More Open Source Group Collaboration

cyninLast week I wrote an article about Liferay, an open source portal app. Today, I’ll be looking at another option,, from Cynapse, an enterprise software solution provider. is an open source collaboration app, and as such only offers a portion of the functionality of Liferay, but those looking for a more pure collaboration platform, and not a full-fledged intranet, may find it more tailored to their specific needs. is centralized software that collects all of your basic collaboration software, like blogs, wikis, discussion boards, etc. It also supports file sharing and repositories. I tried the live demo to get a sense of what has to offer, with a special focus on how it might compare to Liferay regarding my specific goal of using it to help organize and grow my collaborative writing blog.

The demo allows you to log in to an enterprise edition install of, using one of the dummy accounts they’ve set up for their demo corporations, Widgets Inc. Different accounts are attached to different levels of employee, from junior management to executives.

picture-12For my test run, I signed on using a Senior Managment account. Immediately, you’re greeted with a mind map which breaks down your company’s spaces and views. This map was an interactive flash element, which I found buggy and not necessarily intuitive. Cynapse does warn that performance might be unusual since many people could be logged on to the demo at the same time using the same accounts.

Underneath the mind map is a notification area, broken down into subsections. Here you can see all recent updates, your own items, view the boss’s blog and status log, and see recently active discussions. Overall, it feels a tad cluttered, but it’s a good snapshot of what’s going on across the company.

On the right-hand side of the screen, you have your personal control toolbar. From there, you can update your status, view/change your profile and preference, and log out of You can also subscribe to email notifications and view upcoming events. I’m still not entirely sure how the email subscription system works. It looks like you can subscribe to the content of whatever page you happen to be viewing, which, if true, would come in handy.

picture-23Creating spaces was easy enough. I created one called “Disaster Control”, to see what options were available. One nice feature was the ability to postpone the publication date of any particular space, so that you can plan project streams and lines of business that are not yet active beforehand, and have them go live automatically whenever others are meant to have access to them.

Building a wiki for the space was also not too much trouble, although I found it far less intuitive than Liferay’s interface. I had to create a new wiki page from the top menu in order to set a home page in the Disaster Recovery area. A simple link in the wiki tab would’ve made things a lot more clear.

Overall, seems like a fairly powerful tool, especially if your users are knowledgeable and experienced in customized enterprise collaboration software. It lacks the pick-up-and-play feel of Liferay, in my opinion, but does offer an SaaS option and an Enterprise license that takes all of the setup footwork out of the equation for you, if you’re looking to spend a good amount of cash. There’s also the free open source software, but you have to run it on your own server.

I’d recommend for consultants working with larger, established companies looking for an alternative to their current collaboration solution. DIYers on the other hand will probably want to stick with Liferay or something similar.