communityQ: A content management system with a social networking feel


Creative Circle Advertising Solutions has worked in the newspaper space for years, doing consulting work for mid- to large-circulation newspapers on content and design in both online and print products. The Chicago Tribune’s is built on their flagship citizen journalism platform CommunityQ.

And CommunityQ powered the now defunct hyperlocal site for Volusia and Flagler counties – — that I helped nurture to birth and beyond [].

So let’s just say that Creative Circle’s President Bill Ostendorf and I have a history.

Bill’s dedicated to saving newspapers. I’m dedicated to saving communities. I think that passion drives us to want more for both.


And admittedly, I’m a tough client. I put his software through its paces, relentlessly seeking a better user experience, a sticky environment and a technology to engage community dialogue. For me, the software wasn’t good enough if all it did was push out content. Like the watercooler, the site had to draw those thirsty for good news.

I’d like to say that my persistence – OK, nagging – helped to make for a better product for the communities in which the software is deployed. And Bill and I have developed a mutual respect for the ways in which we envision the online community news enterprise.

The content management system, CommunityQ, is a homegrown, proprietary platform built using php. In the basic configuration, staff and users can post:
•    Stories
•    Video
•    Blogs
•    Events and
•    Pictures

Several additional modules allow for increased functionality including:
•    Circulation payments
•    Press release development and dissemination
•    Pay wall options
•    Social networking and
•    Polls
•    Donation/Charity function

The system doesn’t come with its own ad server, but they do have a partner product that is an add-on with node functionality where advertising can be segregated by site. And the interface allows for an XML export from CommunityQ to InDesign or Quark.

And since I last left Bill and his team, they’ve added some additional functions that give you flexibility in developing your site’s taxonomy (trust me, you never get it right the first time…or even the second time). You can tweak your “theme” and site layout in the admin dashboard.

But CommunityQ isn’t free. So I asked Bill about his competitors in the open-source space.

“As soon as a hole is exposed and you don’t upgrade, it can affect customer security,” Bill cautioned. I had been so focused on cost and function that I hadn’t thought about security.

So it’s back to time, money, resources and compromises. What functions must I have to attract startups or existing placebloggers to a new platform? What functions could be left to version 2.0 or 3.0 and which were essential? Maybe I could set fire to this project and see which ideas make it out alive.

COMING MONDAY, 11/9: Side-by-Side Comparison of  Hyperlocal Platforms
Monday: Neighborlogs: A blog platform with a community feel
Wednesday: Village Soup: A robust hybrid community news platform
Today: CommunityQ: A content management system with a social networking feel


POLL: What content management system do you use for your hyperlocal site?(surveys)



communityQ: A content management system with a social networking feel

17 thoughts on “communityQ: A content management system with a social networking feel

  1. Security is always a concern, particularly if you’re going to be doing financial transactions over the site. That said, having someone dedicated to updating the site means they’re dedicated to keeping on top of security, and just because open source projects are more open about their vulnerabilities doesn’t mean they’re any less secure: Just that they let the public at large know how to defend themselves.

    I’ve also seen organizations burned when they do decide to move away from a proprietary solution. Even in the best of circumstances, migrations are a mind-numbingly horrible experience, but when you’re content is half-heartedly handed over after weeks of wrangling, and only then it’s in a decrepit state …

    Anyways, good review, and it sounds like CommunityQ is doing some good stuff. I’ve just had bad experience with a similar situation.

  2. michelleferrier says:

    Porting content from a legacy system is about as much fun as a root canal, I agree. Whether its open-source or proprietary, moving data is a pain.

    And I guess I should add a clause in whatever agreement is inked about getting data in a timely fashion. Not that it still wouldn’t be painful, but the expectation is made explicit.

    Thanks for the comments!

  3. michelleferrier says:

    I asked Barry Parr of which platform he uses. He said:
    “I use Expression Engine.

    Pro: Flexible & customizable, easy to edit templates, excellent membership system, and good workflow management. Cheap ($200), but not open source. Very good support. Strong community. Enginehosting, an independent EE-specialist hosting service, has been outstanding for me. PHP/MySQL based.

    Con: You need to edit templates, Doesn’t have the community of a WordPress or Movable Type. Developers don’t “get” social, so it’s lacking some modern social features. Development of 2.0 version has slowed incremental improvements, with no end in sight.

    I recommend EE strongly.

    In your review, I think you need to tell us what your criteria are for choosing a CMS. For example, six years ago, when I chose EE, the availability of multiple levels of membership was a requirement for my needs, and neither WP nor MT offered that. I do recommend that you test EE for your needs.

  4. charlotteanne says:

    Michelle –
    As you and I discussed several weeks ago, I went through a lot of research and raised the functionality/user interface bar pretty high before we settled on Drupal for NOWCastSA. (More on that on our blog here.)
    I think WordPress is good for blogs, but Drupal has so very much more power and versatility that it makes sense to me to just start with Drupal and grow it from there.
    Also, I really prefer the Drupal user interface, which is so wonderfully uncluttered and simple for newbies (unlike the everything-including-the-kitchen-sink on WordPress dashboards).
    Yes, we did spend a chunk of change on getting things set up and configured properly. I’ve set up eight Drupal sites (and actually taught an independent study class in CMS at UNLV!), but our needs called for a higher level of complexity than I was prepared to tackle on my own.
    Doing what we wanted not only required assembling the pieces in a new way, it also required the developers to write a new module. (More on that later in a post on the NOWCastSA blog.) But because we’re using open source software, our project is giving back to the community with that module so other folks will be able to plug it in and use it too!
    All that being said, I sometimes thought I should just go off and create a “just add water” Drupal package for local news operations.
    Fortunately, someone beat me to it: Check out this post at about the Drupal package: “Managing News, a Knight Foundation funded project built by Development Seed,” which is due out later this month.
    I haven’t spent a lot of time on this yet, but I think it is a really exciting development!

    1. michelleferrier says:

      Hi CharlotteAnne,
      Keep me informed about how NOWCastSA is growing. I wonder…how much is a chunk of change? I’m pretty explicit that a solution must offer functionality for a reasonable price. My backend fiddling with Drupal has not been very successful, maybe because I don’t have the time to learn the platform. I think that would be the same place as many new hyperlocal startups.

      I’ll check out the Development Seed project…sounds like a possible solution.


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