Making a Blog with SDL Tridion

Q: "Alvin, do you use Tridion for your blog?"
A: "I'm not an enterprise customer and I have a single content type (blog post)."

Q: "Can we implement a blog with SDL Tridion?"
A: "Yes."

I've joked:
"What do you call a (insert your favorite Web Content Management system) implementation with only one schema and one template?"
"A blog."
You have a few options to make a blog with Tridion. From a non-Tridion to a Tridion-centric approach, we have a separate blog, integrated approaches, and the Community Builder module.

Before you start, be sure you know why you're making a blog. "A blog" isn't a business requirement, it's a solution. The technical approaches are simple, the challenges you'll encounter are likely two-fold:

  • Content topics -- what will you write about? Who will write it?
  • Time -- will you post regularly? Who will curate the comment and community? Are you ready for spam and negative feedback? How about success, will your system (including people) scale?
If you're looking to create an online (social media) presence, there are plenty of ways to do so without ever starting a blog. However, I'm biased as a blogger myself. My personal choice is to make a separate blog (but again, I'm not an enterprise organization).

Separate Blog

This is a quick and easy approach using Blogger, Wordpress, or similar open source blogging platform.

Trade-offs:
  • Security, ownership, and "platform" outside of your organization's control (the same could be said of any purchased solution).
  • Domain could be mapped to something like "blog.customer.com" but may impact SEO results.
  • Templating approach would be CSS, HTML, and a proprietary data format (e.g. Blogger has a specific XML format).
Some might feel these are "real" blogs and anything else might be cheating. As a long-time Web user and one of many many bloggers, I can often tell, but don't really care, what fellow bloggers use. A Corporate blog, however, is about offering an (hopefully) authentic voice and way for followers to interact with your brand.

The technology doesn't count as much as the features, which typically include semi-informal content written by individuals (not marketing teams) and the ability to comment or otherwise interact with this content. It doesn't even matter if those features come from different systems in an integrated approach.

Integration

Tridion content with "social media" features is a hybrid approach where pages and component presentations (content components with component templates) are managed in Tridion, but the social media solution would be created by the content management organization or added through a third party. Examples include services such as Disqus. The pros and cons are similar to above, however the templating approach would match what you do today (or would do if you're not using a CMS).

As an "social media integration" implementation tip, "Add facebook" isn't enough of a requirement. You need to confirm if this is:
  • Just link to a single Facebook, Twitter, or other social media platform site
  • Like, Tweet, or share for certain page types
  • Comments, ratings, or more integrated features in the context of your site
Most of these features aren't really a Tridion challenge. Options like AddThis offer easy-to-integrate script that you place on your pages (ideally with a template, please).

A more advanced integration is publishing from Tridion to a Blog as in the WordPress extension or vice versa as in the Tridion Kickstart project. Just beware that any synchronization approach creates a dependency on the APIs. SDL Tridion takes a forward-facing approach to API upgrades (especially with 2013 an later) and major players will try be transparent their API changes (see Facebook's roadmap and WordPress's Core blog, for example). A standards-based format like RSS, which the Kickstart project uses, can avoid some of this technical debt.

Community Builder

For a more Tridion-focused approach, consider SDL Tridion with the User Generated Content ("Community Builder") module, which allows visitors the ability to rate and comment on pieces of Tridion content. This fits .NET or Java customers looking for a way to add social media features to Tridion-managed content. A blog would be a good fit here.

Installation and implementation includes:
  • database update/install for the comments
  • dll or jar for the control or tag (code that renders the comment and ranking features) on pages
  • some templating work to place this code
  • installation for the Content Manager GUI extension to see the comments.
Note that by default (and as expected) user-generated are specific to a given publication and aren't BluePrinted like Tridion content. From a visitor perspective, you probably want to comment on the localized version of content, not the original in another language.

See the technical UGC Webinar by Dominic Cronin for a feel of the implementation requirements.

For enterprise customers with an existing social media service, the Community Builder module makes a great example for how to integrate Tridion with other systems in the Content Manager, templating, and delivery.

It's worth noting that new content without the social features of ratings and comments should be trivial with Tridion or any CMS. New page types and content types can simply be made from new or existing content, definitions, and templates. Always start from business and design requirements including wire frames, page types, and content types to be explicit on what's required, regardless of what's actually in the CMS.

The Community Builder module (also known as User Generated Content or UGC) is available to SDL Tridion 2011 SP1 customers and later (update: included as part of the Tridion purchase). With some additional code for your websites, template updates, and an included GUI extension, you can use it to add social media features to your site or as an example of ways to integrate other systems. For detailed implementation questions, reach out to Professional Services, your favorite partner or independent consultant, or ask on Tridion Stack Exchange.

3 comments :

  1. excellent piece of information, I had come to know about your website from my friend kishore, pune,i have read atleast 8 posts of yours by now, and let me tell you, your site gives the best and the most interesting information. This is just the kind of information that i had been looking for, i'm already your rss reader now and i would regularly watch out for the new posts, once again hats off to you! Thanx a lot once again, Regards, vit vellore

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Alvin. We have purchased 2011 SP1 Tridion. Can you tell me where we can get the Community Builder Module.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Reach out to Support, your SDL Customer Success Manager, or start a discussion with your company's IT and development group. The Community Builder Module requires an installation on the servers and small updates to the site. After that CMS authors would moderate the user-generated content in SDL Tridion.

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