Queensland local body develops open-source CMS

Product is available to all under GPL licence

A lack of a suitable record-keeping web content management system has led one Queensland local government council to develop its own application, which has since been released as an open-source project.

Thuringowa City Council in mid-North Queensland was looking to deploy an enterprise content management system with the same capacity to keep records of web content with similar integrity as other types of more regulated content like email and financial documents.

However, when the idea surfaced three years ago, there was no significant budget for such a project and council did not perceive the project as a huge requirement.

The council's web developer, Scott Barnett, then evaluated a number of open-source ECMs and discovered that the main constraint among them was a lack of support for record keeping.

"We ended up saying it would be too difficult to modify an existing application as they couldn't publish binary files in a record keeping environment," Barnett says.

To solve the problem, Barnett, with support from his employer, began development of the Stronghold CMS with open source components to ensure records for web documents were supported inside the application.

"We developed a beta and presented it to management and they thought it was cool and started saying we needed it yesterday," he says.

After an initial pilot phase, Stronghold went into production about two years ago and there are now some 50 people using it throughout the council.

"It's been a frustrating journey from our perspective, as a lot of content systems were designed with technology in mind, but we are concerned with publishing and business processes," Barnett says.

Stronghold is written in PHP, with the primary database being PostgreSQL.

Support for Oracle, MySQL, and SQL Server will be in the next release which is due this month.

Barnett describes Stronghold as providing wiki-style editing of documents, but more user-friendly, as wikis have no standard way of storing the data which may need to be retrieved in the future.

Once developed, the council did not want Barnett to work on Stronghold full-time so, after some deliberation, the decision was made to release the application as an open-source product under the terms of the GNU General Public License (GPL) version 3.

"The council was very apprehensive to release it as an open-source project and approval had to come down from executive level," he says.

The project has since been transferred to Sourceforge.net's application repository, but as it is still new, most development is still being done by Barnett.

"We are waiting for a few big organisations to deploy it," he says. "It's really early days, but there is lots of interest."

Stronghold is meant to be an encompassing system for all websites and is designed so it takes care of all web technology for external-facing content.

It also features an import spider which can be pointed to an existing Web site to import it into Stronghold.

Barnett says Stronghold abstracts the dynamically generated data from the presentation so an organisation can have a completely different design standard that skins the site.

Thuringowa is preparing to merge with the larger Townsville City Council as part of a local government amalgamation program and Stronghold is set to replace an in-house web CMS at the merged entity.

"The amalgamation has already begun, but they [Townsville] were very hesitant to deploy anything open-source and there is still a lot of fear," Barnett says.

Stronghold will be deployed on Microsoft's SQL Server database on Windows Server at Townsville.

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Tags managementcontent management systemstrongholdthruringowa city council

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