Lab test: Telligent Community Server 2008 spurs collaboration
Blogs, forums, and media galleries integrate with enterprise applications through Web services
There's little argument that Telligent's Community Server can stand up to the rigors of hosting public-facing communities. This product is the force behind some of the biggest and most visible blogs on the Net, including MySpace, the National Football League, and National Geographic. An equal number of clients – the likes of Dell, GlaxoSmithKline, and Ernst & Young – use this platform for business-to-business and business-to-consumer communities.
With these uses out of the way, I set out to learn how well Community Server's new Intranet Edition works inside the enterprise as a knowledge management solution.
Intranet Edition differs from the existing high-end (Enterprise) edition by including SharePoint integration via custom Web Parts, but limits single sign-on to Active Directory (Enterprise provides three types of authentication). Otherwise, there are no restrictions on the number of forums, blogs, photos, and files. You also get enterprise search and RSS subscriptions for search results – and Harvest Reporting Server is included, providing analysis and trending on how people are contributing within a community.
Running on a Windows 2003 server using SQL 2005, my test setup was ready to use in about 30 minutes. That's because, while this application's very deep, the developers created one of the better administration dashboards I've seen. It clearly organizes all the major tasks you do initially and every day, allowing access through AJAX-style menus and forms. This let me quickly customize my site, manage groups, and maintain the three main functions: blogs, forums, and media galleries.
Community Server shined as a social platform. While members can't customize their home page (which is a major feature of Jive Clearspace 2.0), Telligent aggregates essential information up front when you log in, including the latest blogs, forum posts, and activities of your friends.
Community Server's blogs have all the features I'd want to enable community interactions. Comments can be anonymous or authenticated – plus, posts may be rated and moderated. Administrators control how blogs work by creating groups and assigning rights. Conveniently, once an admin creates the initial roles and permissions, any authorized user (through a subset of the Control Panel dashboard) can quickly establish permissions for their own blogs and manage their content.
Creating this content was easy using a typical rich text editor. Yet two features separate Community Server from Clearspace. First, Community Server lets you use Tablet PC ink for authoring. Second, you can make blog posts through e-mail (using Microsoft Exchange integration) from mobile phones, BlackBerrys, and Outlook. This solution has other helpful features, even if they're not unique, including publish date options and thorough media support; photos, video, podcasts, and virtually any type of file attachment can be inserted into blogs.
Community Server's forums have the expected tools for maintaining rich collaboration discussions. As with blogs, forums can be public or private – and e-mail lists let you distribute discussions through a Microsoft Exchange server.