[Plone-conference] Openspace: growing plone | as a brand

Chris Calloway cbc at unc.edu
Thu Oct 23 17:29:22 UTC 2014

On 10/23/2014 12:14 AM, Dylan Jay wrote:
> and the open space will be about people who no longer want to put their heads in the sand BUT DO want to come up with realistic ways forward to grow plone to a size that is healthy again. Not by marketting or tweaking the product slightly but by taking a realistic look at how people come into the community, why and who contributes to Plone, and how the economics of Plone companies and what kind of Plone (that doesn't exist yet), will work better for everyone.


As a member of the Plone hoi polloi, I don't know whether to pull the 
trigger on this. But here goes.

This is why I would respectfully disagree with the idea of this open 
space as growing Plone "as a brand." For ages Plone marketing efforts 
have driven me crazy because what you really need is simply a Plone 
that's an outstanding product that markets itself. Now, I am aware that 
nothing really "markets" itself in the conventional sense. But you have 
to start with something that doesn't require a lot of explanation, 
something that is already what is expected and all your marketing is 
doing is confirming that suspicion, something that you aren't lying or 
conjuring about or fooling yourself over or causing your head to bury in 
some sand.

Andy Leeb and I had lunch yesterday and, even though my elevator speech 
is, "Plone is the perfect choice for someone about to build a new site 
because they will be fully functional in the least time," we also agreed 
another factual elevator speech about Plone is, "Plone is not the 
perfect choice for someone about to build a new site because it requires 
a programmer or consultant." And there are not even hardly any 
consultants left where we live in the U.S.. That's why I think this 
Plone education effort is crucial. It's key to all your customer, 
collaborator, editor, integrator, and developer on-boarding. If we need 
to have stories to tell, things to communicate, it really needs to be 
about what Plone is, how to use Plone, how Plone works, and what you can 
do with Plone, rather than marketing comparisons. With the right product 
it can be a matter of simply getting someone to try it and letting them 
exclaim "hot damn!" for themselves.

I understand about keeping core developer happy and the economics of 
Plone consultants. But that being the focus is part of what landed us 
where we are. I think it would be really revolutionary to think again 
about making the best Plone we can make, even if that's an entirely new 
Plone, or even something not called Plone. I really deeply believe that 
all the push I've felt to acknowledge that Plone is consultware and 
encouragement to embrace that, even to the point of denying that it 
matters or is a reality or is a bad thing to be, has been a damaging 
tendency that should be resisted. A great product is what built all 
these consulting companies but all these consulting companies are not 
continuing to make the best product. It may require some market driven 
resources. But it also requires more interests than that and some 
safeguards that market driven elements won't pursue scorched earth to 
drive out every other concern.

It has led me to question the a lot of Plone philosophy. I question the 
meritocracy. A lot of what passes for merit is what those who judge 
merit say merit is. If I declare that my farts smell like roses, then my 
farts become the definition of what a rose smells like. Meritocracy 
stands as its own judge of what merit is. Yet somehow, meritocracy has 
led us to a product we no longer like as much? I've learned over many 
years with Plone that many times some of the, what we used to call, 
"rock stars" have not the music I liked listening to. Much of the free 
world has discovered that "free markets" where the cream is presumed to 
rise do not produce what is all that good for you or your future.

I question the wisdom of Plone being the sum of the community's (and in 
the current environment, that translates to consultants') contributions 
as being what's best for Plone, that having essentially a cabal in place 
of a BDFL has led to good decisions for Plone. We've always danced 
around this by saying anyone can contribute. But even our release 
manager had a hard time figuring out the process when he first assumed 
the mantle. Well intentioned efforts to document our processes have 
ended up in failure as it is an effort to document a shape-shifting, 
anarcho-syndicalist, liminal economy that is whatever the consultants 
need on any given day. I've been becoming increasingly involved in my 
new job with defining what community on-boarding should look like. And 
I've come to value clearly advertized procedures (including how to 
change them) over personally negotiated flexibilities.

I question the idea that if it's not this way, then we will alienate our 
innovators and fail to attract the best developers who can't be 
questioned about what they do. With the complexity that has been 
innovated, I might be tempted to say, don't let the door hit you on the 
way out. I've seen the Python landscape littered with the detritus of 
cutting edge developers, projects that were once interesting to them but 
now they have moved on to their next project leaving others to clean up 
the mess. I value a steady commitment to quality over a constant barrage 
of innovation.

On a completely different tangent, I really like Armin's other idea of 
growing the Plone conference into a Python CMS or Python web conference 
(Python CMS if I had a choice because I'm allergic to Django). I had 
that very same idea when thinking about the next North American 
symposium and had talked to Chris McDonough and others about that. I'm a 
bit disappointed that we don't have a Pyramid/Kotti/Substance D training 
or track this time around. Those developers are our friends and many of 
them are ex-Plone devs. I'd like to be more vocal about steering our 
2015 conference in that direction. That also fits in with replacing 
Zope. I know there is some thought that Plone could be factored into a 
layer above Zope where something else could be slid into Zope's place, 
as I asked for many people's opinion on this at the Midwest symposium.

It could also help some other friends who need some help, our Zope 
friends. The ZF hasn't been able to muster even a meeting or a board 
elections this year. They see themselves as existing only for supporting 
Plone. I floated the idea at symposium of merging the foundations (to be 
fair, I previously heard a similar idea on the ZF email list) but only 
got lukewarm response as to how many problems that would present. But 
the ZF is also a software conservancy upon which Plone is dependent, as 
well as Pyramid and its children. We should recognize at least Z3A 
conservancy as in everybody's interest.

Likewise, Pyramid and its children have no conservancy whatsoever. I 
talked to Chris McDonough about this briefly and he hasn't dealt with it 
as he hasn't seen it as a concern... yet. But as we know, that leaves 
more concerns about sustainability for customers of Pyramid and its 
children than for its developers. There are many common interests and I 
do believe some degree of cross-pollination is in everyone's interest, 
as well as sharing the burdens of meta-infrastructure like foundations.

There are many potentials for revolutionary approach. I hope it can be 
more about a great CMS than marketing a perception of one.


Chris Calloway, Applications Analyst
UNC Renaissance Computing Institute
100 Europa Drive, Suite 540, Chapel Hill, NC 27517
(919) 599-3530

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