Own the Cloud with OwnCloud

I think I may have a solution to my user file repository problem in OwnCloud. For many moons I have tried to find a solution, WordPress or otherwise, to allow users the ability to control all aspects of their own files. I wanted users to be able to upload, download, make public, keep private, share via ftp or http, etc. While there are plenty of solutions available, anything I found so far lacked in some way by not offering one of the afore mentioned features or was so deficient in design that I felt it was counterintuitive.

One of the reasons why I’ve wanted to built this kind of site is because I realized all of the tools I use as a Systems Admin are scattered amongst various NAS shares, Sharepoint pages, ftp accounts, my desktop folder on my laptop and desktop, my Google docs, and a number of test vm’s. Could I simply migrate everything to one external device and rest easy? Sure, I guess, but it’s a lot more fun to set it up how you want it rather than be restricted by someone else’s solution.

To give you an idea of how I think, I’ll give you a little back story. A long time ago my girlfriend mentioned how fun it would be to have her own review site. Naturally I got excited and started searching for the perfect solution to put together a site for her. Soon after she found Yelp and for some reason that took the wind out of her sails for running her own.

Step forward to a few weeks ago when we had a rather sub par dining experience that we chatted about the whole ride home. At one point I interjected to say it’s too bad we never started that review site as this would be a good one to record. She responded by saying that she could just put it on Yelp. I replied that Yelp was someone else’s creation that you’re helping to build, to which she answered that sometimes it’s nice to just be a customer. I had no response. I just tilted my head in bewilderment, unable to fully comprehend her point.

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Unfortunately that’s not how my brain works. If I’m going to be contributing to a web community on a regular basis, I want to own that community (if possible) instead of building value in someone else’s property. A good analogy is a bar I know of in southern Rhode Island called The Mews. All over the bar there are dollar bills taped or stapled to the walls and ceiling with private messages people left on them. At the end of the night when everyone goes home, those tens of thousands of dollar bills (messages) remain in the possession of the owner. When people come back to see their old messages, read other peoples messages, or leave new ones, they’re coming back to that same place, and that’s why I like to implement these new ideas myself instead of adding to existing ones that someone else built.

Anyway, back to the point of this post. I stumbled upon OwnCloud the other day which appears to be an open source type of drop box solution. I was pretty excited as it seems to have everything I need. I figured I would kill two birds with one stone and install it on CentOS and learn a little Linux which is something I definitely need to do. Well, I got it installed and OwnCloud is functional in my local environment, but progress is slow with everything else because every little change I need to make (in Linux) requires some research and trial and error.

I want the end solution to be on Linux, but for the sake of speed, I’m going to also install it on a Windows 2008 R2 server while I learn. I even have a domain name purchased for the idea and I can’t wait to get it up and running to roll out to my former co-workers to give it a shot. I know a number of them have left jobs not thinking about the cache of tools they had at their disposal that they no longer can access in one place. I’m hoping OwnCloud will be that place where I can store all the tools I’ve ever used in one place and will be accessible to be no matter where I go at a moments notice.

Since I’ve spent most of my time blabbing about myself and my ideas for this software instead of the actual product itself, be sure to go check out the OwnCloud features yourself. If and when I get my own solution up and running, I’ll be sure to post the link for you all the check it out.

Here’s the OwnCloud demo if anyone is interested in taking it for a quick test drive.

WebAsyst Online Collaboration Suite

Every now and them I come back to something I thought (obsessed) about earlier (specifically here and here) in which I never moved found a solution that made me happy. More and more I find myself searching for a way to do something in WordPress without altering a bunch of code. It is by far my favorite open source framework, and if I can find a way to use it I will, but there are still certain functions that I find either lacking or just plain ugly. Sometimes you need an alternative solution.

One of those functions is the creation of a user friendly file repository. Can it be done with WordPress? Sure. Can it be done the way

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I want it without serious alterations? Perhaps, but I have not found a way yet. Below is a quick list of what I’m looking for in a file sharing website.

