"Count what is countable. Measure what is measureable. What is not measureable, make measureable." -- Galileo

Monday, December 31, 2007

Plone Metrics Person of the Year

Ah, yes! The moment you've all been waiting for -- the announcement of this blog's Plone Metrics Person of the Year. With a distinct honorable mentions for Alan Runyan and Vidar Andersen, co-founders of Plone, this year's award, the first ever, goes to Alexander Limi for his tireless efforts both in front and behind the scenes.

The Plone Reference Library and Amazon Statistics

I was poking around in Amazon.com recently and realized that it had some numbers that would be worth kicking around. Plone holds up well in the "number of books about it" category (6) for open-source CMS, although Drupal comes close with 4 and SharePoint blows everyone away with 48.

In terms of Amazon sales rank, Aspeli's book is doing well at 40,410. By comparison, SharePoint for Dummies comes in at 17,382 and Pro Drupal Development at an astonishing 6,168. The full set of data from Amazon, looking at number of reviews, customer ratings, and sales rank are:

Title Author Sales Rank
Professional Plone Development Aspeli 40,410
Building Websites with Plone Cooper 93,139
Definitive Guide to Plone McKay 139,560
Content Management with Plone: Handbook for Authors and Editors Lotze,Theune 213,164
Plone Live Pelletier, Shariff 455,539
Plone Content Management Essentials Meloni 584,584

Title Reviews Rating
Professional Plone Development 5 5.0
Building Websites with Plone 7 3.5
Definitive Guide to Plone 15 4.0
Content Management with Plone: Handbook for Authors and Editors 0 ---
Plone Live 5 5.0
Plone Content Management Essentials 8 3.5

By way of comparison, here are the numbers for Drupal:

Title Author Sales Rank
Pro Drupal Development VanDyk, Westgate 6,168
Drupal: Creating Blogs… Websites Mercer 34,996
Building Online Communities Douglass, et al. 138,071
Practical Drupal Mansfield 534,402

Title Reviews Rating
Pro Drupal Development 36 5.0
Drupal: Creating Blogs… Websites 16 3.5
Building Online Communities 26 3.5
Practical Drupal 0

Interestingly, sales rankings bounce around hourly. "Pro Drupal Development" had a 3,648 ranking last night and this morning it had fallen to 6,168. A couple Plone titles changed places overnight.

Amazon restricts raw sales data to authors and publishers only, so what are we to do with these mysterious "sales rank" numbers? I suggest a figure of merit (FOM) that is one over the sales rank (larger sales rank number means lower sales). One finds that the sum of all Plone sales rank FOMs is 1/6 that of the Drupal total sales rank FOM. This may mean that roughly six times as many Drupal books are being sold as Plone books on Amazon. I should mention that 81% of Drupal's figure comes from a single title, "Pro Drupal Development."

But some caveats are due. "Definitive Guide to Plone" is available free on the Web and "Plone Live" is best obtained by online subscription. These would certainly depress the Amazon numbers. Also, one should take into account how much online documentation is available--better free documentation would mean less need for that reference book on the shelf.

One last statistical pernambulation: take the number of reviews and multiply it times the average rating in number of stars. Plone totals 162.5 and Drupal comes in with 327. Over half of Drupal's total comes from VanDyk and Westgate's book

The oddest statistics were the category rankings that Amazon had. Meloni's book is the last place Plone title and yet it ranks #2 in Content Management. Meanwhile, "Practical Drupal" clocks in a #11 even though it has a slightly higher overall sales rating.

What, if anything, can the Plone community do about this? First, support your authors--buy their books. Second, review their books, rank them, and perhaps most importantly, tag them so that they pop up high in the category searches, especially "Content Management."

Amazon is a wealth of objective data. I'll come back to this data set and look at other CMS at a later date as well as reviewing how Plone texts are moving in the statistics.

Have a Happy and Prosperous New Year!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Plone Metrics Person of the Year

Well, I've survived Christmas and the New Year is fast bearing down on us. As it seems with all other endeavors this time of the year, there needs to be a "Person of the Year" identified. Of course with this Plone Metrics blog, that esteemed personage will have with it all the honor, glory pertaining thereto. Needless-to-say, there's no money in it ;-))

My nominees are:
  • Alexander Limi, founder and continuing champion
  • Jarn, for selflessly removing the word Plone from their original "Plone Solutions" name
  • Joel Burton, for continuing the bootcamp vision and for maintaining uml.joelburton.com
  • Jon Stahl, for his work with the non-profit community
  • Martin Aspeli, for getting the first Plone 3.0 book out the door
The Award Committee (me) will now evaluate the nominees and make a pronouncement by 1 January 2008. Please comment on your opinion of the person or group who has most effected Plone (positively or negatively) in 2007.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

A Very Plone Christmas to All!

Here's wishing everyone a Merry Merry and a Happy Happy!!

And to all a good night!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Internet Mensuration in General

I'm not the only one struggling with measuring aspects of Web usage. I ran across this quote in a piece referenced by Yahoo!News in which advertising executives were wondering why ad spending isn't higher considering how much time people spend online.

"This industry looks like it can't get out of its own way," said Steve Wadsworth, president of The Walt Disney Co.'s Internet group. "We need measurement of the audience and their use of the system that's clear, simple and actionable for a marketer. You need comparability with other media."

As Internet executives hash over clickstreams, page views and user panels, 2008 is sure to see even more evolution of the way online audiences are measured.
More to come....

Open Source Alliance in the News

Today there's a bit in the news from OSA. Here's a quote from the article in Yahoo!News, which is just a repeat of the material in PC World:

Participants cited a variety of interoperability scenarios and concerns, including single sign-on for identity management.

Another involved user interface interoperability. "A lot of people try to plug open-source projects into an enterprise portal, and they want a unified look and feel," Sartorio said.

Customers also cited cross-platform portability and data integration challenges.

In addition, the study found that:

-- Lower up-front cost was the most important driver for adoption of open-source products, but this was tempered by concerns that spending on support and services would be greater. That feeling in turn was mitigated by a belief among respondents that open-source products will become more mature over time and easier to support.

-- Few customers cited the ability to customize source code as a selling point for open-source applications, preferring instead that it handle their needs out of the box.

Its particularly odd to me that customers want out-of-the-box solutions. While I'll admit I'm always happy when I find a product that does exactly what I need Plone to do, more often than not, we're off to UML and ArchGenXML for a custom component. One size does not fit all.

Anyone interested in this should track down the OSA material at http://tinyurl.com/2884eh. There OSA states:

The top criteria were (1) total cost of ownership, (2) whether the solution meets requirements and solve business problems, (3) the vendor’s ability to support them and (4) the ability to interoperate with their existing environment.
Customers were generally satisfied with the first two items, which should have been a no-brainer -- open-source by definition is lower cost (unless someone is cooking the books on total life-cycle costs) and requirements-driven criteria should be a certainty. Vendor support and interoperability come in 3rd and 4th, but appear to be the discriminators.

