I decided to end my “year in technology” today by taking my first hands-on look at Plone 3.0, schedule for release in March 2007.
Plone 3.0, as its name implies, is shaping up to be a major release for Plone, with a whole pile of big, sexy new features that you’ll notice the second you fire it up. And of course, there’s a whole bunch more going on under the hood. Plone co-founder Alexander Limi gave a great overview of Plone 3.0 at the Plone Conference in October. (You can watch his talk online.) But hearing Alex talk about it was no substitute for the visceral thrill of actually installing Plone 3.0 for the first time and seeing the fruits of the community’s past six months of work.
Apparently, I was only a moderately-good nonprofit technology pundit in 2006. Jason’s keeping score.
On the plus side, at least I made falsifiable predictions, unlike many of my peers.
Jon Stahl, ONE/Northwest
|â€œThe Web 2.0 bubble will burstâ€
|Ruling: Since “Web 2.0″ has been famously impossible to define, this is a tough one to score. On the one hand, cognoscenti are pretty sick of hearing about it, and that’s bubble-bursty. On the other hand, despite some deflation, the hype of web 2.0 tools and tactics got air from the election cycle (thank you, George Allen) and never truly imploded. It’s not a bad prediction for ’07 … nothing like hitting the cover of Time to ossify a trend in its tracks.
|â€œThis will be the year of of open-source content management systems.â€
|Ruling: They’re penetrating far and wide.
My friends over at NPower Seattle are looking for database and network consultants, both staff and contract. It’s a great opportunity to do meaningful work with one of the most effective nonprofit technology outfits out there.
It’s late. I’ve been staring at the Plone Roadmap and the Collective for a while, just trying to get a picture in my head of where things are at, and where they are going. (It’s a lot of mostly good news.)
One of those things that’s just been rattling around for a while is the idea of a “Plone for NGOs” bundle that would package up Plone, set some sensible default settings, and throw in a selected handful of “best of breed” add-on Products that answer common nonprofit use-cases. A bunch of us nonprofit-sector Plone-a-holics have chatted about this, but I’ve not seen anything set into electrons. So here’s a first cut.
Disclaimer: really large nonprofits are likely to have “enterprise-scale” content management needs. No simple “NGO Plone bundle” is really going to address their needs. This proposal is about addressing the needs of small to medium-sized nonprofits.
I’m also writing this assuming that we already have the features that are planned for Plone 3.0 in mid-2007.
Finally, it seems like a lot of these products could be bundled, but disabled by default.
Without further ado, here’s my rough list of products I might think about including a “Plone For Nonprofits” bundle:
Quills – blogging
Press Room – for press releases, media clips. (Full disclosure: my colleagues at ONE/Northwest built this baby.)
Ploneboard – discussion forums
PloneFormGen – for general purpose form building – may make Signup Sheet somewhat redundant?
SignupSheet – great for simple free event signups
PloneSurvey – a nice general-purpose surveying tool.
eCampaigning – when it matures a bit more
SimpleCartItem – very simple e-commerce tool, dumps over to PayPal
CompositePack – for complex page layouts
PloneGoogleSitemaps – make Plone sites even more crawlable
AnalyticsForPlone – everyone should be using Google Analytics
PloneTabs – make it easier to manage portal tabs
ATFlashMovie – probably not that useful for everyone, but really handle for thems that needs it.
RichTopic – Smart Folders with HTML intros. Makes them much more useful for building pages that list stuff.
PloneBookmarklets – encourage posting to social bookmarking services
PloneGlossary – define all those jargon words
CMFSin – or some other simple way to create simple RSS aggregations.
qRSS2Syndication – RSS 2.0 feeds (Plone only ships with RSS 1.0, which is useless for podcasting or other RSS enclosures)
ATAudio or Plone4Artists.Audio – basic podcasting
Some simple workspace tool suitable for a small “board” intranet – suggestions welcome.
Photo Gallery or Slideshow – product TBD. I kinda like Lightbox right now. But I’m open to suggestions.
Ok, end of brain dump. What’s good, what’s bad, what’s missing?
The Salesforce Train Keeps Rolling has a nice observation about why Salesforce is so darn interesting. (Emphasis mine.)
Salesforce has developed a full function business software utility, and with it an economy or ecosystem of builders, buyers, and sellers that spans the planet. Good for them, but now the hard part starts.Up to now, the market and Salesforce have been focused on replacing the tired infrastructure that supported building and buying software licenses. With that out of the way, much more attention will need to be focused on leveraging software to do better business.
The next big challenge that I see involves business process management. Software had been a limiting factor for many business processes, in part because the process and practices were inextricably tied together. In the future, process and practice will be separate and a door will open for a different kind of IT or business consulting.
It is now time for software companies to change focus to take advantage of the new opportunities.
Alex Steffen of WorldChanging covered Eben Moglen’s Plone Conference talk. Bruce Sterling comments skeptically.
It’s great to see this speech getting out there. I’m really glad we invested in taping the Plone Conference so extensively. You never know when something amazing is going to happen.
So, Jodie’s started a blog. World, prepare yourself!