  1. Users can sign up for a free account and upload and organize files to their own dedicated page
  2. Users can sign up or upgrade to a premium account for more space to store files
  3. Users can choose to make their page public (accessible to all members and non-members), or private (only accessible to member)
  4. If using WordPress, users should NEVER see the back end admin area (a major pet peeve of mine)
  5. It should be somewhat pleasing to the eye and not look like it was coded in the early 1990’s.

That’s about it that is absolutely critical to me. There are WordPress solutions that have some or most of what I’m looking for with various plugins, but none that I’ve found that have it all. (and I do rate aesthetics rather highly)

I recently came across a suite of applications that do close to exactly what I’m looking for, and more. It’s a commercial solution called WebAsyst and it is really close to what I need. Each function of the site is an additional charge as seen here on the pricing page, so you only have to order what you will use.

I would only be interested in the file option for $99 which would allow users to 1) sign up for an account, but to 2) sign up for a premium account it would probably require the ecommerce option which $299. Ouch. 3) It looks like users could create widgets to make certain files public, which would work, although not as easy as a one click, user friendly option I imagined. 4) Skip. 5) It does have a pretty decent looking interface, although the demo I signed up for was stocked with every option and it’s corresponding icon in the menu bar. That’s not how it would look for me since I would only be using one or two options. It might change the look considerably.

I fired an email off the the WebAsyst people to ask five questions, and while the reply was prompt, the answers I got really didn’t woo me into pressing the purchase button. My first three questions were answered (kinda) with two of them just stating something along the lines of “you’ll need customization help for that and we don’t offer that”.  My last two questions were just ignored.

So, this one went from a serious hopeful and quickly back to on the prowl mode again for this solution. I have to say the suite definitely has some promise, but if I’m going to have to customize the look and feel a bit, I’d much rather start with open source for that. I know there’s a WordPress solution out there just waiting for me to trip over it.

Run a Software Repository Website

I come across and utilize a lot of different utilities and scripts in my technology related job. Luckily, I have plenty of space on a corporate file share to store all of these helpful files so I always know where to find them when I need them. The file share works great for now, but what happens down the road when I’m no longer employed by the same company? Unless I copy my accumulated data over to a hard drive or some place else, all these useful tools might be lost.

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I’ve always wanted to put them in one centralized place where they would always be accessible no matter where I work. I figure a software repository site is the ideal solution because if I can get online, I can get to my data.

The eSoftScript software repository script caught my eye because the demo looks just like (Both links will open in new windows if you want to compare) The site looks like it’s packed with all the features you’d ever need to run a fairly large repository site. Visitors have the ability to create an account in order to upload software, but in addition to that, they can submit reviews and rate software as well.

Last month I briefly mentioned the iDevSpot Software Repository script when I was contemplating offering downloads here as well. I still think that is a decent script too, but I’m undecided on which would work best in this situation. If I wanted to keep the online technical toolbox smaller and more private, iDevSpot might be ideal. If I wanted to grow it into something bigger, eSoftScript might have the edge.

The one thing that I find kind of a bummer is I’ve yet to find an attractive open source software repository. There’s certainly no shortage of quality repository scripts out there, but what most lack is a decent, usable out of the box design.

Getting back to my initial idea, it would be extremely helpful to have all my files available where ever I am in the world. I know this could be achieved by utilizing a number of other upload sites offering free space, but that gives me no pleasure because I wouldn’t get to try out some new repository software from time to time. I want to be able to install it, configure it, run it, own it, break it, and then have to test out yet another repository script to either improve or replace it.

It’s probably a good thing I’m not a programmer because the way my mind jumps around wanting to try new things, I’d probably be wasting my time attempting to create a multitudinously functional script that would be a bit too ambitious. It’s the social networking cms event calendar photo battle script with url shortening that has a forum, an attached help desk, an ecommerce store, built in classified email marketing, and an article site link directory. Oh, and it can also balance your check book.

InClick Contextual Ad Management

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The InClick ad management system is an enterprise class contextual ad server that you can initially implement for free. Although you’re restricted to advertiser earnings of only $500 before being required to upgrade to a license, but this gives you a chance to play around with it and see if it’s worth implementing.