The Plone community and support we'll save for another post and today I'll concentrate on interoperability, since that is the MSM's big thrust. OSA identifies six issues with interoperability:

  1. Single signon -- done.
  2. Data integration -- need to research deeper into the report on this topic.
  3. Portability -- done.
  4. UI customization and portal integration -- no problem.
  5. Content management integration -- I'd love to see an easier way to get two-way synchronization between external RDBMS and Archetypes.
  6. Component compatibility -- one of the areas where Plone 3rd party developers excel but could still improve.
Plenty more good stuff in just the 11-page summary report, but that will have to wait for another day.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Native Heart

I've been corresponding with Frank Odasz of Lone Eagles Consulting since I met him at last summer's Digital Pathways Conference and he's had some excellent ideas about using CMS to engage Native Americans. These same concepts translate well to my work with women's empowerment and economic development in rural areas of the Middle East.

Since then I've contacted Openia and they've provided a free Plone site for us. (Thanks, Openia. You guys rock!) We're just getting set up, but the plan is to leverage existing systems like YouTube, LinkedIn, Monster, and Flickr with Plone as the hub. Right now its a prototype running on the good wishes of Openia, but we're on the prowl for a sponsor who will cover the bill for a monthly .org domain and full-up Plone 3.0 site where we can add the products we need (for example, Plone4Artists) and have space for the multimedia content we hope to attract. Stay tuna'd...

Meanwhile, one of the critical needs for pushing Plone forward are low-cost and free hosting services. Also, a how-to would be extraordinarily helpful on setting up a personal server on a home computer using, say, a standard Comcast connection, some simple scripts to handle IP addressing issues, and services like no-ip.com.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

OpenLogic Census

Without a doubt OS developers should be elated with the recent news item that the OpenLogic is attempting a global OS software census. Check it out and be sure to take part when the census opens early next year.

Meanwhile, I'm happy to report that Plone WorldKit, even in an alpha release, is working fine on a production machine. This weekend I'll try to get a couple other Plone GIS systems installed and running, but for now, the gauntlet has been thrown.

Finally, in my College of Santa Fe Computer-Math Science class--Analysis of Algorithms--I've begun exploring a Kalman Filter implementation that I may be able to use with Bullard's measures of effectiveness. Its based on a pre-publication copy of an article by Tom Arnold, but it looks feasible. Stay tuna'd...

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Plone Downloads, Parte Duo

Looking at the download stats on SourceForge shows a disturbing downward trend, but the truth of the matter is that the download link in Plone.org now points to LaunchPad.net, where statistics apparently are not made public. My thought is that LaunchPad downloads are siphoning away stats from SourceForge, so we have an incomplete picture of the Plone hits. I'll have to turn to the Plone Foundations guys to get the numbers from the Plone.org server logs. Just goes to show that there are apples and oranges things happening all the time in the software world.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

SourceForge Downloads

Its a windy Saturday morning in Albuquerque and I'm about to head out into it for a bonsai workshop with Michael Hagedorn. But before I do that, I'm waiting on the coffee pot to finish brewing and that gives me a couple moments to hop over to SourceForge and see how the download stats are doing.

The graph at right shows calendar year 2007 (ignore December since its an incomplete month). Obviously, since the high watermark last Feb-Mar, things have tapered off. In fact since the rollout of 3.0, downloads have been quite weak.

Does this mean that Plone is falling out of favor? I doubt it, but coffee's done, so my explanation will have to wait until this evening.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Measurement and Uncertainty

Today I came across Mike Cassady's piece entitled "Does Lack of Measurement Mean Uncertainty?" on a Sandia internal website (sorry, no public URL). He began by posing that logical positivism rests on an assumption that "to measure is to know; not to measure is to remain uncertain." He suggests that they rely on the fact that "We are comfortable using numbers as an assessment tool.... but we are suspicious of any assessment approach that doesn't rely on objective data computed numerically."

But then, unexpectedly for a place full of engineers and scientists, Mike goes on to say "If you can't measure it numerically, it's probably ten times more important than anything you CAN measure numerically." He goes on saying, "customer sets often live in the gray area of 'customer experience' rather than the firm scientific feather bed of 'measure is meaning' [and] that [programmers] are going to have to broaden their receptivity to qualitative and judgment-oriented measurements."

Hmm? Where does that leave us?

Let me make another observation about a phenomenon called an "information cascade." Here's the nitty gritty from Wikipedia:

Definition: An information cascade is a situation in which every subsequent actor, based on the observations of others, makes the same choice independent of his/her private signal.

Erroneous Mass Behavior: In an information cascades everyone is individually acting rationally. Still, even if all participants as a collective have overwhelming information in favor of the correct action, each and every participant may take the wrong action. The probability that everyone is taking the wrong action is less than 50%, but it is easy to construct examples in which everyone is wrong with 30-40% probability.

Fragility: A little bit of public information (or an unusual signal) can overturn a long-standing informational cascades. That is, even though a million people may have chosen one action, seemingly little information can induce the next million people to choose the opposite action. Fragility is an integral component of the Informational cascades theory!

So, what does this mean for society? Cascades predict that you can get massive social imitation, occasionally leading everyone (the "herd") to the incorrect choice. (Because everyone knows that there is very little information in a cascade, cascades are "fragile"; a little bit of new public information can make a big difference).

For someone trying to decide on the best CMS to implement, they might just look around and see what others (the "herd") have done and make a sub-optimal choice. From this I conclude that we most definitely need to temper judgement-oriented decisions with cold hard objective knowledge. At the very least, we need enough rigor to ensure that an information cascade doesn't occur.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Rhythm and Business

Norman Kelley's book is entitled "Rhythm and Business" after the Rick James quote, “R&B stands for rhythm and business.” So I'm taking a moment to look at the business side of CMS, especially Plone. One of my measures of effectiveness is the economic health of 3rd party companies.

A quick visit to plone.net shows 225 companies listed in 47 countries. Drupal is covered by Drupal Yellow Pages and it has a nice Google map interface. They have 50 map pins. Searching for "alfresco companies" on the other hand turns up (in the top 30 search results) no unified list of active 3rd party companies. Joomla has a Joomla Yellow Pages with 203 companies identified.

It looks like the number of 3rd party companies doing business around an open-source project is a good proxy for the economic health of that product's business environment. The Plone Foundation should be applauded for their proactive business development on behalf of the Plone community.

In conjunction with this discussion, I should mention another one of Matt Asay's pieces on open source--this one dealing with the Red Hat business model. Its worth a read for anyone working in open source.

