Document Management Systems (DMS) and Knowledge Management

Document Management Systems (DMS) and Knowledge Management

When I first started using knowledge management applications (mainly traditional outliners), I had hoped that I could find the “One True Application” or OTA. The OTA is the single killer-app that contains all the features I could ever hope for, solves all of my problems, and automagically helps organize all my information. Well folks, I’ve learned that the OTA doesn’t yet exist. So, I’ve taken it upon myself to find a suite of the best open source applications to handle their areas of expertise (content managment, document management, search, semantic query, information discovery, and visualization). My focus for the past few days has been on Document Managements Systems (DMS).
I decided to switch gears and research DMS solutions for a few reasons. Here’s the background: I’m now a couple weeks into my hunt for the perfect Wiki for Personal Knowledge Management. I hinted early on that I favored MediaWiki, and that certainly has held true. It required a little bit of tinkering around, and getting in the guts of PHP now and then, but I feel that I have a pretty sophisticated setup so far. I have a number of extensions enabled that enhance the wiki (the best of which is Semantic MediaWiki… more on that later).
I’ve managed to import some of my older personal journals, travel logs, and have an intriguing setup for my dream journal using Semantic MediaWiki (SMW), Semantic Calendar, and Simile Timeline. At this point, the wiki not only has my old journals, but a place to store my current projects and philosophy research.
Everything seems happy in Wiki-land, and I’m on the road to a great setup for a Personal Knowledge Manager. However, one major area that’s lacking in MediaWiki (or most wiki’s in general) is document management. I have a huge amount of PDFs, Word docs, and Mind Maps that I need to categorize and have ready access to. But, I’ve found that MediaWiki is very lacking in how it handles Attachments. By default, attachments are only expected to be images. You can lift the image-only restriction and add additional file types like .doc and .pdf, however this will only get you so much mileage. Here are the major limitations I’ve found:

  1. Inability to natively search attachments (default search is only for wiki content)
  2. Lack of support to add MetaData about documents(author, keywords/tags, dates, etc). You could use Semantic Forms to help out with this task, but why reinvent the wheel?
  3. Organization of documents (taxonomy). You could attempt to fit the attachments in with the existing wiki categories, however the document hierarchy can end up being a bit different than your wiki content, and it’s probably better suited to growing organically (by itself).

With these limitations in mind, I started researching some of the more popular open source Document Management Systems. Ideally, whatever product I choose should have some degree of integration with the wiki, and I’d like it to be web-based. Although the “One True Application” is a mythical beast, it’s still a nice goal to deal with a single interface where possible.
I currently have my top 3 applications:

I’ve been toying with SCAN since yesterday and have to say that I’m super impressed! Although the interface isn’t web-based, it has a minimalist and intuitive (yet powerful) look n’ feel. The Tag Clustering plugin is killer, and the ability to import and search against my account is wonderful. If SCAN had a web-interface or remote service layer I’d be sold in a heart beat (who knows, I might end up making one).
I also have had a little experience with Alfresco. I evaluated this a little over a year ago, and had a temporary setup where I shared some docs with friends. I have no prior experience with Knowledge Tree, but it looks interesting.
I’ll definitely share my findings as I dig in deeper.

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9 Responses

  1. Rob says:

    I’ve tried to become more organized a few times over the years, but organizing my digital data has always been a problem.
    I’m finding these posts really interesting. Once you’ve chosen the tools, I’d love to hear how you’re actually managing the data. How you’re categorizing and linking within your Wiki, for example.

  2. Eric Blue says:

    Hi Rob,
    Thanks for your comment. I definitely plan on posting a series of articles once I get further along with my setup. Stay tuned!

  3. Hi Eric,
    Your research and development into Document Management Systems sounds very interesting. I also admire that your blog is about your thoughts on technology, philosophy and personal development.. quite similar to my own blog.
    Anyways, I noticed that some of the things that you were mentioning in this post were quite similar to OpenLink Data Spaces. Which takes some ideas from Social networking services and applies and DataPortability. On OpenLink Data Spaces each user can have their own wiki, blog, discussions etc. But what might be interesting to you is that you can also install MediaWiki (as well as WordPress and Drupal).
    Have a look at for an example installation of ODS. You can also check out the documentation for using MediaWiki on ODS, where SIOC data is exposed
    Many thanks,
    Daniel Lewis

  4. David says:

    When I read what you’re looking for in document management, MIT’s DSpace popped into mind. I haven’t tried it, but it looks promising.

  5. Document Management Systems: SCAN (Smart Content Aggregation and Navigation)
    Back in March, I began evaluating some open source Document Management Systems (DMS) to help compliment my wiki-based Personal Knowledge Manager (PKM). That’s a little bit of acronym-overload. But, in simple terms I really am looking for a way…

  6. John says:

    Hi Eric,
    I realize this thread is a little dated, but I am currently working through the same analysis and research and was wondering if you had any thoughts and/or an update on this topic?

  7. Matt says:

    Just as John was inquiring, I too am looking for a home based, personal DMS. I’m curious as well if you’ve discovered any options.
    I’ll be checking out the other suggestions in the comments above.

  8. ericblue76 says:

    John and Matt,
    Over the past few years I’ve mostly been using SCAN for document management (See I also wrote a very simple web-based document browser last year (

  9. google says:

    You are so awesome! I do not believe I’ve truly read anything like that before.
    So good to find another person with a few unique thoughts
    on this issue. Seriously.. many thanks for starting this
    up. This web site is something that is needed on the
    internet, someone with a bit of originality!

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