You know when you have a good idea and kick yourself because you didn't act on it? Mine was to put up a Web site that had real live working versions of software. The software would be available for anyone to come and try out. Since most software these days has a browser interface, it would be relatively easy for a user to come and take a look. All you need is some automation software to clear out the server periodically (so that a fresh version is presented to the viewing public) and voila, you have a demo site that can't be beat for potential customers looking to take software for a test drive.
To show you that I had thought about this concept four years ago, you can read my essay here:
Of the three vendors who were mentioned in that article, only one, Runaware.com, is still showing off applications using Citrix' Java add-on. I guess if this was such a great idea why aren't more people doing it and why didn't the other folks I mentioned in my article survive? Well, I don't have an answer but I do have a new take on how to use your browser to remotely kick those software tires. This new site is geared towards evaluating open-source content management software products. Aptly enough, they call their site:
There are dozens of CMS products for review on the site. The way it works is they supply you with the administrator's username and password so you can go in and manage the various systems and see for yourself what kind of content management product you want to run. And the site editors have a rather wide definition of what constitutes CMS, by the way: they also include bloggers, groupware, forums, and other applications.
Of course, the site has its limitations. The products must all be fully-functional and not crippled versions, and the site will run commercial software too if they have a freely available and fully-featured demo. The products must run a basket of technologies that they are familiar, including php and MySQL. (That doesn't include the well-respected Zope product, by the way, which is too bad.) The products must be easy to install to a default server without the need for root access or other tools that would present problems for the average hosted environment.
In addition to trying out the various products, you can also post your own reviews and comments for others to read.
The opensource CMS site is a great idea whose time has finally come. And I hope that other people pick up the idea and put up new sites on other products that you can evaluate from within the comfort of your browser.
It has been a while since I have written for Sam Whitmore's Media Survey, a great Web resource for tracking the computer trades. Sam and I go waaaay back to the early days of PC Week in the go-getter 1980s. Boy does that make me feel old. Anyway, I wrote a semi-tongue-in-cheek piece for him entitled, "David Strom's Web PR Pop Quiz." If you are a public relations person, or want to play one on TV, you might want to try it out and see how you score:
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