And finally, if I still have your attention, here's a chunk pulled right out of a recent posting on Jeff Pott's blog:

Here are the open source projects/companies that made eContent Mag’s eContent 100 this year:

  • Alfresco
  • Automattic (Wordpress)
  • Drupal
  • eZ Systems
  • JA-SIG
  • Liferay
  • Plone
  • Tiki Wiki
  • Typo3
Plone is on the list for the second consecutive year. eContent only produces an alphabetical listing, so the only number we can pull from their data is "number of years listed." More on this in a subsequent write up as I data mine their listings.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Yet Another Plone Portal

Another call; another request for a portal. About four hours later, Debbie has crafted another Plone site, albeit with a default skin, but with workflow, security, and folder hierarchy are all in place.

Now we see that with just a few new portal requests, our regression line has become a 3rd order polynomial. Its R-squared is over 99%, meaning that the curve fits the data extremely well. I can now revise my forecast of Plone sites for calendar year 2008 -- we should be at 50(!) by a year from now.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Plone Products

I recently found a year-old posting on Jon Stahl's blog about the need for objective product reviews. Turns out, I have an excuse to start doing that.

Since I have a customer at work who has a need for a map-centric view of facility data, I'm looking at the various products for GIS integration with Plone. Here's a quick rundown of what's available off-the-shelf at plone.org for geospatial data presentation.

Product Version Most Recent Release Date Days Since Last Update Status
Maps 1.1 9/5/2007 87 Active
PloneWorldKit 0.2 5/5/2007 210 Torpid
Plone Place Map 0.10 2/21/2007 283 Torpid
Plone Google Maps 0.2 9/28/2006 429 Moribund
AT Google Maps 0.5 7/19/2006 500 Moribund
GeoLocation 0.3 6/9/2006 540 Moribund
MapLocation 0.1b41r3 3/13/2006 628 Moribund
PrimaGIS 0.5.1 2/18/2006 651 Moribund

I've defined 'torpid' as a product without a major stable release and no activity within the last six months. 'Moribund' here means no major stable release and no activity for over a year. As I work my way through actual installation and use, I'll have genuine, objective remarks to make.

I may add Pleiades Geocoder and OpenLayers after I take a look at them. PrimaGIS may get elevated--if I can get it installed on my Windows testbed (sheesh, what a mess of dependencies). I saw the demo/tutorial at World Plone 2006 in Seattle, but have never gotten it to run for myself.

I'm tending not to favor the products that use the GoogleEarth api at first blush. The project is an internal application and so would need the Enterprise version of GoogleEarth if we went that way. Right now I'm thinking PloneWorldKit or PrimaGIS would do the trick.

PloneWorldKit works fine on our 2.5.3 production server, but doesn't install on a 3.0.3 testbed. Something about not finding the AddPortalContent permissions, but the fix for CMFCore.permissions syntax doesn't solve the problem. Also, the annotation capability for PloneWorldKit is very rough around the edges.

More on this as I dig into deeper levels of these products.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Regression Coefficients

I shared the graph of Plone site development at Sandia with a coworker and she asked what the numbers in the upper right-hand corner meant. So I figured that might be a common question and it would be worthwhile to discuss it here in today's posting.

The R-squared is the regression coefficient, which describes how much of the variability (the "wiggliness" among the data points) is explained by the linear equation. In this case, the coefficient is over 98%, meaning that the line is significant (>95%) but not highly significant (>99%). 98% of the "noise" in the data can be explained by the linear trend.

The linear equation y = 0.0269 x - 1031.5 simply defines the predicted best-fit straight line as having a slope of 0.0269 sites/day (about 1 site every 37 days). There is a non-zero x-intercept (where the line hits the x-axis, that is, has a y-value of 0) because we started our data with the first Plone site on day zero. That means that zero Plone sites is somewhere to the left of the origin.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

New Portals

Well since I posted that graph of portal development since 2004, I've been pleasantly surprised to have some more Plone work drop out of the trees. I've set up a Foreign Currency Exchange Portal to let our outward-bound international travelers more easily link up with people who have unspent foreign currency from previous trips. Our Chemical Security folks need a new portal and the sensor group is meeting with us next week to discuss either an extension to the existing one or a separate one altogether for medium-range planning. Proposals are going in for a MENA (Middle East/North Africa) online community-building network and a follow-on to the WACSI workshop, this time in Aleppo. Other international agencies are looking favorably towards our capabilities.

Its difficult to put numbers on these kind of success stories beyond simply counting portals against time as I did before. But there are significant differences in workflow customizations, security tweaks, volume of content, user/owner training, and archetype development for each of these. The bottom line is that our Corporate tool, SharePoint, does not provide the additional products, the ease of customization, or webpage publishing capacities of Plone. We continue to see as much work as our team can handle. Before too long, we'll be hiring new staff to handle the increasing loads.

This sort of anecdotal evidence of CMS success may not have the rigor that I hoped for when I started this blog, but it certainly doesn't have me laying awake at night worrying about what projects we'll use to cover our time-charges next week.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Measures of Effectiveness

Back in September I introduced Bullock's dissertation on measures of effectiveness. In it he argues that for an entity to reach a desired end-state, one must identify objectives that are described by values. These values will have attributes, which are in turn measurable.

I did not have to identify the exact Plone end-state, choosing instead to focus on two objectives: widely adopted and stable yet evolving. I believe these two objectives form a reasonable desired state for Plone, although the term "end-state" seems a little too final for something that we all hope is on-going.

The problem that Bullock recognized is that objectives and values are quite likely something that can not be directly observed. We only have hard measurements for attributes of values. That's where his use of a Kalman filter is novel. A Kalman filter essentially uses observed attributes to predict unobservable values. Its a useful way of pooling apples and oranges.

Here are my slightly revised attributes, measurements as of 24 Nov. 2007, and the units.

Attribute Observed Actual Measure

Release Frequency 0.94 Years/major release
Bugs 704 Active tickets
Core mailing lists 1.875 Msgs/day
Support mailing lists 17.5 Msgs/day
Security vulnerabilities 4 Recent but resolved
Size of CDT 48 Oct & Nov 2007 from Core Dev forum
Involvement of CDT
New features 95% Percentage of CMS Matrix features
Economic health of third-party companies
Technical reviews 8.7 InfoWorld
High-profile installations 950 Plone.net/sites
Users of Plone portals
Visitors to Plone portals

As you can see, I still have some attributes to collect. As a proxy for development, use, and usage, I may look at measures of activity on Openia and Objectis. More to come.

More about Features

Yesterday I noted that Features were poorly defined in the InfoWorld CMS comparison. Their analysis was biased by a mysterious 25% weight on Features (and Ease-of-use) as well. Looking at the Features scores it was Alfresco-10, everyone else-8. I observed that I doubt if Alfresco is 100% feature-finished.

In trying to stay true to my "added rigor" position, I thought I'd cast about for a metric on Features. Most will agree with me that CMS Matrix has the most thorough listing, both of CMSs and of potential features. Out of 136 features listed (ignoring 9 items dealing with system requirments), Alfresco had a 'Yes' or a 'Free Add On' for 130. DotNetNuke had 108, Drupal 102, and Joomla 90. Plone had 129 of the 136 features. This translates into Features percentages of Alfresco-96%, DotNetNuke-79%, Drupal-75%, Joomla-66%, and Plone-95%.

