Graffiti_logo_2009.jpg Telligent's primary offering is Community Server (news, site), a social media and community solution. But it's not the only thing they have going. They also offer a web content management system called Graffiti CMS.

Graffiti CMS is a simple web content management system -- the CMS in its name actually stands for "content made simple". Some consider it a blogging platform, but it contains features and functionality that you don't normally see in such as platform. And anyways, the lines between blogging platforms and web content management systems are rapidly blurring, n'est pas?

Our interest piqued, we took a look at Graffiti and here's what we found.

Introducing Graffiti

Telligent refers to Graffiti as "content made simple". They call it blog software and they call it content management software. What Graffiti really is, is a combination of the two, offering an easy to install solution that you can get up and running in a very short period of time.

If you want a blog, Graffiti can do it. If you want basic web content management, Graffiti can do it -- depending on the version of the software you have.

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Default Graffiti Home Page
 

The Basic Story


Vendor  Telligent
Product Name
 Graffiti CMS v1.2
Product Category
 Web content management, simple web cms, web publishing, blogging
Typical Scenario
 Semi-pro blogging, basic web websites, micro publishing websites

Company & Product History

Telligent is best known for its social media community solution, Community Server. They are considered a leader in this area by research analyst firm Forrester. Community Server includes blogging capabilities for multi-user blogging scenarios. 

Telligent says they had a number of customers who wanted an easy to set-up and use blogging platform. So they built a web content management system to meet this need and in February of 2008, they announced version 1 of Graffiti.

Market & Pricing

Graffiti is for "everyday people". It is targeted as a solution for the small to medium sized business market. A free version is offered for non-commercial or not-for-profit use.

It is built in such as way that both designers and developers can use it for a blogging platform or basic web content management system.

Pricing

There are three different versions of Graffiti: Express, Single and Server. Express is free for non-commercial use. Single and Server are commercial licenses and within each edition, there are different prices based on the number of content publishers.

Program Level
Cost/month Description
Express Free  Non-Commercial use only, 3 content publishers, limited support and some commercial capabilities are disabled, must show Powered by Graffiti Logo
Single Server

US$ 99 - 3 Content Publishers

US$ 399 - 10 content publishers

US$ 799 - 25 Content Publishers

 A single website implementation, includes everything in Express Edition plus reporting and workflow. Support is also included.
Server Edition

US$ 5000 - 10 content Publishers

US$ 7500 - 25 Content Publishers
 Unlimited Graffiti sites on a single server

 

Key Features and Ratings

Core Technologies 

Graffiti is built on Microsoft ASP.NET v2.0. It can use one of three different databases including MS Access, SQL Server and VistaDB.

For those who don't know VistaDB, it is a serverless TSQL database engine that maps very closely to SQL Server for data types and syntax.

With the exception of the Server Edition, Graffiti comes configured with VistaDB out the box.  What is nice about the database configuration is that you can easily modify the web.config file to use any one of these databases without having to make any changes to the code itself (see tutorial here).

To install Graffiti you simply copy the Graffiti code to an Internet Information Server (IIS) website or virtual directory, change some system security settings and IIS settings, and you are done. It's that easy.

Designing Your Website

Graffiti utilizes a templating language called Chalk. Chalk is a combination of NVelocity (a port of the java Velocity project) and Graffiti functionality and is used to render themes for the website. Templates are a mixture of HTML/CSS for look and feel and Chalk for site content.

Content Entities

The basic content entity in Graffiti is a blog entry. This also equates to a webpage in Graffiti land. Attributes -- or fields -- include all the standard ones such as Title, Category, Body, Extended Body, Tags and Publish Date.

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Graffiti -- Authoring a Content Item

To create a webpage that is not included in the list of blog entries on a website, you simply leave the category empty and then create a navigation link to that entry. And yes, that is a bit hacky feeling, not to mention prone to user error.

