Periodically, I trawl through the Plone Collective repository (both via Github and via PyPi) to see what folks are building but not publicizing widely via Plone.org. As usual, I found some hidden gems that I think deserve a bit wider attention.
Fair warning: I’ve tested each of these products in a Plone 4.1.5 development instance, but I’ve not deployed any in production or reviewed the code. All are written by experienced Plone community members, though, so they should be at least reasonable sane. I’d love to hear about your experiences with any of them.
collective.folderorder - Jens Klein and BlueDynamics Alliance
Plone’s default folder view shows items in the order they were added, and while you can manually rearrange items, there’s no way to automatically resort items in a folder view. (Although you can add a collection as the default view of a folder, this is not always obvious to new users, and quite a few clicks.) With collective.folderorder, you get a new “Order” option the Actions menu for a folder, and you can easily choose from several default folder ordering schemes, including: reverse order, unordered, and partial ordering. Even better, it provides an easy way for developers to add new ordering schemes.
I’d love to see this one PLIPed for future inclusion in Plone, possibly with a few more ordering options (e.g. last modified, creation date). It’s a small but welcome UI affordance.
collective.folderposition – Laurence Rowe
Another small but welcome improvement to folder ordering. This one adds a nice little set of buttons below a folder listing that allows you to move items instantly to the top, the bottom or up/down a designated number of slots. Again, super convenient when you need to rearrange a lot of folder items.
collective.prettydate – Franco Pellegrini & Héctor Velarde
collective.prettydate reformats the display absolute dates/times (e.g. 3/1/2012) to relative date (e.g. one month ago, four days ago, etc.) This is really nice for news sites or sites with upcoming events.
collective.embedly – Quintagroup
collective.embedly makes it stupidly simple to embed almost any externally hosted multimedia (YouTube, Vimeo, Slideshare.net, etc.) into Plone. It uses the fantastic service “Embedly” which is itself built on the open “oembed” standard. Developers who want a bit more power may also want to look at collective.oembed.
collective.routes – Nathan Van Gheem
This one is a bit conceptual, but pretty awesome. From the prolific and talented Nathan Van Gheem comes collective.routes, which makes it possible to build URLs in Plone that do catalog queries, e.g. http://mysite.com/blog/date/of/blog/post. This isn’t really an end-user product, but it makes it easy for integrators to build really nice URLs for their custom Plone apps.
Visible power is the power that plays out in formal decisionmaking processes. Social change activists participate in this through lobbying, advocacy, organizing, etc.
Hidden power is the power to set the agenda, include or exclude certain participants, etc. This kind of power is often exercised behind closed doors.
Invisible power “involves the ways in which awareness of one’s rights and interests are hidden through the adoption of dominating ideologies, values and forms of behavior by relatively powerless groups themselves.” In other words, invisible power is the creation of culture, beliefs and awareness.
I can’t quite nail the analogy, but it seems to me that if you took this article, replaced “startup” with “nonprofit” and tweaked the context a bit, it would make for an interesting conversation about the nonprofit sector.
The short version might go something like this: as in the tech startup industry, there are too many nonprofits chasing too little top-flight talent. They can’t compete on cash. </analogy ends> So instead they just don’t really compete at all.
Riffing on Marty’s recent post about the ever-lower cost of advocacy group formation… it is true that it is cheaper than ever to start an advocacy organization. As Clay Shirky observed, that is the real power of the internet, it lowers the cost of finding like-minded people. However, I think the paradox is that as the cost of forming a group declines, more groups are formed, which actually tends to increase the cost of achieving social change campaign goals.
Why? So many organizations competing for limited dollars, limited talent, limited attention, press coverage, etc. This means you have to be better than ever to punch through the noise and achieve critical mass. Most of the rewards go to the top 1%. This is not about scarcity vs. abundance, it’s recognizing that public agendas can only have so many items on them at once.
Still sorting through the implications of this. I do think Marty is right that we need to come up with new approaches to dealing with this fragmentation.
I’ve been reading and thinking a bit about “collective impact” lately. (Here’s the seminal article introducing the buzzword.) It’s a solid, mostly-common-sense framework for thinking about collaborative/coalition efforts. There are five elements that define a “collective impact” approach:
- Common agenda. If you don’t have a shared vision for change, you can’t really expect to collaborate effectively.
- Mutually reinforcing activities. Successful collaborators need to coordinate their activities, play to their strengths, and know their role in the larger effort.
- Continuous communication. If you don’t communicate regularly you can’t hope to build enough trust and shared language to collaborate effectively.
At this point, you’re probably thinking, “Jon, why are you wasting my time with such obvious folderol?” Most coalition efforts I’ve seen fulfill these first three conditions pretty well. Hang in there, it’s the next two that are the most interesting:
- Shared measurement systems. Hmm, now we’re getting somewhere. Collective impact suggests that collaborative efforts need agree on a shared set of indicators of success and the systems for monitoring and reporting on those indicators. Without shared indicators, collaborators have no way to really know if they are succeeding or failing, and no feedback systems that allow them to “course correct” as needed.
- A backbone support organization. Proponents of collective impact assert that successful collaboration efforts need to have a strong, staffed organization at their center, in order to run the collaborative process with sufficient intensity and focus to drive it forward in the face of distractions. It’s not clear to me whether they think a strong “lead coalition partner” fulfills this condition or not. (I suspect not.)
It’s these last two points where most collaborations falter, and probably not concidental that they require sustained, long-term resource commitments. How do collaborations you’re involved with stack up?
In fifteen years of consulting work, I learned the hard way how to say “no” to projects. It was always a little bit painful, because, like most consultants, I was very dedicated to “being of service” and turning down a project always felt a little bit like a violation of that core value. But as I came to learn, you only harm yourself and the client by taking on a project that you suspect is teed up for failure, and over time, my colleagues came up with a pretty finely tuned set of requirements for what makes for a successful project.
Here’s short list of the reasons why consultants should sometimes say a polite but firm “no” to projects:
- Misaligned expectations around scope and budget (can go in either direction)
- Timeline + project scope exceeds consultant’s currently available project resources
- Client does not have sufficient project management/leadership resources available
- Client executives not strongly or clearly bought into the project
- Client not committed to consultant’s process/methodology
- Client technical needs aren’t a good fit for consultant’s core competencies, despite mission/attitude alignment
- Client indicates a desire for an “order-taker” type of implementer (“Consultant! Do what I say!”) rather than a deeper strategy + vision partnership. (The former is perfectly good work, but skilled consultants are usually more interested in the latter)