Converting these into 0-10 scores, we have 9.6, 7.9, 7.5, 6.6, and 9.5. Substituting these new, more objective values for InfoWorld's Features score and rerunning their scoring algorithm (with and without their weights) we have:

Alfresco - 9.1 - 8.9
DotNetNuke - 8.4 - 8.3
Drupal - 8.1 - 8.3
Plone - 9.0 - 8.9
Joomla - 8.0 - 8.3

Suddenly we've taken a data set with a run-away leader, Alfresco, and turned it into a two horse race. It also tightens up the grouping among the others.

That said, who cares if Plone has 129 features if the one critical feature you require is missing or poorly implemented as a free add on. Base your decision on your requirements, your IT environment, your staffing strengths and weaknesses, and the job you need done.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Weighting Game

Spent the morning doing laundry and looking back at the recent InfoWorld CMS ratings. These ratings illustrates a couple of dangers and a couple of best practices.

My first points have nothing to do with InfoWorld, but rather on what people do with review data.
  • On the down side, the ratings were taken by Matt Asay and resulted in his statement "The winner? Alfresco, and by a significant margin (over Plone, Drupal, DotNetNuke)." "Significance" is not a term to be lightly tossed around when dealing with statistics. It is usually accompanied by a significance level (often 5%, but occasionally "highly significant" at 1%) and denotes a strict statistical formula for distinguishing hypotheses. The InfoWorld data is not designed to provide significance sensu strictu and one is left to imagine what the difference of 8.6 vs 9.2 means. (Even then its actually 9.15, but they rounded up.)
  • Also, Matt forgot to mention that Joomla was scored in the survey and came in third.
  • On the positive side, Matt does full disclosure--he's VP of Business Development for Americas for Alfresco.
However, InfoWorld doesn't get a free statistical ride today.

  • On the positive side, they provide a link to a methodology page and make an effort to justify their results. This is all too rare and should be emulated.
  • On the negative side, they don't explain their selection of categories, even though they state that some combination of the listed categories will be used. The absence of Availability is understandable (these are all open-source), but Performance, Reliability, Setup, and Support should have been addressed.
  • Also, their methodology does not describe what is considered under the Feature category. Many would say that Interoperability and Setup are features. Curiously, only Alfresco warranted a 10 for Features and I seriously doubt that anyone, especially the developers at Alfresco, would claim that their feature set is 100% complete.
  • They also never explain how they arrived at an 86-80-70-60-50 grading curve when one expects 90-80-70-etc. On top of that they use rating names to bin results, thus disguising the numerical results (still my favorite complaint against school grading of A-B-C-D-F).
  • Finally, InfoWorld never explains the rationale behind their weighting of categories (25-25-15-15-10-10). If one doesn't weight scores (or uses a uniform 16.7% across 6 categories), Alfresco scores 9.0 and Plone comes in at 8.7, which puts them both in the InfoWorld "Excellent" bin. The weighting clearly doubles the Alfresco "gap," making it appear a clear leader, and moves Plone just barely into the "Very Good" rating.
Armed with this critic we can play all sorts of statistical games. (Remember that Mark Twain said that there are lies, damn lies, and statistics.)

  • Using equal weights, applying a 90-80-70 scale, and giving Alfresco a more realistic 9.5 for Features, we find that they then are only "Very Good."
  • Flipping the weights over (10-10-15-15-25-25) puts Alfresco and Plone in a dead heat (8.85 vs 8.75).
Another trick is to play with graphs. Here's the InfoWorld data done as a default Excel bar chart. Alfresco looks far out in front.

But here's a more accurate bar chart with a properly scaled y-axis. What is significant now?

I'd like to wrap up this long posting with a tip o' the hat to the comments by Amy and Bryan at the bottom of the CMS Report posting on the InfoWorld article. Amy from OpenSource.org correctly raises the point that some CMS reviews seem to take a perverse joy in pitting one open-source CMS against another. Bryan rejoins that reviews are both popular and useful as long as everyone stays well behaved.

Here on PloneMetrics, I am an unabashed Plonista. But also I am trying to look at the world with a little more rigor. Tomorrow I'll post the latest on my work to fill in the matrix ala Bullard's method. Stay tuna'd.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Plone at Sandia National Laboratories

Here's an interesting bit I generated today ahead of an internal review meeting. Its a plot of the date of creation of all our Plone sites here in Sandia's Cooperative International Programs. As you can see, its very much a linear treand. We can expect to need to build seven new portals in the remainder of the fiscal year. We should hit 40 sites by December 2008.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Something Old, Something New

In my digital dumpster diving this evening I turned up Brad Bollenbach's ample introduction at ONLamp.com from Sept. 2004. Although this means he was probably running 2.0.5, his remarks stand the test of time. Alas, I can not locate any of Brad's follow-up articles. Anyone care to recast this kind of piece into Plone 3.0?

And while I'm looking through O'Reilly.com, I note the O'Reilly Open Source Convention 2008 is scheduled for July 21-25, 2008 in Portland, Oregon (good choice). No specifics available yet, but watch that link.

Also on the radar screen for conferences of a sort is Plone Foundation's Strategic Planning Summit 2008. Scheduled for 8-10 Feb. 2008 at the Googleplex, it shows that Limi is doing a great job of juggling his job at Google with his Plone world.

Yet another one to watch out for will be the Plone Symposium East -- "Rally in the Valley", a North American Plone conference hosted at Penn State. Scheduled for 10-14 March, this bumps right up against Py Con, but the organizers are looking at ways of minimizing collisions between the two. Sprints may start as early as 8 March to frontload the schedule and let people scoot to Py Con immediately after the symposium.

Another one to keep an eye on will be next summer's NA Plone Symposium in New Orleans, 4-6 June. Enfold will be hosting it and, as always, it should be a good one. Details forthcoming.

The Plonistas down at the City of Albuquerque have often asked me about what ABQ could be doing in the way of hosting a sprint or a symposium. With the 2008 conference calendar filling up, we need to start thinking about next fall. Maybe a "Hot Air Sprint" ahead of the annual Balloon Fiesta? I'll have to ask the gang about this at December's NM Plone Users Group meeting.

Finally, I'm pleased to see the results from the Federal Open Source Referendum Study. Tipping factors mentioned in the report are "Organizational reluctance to change the status quo" and "Lack of structured technical support." One of the big drivers for government use of OS is data center consolidation. Multi-level security capabilities also figure big in the OS decision process for gov't. Intelligence agencies seem to be taking a lead (look at cia.gov for a Plone public face). Wish I could get my hands on the raw data to see where DOE and NNSA are in the survey.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Digital Arts CMS Review

I took the way-back machine six weeks into the past and found Digital Arts piece on CMS. Right off the bat I was pleased with his rational comments about basing your decision on more than just functionality. User community, frequency of updates, and professional support all should figure highly in your evaluation.