Display as Feature Settings

There are several settings you can set in the content entry post settings. If you want the item to be displayed on the Home Page of the website you can check an option called "Display on Home Page". If you want the item to be featured in various areas, one can check the option "Featured Category Post" or "Featured Site Post".

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Graffiti -- Content Item Settings
 

SEO Options

Other attributes related to the blog include those required for good SEO like Metadata description and keywords. There is also a Name field that lets you override the webpage name of the post to something more SEO friendly.

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Graffiti -- Content Item Options

Although this is the standard set of attributes for a content entity, you do have the ability to add custom fields. Custom fields are discussed in the Customizations/Integrations section below.

As this is a content management system primarily designed for blogs, it also contains all the standard blogging features such as comments (with Akismet ID), Comments Days -- the number of days people are able to comment on the entry and the ability to email comments.

Editorial Features

This is a simple content management system. As such, there are some editorial features, but they aren't extensive.

You can search for entries by category or author. You can also leave Notes on an entry -- using it for workflow notes or just general notes.

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Graffiti -- View of Published Items
 

You are able to see a list of entries you are working on (Draft), entries you have published and entries that are waiting for your approval.

There is also a section to view and approve, edit or delete comments made on entries.

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Graffiti -- View of Published Comments
 

Text Editor

Graffiti has a built in rich text editor for content authoring. It is a basic editor and as such may not provide all the functionality you have come to expect. In this case, you case use any Editor that uses the Metablog API to connect to Graffiti. In particular, Telligent offers instructions on how to integrate the Windows Live Writer Application. There are plenty of other options in the field though.

 

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Graffiti Text Editor -- Select Presentation Template

Dashboard

When you first log into Graffiti, you see the Dashboard. One section of the dashboard displays list that tells you if there are any items waiting for your approval, including both content and comments. It it also tells you how many content items you have published and if there are any comments on those items. 

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Graffiti Dashboard
 

Security

Graffiti supports three predefined roles:

  • Admin: The Administrator has full privileges for creating, managing and publishing content and comments. They can also modify themes and widgets, add/modify users and add categories.
  • Manager: A manager approves the content of Contributors and can publish their own content without approval.
  • Contributor: A contributor can create and edit posts, but they cannot publish directly to the website.

You can add new Roles to Graffiti with permissions options Read, Edit and/or Publish based on Categories.

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Graffiti -- Managing Roles



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Graffiti -- Managing Users


Content Versioning

Something you don't often see in blogging software is content versioning. Graffiti stands out in this regard as the software does have content versions. A complete history of changes to a content entry is maintained. You can compare changes between revisions or the current version.

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Graffiti -- Content Item Revision History
 

Content that has been deleted is crossed out and colored red. Content that has been added is highlighted in green.

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Graffiti -- Viewing Content Version Differences
 

Another nice feature is the ability to retrieve a deleted content entry. Graffiti maintains a Deleted area that is similar to the Recycle Bin on your computer. Deleted content goes there and it's from the Deleted area that you permanently remove the content.

Workflow

Graffiti has basic workflow capabilities in the Single and Server Editions. Workflow is related to your role on the site and the publishing of content.

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Graffiti -- Basic Workflow Options

There are four workflow states in the publishing process:

  • Published: The content entry has been published or will be published on the Publish Date.
  • Draft: The content entry has been saved, but not published to the website.
  • Pending Review: An email is sent to editors and managers requesting they review and approve the content entry.
  • Require Changes: Indicates changes must be made before the content can be approved.

Graffiti's workflow is email based. This is to say that email alerts are sent to the appropriate people when a post is ready to review and also when it has been reviewed and either approve or sent back for modfications.

Multi-Lingual Support

The Graffiti back office interface is currently only available in English. Since Graffiti is built upon .NET, all the native .NET multi-lingual capabilities come to bear. With that said, it is probably not a good assumption at this point to think that you could use Graffiti to manage non-English language websites. A proof of concept and related testing would be advised.

Site Administration

There is a Site Administration Section in Graffiti that enables you to manage a number of useful things: