DISCOVER Magazine, one of the most widely read science mags in the US, had out grown its dated Web Content Management infrastructure for www.discovermagazine.com. Times were changing, multi-media was big and in general Web and CMS technology had moved forward significantly.
After analyzing current needs and taking stock of the Web CMS landscape DISCOVER ultimately selected the open source Plone platform. This is a two-part series where we look at the CMS features which convinced DISCOVER to chose Plone.
was chosen because of the system’s ease-of-use, robust feature set,
strong open source community, reduced vendor lock-in, outstanding
customizability, standards compliance, reputation, economics, and high
Firstly, I am honored to have been asked to present at the 5th annual Plone Conference, this year to be held in Naples, Italy. I have never been to Italy, so I am particularly excited.
My presentation title is "Plone for
Media" and here is the summary:
Plone is an outstanding choice as a platform for media websites. Newspapers, magazines and radio stations have all chosen to deploy on Plone for its ease-of-use, advanced feature set, open standards, accessibility, multi-lingual capabilities, and high scalability.
This session will discuss the elements needed for media sites and how Plone (along with many well-supported add-on products) meets those needs. Features such as video streaming, blogging, podcasting, ad serving and RSS will be discussed. Attendees will learn best practices in approaching the development and structure of media websites using Plone.
Discover Magazine (DISCOVERmagazine.com), a leading US science magazine that recently re-launched its website on Plone will be used as a case study.
If anybody has a specific interest on what I should cover, please let me know.
For a preview of what we did with Discover, I just published a highly-detailed case study on Plone.net. Some of the key highlights:
DISCOVER chose Plone for its rich feature set, development community, ease-of-use, reputation and economics.
Plone, it took DISCOVER up to three weeks to publish a magazine issue
online. With Plone, that has been cut to as few as three days.
Streaming video, blogs, podcasts, RSS feeds and photo galleries are enabled and integrated by Plone.
Integration of social networking sites like Digg and Reddit has resulted in an increase in site traffic of nearly 70%.
Any site content can be made "Subscriber-only" by DISCOVER editors.
automatically generates related articles for each of the thousands of
articles on the site. No manual intervention is required.
of articles were successfully and automatically migrated from
DISCOVER's old CMS into Plone with no loss of inbound links.
DISCOVERmagazine.com is a high-traffic site that performs extremely well under heavy load.
Today, the Plone Foundation announced the release of version 3.0 of the Plone content management system. We use Plone at the CMS for many of the projects we do, and for good reason. It works well. Really well. And for lots of different types of sites.
Version control - this one is HUGE. Plone will automatically save every version of a web page, and you can easily revert to an older version. You can also edit a "checked-out" version of a page while the original stays live (something you couldn't easily do in Plone 2). This is the feature that I get asked about most frequently, and it's really important that this now exists.
Ability to insert Flash and other embeddable video right in the content editor.
Link integrity - this makes sure that when you move or delete content, you don't break any links that point to that content.
Inline AJAX editing - this is just cool. Basically, the process of entering and editing content just got more efficient and faster. It feels more like a desktop application. No more waiting for the entire page to reload just to edit something.
Last week I had the absolute pleasure of learning Plone from a true master educator. Joel Burton is like that great professor you had in college that you'd always look for in the course catalog. No matter what she was teaching, you'd sign up for her class, simply because she was that good.
If you have an interest in Plone, I cannot recommend his classes highly enough. He has an uncommonly strong ability to explain advanced concepts in a simple way, and he's extremely patient with silly questions. He did a great job keeping the class moving along - there was a LOT to cover.
Check out the Plone Bootcamps website to see when the classes are. There are different classes for different levels - for users of Plone (how to best take advantage of Plone's capabilities as an end-user), for integrators who want to learn how to use Plone to build websites (the class I took), and an advanced bootcamp for those who already have a good level of experience with Plone but want to take their skills to a new level.
