Open Source Knowledge Management Software: Open Atrium (Part 2)

In part 1 of this review I introduced Open Atrium as yet another open source knowledge management platform. Having determined the installation requirements we can now move on to the architecture and use of the software.

To begin with, the main step - after following through with installation - is to create a 'site'. This will usually be named after your organisation. As well as a site name, you will also have to provide a username and password for the main site maintenance account. Lastly, you will have to select your relevant region and time zone.


Once this is over with, you can then get into building the site to suit your needs. Before jumping in though, you should familiarise yourself with the structure and types of user. There are three main elements that make up the structure of an Open Atrium site. These are the space, sub-space and section:

Space: A collection of content. Similar to a filing cabinet.

Sub-Space: An additional division of content within a space, like the drawer of your filing cabinet.

Section: Where your content actually lives on your site, like the file folder in the drawer.


There are also three main types of roles that can be involved in each of these spaces: members, groups and teams.

Member: A user with access to your site's spaces

Group: A collection of users that span a related purpose across multiple spaces.

An ad-hoc collection of users specific to one space.


The diagram below provides further guidance on the architecture of user roles.


Of course, a collaboration platform is only as good as its data security, so you can also control exactly who has access to what content and clearly see content privacy settings on every page. Where necessary, registered public users can also be granted access to spaces.


In the hypothetical example shown in the diagram below, we can see how all of this comes together to create a highly effective intra-net. Each organisational department can have its own space, along with sub-spaces to address and collaborate on any particular focus. Each space can also host any number of relevant sections, while providing access to members, groups and teams.


Once comfortable with these concepts and the overall architecture of Open Atrium, everything else becomes straightforward and self-explanatory using the WYSIWYG editor, including the setting up of spaces, sub-spaces and sections.


In creating each space, you will discover a number of self-explanatory options such as the (predefined) groups, teams and users you would like to assign to the space - whether you would like the space to be private or public - as well as the title and description. With the space ready, creating sections then becomes a matter of simply choosing your required section types from a drop down menu.


It's also important to note that much like WordPress plugins, Drupal has 'modules' which are specifically designed to add extra functions to Open Atrium. This means you can add a whole host of extra features, as and when needed - from wikis and time tracking to handling leads and invoices.

In addition to creating your own content through document pages or conversations through discussion posts, you can also easily work with images or videos, as these are all easily handled by Open Atrium, allowing you to seamlessly access, store, attach, embed, and collaborate around these assets. All of this allows you to stay connected, exchange ideas securely, and easily keep up-to-date on projects with notifications, discussions, and activity streams.

Yet another great feature is the ability to subscribe by email to the content that you are most interested in, while also being able to reply by email.

Given the ubiquity of mobile browsing, a further valuable design feature is that all of the pre-loaded templates are responsive on a wide variety of devices, including tablets and mobiles - all without the hassle of an app. Add to this the fact that you can customise the look to fit with your branding, and you have one of the best solutions for an organisational collaboration and knowledge space.

Best of all, Open Atrium 2 is completely free and open source, meaning no licensing fees and no vendor lock-in.

Hopefully the above should have given you a good idea of what Open Atrium can do, but for an even more detailed look at Open Atrium and its features, you can watch this hour long webinar courtesy of Phase2:

Several slides above are shown with thanks to Phase2.

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