Koken is a great cloud-based content management system (CMS) developed specifically with photographers and the like in mind for publishing multimedia in a gallery/showcase-like format. It's designed for those who aren't too keen on the backend stuff or coding or anything like that, but it is supposed to be super easy and familiar. First glance at the admin portal and instantly it feels like you're using Adobe Lightroom. Self-hosting, however, is an option.

Koken Admin

Their gallery of themes and the demos for them demonstrate such a perfect site for photographers to display their work and market themselves.

Koken Themes

Now the reason I say "supposed to be super easy" above is that I'm trying to get this to work as a self-hosted solution whereas they push the cloud or VPS option and I've had nothing but wonky issues.

On a fresh Ubuntu 16.04 VM, I installed all the dependencies required and then extracted the zip to /var/www/koken which apparently was just an index.php file. First requirement of that file, chmod 0777, seriously, it's in the documentation. You cannot proceed unless you chmod 0777. After configuring setting up the config for that site using Apache, I load it up and I go through the setup process of configuring the database information, my name, site name, etc., and then my admin account information for the application.

So this is where it starts to get weird. After the setup process is done it brings me to the login page. I type in my username and password and submit. Bad password error. I think, that's odd. Try it again. Nope.


Okay, well the setup doesn't have a "confirm password" box nor a "show password" toggle button (which is annoying), maybe I mistyped it. Only way to start over is to drop/create the database and rm -rf * .* the /var/www/koken directory, unzip the index.php file from the zip, chmod 0777, and run through the setup again.

*goes through setup*

So I try to login again, still nope. Ugh. I was getting annoyed. Try once more. Nope. okay, one more time, except this time clicking the "remember me" checkbox. Signs in successfully. What?!? It requires that? BUG!!!

Fine, I can get past that for now. Well... now I just have a black blank page. F12 for chrome developer console, getting ssl errors for js files.

So I read up on the Q&A board for Koken, and I find this a known unpatched issue with a fix from a user. In one of the config files, you modify one line and it just works.

I'm starting to really not like this product.

So it's working (kind of) for the time being, every so often it just blanks and I can't get to any admin settings, F5 and I get redirected to login, login to page, works a little bit longer.

Between the amount of bugs I'm facing with this, the limited community base, and the very limited list of plugin integrations (like 2 of which are free), I'm probably going to call it quits with Koken until it maybe becomes more stable.

If anyone does have a working self-hosted Koken installation, let me know. I'd like to hear how you got it to work. Furthermore, if anyone wants to use one of their suggested cloud-hosted solutions, let me know your thoughts on the product.

images from koken.me