February 24, 2007

Magazine Factory - "a healthy disregard for the impossible"


  Christian Komonen, Magazine Factory 
  Originally uploaded by Edublogger.

Last night I was sharing my birthday drinks with crazy Finn Christian Komonen, the Executive Producer of Magazine Factory, a cool and beautiful looking app to help teachers and students create their own web magazines. He's a nice guy so I bit my tongue about how blogging allowed you to do all this for free and just listened.

Magazine Factory is built on open standards and encourages classical editorial management: each project has an editor in chief, an editor, journalists... Importantly for this EU audience - it's multilingual. Entirely. The sites, the software, the support, it all comes in 30 different languages including Greenlandish (is that what it's called?), German, French, Finnish (it's a Finn's product).

The Factory hub features the latest feeds from the magazines which have been created and where the teacher has decided to publish on the web. Others choose just to publish on school intranets.

Magazines can be produced to great effect, making the 'magazine' look and feel, at least, like a pretty professional mainstream media webzine. I picked off the Cooking Magazine and thought it looked nice.

I'm still left wondering what the difference is with a blog. It's a blog with no RSS, no feed, no comments, no .... you get the picture. But it is a nice community and it's multilingual, so collaboration across the continents is made easier. The layout of the finished page and the way the interface is structured for the editors suits small teams working in classrooms. And as I write this Christian's keeping on asking people what could be done to improve it - his potential users have already got themselves more templates, a PDF printing option and a tweak for Internet Explorer 5.5. At the end of the day, when everything web 2.0 seems to be a commodity, it's having guys like Christian on call that make (largely free) products like this worth opting into for some projects.

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Crazy Finn? Got that, Christian?! Let's declare war against Scotland, huh :)

Seriously speaking, Christian's Magazine Factory has come a long way compared to when I first tried it out a couple of years ago. There are certainly more bells and whistles that can be added to the system but, so far, I have not come across a better free cms for school webzine use.

At our school we run a webzine since 2003 - not using Magazine Factory but a commercial system that also runs in the web browser: WebNews. It's got RSS, comments.. well, you get the picture :) It does extremely well what it's supposed to do but there is zero - nil - possibility for modifications or add-ons of your own. Booring! Christian, if you keep improving Magazine Factory I just might migrate! Keep up the superb work!

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About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is a teacher, speaker and investor, regarded as one of Europe’s foremost experts in digital media for public services.

His company, NoTosh Limited, invests in tech startups and film on behalf of public and private investors, works with those companies to build their creative businesses, and takes the lessons learnt from the way these people work back into schools and universities across the world.

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