I should also mention that these classes are unbelievably good deals. The class I attended only cost $350. Yes, that's $10 per hour. Insane.
In total, the class time came to about 35 hours, but there was probably 50 hours of material. It's not practical to make this a 7-day class, but I sort of wish it had been that long.
Wow! What a few months it has been for the Plone content management system! It truly feels like Plone has reached some sort of tipping point. The momentum behind it has been amazingly positive of late.
To summarize some of the good vibes:
Plone was recently downloaded for the ONE MILLIONTH time. Consider how incredible this is. We're talking about a content management system. Not a word processor. Not a general purpose database. Not a computer game or a viral online video. A content management system. A HIGH-END content management system. To develop high-end websites. Written in Python. Just amazing.
There have been a rash of MAJOR company website launches on Plone in the last few months, including Novell.com, Akamai.com, CIA.gov, and our ownDiscoverMagazine.com. I've heard from solid sources that Novell.com is getting over 20 million page views per month (that should answer the questions of those who question whether Plone can scale). And figure that if the CIA chose Plone for its public website, its security must be REALLY strong.
And speaking of Packt Publishing, they are once again holding a vote for the best open source CMS platforms (or, well, the most popular anyway). Plone was a runner-up last year, which is pretty impressive when you consider Plone runs on Python, which is not quite as widely used as PHP. If you are a Plone fan, please vote!
The Plone Conference 2007 is coming up in October. This year it will be held in Naples, Italy. Mmmmm pizza.... Seriously though, if you have a business or personal interest in Plone, this is the "can't miss" conference of the year. I have submitted a proposal for a presentation. If it is accepted, I'll tell you what it is. ;-)
If you are able to get to the Conference, consider taking one of the pre-conference classes being offered. The classes are not just for developers. There are also classes for content editors and designers. The people teaching these classes are fantastic - easy to understand, patient... if you can be there, it will be worth your while.
And finally, just anecdotally, we have been seeing a real pickup of interest in our Plone integration and design services. I suspect this is not a coincidence.
The Plone community is doing fantastic work. Keep it up!
Ask Plone users what they like best about the
open source content management software and chances are a key feature
they'll list along with ease of use and multilingual support is the
community of experts that's grown around the product.
A website is not a project but rather a process of continuous improvement.
He points out the hard truth that most companies completely budget their web efforts incorrectly - as projects and not as ongoing operations. A website is never finished, and I think individuals at most companies know this intuitively, but in many cases internal processes aren't set up for proper funding.
This happens when you think of a website as "marketing material" like a brochure, but not if you think about it as if it's your company's online magazine, broadcast TV or radio channel. If your company owned its own TV station, would it fund a project to build up the station and then perform simple "maintenance" on it after the first several months? Of course not.
The web is not TV of course, but in many ways it's much more. In most cases, it's your company's most important, most far-reaching publishing system. At the very least, it's your online magazine. It's what enables a real-time, ongoing conversation with your customers or constituents. Creating a website as a single project without any significant ongoing investment is sort of like building a voice-mail system for your customers to call with questions.... "Press 1 if you want to know the colors available. Press 2 if you want to know a list of available options..." But you rarely update the options and you don't give your customers any opportunity to actually speak with somebody (because you don't want to pay for the ongoing operational cost of real-time conversations). What an opportunity lost! Especially with a medium as rich, compelling and measurable as the web.
It's important, but not sufficient, to build your website on a content management system and have content editors staffed to keep the content fresh and up-to-date. The CMS and website itself will need consistent enhancement, refinement and incremental improvement, or else you will find that after a pretty short period of time, your website will feel old and obsolete. And if you think that, you can bet your customers do too.
It's fine for a company to fund an initial web build-out in a capital budget, but companies are really sabotaging their web investments if they don't put together significant operational budgets for the constant changes and improvements that a compelling and effective website require.
Scott is the co-founder and managing partner at Abstract Edge, a creative digital agency that provides online marketing, brand-focused design and technology services to organizations with serious content publishing needs.