Jonathan Peizer offers up some skepticism about Time Magazine’s designation of “you” as Person Of The Year:
I am just not ready to give into a rose-colored panacea that seemingly lulls me into a false sense of who is in charge and the life-changing benefits of a â€œthingâ€. Just because a new form of interactive, networked and seemingly grass-roots technology is introduced, we must not forget that however easy, cool and innovative it seems, it is still only a process. Who controls the discussion and subsequent actions using any technology [process] is a separate issue. When the world actually becomes a better place for most people, by a measurable factor, and our control of the Information Age is identified as a significant contributor that helped people make better life decisions â€” for themselves, their communities and the planet â€” then iâ€™ll be a true believer.
To my mind individual control of the Information Age is justifiable as the â€œItâ€ thing of the year if it results in the technological equivalent of a polio vaccine – something that makes the world a better place â€” YouTube, Myspace and the ability to better find, post and distribute stupid pet tricks video clips doesnâ€™t quite cut it â€” although outing what stupid politicians say on the campaign trail to insure they donâ€™t get elected to do further damage is certainly a step in the right direction.
I find myself agreeing wholeheartedly. Thanks, Jonathan, for voicing this skepticism so eloquently. If you’re a “progressive techie” who hasn’t yet read Jerry Mander’s “In The Absence of the Sacred,” you should treat yourself to an early Christmas present.
“Web 2.0″ is way oversold. I think we’ll look back on this as something of a “jump the shark” moment.
In The Spam Farms of the Social Web Niall Kennedy sounds the alarm about spammers targeting popular social media sites such as Digg and del.icio.us.
Will we see the kind of arms race that has happened in email and blog-commenting happen in the social media space?
Seth Gottlieb writes one of those blog posts I wish I’d written, on evaluating an open-source software community.
The community will influence your experience of the software and shape the application’s future. If you are used to commercial software selection, the concept of “community” is probably alien to you. You may be used to reading analyst reports about market share and corporate financials. “Community” feels squishy and qualitative by comparison. Even though the information that can be used to evaluate a community is visible, it takes some work to gather and interpret it.
Seth’s key community indicators are:
- General activity level (especially bug reporting activity)
- Vision and priority setting (for product enhancements & updates)
- Leadership – especially the demonstrated ability to develop, promote and renew leadership
- Execution – clear rules and standards that define how to produce quality code, and mechanisms for making sure the procedures are followed.
- Participation – especially openness to new participants and non-technical forms of participation
- Economic Ecosystem – does the project have a strong base of economic activity that is supporting it? Are people making money?
Great post, Seth. Thanks.
Thanks to Jeff, Eben Moglen’s keynote talk about free software, politics, social justice and more from Plone Conference 2006 got slashdotted this morning.
If you haven’t watched or listened to it yet, do yourself a favor. Jeff even wrote a far better summary of it than I ever could have.
Update: Also on Metafilter today.
Kathy Sierra’s got another fabulous post, titled “How To Build A User Community, Part I” which draws on her experience with Java user communities.
She believes (quite correctly, IMHO) that the key to a successful user community is teaching and encouraging intermediate-level users to start answering questions.
Her “big six” tips for growing a user community are:
- Encourage newer users–especially those who’ve been active askers–to start trying to answer questions
- Give tips on how to answer questions
- Tell them it’s OK to guess a little, as long as they ADMIT they’re guessing
- Adopt a near-zero-tolerance “Be Nice” policy when people answer questions
- Teach and encourage the more advanced users (including moderators) how to correct a wrong answer while maintaining the original answerer’s dignity.
- Re-examine your reward/levels strategy for your community
Great stuff. When I think about the Plone community, I think we do a pretty good job on most of these things most of the time. We have a good number of folks who are comfortable guessing at the answers, and some really outstanding experts who can gently correct and build upon their sometimes-partially-right answers. We are very good at teaching people how to ask questions, but I think we could do more to explicitly teach folks how to answer questions better. And we do, unfortunately, have one or two sometimes-a-little-gruff “experts” who don’t always suffer poorly-framed questions as gracefully as we might like.
One thing we don’t yet have are very clear reward strategies for community participation. This is something I’d like to think about more in the next few months. Recognition, appreciation and love really make a big difference, and they’re what keep people around in the long term.
Joshua Levy has a nice post at Personal Democracy Forum on using MySpace (and other social networking environments) for advocacy & political campaigns.
Nothing radically new here, but it’s a good, concise restatement of the obvious:
- You have to go where the people you want to reach are already at. (Organizing 101 here, folks. Sadly, this is something that I often see advocacy organizations forgetting!)
- If you want people to spread your message, you have to let them take control and make it their own. (Organizing 101 strikes again!)
- MySpace isn’t a good place to fundraise.
- It’s much harder to do local, place-based organizing on placeless, wide-scale social networking sites. So far, the most successful social networking advocacy campaigns have been about “wide, blunt” national or international issues.
The bottom line:
… a MySpace profile is not a replacement for a campaign’s homepage. Instead, it is meant to be part of a participatory ecosystem that campaigns must set up…. MySpace profiles are the equivalent to canvassing on the street or in a mall; they are part of a larger outreach effort. Just as it’s a mistake to think that the web will itself replace other media, it’s also a mistake to think that MySpace or Facebook profiles are simply lazy or trendy ways of gaining an online footprint.
(Hat tip to Marty.)