Maneno: the future of CMS (hopefully)

November 18, 2008

One of the reasons that using a Content Management System (or CMS) is so powerful is that they allow people with little to no knowledge of building web pages to set up and start publishing their very own site with hardly any fuss. Back in the day when I first learned how to design basic websites it was through grubbing around finding quick and dirty fixes to html and css in order to get to roughly where I wanted to be. Anyone starting out today could create a much funkier site in far less time and with far, far less effort.

Essentially CMS opens up online publishing to those with very limited web literacy allowing them to get cracking on their content. That’s very empowering.

But there’s a catch

However, one of the repercussions of this very welcome deskilling has been the fact that we are left in the hands of the CMS providers. Without any understanding of how to create your own sleek, bandwidth friendly site you’re often left with the clunky scripts, unnecessarily large graphics and general baggage that comes with your template design.

Aptivate created a set of Guidelines to help people understand that whilst in the developed world it’s tempting to believe that bandwidth is infinite if you don’t clear out the junk (that you may not even notice) from your websites you may unintentionally be preventing those in developing nations from using your site at all.

Unfortunately, for those who are using a CMS to create their websites they are far less likely to have the know how or the confidence to get into the bowels of their site in order to make something usable for those on low bandwidth. Which means, that for this particular audience, we need to provide solutions for them, rather than attempting to train up the whole world up from scratch on how to create a low bandwidth CMS template.

I’ve long argued that something that would be a useful addendum to our guidelines would be a set of good looking and functional low-bandwidth templates for the main CMS providers. Providing a way to strip down drupal, blogger, wordpress, et al would be phenomenally useful for those without the skills to do this for themselves.

Effectively this would be a low bandwidth website in a box which even current users of these CMS’s could transfer over to without much fuss. Currently the best alternative I’ve found at my regular (blogger) blog The Daily (Maybe) is to provide a link to a loband provided version which is certainly faster but is a bit of a hastse and doesn’t allow me any real flexibility over layout.

Maneno: a blogging platform for Africa

So imagine my joy when I came across Maneno last week. A CMS blogging platform designed specifically with low bandwidth in mind and provided from servers in Africa, cutting down on slow internal connections. As the blurb says “Maneno strives to provide a communication and development platform for Sub-Saharan Africa.”

Good looking and providing all the functionality you need in a decent website, the online feedback I’ve seen so far has been universally positive, particularly around download times, which can massively increase the expense of browsing the net in the very places where this service needs to be as cheap as possible. That is really important. In the words of blogger White African “The site absolutely flies.”

Although Maneno is still in a beta version it works like a dream and looks very impressive. It seems just the ticket if you are setting up a new site with little knowledge of design and want to ensure potential readers in Africa actually get the opportunity to read what you have to say.

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10 Responses to “Maneno: the future of CMS (hopefully)”

  1. Miquel said

    Hi there Jim, thanks for the positive words on Maneno. Since it’s a volunteer effort on the part of all of us involved at the moment, it means a lot to hear that people are really getting in to it.

    One minor correction though, since I don’t want to give any false information. Our server is on the East Coast of the US at the moment. It’s pretty average box that’s running other sites as well as Maneno, so the performance is significantly slower than it will be once we move it to a new machine that’s just for it. I’m looking to have the future server be based somewhere in Europe which will further reduce lag to the African continent.

    -miquel

  2. jim jay said

    Hi!

    What kind of server are you looking for in Europe? Maybe we can help.

  3. Thanks for writing about Maneno. I’d never heard of it before.

    Another great option is Frog CMS.

    http://madebyfrog.com/

    Free, simple to use, and blazing fast!

  4. Miquel said

    Jim, I’ll let you know when we get to the big question of hosting. At the moment, we’re still steeped in development and I prefer doing that on a slightly crappy server so that everything is optimized fully 🙂

    Um, in regards to this Frog thing, Maneno is absolutely not a CMS. It’s a platform for citizen journalism and information dissemination.

    -miquel

  5. Miquel said

    Actually, I should clarify that it’s not a CMS in the traditional sense. There is a CMS component built in to it, but that’s not its primary objective.

    Hit the submit button too quickly…

  6. jimjepps said

    Miquel, Yeah, I was going to ask what you meant when you said it wasn’t a CMS – I certainly think that CMS component is essential in terms of widening who potential users are likely to be.

    I was chatting to someone in the office today who thought that moving your servers wouldn’t have much of an impact, which seemed interesting to me. Do you expect the move to significantly increase your upload times?

  7. Miquel said

    Well, the site will need to be moved at some point. At that point, I want it to be in Europe and yes, I do believe it will make a difference. My GMail drags like a dying animal when I access it in Europe. In talking to a fellow who works on GMail, apparently whatever country you’re in when you sign up is the server that you account will sit on locally. This explains why my account is sluggish outside the US and why my wife’s (who signed up while in Europe) is much faster when we’re working side by side. Long story short, the physical difference matters in where a site is being hosted. Latency is an issue. It also happens to be convenient to be able to have the server (and support staff) running on GMT which is what we have our site running on.

  8. […] hopes Maneno becomes the future of Content Management Systems: So imagine my joy when I came across Maneno last week. A CMS blogging platform designed […]

  9. […] berharap Maneno menjadi masa depan Sistem Konten Manajemen: Bisa bayangkan kegembiraan saya ketika tak sengaja menemukan Maneno minggu lalu. Fasilitas blog […]

  10. […] Periodismo ciudadano, Global Voices Online, White African, Tinderblog. […]

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