusses galleries. Community Server supports both photo and file galleries and this chapter discusses both of these in detail. The photo galleries section starts with adding gallery groups, adding galleries to the groups, adding and navigating through photos, managing comments, tags and albums. It also discusses customizing a photo gallery and managing advanced Photo settings (watermarking, displaying properties of a photo etc). It also explains how to import photos and how to syndicate photos. Community server enables file sharing between community members. The various features are discussed in the section about file galleries; follows a similar track to that of photo galleries. Here, Anand explains how to create folder groups, create and manage folders and uploading files. He also covers managing comments, settings, how to access the file gallery and viewing the download report.

Reader and Roller (in the specific context of Community Server) are respectively, features used to aggregate and display information from other blogs in a Community Server site. These features, which simplify content aggregation and display, are discussed in Chapter 6. In the section on reader, it discusses adding, agtgregating and managing feeds and assigning permissions to the same. It also covers working with the roller and managing the various settings in some detail.

Community Server has a robust User Management module and this is discussed in the seventh chapter of the book. It describes searching for users, using the quick lists and browsing users, etc. It also discusses Creating and Deleting users, changing passwords, managing roles account profiles, registration settings and Avatars.

Community Server is extensively customizable. Chapter 8 discusses the various customization options in Community Server like customizing the home page, modifying themes (both using admin pages and dynamically) working with Addons and working with Plugins. The Free TextBox add on and the CS.Calendar module are also discussed.

Chapter 9 delves deeper into the various settings that configure Community Server. This chapter discusses how to manage General Site Settings (enabling Ink, modifying Terms Of Service, setting the default site URL etc), Managing the contact information, RSS Settings and email as well as tracking IP Addresses.

Chapter 10 explains the various reports that a Community Server Administrator can generate from within CS. It explains how to generate reports for the forums, blogs and the site as a whole. Since reporting in CS depends on SQL Jobs, this chapter explains how to create and modify a SQL Job.

Community Server includes a lot of system tools that can be used to implement Censorship, Ad campaigns, URL redirects, Mass emails, etc. The last chapter in the book explains how to use these tools to maximum advantage. Some of the features it describes are implementing Google AdSense and Amazon Associates, implementing censorship, working with the Spam Blocker and Member points system. While this is not an exhaustive list, it points to the breadth of coverage that this chapter gives to the various system tools in CS.

Last, but not the least, this book includes an Appendix that explains the various steps involved in deploying a Community Server installation to a production server. While more experienced Admins may give this a miss, it is a valuable resource for admins who are new to registering a domain and hosting sites. Also, there is an online Appendix that lists links to various online resources that might be of interest to a Community Server Admin.

Summary

The whole book is targeted at System Admins that want to administer a CS installation with minimal retraining. And in my opinion, this book has succeeded. The concise and logical grouping of features helps a lot in finding the required information and other related, relevant information quickly and pretty close together. However, there are a couple of things that one would like to see as part of the next edition. One, it would be a good idea to include a bonus CD with the free version of Community Server installer and some of the Add ons/Modules available on CommunityServer.org. This would save new users the trouble of downloading the software from the website. Also, more screenshots of the installation process and a listing of potential installation error messages would be a good addition to chapter 2.

However, on the whole I can say that this title would serve as an excellent desk reference for anyone who is tasked with setting up and administering a Community Server installation.

About the Book

Title

Community Server Quickly

Author

Anand Narayanaswamy

Publisher

Packt Publishing

Edition

First

Pages

300

Price

US $39.99 (US $35.99 if purchased from Packt Publishing)

Rating

*****

Related URL

http://www.packtpub.com/community-server/book

 


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