I was upset that the author somehow thinks Plone only supports MySQL. In fact the ZODB is the core database and one that I find increasingly makes RDBMS not necessary for many web apps. Plone (and no doubt many other CMS) easily interface with the Microsoft database world via ODBC adapters. Various adapters written in Python have been around since long before Plone.

The author of the Digital Arts review either implies that Alfresco wizards are superior to UML-driven Archetypes or they are unaware of ArchGenXML (and uml.joelburton.com). I find that Plone's use of industry-standard modeling tools a great advantage. Now if I could only reverse engineer the UML from the Archetype...

Monday, November 12, 2007

Back from Amman

Dragged back in from Amman last Friday around 9:30 PM. The close-out Thursday and the fly-home Friday are one big blur.

Got started with the WACSI Plone training Thursday morning and that continued into close-out meetings afterwards with Gen. Shiyyab and the rest. Next came the final luncheon back at the Radisson and finally about 90 minutes to get packed. Then back to the Marriott for a celebratory dinner with Amir. That left a couple hours to get the feet up, shower and shave one last time, and checkout around 11:00 PM.

The flight to CDG was on an old 737 (uncomfortable seats, crowded, poorly ventilated). Had 6 hours at the airport before the trans-Atlantic leg, which was much more comfortable. Zipped through Atlanta and home 3 hrs later. All total, 44 hours up and on the go. No wonder I feel more than just the jet-lag.

Now what has all that to do with Plone? Actually, very little, but all the hours of work and hard travel was worth it. Here are my anecdotal metrics on the success of the workshop:

First off, the software was very well received. Some NGOs were without a web host and the WACSI portal is the perfect place for them. Even our translators were adapting quickly to the Plone interface, often not needing us to answer questions when they'd already heard the answer.

Secondly, we got a round of applause for the system when the workshop was over. I've not heard of that for Drupal or SharePoint.

Thirdly, the participants from UN-DP POGAR (Program on Governance in the Arab Region) were pleased enough that they stated during the close-out that they would use Plone and make any enhancements and customizations available to WACSI (and by extension, to the entire Plone community).

Finally, there's the site activity since we left. Already there have been postings in the discussion area (both in English and Arabic), new material uploaded by participants without our coaching, and a fair amount of e-mail traffic. All in all, a very positive Plone experience.

Now the search is on for Plone trainers and consultants in the Middle East...

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Plone for WACSI

Our "Web Access for Civil Society Initiatives" Plone workshop continues. The first day of technical training was counted very successful, especially as we had very little lecture and lots of hands on. It was a good load test both for the UNM server and the RSS training facility.

No significant glitches, although we had some odd moments with unicode errors for cut-and-paste when using Arabic. Seems that the cut from 'actions' failed although it worked fine in the contents menu. Hmm??

We'll be looking for Plone consultants in the MENA region for training and development, since some NGOs are hosting their primary web presence on the UNM WACSI server.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Plone Metrics in Amman

After the usual airline travails, I'm in Amman, Jordan. Not too bad for 8 timezones (soon to be 9 when the US kicks out of DST early tomorrow--its still 7:00 PM Sat. in ABQ as I write this). The WACSI workshop held an informal mixer this evening where we got to meet our regional participants. Of course, the CMC-Amman staff were there. They've done a terrific job getting all the logistics in place, translating material, and helping out with direction connections to hard-to-reach people.

We've got attendance from a dozen Jordanians, over a dozen Syrians, two from Saudi Arabia, and a handful from Egypt. Some are policy heads of various NGOs; others are technical representatives. Whatever their background, they'll have three days of interaction and discussion about how best to form a robust online community to support the several missions of their organizations. Then we'll have two days of Plone how-to, which should take them to the point that they are able to make good use of our Plone framework.

The idea, of course, is to get us webmasters and admins out of the way. The user community should be able to organize and present the information they wish to disseminate as they see fit. And if we can get there in five days, I'll be very pleased.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Plone and Drupal at m.odul.us

I came across a long posting comparing Drupal and Plone at m.odul.us dated 2 Sept. 2007. The author does a good job of examining key CMS components and features. He's clearly spent some time working with both systems, so he can speak with some authority. One sign that Matt is not blowing smoke is that he is knowledgeable about ArchGenXML, something many superficial reviewers miss. For me its one of the key tools that I rely on every week. Another good sign about this review is that community is rated highly. I find this aspect of open-source an often overlooked part of the picture.

The m.odul.us review has garnered a handful of comments, but it probably deserves more. For those who are looking at any CMS, not just Plone and Drupal, a read-through will give you a good idea of what a sensible evaluation must touch upon. Just to give you an idea of the breadth of Matt's piece, here are his headings:
  • Easy Publication to the Web
  • Flexible Information Architecture
  • Extensibility
  • PHP vs Python
  • LAMP vs Zope
  • Scale, Speed, and Deploying
  • Hosting Requirements
  • Security
  • Community
  • Contributed Add-ons
  • Documentation and Community Support
In the end Matt's conclusions are sound and I share his opinion that you must tie your decision to your requirements.

Drupal is a community content management system, and it largely farms out other tasks (e.g., asset management, CRM, etc.) to other web apps, choosing instead to integrate with them. This is a reasonable stance; Drupal is a CMS, and it integrates into a larger world of Apache served web applications.

Plone, however, looks at a most web application problems as specific instances of content management. Thus, with Plone, is it not absurd to develop extensions to handle your asset management system or your email newsletters (complete with server). Plone is built on a powerful application server and it makes sense to leverage it and your data once you're used to programming for Plone.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Plone and mojoPortal at Packt

Packt Publishing announced their "Best Other Open Source CMS" award today and the judges gave it to mojoPortal, a system with which I have no experience. Plone came in second with Silva third. Alas, there is no cash prize for runners up in this category.

I would like to know more about their methodology because they state:
"mojoPortal’s ease of use, set of relevant tools and plugins and also the fact that it is cross platform, made it stand out above the rest."
Certainly Plone is platform independent, so that by itself shouldn't have been the deciding factor. That leaves ease of use and tools/plugins. Hard to tell exactly what they're looking for based on that cryptic statement.

I will agree that usability has become a big issue for me based on my research last spring in which a good chunk of the non-IT staff in my center were found to be "connected but hassled." See the Pew Internet & American Life Project Internet typology questionnaire for more info.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Plone Metrics Goes on Walkabout

Things will get a little patchy over the next two weeks--I'm off to Amman, Jordan to host a workshop for Middle Eastern NGOs, teaching them the ins and outs of Plone for non-profits. We'll see if Plone features for building community translate into a robust network of regional partners working on civil society initiatives. Please see http://wacsi.unm.edu

We'll have representatives from Egypt, Saudia Arabia, Syria, and, of course, Jordan. And as always, the infrastructure constraints will be a big part of things. For the moment I imagine UNM's Plone server will be able to handle the influx of new users and new instances. Eventually, if we're truly successful, we'll need to find a dedicated server for pro bono Plone services. Also, we'll have to upgrade to 3.0 quickly.