The next license up doesn’t require any out of pocket monthly expenses and the only charge is a one time activation fee of $25. The fees you would pay come from a percentage of your ad revenue with the highest being 15%. For basically $25 out of pocket, you can run a full scale contextual enterprise ad server of your very own.

The application allows you to accept advertisers for your website, and if you’re planning on running an advertising network, publishers as well. It offers a self service interface where advertisers can create their ads first, then decide whether or not to sign up. Check out the advertiser demo and walk through the sample ad creation process to get a feel for your advertisers actual experience.

Ads can be sold in an auction format via proxy bid or it can be a fixed price. From the administration area, you can manage advertisers, view active or yet to be funded campaigns, and run a variety of helpful reports.

You might be wondering what I mean about running your own contextual ad server, and the most basic example would be Google Adsense. Most webmasters who are trying to monetize a website is at least somewhat familiar with Adsense, so this gives you the basic idea. If you wanted to advertise a product or service, you would pay Google to display your ad. Publishers (website owners, bloggers, etc.) would then publish those ads and make money from ad clicks and impressions.

Okay, so perhaps you don’t have any desire to compete with the all powerful Google, but you still like the idea. How can this work for you in your own niche? Let’s say you have a website about cellphones and you want to make some advertising money from your content. You setup the InClick ad server and attract cellphone related advertisers to purchase ads to be displayed on your site.

You can also try and attract publishers with sites related to the cellpone industry who will want to display these ads on their own site (not just yours) to earn a portion of the revenue (you set the percentage) and the ad server will dynamically display ads matching the page content. One of the best parts about this is the ads posted on publishers sites will still contain your “Ads By <strong>Your Site HereSphider search engine. I really saw the promise in setting up the InClick ad server, but it was just a tad too early for me. I realized I had much more site building to do before I could dedicate real time to launching a complete ad network dedicated to my niche. That time might be closer now that I’ve had time to grow. I may have to revisit the idea of launching an niche ad network before you do. 😉

Dolphin Social Dating Software

I found Dolphin 7 while searching for open source dating software, but it really doesn’t seem like open source to me, or at least not what I’ve come to understand as true open source. WordPress is true open source to me. Dolphin has all its code available and offers a free download. I suppose by definition that makes it open source, but not to me. Anytime I obtain a new piece of software in which I pay real money out of my pocket before ever installing it is not open source software to me.

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I’m not saying I don’t like spending money on software I obtain for free. Quite the contrary. I’ve spent quite a bit on WordPress themes and plugins alone, never mind the occasional costs associated with hiring programmers to tweak a site just the way I want it. I guess I just don’t like being duped into thinking something is free when it really is not. Dolphin is free if you want to build the Boonex brand and not your own.

I know people need to make money and deserve to be compensated. I just wish companies were more up front about whether or not it’s a commercial script. As a webmaster, if you’re not going to pay the money to remove ads and links, your site may as well be located at In other words, you’ll be attempting to build your own brand in the shadows of Boonex.

Now that I got that off my chest, I’ll add that it’s not really dating software either. I suppose all social networking software is dating software in a sense, but calling Dolphin dating software would be selling it incredibly short. This demo is hot!

I don’t know where I ever got the impression that Dolphin was lackluster, but from an aesthetic viewpoint, I was dead wrong. This thing is packed full of features. Overall it’s very well laid out and there’s not much you’d need to do if you wanted a community website online rather quickly. I’m sure there would be plenty you would want to do, but very little you’d actually need to do in order to be a fully functional community site.

The menus seem to go on forever with just about every option you can imagine. I have to say I am extremely impressed visually with Dolphin. The most important part to me is the part that visitors will see, and I really think this would be a nice experience for a user that happens upon your vibrant niche community using this software.

So far I have been a fan of SocialEngine, but Dolphin is really putting up a fight right now. The only thing giving SocialEngine the edge for me is the Scribd plugin from The site I’ve been thinking about launching a community script on is author/writing related, so this add on would be just about perfection.

You might feel differently depending on your needs, but I would definitely not gloss over Dolphin as an option if you’re in the market for decent community software.