A question often asked of us here in Web Services! The choice was ultimately made by me and Neil Martin, we were the two Web Support Officers at the time but our choice was severely limited.
The Content Management System Project Group (CMSPG) was set up in April 2002 to look into the options available for a CMS. Very early on in the process that group settled on Zope as the framework for the future development of the CMS. I was initially unimpressed by Zope on my first dealings with it.
Several other universities had already started using Zope but with different CMS built on top of it. In November 2003 I organised a Zope users meeting at the UCL and we had visitors from Bristol, Birkbeck, Oxford Brookes, ICH and others. They were using different CMSs including Zope’s Content Management Framework (CMF), Plone and EasyPublisher. In February 2004 I demoed some of the options for Zope to Information Systems (IS). To say they weren’t impressed is an understatement! Just after that meeting Neil discovered that his former employers, Luton University were using a Zope based CMS that we hadn’t heard off, Silva. I quickly installed it and we arranged to go visit them.
Compared to other CMS on offer Silva provided out-of-the-box organisational workflow which compared favourably to the community based alternatives where we would have had to develop the workflows separately which was something that would have been difficult to achieve quickly given our, then, limited Zope, Python skills. The templating system was also very simple compared to the others and Neil and I could reproduce UCL templating very quickly. It was also easier to build simple tools into it for template menuing etc. It was the obvious choice for us.
IS signed up Debs Pollard in late May 2004 to give us sysadmin support for the CMS and we finally started up the live service in early 2005. Jon Bowlas joined up shortly after as our Silva Developer and we made great progress after that.
There are now around 540 sites in Silva and we have some promising new developments on the way for 2012! More on that in an bit.