Stand tuna'd...

Meanwhile, watch http://www.packtpub.com/award to see who comes out on top for Tuesday's "Best Other Open Source CMS" category.

Friday, October 26, 2007

UC Davis CMS Initiative and Plone

I see that UC Davis has been evalutating CMS with an aim towards developing a campus-wide framework. Please see http://pubcomm-29.ucdavis.edu/cmssurvey/ for the results of their survey of CMS at institutes of higher learning.

Its an interesting survey and I was surprised to see that do-it-yourself CMS predominated with 18 responses. Plone was next with 13, Drupal at 10, and Joomla tied with Zope at 8 each. Lots of material at the UC Davis project pages, so feel free to poke around and get a feel for their methodologies.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Professional Plone Development

Martin Aspeli's new book just arrived from Amazon today. Even though I taught at the College of Santa Fe tonight until 9:30, I ripped into it and read the first 22 pages.

Nicely written. Clean style. I enjoyed Limi's Foreword. I learned a thing or two about Zope 2 and Zope 3 plus their relationship to Plone. All that in 22 pages. Gonna be a worthwhile read.

I believe it was Joel Burton who observed that the number of books published about a software system is a good indicator of the health and widespread adoption of that system. With Martin's latest entry into the CMS publishing lists, Plone continues to hold its own. Its clear that the number of books published and the number of books sold is an interesting integration of the number and level of activity of both the development community and the user community. Its difficult to reconcile this with other more common means of mensuration.

What does it mean that Plone has far more non-English translations of books out there? It speaks to Limi and Aspeli's observations that Plone the CMS is an artifact of Plone the community.

Now, off to measure that community....

Monday, October 22, 2007

Thoughts from Today's New York Times

Today's New York Times has a piece about methodologies (registration required) for counting site hits as it pertains to the online advertising business. At issue is the discrepancy between server log numbers and sampling panels. In the end,
“The irony is we’ve always called for more measurement,” said Stephen Kim, director for global trade marketing at Microsoft Digital Advertising Solutions. “Now we’re getting it, but many people are somewhat frozen in how to deal with having more measurement.”

Also on the NYT website today was the article on online libraries. Turns out many libraries are turning down offers by Microsoft and Google to digitize their collections and instead going with the Open Content Alliance, a nonprofit effort aimed at making their materials broadly available.

Finally, as an aside to the difficulties of measuring social and economic phenomena, NYT discussed the recent report from the Head of Reconstruction Teams in Iraq. One conclusion was that "the program still has not developed concrete methods to measure the effects of the teams on progress in the country."

What's all this to do with Plone metrics? First, that even with exact server data, we don't know what people are actually doing and sampled panels don't necessarily do a better job. What does it mean if someone at Los Alamos National Laboratory downloads a Plone installer? What does it mean when I have 15 students at my College of Santa Fe class download the installer? Apples and oranges again.

Secondly, the digital libraries observations point out that guaranteed open source is a significant component to IT decisions these days. The Documentum/Alfresco case study will be a fascinating Master's Thesis someday for someone studying the early history of the Internet and the relationship between COS and open source.

Finally, the report from Iraq speaks to the difficulty of measuring effectiveness. This takes me back to my early posts about Bullock's dissertation on integrated measures of effectiveness. I'll continue to pursue that as I slowly fill in the matrix with data and normalize the data.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Vote for Plone

Vote for Plone in the Best Other Open Source CMS category of the Packt Publishing CMS Awards. Although its a non-scientific poll, Packt's results do get some press every year. Its probably more important to vote in the nomination rounds earlier in the year to make sure that Plone makes it into all appropriate categories. Voting runs until Friday October 26, so hop on it.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Validation, Reassurance, Recognition

From Sharon Melnick's perceptive piece in today's HuffPo, here's an excerpt that has relevance to the Plone software community, not just individuals. I have taken editorial license with it in order to emphasize its appropriateness to the Plone community of users and developers. My comments in brackets [...].

Many [software systems] are seeking approval on a daily basis, though they may not be consciously aware of it. From in-depth conversations ... as a business coach and trainer, many report typically engaging in the following behaviors to seek validation, reassurance, or recognition:

• working obsessively in order to get a "pat on the back" from a ... client
• saying 'yes' to everyones' requests but not finishing what you need to do
• exhausting yourself being perfect to make sure others think well of you
• asking others' opinions even though you know in your gut what to do
• worrying about 'politics' and what others think about you
• stealing credit from others

Equally frequent are behaviors in which people avoid or procrastinate in order to prevent other people from being able to criticize or reject them:

• have good ideas but don't assert them ...
• procrastinate so ... work can't be commented on
• stay mired in comfort zone of details instead of thinking strategically
• avoid direct feedback

All of these behaviors put energy and attention into managing other people's perceptions of [one's system]. This is how people act when they have doubts about their value.

I'm pleased to report that I see little of this in the Plone community--contributors may work compulsively, but its not for that bigger paycheck, certainly not in the open-source world. Intrinsic value of the job keeps people at it because its the right thing to do. While its true, in the long haul recognition of good work as part of an open-source project does translate into opportunities, whether a new job, better consultancies, or other perks. But this doesn't mean that Plone is running solely on ego power and that's a good thing.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Plone and Human Rights

I thought I'd give a plug tonight to Tom Moroz from the Open Society Institute (OSI--not to be confused with the Open Source Initiative). He presented at Plone 2007 and was summarized in Maurits van Rees blog. To reiterate the key elements in common of both open source and open society are:
  • Knowledge is provisional and fallible. You have to check it. You have to be able to check it. An open source release is not going to be perfect in the first release. That release brings more people to the software and they check how good the software/knowledge is.
  • Responsiveness: fix reported bugs quickly. Get a deep understanding of the problem and then fix it, which is the same in open society.
  • Transparency: the code is open or the information is open. We publish numbers of how much is being spent where to rebuild Iraq.
  • Pluralistic and multi-cultural. We respect minorities. (Plone cares about internationalisation, ed.)
  • High degree of responsibility. The individual should interpret her value. No-one is forcing anyone to do anything. You feel responsible anyway. You are involved and want to be a good member of the community.
  • Freedom and human rights are at the foundation.
  • Social mobility and a matter of openness. It does not matter where you come from.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Plone at Penn State

Here's another bit of well written analysis of CMS from WebLion at Penn State. They put Plone out in front of Drupal, but more importantly, they qualify their key features and why it meets their requirements. For those who just want the bottom line, WebLion concludes:

Plone is ideally suited for these use cases:

