Just back home after day one of Plone Conference 2010, with my mind buzzing so thought it would be a good time to write up some of my thoughts and notes. It was really difficult to choose between the talks on offer on the three different different tracks, but here are some thoughts on the ones I attended.
Keynote by Alexander Limi and Alan Runyan
Two main themes here – ubiquity/availaibility and designer friendliness.
To make Plone more mainstream it needs to be available to non-technical end users through the same means that other systems are already available – namely being able to deploy easily on cheap hosting, specifically the one-click installers on shared hosting in cPanel and similar. This would allow users to easily evaluate Plone for their needs in the same ay that they can already with wordpress, drupal and joomla – apparently there is a new joomla instance created about every two minutes. I must stop Alan Runyan and see if he has thought about microsoft web platform installer – nowadays this includes the option to install wordpress, drupal, modX, and load of other systems, including downloading and installing dependencies. It would be great if Plone was in that list.
One of the aims of Plone 5 is to make it more designer friendly. I think this is really important – even though since the release of plone 4 i’ve started using plone again for intranets and extranets (mainly straight out of the box with a few minor cosmetic tweaks), I currently still use something like wordpress, or a home-rolled CMS for website builds. That is now going to change – the theming story is being completely re-written by the introduction of Deliverance/XDV/Diazo (already available – more on that later), and Deco (TTW layout and content editing). The aim is to make Plone appeal to designers as something that helps, not hinders them.
Quote of the talk has to be from Limi – “Plone doesn’t suck, because the developers don’t hate the core technology” (or something like that) – in reference to the revelation that many drupal/wordpress/joomla developers admit they actually hate PHP, whereas Plone developers love python.
Deco: new editing interface for plone 5
The next talk I attended was Rob Gietema’s demo of Deco. This is looking really good, although i’m a little bit skeptical of drag and drop and in-place editing (I like front-end based editing, but prefer lightboxed modal editing to in-place), mainly because i’ve seem layouts explode and page elements disappear, or refuse to drop in the correct place on similar systems in the past. However, I haven’t actually tried this one yet, maybe i’m just clumsy! I think in general designers and content editors are going to love it.
LDAP and Active Directory integration
I attended Clayton Parker’s talk on LDAP and active directory integration – can’t say I absorbed much, but i’m sure i’ll be asked to do this one day, so it’s good to know that this is tried and tested and the tools are already there.
Easier and faster Plone theming with Deliverance and xdv
Nate Aune gave us an overview of Deliverance. I’ve known about Deliverance for ages, but the penny dropped for me today about how useful this is. The basic principle is this – deliverance acts as a proxy to transparently take HTML output from a website and merge it with HTML from a theme, according to a simple set of rules. In the case of plone, this means you can create a theme in static HTML and have content from a default theme Plone site displayed wrapped up in the static HTML. Simple rules can be applied e.g. “take the news portlet from the plone site, drop the header and footer and all the images and display in the element with and id of “recent-news” from my HTML theme. magic!
Nate quoted one example where the HTML theme is stored in a dropbox folder which the client has access to to make tweaks and changes. I can see front end developers and designers loving this.
There was much discussion at the end over which technology should be used for this – XDV is a fork of an earlier version of Deliverance, which has slightly different functionality. XDV, which is to be renamed Diazo, will be the theming engine for Plone 5. With that in mind, i’ll concentrate my efforts on Diazo. I’m excited by this for non-plone reasons – a majority of my works seems to involve integrating technologies that don’t belong together – this will really help.
Design and development with Dexterity and convention-over-configuration
Martin Aspelli gave a talk on dexterity – the (eventual) replacement for archetypes. This is already available, but not mature yet. The talk was mainly conceptual rather than code-led, focussing on best practice for designing your site or application – when it is suitable to create a content type, and when you might be better off creating a form, or using a relational database. Best quote “code is like a plastic bag” (reduce, reuse, recycle). Write less code.
Laying Pipe with Transmogrifier
Another talk from Clayton Parker – transmogrifier is a system to package up migrations of content from other systems. My thoughts on this were that it looked like hard work for a one off import (usually i’d write a one-off python script for something like this), but creating packages would benefit the plone community e.g. if there were packages available covering migrations from a standard wordpress, drupal or joomla, this would benefit plone. I suppose this could also be used to import content from older instances of Plone, where the upgrade path is broken.
Multilingual sites – caveats and tips
Sasha Vincic talkd about strategies and gotchas for multilingual site builds. Even though Plone has tools for this, there are common scenarios, such as the “missing page” scenario where a translation of a site may not have the same number of pages as the base translation. He also covered common issues such as escaped HTML being translated by third parties and being delivered content where HTML attributes have been translated, therefore breaking the HTML.
Guest Keynote: Challenging Business
This was an inspirational treat for the end of day one – Richard Noble is a fantastic speaker, and after a day of CMS talk it was great to hear his story of the challenges of his past world land speed record record achievements, and the current one – the Bloodhound SSC project. As well as building insane rocket powered cars (the current one has an F1 engine onboard just to drive the fuel pump!), his goal is to inspire children and young people to become engineers, as there is an impending massive shortage of engineers in training. I was also interest to hear that there will be no patents on the technology developed for the new car – the advancements will be made avaiolable for anyone in the engineering industry to build on – sound familiar?