One of the memes I heard on the breeze at Plone Conference 2006 was something I heard attributed to Paul Everitt, co-founder of Zope, incoming Plone Foundation board chair and all around nice guy. (Who needs to blog more often, hint, hint!)
“The software is an artifact of the the community,” Paul is alleged to have said. Damn. I wish I had thought of that. It’s not only short, memorable and true, it’s true in that “illuminating a deeper and easily-overlooked truth” kind of way.
Plone, the software, is the artifact of Plone, the community. Plone doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It the collective product (and gift!) of a community of people. Plone, the software, reflects the skills and passions and energies of Plone, the community. (It probably also reflects our collective neuroses and dysfunctions as well!)
Paul’s observation invites us to see open-source software through the lens of the communities that create it. It suggests that to really understand Plone, you need to spend the time to understand the Plone community as a community.
Plone has a history and, as I’m beginning to learn, a culture. Martin Aspeli’s master’s dissertation is a great social history of Plone through mid-2005, and Martijn Faassen’s talk at DZUG 2006 is a really informative longer-term history of Python, Zope and Plone. But of course, most history is oral history, and I learned a ton about where we’ve been (and where we might be going) from talking with Paul, Alexander Limi, Joel Burton and others at the Plone Conference. That’s one of the many, many reasons that in-person gatherings are so important for vital communities.
More importantly, if you care about the future of Plone the software, you need to think about taking care of Plone the community — and the individuals and organizations that make up that community. Plone the software will continue to evolve and succeed only if the community of people that make and use Plone are happy, healthy and passionate about what they’re doing. That means making sure they have good projects, sustainable employment, opportunities to share ideas with each other (and to borrow good ideas from elsewhere), and ways to be recognized for their contributions.