Post Conference Thoughts or “How to get the word out” - mrtopf.demrtopf.de

Post Conference Thoughts or “How to get the word out”

I am now back from San Francisco and Seattle now and I am thinking about what I’ve learned
from the Plone Conference. First of all I learned how great Plone and especially it’s community is.
We have been about 350 people at the conference and 70% of them even have been at one for the
first time. I think about 130 people attended the training in advance of the conference.
We have 200 people with checkin rights into the Plone codebase. We have (compared to some other
Open Source projects) a working Plone Foundation. We have several mailing lists with the biggest,
being plone-users, having about 60 posts a day which results in problems of it’s own (and ideas
how to solve them).

And of course we have a great product. I heard here and there from people how much easier
let’s say Ruby is for getting work done. This might be true. But not for Content Management
Systems. It is true though for quickly starting a project like many of those startups these days.
And it’s quite well suited for that. (but if you want to do that in Python you have Turbogears,
Django or Pylons)

But what we have is a full-fledged Content Management System with an advanced security mechanism,
with workflow, with multilingual support, with a powerful skinning engine, with (soon) versioning
and staging, with an integrated search engine and so on. We also do have many add-on products
which add useful stuff easily, such as multimedia content, boards, blogs etc.
So when the thing you need is a CMS and you have the choice between Plone and Ruby? Which would
you choose to „get work done“?

We already have a lot of functionality already out of the box without the need to program anything.

This is not to say that things couldn’t be better or that Ruby (on Rails) is a bad thing (or whatever
other system). Personally I don’t really like those fights. But we can learn from other systems of
course. And there are some areas where we could get better such as:

  • Getting the word out about the features we already have
  • Getting the word out about the existance of Plone in general.
  • Improving the system to make it easier to customize or configure to your needs.

Speaking of the latter things got a little more problematic recently with the rise of more and more
Zope3 paradigms such as Views in Plone. This makes it hard for people to customize stuff via the web.
But gladly Philipp von Weitershausen and Alec Mitchell worked on that during the post-conference sprint
and as a result Zope3 Views are now customizable through the web. This project was once started during
the last PyCon (and was co-funded by COM.lounge) and is sort of finished now. Congrats to both of them!
Also on the pure Zope3 front things are moving to make things easier. It was again Philipp who showcased
GROK, a framework on top of Zope3 which makes creating content types very easy. He showed a wiki
implementation in just some lines of code. And no ZCML was needed for that. It’s an ongoing project which
does not (yet) work with Zope2/Five but it’s a promising start. Credits for that go probably to Martijn
Faassen who had the idea and started coding it (and who btw was also in Second Life during one talk
we streamed into it).

But let’s get to marketing a bit. There has been lots of talk about marketing (and there even has
been a marketing sprint) at this conference and lots of points have been identified in what can be
done to improve it. But compared to Ruby one thing seems apparent to me which is that Ruby
people will much more go out and spread the word. This is my subjective feeling of course
but even if it’s not true I think we can improve on that. When you look at the whole new media
area which is about blogging, video and audio podcasting and even Second Life then there are lots
of opportunities there.

We don’t have a single podcast (at least none that I know of) and my video blogs seems to be the only
one around. And also blogging seems sometimes a bit closed to the community which means .that it’s mostly
visible on http://planet.plone.org (just compare the search for Ruby on Rails
and for Plone on http://technorati.com).

And when you e.g. walk around Second Life (or other communities) then it’s quite apparent that
many people have heard of Ruby (and there are lots of Ruby folks in there, btw) but not of Plone (just
happened to me again yesterday).

And this is something we should change. So here are some ways to do it:

  • Keep on blogging but do also claim your blog on e.g. Technorati and attach the correct tags.
  • Take part in the conversation. This means to read other blogs and comment on posts you read.
    This way you get links back to your blog. Also don’t be afraid to link to other blogs. If you
    are using a blog which supports trackbacks this once again creates a link from the blog you
    link to to yours (unfortunately Plone based blogs are still lacking in that respect in some
    points but my plan is to improve this).
  • Put your blog address into your email signature
  • Maybe try a podcast. You actually just need a headset and some software. If you have a recent Mac
    then Garageband is already included. Tutorials on how to do that are also widespread.
    Eventually check out this article
    Once you have a podcast, do announce it. Announce it on http://odeo.com and place it in itunes as well
    as in your signature again. Do also announce it on the plone mailing list of course.
  • Even a video blog is not hard to do. No big editing is actually needed when you keep it short.
    Results are better with of course but it’s optional. Go around your colleges and friends and just
    ask what they are working on.
  • Do screencasts. They are easy to create and software is either free or quite cheap. You have
    a product? Go ahead and showcase how to use it. It might even attract more Plone people to it
    as they don’t have to install it and/or figure out how it works.
    Check out showmedo.com for some tutorials.
  • For video content the same rules as for podcasts apply but additionally you should upload it
    to sites like Google Video, YouTube or blip.tv. Make also sure you create quicktime movies
    as they play in itunes (and in Second Life btw.)
  • Join the Plone Users group in Second Life. If Second Life is your thing you probably will
    go out and explore it. Having that group active means that the group title (which is set to
    http://plone.org) will be seen by the people around you. People do check it out, I’ve had it happen.

    To join it, click on the „Search“ button at the bottom, select the „Groups“ tab and search for Plone.
    Joining is free of charge.

I might go into these topics a bit more on a later time but maybe just check things out. We have a great
product and the world should know about it :-)

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