  • Large-volume public-facing internet sites
  • Intranet sites and sites containing sensitive data
  • Sites hosting specialized web applications
  • Research sites containing protected research data
  • Hosting multiple sites without sharing databases
This gets back to the message I've been harping on--understand your users, your requirements, your constraints, and own needed features. With hundreds of CMS out there, one of them is right for you. Look at similar organizations that may share your use case. Contact them. Most will be happy to share their decision-making process with you. If their environment and use case is close to yours, by all means follow their lead.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Plone and DISCOVER Magazine

CMSWire has a recent piece about Gartner's evaluation of commercial CMS. They also have the first installment of an article describing how DISCOVER Magazine came to retire its old web environment and set up a Plone-based web publishing system. The article is profusely illustrated with actual content examples from DISCOVER. Their key points (and I quote):
  • DISCOVER chose Plone for its ease-of-use, robust feature set, strong open source community, reduced vendor lock-in, outstanding customizability, standards compliance, reputation, economics, and high performance.
  • Before 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.
  • Plone’s WYSIWYG editor greatly facilitates the management of the site for non-technical users and enforces design consistency.
  • Plone automatically generates related articles for each of the thousands of articles on the site. No manual intervention is required.
  • Video and multi-media content is easily managed
  • Thousands of articles were successfully and automatically migrated from DISCOVER’s old CMS into Plone with no loss of inbound links.
It reminds me of the day when we were just starting out testing Plone and I learned of Oxfam's Plone site. It went online in November 2004, the great Sumatran Earthquake struck in late December, and within a month Oxfam had processed over $14 million in donations. Its that kind of real-world story that makes you realize that this dog will hunt.

For those who need more than the Oxfam story and the DISCOVER example, take a stroll through http://plone.net/sites. There you'll find ACM SIGGraph and a host of other powerful organizations and companies who are using Plone.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

InfoWorld Rating of Open Source CMS

Thanks to Carlos de la Guardia for spotting the very recent InfoWorld piece pitting Alfresco, Joomla, DotNetNuke, Drupal, and Plone. They were very upfront about their methodology, which although explicit lacks detail below the top level of score aggregation.

InfoWorld reviewers scored each contender in eleven areas:
  1. Availability
  2. Ease of use
  3. Interoperability
  4. Management
  5. Performance
  6. Security
  7. Reliability
  8. Scalability
  9. Setup
  10. Support
  11. Value
But alas, they only report scores in ease of use, features, scalability, security, management, and value. Of course, since these are all open source, availability ought to be 100% for all. Performance, reliability, setup, and support need to be addressed. As I've stated before, mere feature counts misses the fact that you should be matching features to requirements. In this case, I'd guess that Alfresco, built by fugitives from Documentum, is in fact a document management system, not strictly a CMS meant for online community development.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Conferences as Metrics

I spent a good bit of last night watching streaming video from Naples. Looks like it was an awesome venue. From the Conference website I note that 360 people attended. Then it occurred to me that number of conferences (local, regional, and global), number of people attending, quality of conference website, and so forth is an interesting integration of the strength of the core development team and dedication of the high visibility installations.

The Plone 2007 Conference was streamed, already has a number of Technorati posts, has some video bits already posted (congrats to the new Foundation Board), a strong Second Life virtual conference presence, 63 presentations (all of whose abstracts are online), and filled four rooms for three days (not counting pre-conferance training and post-conferance sprints). There is active Twittering from the conference and links to online transcripts (many have been uploaded as blogs by the presenters). Permanent online video archives will appear soon, if last year's experience from Seattle holds true. (Speaking of which, if you watch only one Plone Conference video, it should be last year's talk by Eben Moglen. Inspiring!)

Out of curiosity, I went looking for the last DrupalCon, which was last month in Barcelona (good choice, guys). I came away less than overwealmed: birds of a feather sessions canceled, no microphones at some sessions, negative vibes about posting presentations to SlideShare, but their video archives are up and running. I believe they had 84 formal presentations planned and those covered a wide range of ground for their community.

Next, being a glutton for punishment, I went looking for the last SharePoint Conference. Eventually I found it at http://technet.microsoft.com/en-au/bb498198.aspx , but it was a non-trivial exercise. Of course, comparing commercial with open source is a huge apples-and-oranges problems. How can http://sharepoint.microsoft.com/sharepoint/default.aspx be compared with Drupal.org or Plone.org?

This all speaks to the fact that conference attendence, frequency, number of sessions, quality (hard to quantify), and so on are proxies for a software system's acceptance and momentum. As of yet I don't know what it means that Drupal had AV problems but 21 more presentations, so stand by as I look at some ways to normalize these measures. Its even a more difficult problem when factoring in commercial off-the-shelf software.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

PHP and Python Beauty Contest

This morning I thought I'd like to make some observations about Allan Benamer's comment, to wit: "I think that PHP is adopted over Python because PHP IS better for whatever reason. I think there is a wisdom to the masses."

While there is evidence that crowds converge on useful optima, many's the time I've watched groups settle on a sub-optimal solution for basically historical reasons. Re: Software examples, my favorite is the prevalence of MS Word, which has high usage largely due to its tight coupling with Windows. Ask a professional word processor who is fluent in a number of systems and you'll hear them rave about WordPerfect. Heck, back in the 80s Sandia National Laboratories homed in on Mass-11 (Mass who?) as their idea of the best word processor when WordPerfect 4.0 was available.

But perhaps the best all-time example of mass convergence on a seriously sub-optimal solution for accidental reasons is the keyboard I'm typing on--QWERTY. Dvorak keyboards are known to be faster and less error prone, but QWERTY takes the day, not because in any sense it is better, but because it was an earlier standard probably built to deal with jammed letters. Had any jammed keys on your computer lately?

Back to Benamer, PHP is not necessarily better, but it is manifestly more popular. My first thoughts on the matter (at 4:18 AM, so I may recant this by the clear light of day) is that PHP is tightly linked to Perl-like programming mindsets, while Python gets people to move into different paradigms, which may be uncomfortable.

Another thought is that like Word vs WordPerfect, Drupal vs Plone comparisons are missing the fact that Word has a different underlying framework--hide the codes--while WordPerfect is a fully transparent show the codes system. I think something like that is going on with CMS these days.

One place where I see PHP making hay is in the free hosting realm. You have to really look to find a free Zope/Plone host, while there are many servers out there that will let you have a basic LAMP site for nothing. That's slowly changing and as costs for servers, RAM, and drive space all come down (meaning capacities go up), Plone's heavier footprint becomes less of a matter.

That said, I should mention that a couple of my CSF students took off and set up Zope/Plone on their home machines, configured their routers to deal with Comcast correctly, and are now hosting Plone-driven personal sites off their home systems. Enfold's Windows installer makes the installation trivial.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Plone in the Real World

I continue to work with Plone during the day and think about metrics at night. Alas, tonight I've got to get an early posting in--video-conference with Amman tomorrow morning at 5:00 AM. Yep, with 9 timezones difference, any f2f communications require getting our shiny white fundaments out of bed by 5 in the morning or staying up until at least midnight. Especially during Ramadan, work schedules in the Middle East are shortened--no breakfast, no lunch, no tea breaks. Basically, you're done with your 8 hrs by 3:00 and plenty tired for low blood sugar.

