The Pattern Language Network

Taming web2.0 in Higher Education

server pains

Posted by yishaym on February 29, 2008

This is probably a situation many projects are familiar with. Any advice is most welcome.

As mentioned earlier, we need to develop and host a web-based system for collaborative authoring of pattern languages. We decided to start from a modular wiki server and enhance it as needed. Following the discussion on the development wiki, we identified XWiki as a suitable platform.

The next step should be easy: download and install a copy of XWiki, and play around with it. But actually, it looks like if we can get past this part, the rest would be a walk in the park.

The problem is, that like most academic groups we’re faced with three options:

  1. Institutional web services, which use a very specific setup, and do not have the capacity to support our unique requirements.
  2. A dedicated server at our disposal, but self-supported  (actually, this option makes us luckier than most).
  3. External hosting with a commercial provider.

Unless your institute is very adventurous, option (1) doesn’t cut the mustard. It is built to provide department with centrally managed static pages.

Option (2) would normally be OK for me, but for most people its too much of a hassle, or simply outside of their comfort zone. Unfortunately, for various boring technical reasons, in this case it hasn’t worked that well for me. I’ve been struggling with my server for a few good days, and still can’t get her to yield.

Option (3) is usually not too bad, except that it raises a question of sustainability: if we pay per month, how do we keep the site running after the budget is gone?  However, in this case there’s a more urgent issue: most hosting providers do not like to provide Java for some reason. Either they politely send you home just for asking, or they quote you at 5-10 times the usual price.


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