Re: [unrev-II] Knowledge Base right now? (Web Application Servers)

From: Paul Fernhout (
Date: Mon Feb 28 2000 - 07:05:25 PST

From: Paul Fernhout <>

Joseph -

Eric has done a greeat job summarizing all the links people have posted
earlier, and you could review his great work.

Of all the early links, I found the no longer working (broken)
to be especially interesting, however it seems to have been recently
removed, and it looks like Samepage is now offering its own proprietary
service (looks nice!).
This really seems to be an exploding field!

Here is my own take on this:

Frankly, I think in the short term the best one can hope for when
"shopping" for a DKR is using a web application server
with support for collaboration (newsgroups, chat, portal, weblog,
document storage, etc.). That system may then evolve towards a more
general DKR.

There are several proprietary systems around offered as products (Notes,
BSCW, etc.) or services (Samepage, etc.) -- I'll let someone else
mention all those if they wish.

There are also several cool "open source" choices to build with.
Here are some examples I am most familiar with and have considered for
my own use.

ArsDigita Community System -- here now and works well (w/ TCL,
AOLServer, Oracle)
This has the most actual working web content generating functions.
You can also look at the founder's site:
for an example of this system in use and an online book about using the
web to build communities with database backed web servers (great read).
ArsDigita is a growing consulting company funded by itself.

Zope web application server -- here now and works well (w/Python)
Zope has a great security model for multiple users developing in
I previously set up a Zope system for the colloquium as an experiment
(not much interest -- however, thanks to those who stopped by). I am
more nervous about scalability of Zope and reliability of the internal
OO database than I am of ACS's use of Oracle. However, you can use Zope
with Oracle, addressing some of this issue.
Zope's creator (DigiCool) is vaguely venture capital supported (I don't
know how much) and will provide consulting services on Zope.

Collaborative Virtual Workspace -- here now (w/Java and TK, MOO,
location paradigm)
I have not used this system, but it looks good from the web site.
I don't know how this is funded, I'd assume internal consulting and DOD?
They also have links to other (typically proprietary) systems:

Enhydra -- Java/XML based web application server
I don't know much about this. I don't like Java for various (mostly
esthetic) reasons. I think XML doesn't solve the data storage issue or
versioning issue as much as people might expect -- just the data
transmission issue (if that). Of course, being buzzword compliant, these
people just got a total of $15 million as investments.

Midgard -- PHP based web application server
I know nothing about this system, except I don't like PHP's syntax (it's

Squeak -- almost here now i.e. bleeding edge (w/Smalltalk)
Squeak supports Wikis (user editable web pages) and some remote screen
Apple released the original version, since then the key people moved to
Disney who support at least five full-time developers using/improving
This is the system I am at the moment strongly considering for my own
with Zope as a second choice for content that needs to be up today.

Since the others are more obvious choices, here's a little plug for
Squeak. I like Squeak because:
  * It is completely cross-platform (mac, linux, solaris, windows,
acorn, wince, psion, etc.) for language and GUI so both the client and
server can be in the same language. This is important to support things
like sharing a screen in real-time.
  * It is very malleable.
  * The people on the mailing list tend to be technical & knowledgeable.
  * I like Smalltalk, and have used it for a long time.
  * I have experience with Squeak internals, and like its philosophy of
VM generation.
  * Commercial interest is picking up.
  * I tend to root for the underdog when they have unrecognized value.
  * It's connected to the Smalltalk people of ~30 years ago (Kay,
Ingalls, etc.).
  * I am also considering Squeak to make a cross-platform version of
another product.

There are things I don't like about Squeak too (related to stability,
speed, GUI system, event handling, scalability, commercial support,
etc.). Despite such issues, the lure of a "free" cross-platform
Smalltalk (my favorite language/environment) is strong (for me). It
would take some investment of time to improve Squeak in these
directions, however the community (if not especially Disney) has
expressed an interest in doing so. There are already a few companies
using Squeak commercially for one thing or another (web applications
especially), and more such use seems to be in the works.

By the way, I much agree with Eric's (and others) sentiments in another
thread that DKR/collaborative technology needs to spread from the bottom
up on its merits,
and that will change organizations mostly for the better. While I do
agree with Doug's vision of a coevolution of tool, user and goals, I
think building a really good tool will help drive that more than trying
to more directly change goals or culture. (Of course, this is coming
from a toolmaker's son. :-)

However, as you can see from this list of web application servers (with
some existing community applications for them), such tool creation is
already is happening, although perhaps not with as much focus on
advanced OHS/DKR aspects the Bootstrap Institute has detailed as one might like.

-Paul Fernhout
Kurtz-Fernhout Software
Developers of custom software and educational simulations
Creators of the Garden with Insight(TM) garden simulator

Eric Armstrong wrote:
> From: Eric Armstrong <>
> Joseph Zitt wrote:
> >
> > If you'd like, respond privately to me, and I'll summarize. Thanks in
> > advance...
> >
> We ALL want to hear the answers.
> What *is* out there now?

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