Today I took Hovie Hawk's advice (hovie.com) and jinned up an alternative WACSI page with graphics in a grid instead of pages of text. I also found the problem with 2.1's RSS script. Easy fix. Now the Google Reader is happy as a clam with our site's feeds. The slides for the two days of NGO training in Jordan are coming together. Just need a few more screen captures of user/group administration, customization, and Plone use of CSS to finish off the set. 50 slides = 6 hours with plenty of hands-on exercises.

The Quest for the Holy Grail

I continue to work with Plone during the day and think about metrics at night. Alas, tonight I've got to get an early posting in--video-conference with Amman tomorrow morning at 5:00 AM. Yep, with 9 timezones difference, any f2f communications require getting our shiny white fundaments out of bed by 5 in the morning or staying up until at least midnight. Especially during Ramadan, work schedules in the Middle East are shortened--no breakfast, no lunch, no tea breaks. Basically, you're done with your 8 hrs by 3:00 and plenty tired for low blood sugar.

Today I took Hovie Hawk's advice (hovie.com) and jinned up an alternative WACSI page with graphics in a grid instead of pages of text. I also found the problem with 2.1's RSS script. Easy fix. Now the Google Reader is happy as a clam with our site's feeds. The slides for the two days of NGO training in Jordan are coming together. Just need a few more screen captures of user/group administration, customization, and Plone use of CSS to finish off the set. 50 slides = 6 hours with plenty of hands-on exercises.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Plone Advocacy

By now you may have noticed that this blog has a teeny, tiny bit of Plone advocacy in it. However, just as in my presentation to InterLab last week, the bottom line is to make sure you match requirements with systems. That includes feature comparisons to see that tools can deliver needed objectives, assessments to see that staff and consultants can use software systems, and a cold, hard objective review of your ICT environment.

There is no magic online feature matrix, no silver-bullet white paper, no error-free consultancy, no unambiguous, simple answer. A few blogs have attempted to approach the problem (for example, see Benamer and Burton's discussion), but there appears to be no general consensus.

For now I'll heft a toast to the lucky ones in Naples at the World Plone Conference and sit tight until the videos come online in a few weeks. And I think my strategy of measuring progress towards a successful Plone end-state (a widely adopted, stable yet evolving system) is more worthwhile than many other approaches, especially in that it encourages transparency and points towards similar efforts for other software systems.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Download History

Here's the latest compilation of download stats from SourceForge since the dawn of time. The all-time high in Oct. 2006 was just after the 2.1.4 rollout in Sept. 2006.

Other peaks coincide with releases: Mar. 2005 is four months after 2.0.5 and Apr. 2004 was probably due to 2.0.

The most recent peaks align with the version 2.5.2 activity early last year. As with vulnerability data, 3.0 hasn't been out long enough to make a significant appearance. Look for a spike after Naples and towards the end of the year as 3.0 usage picks up.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Some Trends

I've started filling in the matrix of effectiveness discussed two weeks ago. One of the most telling items is the MITRE CVE list of vulnerabilities. They list 3 vulnerabilities that are relevant to Plone version 2.5, all of them of medium severity. (3.0.1 is too recent to have any meaningful data--they list no vulnerabilities.) By comparison Drupal has 73(!), SharePoint has 12 (5 of them of high severity), and Mambo has 122(!).

Additionally, I plotted the dates of the significant releases to come up with this graphic. It shows a remarkably steady trend of evenly spaced releases. The ticks on the x-axis are approx. 6 months apart. Tip o' the hat to all the developers who make this happen.

Of course, the big upward jumps are major releases and I've been so presumptuous as to put in a trendline. If 3.5 comes out next July, it will be well ahead of the regression model.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Content Management at the Dept of Energy

I recently attended the DOE Internet Workshop at Los Alamos National Laboratory (InterLab). To my surprise, there still isn't a consensus on an enterprise-wide CMS. Islands of Drupal, WordPress, and others are out there. Some labs use home-built CMS, others Oracle, and still others SharePoint, which probably has the widest installation base. Problem is that SharePoint is tricky to use as an extranet and really doesn't work and play well with non-IE browsers. And don't even get me talking about custom workflows...

My "Plone at Sandia" presentation was well received and may have made a few take another look. Probably also got a number of folks to take a second look at Python. After all, what does Google (a Python shop) know that we don't?

Nov. 1 I'm off to Amman for a WACSI workshop (wacsi.unm.edu) where I'll be training representatives from Middle East NGOs on Plone. We're expecting Jordanian, Syrian, Saudi, and Egyptian participants. Should be an excellent event.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Here are some interesting tidbits and links:
Also, here is the link to an Excel version of my matrix of effectiveness measures.

I'll be looking for more up-to-date material in the days and weeks ahead, but its clear that people have been mulling over the problem since the late 90s. I'd like to hear from those attending the Naples Convention on what they learn about the issue.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A few good URLs

A recent review of CMS (CMS Watch) showed Plone doing well in a wide variety of categories: standards, access control, i18N, aggregation, repository services, user-generated content, micro-applications, active user groups, and good value.

Another place to watch is the CMS Matrix, which is an online feature comparison tool. Of course, feature comparisons do not in and of themselves make a winning product--matching requirements with features and your IT capabilities is the ticket.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

More Measures of Effectiveness

Here's the rest of the Plone Effectiveness Measurement table, starting with attributes and drilling down to measures, including a column of notes about where we might be able to gather the necessary inputs.

Attribute Measure Notes
Release Size Major, minor, RC, beta, alpha Sourceforge history
Release Frequency Date
Bugs Subsequent bug reports See FLOSS Study of Available Tools
Core mailing lists Activity per unit time
Support mailing lists Activity per unit time
Security vulnerabilities Number of known vulnerabilities MITRE CVE list of known vulnerabilities
Size of CDT Number of core developers
Involvement of CDT Length of service; role Questionnaire
New features Major and minor features included per release http://plone.org/products/plone/roadmap
Downloads Downloads per platform http://sourceforge.net/project/stats/?group_id=47214&ugn=plone
Installations Number of installations ?
Defectors Number of installations removed Uninstall feedback to Plone.org
Economic health of third-party companies Metrics from Plone Foundation, Enfold, One/NW, etc. Direct requests?
Technical reviews Number and 'rating' from published reviews Data mining?
High-profile installations Number and 'quality' of high-profile users http://plone.org/about/sites
Users of Plone portals Number of registered members of Plone portals Sampling?
Visitors to Plone portals Number of visitors to Plone portals Sampling?

Tomorrow I'll post a listing of URLs for various reviews and comparisons of Plone and other CMS.