Web firm does open source thing

An Auckland Web design company is following the open source model to success - creating commercial products and planning to give something back to the community.

Cactuslab, created after the fall of Web high-flier Webmedia, has joined other design firms in developing a content management tool to complement its database-driven Web site projects.

Supermodel, now up to version 1.2, was created using the J2EE Java platform under Apache's Jakarta open source project.

Cactuslab director Karl von Randow says the model of the tool is different to content managers he has seen and worked with in that it represents the directory tree structure of information rather than Web pages. So one site that uses Supermodel, from filmmakers The Girl, is branched on the basis of news, people and films.

Cactuslab has also provided the content management for a site it did not design, Possum Bourne Motorsport (done by Adrenalin). Von Randow says Supermodel makes it easy to find what users want to change, as opposed to needing to know how a site is built.

Supermodel, which he jokes is a "souped-up database", is soon to be used in the relaunch of a signage company's site that will offer over 1,000 products. The signage firm, which von Randow was not keen to name before the site went live, will be able to update the catalogue using Excel spreadsheets and take advantage of the new search function in Supermodel. The search facility came out of Lucene, also part of the Apache project, and has since been made available for The Girl's site.

Von Randow says the Apache license allows the production of commercial products, and Cactuslab is likely to put back the source code of the Web application framework part of Supermodel.

The company's e-mail campaign management tool, Sumo, meanwhile, is being used by Auckland student radio station BFM. Sumo, which is a PHP-based product under Linux, has replaced the open source Majordomo because of "teething problems."

Subscribers, such as Hard News contributor Russell Brown, log into Sumo to administer their own mailing lists.

Sumo may one day be integrated into Supermodel and sold as a shrink-wrapped product, says von Randow.

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