Professional Blogging

Professional Blog Software Reviews – CommunityServer

CommunityServer is the second of the two .NET platform blog systems in our blog package reviews. It is also the first of the two systems that are more “platform” than “blog system”. CommunityServer is used in many high-profile Microsoft sites such as the official ASP.NET site, XBOX forums and the MSDN blogs, let’s see if it measures up to expectations.

What do I mean by a “platform”? Well where the other systems in these reviews have been content management systems or just blogging packages, CommunityServer (as the name suggests) encompasses much more community-oriented functionality (forum, gallery) and therefore is a foundation to build more than just blogs.

I was torn between reviewing the new 2.0 beta or the current release, the new version has lots more features. In the end I decided to be fair it would have to be the current release and come back to the version 2 when released.

While CommunityServer is the property of Telligent, you are free to use the software with no charge for commercial or non-profit uses providing you show a button image. If you do not want to show the image there is a commercial option. All the information about CommunityServer can be found on the nice looking dedicated site which is itself running the software. As well as the usual documentation and support forum there is also a blog and associated newsfeed.

Installation

To install CommunityServer you will need a web host running ASP.NET and a SQL Server database or the free MSDE equivalent. To download the files you need to fill out a small form, the download link is sent to the email address you provide. This is not too much of a problem but it might put some people off.

Installation is simple enough. My one tiny niggle is they have this lovely wizard type of affair but you still need to edit a couple of files, still straightforward though and certainly up with the best of these reviews. I am told in the next version it will be even easier.

Ease of use

Logging in as an administrator you are faced with quite an array of options, logging in as an individual blogger and there is a simpler interface. This is to be expected and perhaps the lesson is to have an account for blogging and another for administration.

Immediately reading the name of the thing we know this is not aimed at the single blog scenario. The idea is you can create a full community with member blogs, a central blog home page and discussions etc. If you do want a single CommunityServer blog though it is certainly capable of that (if a little overpowered).

Posting is easy enough, just like DasBlog you have one of those rich HTML editing widgets and it even works in Firefox. I didn’t see how to have sub categories but you can have multiple categories. Sometimes logged in as admin you do find yourself clicking around just to get back to your posting interface, when in “blogging mode” it really ought to keep your on your blog. Just a little usability niggle but little niggles tend to grow when you use something day in, day out.

RSS and Atom feeds are provided at the “blog group”, blog and category level.

Comments

Comments can be moderated or not and can be from registered users or anonymous. There is also a post flood option.

Search

Search is enabled by default allowing you to search at individual blog level or all the blogs at the blog home level.

Ping and Trackback

Trackbacks are automatically catered for. The current version does not ping.

URLs

Your blog has friendly URLs by default in the format year/month/day/post.aspx but at post time you can also specify the filename.

Overall Search Engine Friendliness

As with DasBlog there is the usual asp.net javascript and viewstate junk in the source but the rest is tidy XHTML+CSS.

Template flexibility

While there is not much to choose between the provided templates they are pretty easy to figure out. I hope the selection for version 2 are better looking. Telligent would do well to take a look at those available for competitors.

Extensibility

There are many people building on top of CommunityServer in the .NET community. You can add code to the templates, there are lots of hacks plus of course you can download the code itself.

Support

There is a support forum and the developers are really responsive. If support is very important to your over and above this then you can pay for it

API/EMail

Metablog API is available as an addon. Looks like email support is only available for the discussions, not blogging.

Static pages/Articles

Static articles are created very similar to posts but appear in the articles folder. You can choose the filename and if you want to enable comments.

Stats and reporting

Stats are provided at post level allowing you to see hits and referrers.

Summary

This is a very polished product. Had I not read about what is coming with version 2 I would have been very happy with the features, the install experience and with blogging (overall). I hope one of the updates in the new version will be around usability. Community Server is definately up there at the top but has it got what it takes to beat WordPress?

As a package for multiple authors and multiple blogs I would say yes. If this is your market then take a look. For an individual, no way. It is certainly capable but not friendly enough in that scenario and the availability of excellent WordPress template designs could tip the balance. We will see in the next review if Community Server can maintain the overall “multiblog crown” but for .NET fans it is really the only choice.

  1. Introduction
  2. CityDesk review
  3. Movable Type review
  4. WordPress review
  5. bBlog review
  6. DasBlog review
  7. CommunityServer review
  8. Drupal review

Author: Chris Garrett

Chris Garrett is a content marketing and blogging coach and co-author of the Problogger Book with Darren Rowse.

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