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

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Success and Failure

This morning I came across a pleasant article online by Tom O'Malley in the CSM Opinion section. Being that Plone Metrics is all about measuring Plone, a few quotes from O'Malley will be instructive.

...it's important to remember that ideas on success vary, even in these enlightened times.

The trouble is, America becomes the land of numbers and the higher the number, the greater the success.

The lessons of failure are an important part of the curriculum of success. We learn from them. They push us to do better; they teach us humility.

True success is giving something back. And you don't have to have a lot in the wallet to attain it. There are many people, young and old, who give back by serving in literacy campaigns and soup kitchens.

That immediately brings to mind another metric for Plone: the size of its non-profit community. Plone.net shows 241 non-profit sites out of 1366 total or about 18%. That's a remarkable way in which Plone gives back to the community, by helping the not-for-profit with their outreach.

Here's the graph of the growth of Plone.net sites showing its very linear trend line. It should reach 2000 by the end of January 2010.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Statistics and Politics

You'll excuse me for yet another political diversion. Yesterday I ran across an old friend at lunch and in the few moments we spoke, he brought up a powerful image that summarized Sarah Palin's political experience. He said that Palin as VP was like the major of Portales, NM (pop. 9,000 like that of Wasilla) getting 18 months as NM governor and then saying he or she was ready for the #2 job in the country.

This sort of imagery isn't a statistical comparison. Its an analogy and they have a way of strongly connecting with our approximate number sense. The New York Times today has a piece about "Gut Instinct" and our two number senses, one approximate and one symbolic, precise, and abstract.

While I'm a big fan of the latter, many people respond more, let us say, viscerally to the former. That's probably why anecdotal evidence is given such heavy weighting in decision making. And that can lead to some bad decisions.

These sort of poor decisions are also made when corporate and institutional criteria out-weigh end-user criteria. All too often institutional decision makers forget to even ask their end-users what their needs and requirements are. The result is a set of tools for the business that meets the IT department's convenience, but ignores the job to be done by the user community.

My best all time example is our company's use of Mass-11 as a corporate word processing standard when Word Perfect was available back in the late 80s. Talk about standardizing on a suboptimal solution.

So the lesson learned is to think end-user requirements and be objective. Find measures for the software and systems decisions you make and don't rely on that easily fooled approximate number sense. Don't hop on the Joomla train because its the next cool thing--have a reason and a measure.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Connexions Makes the NY Times

Just a quick post to point out that Connexions, the wonderful Plone-based repository of online learning material, has been the topic of a significant article in the New York Times today. Give it a read and visit the site.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Hurricane Ike Impacts Plone

You might wonder how a hurricane can have any effect on software. In this case, its the Plone infrastructure that's getting hammered. Hurricane Ike, a strong Category 2 storm, is set to strike the Texas gulf coast near Houston late tonight into early tomorrow. It has a huge wind field and is pushing a large storm surge ahead of it.

Enfold Systems, a key player in the Plone world, is based in Houston. Alan Runyon, one of the co-creators of Plone, is President. I had my first (and only) Plone training course in Houston, taught by Cameron Cooper. Enfold produces great produces like their Desktop and of course Enfold Server. They've been a great resource.

Now the forecast is for Ike to bring with it storm surges of up to 30' in upper Galveston Bay and along the Houston Ship Canal. Galveston Island may be completely under water. I hope everyone has evac'ed from low-lying areas in the southeast side of the city and gotten the windows boarded up or shuttered in. Good luck, everyone.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Anecdotal Evidence and Hybrid Solutions

As much as I promulgate requirements-based thinking and cold-hearted analytics when it comes to choosing software and IT tools, its nice to be surprised some times. On a conference call this afternoon where we were discussing a new Plone portal with the core group, one of the participants for whom we'd built a previous site said, "Its a great tool... a fantastic tool." To which another Plone customer in the group agreed with a simple, "Amen."

That said, the conversation then turned to the issue of portals being "only as strong as the weakest member in the group." This was in reference to using Plone to cure the e-mail blight that is crushing everyone's inbox. All it takes is one person to refuse to use the portal technology and everyone falls back to the good old standby, e-mail.

These portals are interesting hybrids. In one case we link to WebEx in order to have remote desktop application sharing between model developers. This has worked very well even for low bandwidth partners in the Middle East.

Also, with our Corporate internal portal solution locked in on SharePoint, we find it convenient to leave the sensitive internal material on a SharePoint portal. A link from the external Plone site takes users with suitable credentials into the more restricted area. This way we rely on Corporate computer security systems around the SharePoint site, but still have easy access to open material within Plone, which does all the heavy lifting for our international partners. Similarly, the Plone site has a customized skin for project branding and identification. The SharePoint sites can remain with their default look-and-feel.

One curious SharePoint gottcha reported during the telecon was the need to repeatedly re-enter one's SecureID credentials as one moved to new pages. Since each SecureID password is valid for only one authentication, SharePoint users were constantly firing up their SecureID cards, entering their PINs, and then typing the strong password that was generated. Secure, yes, but also very painful. Must have something to do with how our VPN is authenticating their session.

Just three and a half weeks to the 2008 Plone Conference. If you haven't made arrangements, time is running out. Looking forward to it, although Corporate travel put me up in a hotel across the river--I'll be taking the Metro everyday. See you there.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

September Amazon Statistics

Time again for my quarterly analysis of Amazon stats for Plone books. This go-round Aspeli has bounced back from over 200,000 to 18,000. This position is better than any period since March. Remember that decreasing Amazon rank means increased sales volume.

Back in June I said:
With this sudden up-turn, I'd be inclined to think that six months after the Plone 3.0 release and the publication of Professional Plone Development everyone who needed the book has bought it. Come back in Sept. and we'll see if this is a fluke or a continuing trend.
Looks like it was a fluke or the summer doldrums. Sometimes its nice to have to eat your words.

CMS book sales continue to be brisk. I see that Mercer's Drupal book is in the top 1000 (654) and VanDyk & Buytaert's second edition is rated at 1379. One Drupal text is now available for the Kindle.

Speaking of the Kindle, searching Amazon's Kindle Store for "Plone," one finds Magnus Lie Hetland's Beginning Python. I wonder what the Plone-Kindle market is? Please comment if you read this blog and own one.

I applied my "weighted sales rank" algorithm (1/sales rank * 106) as a proxy for sales volume and see that Aspeli accounts for roughly 82% of Plone book sales. Cameron Cooper comes in at 9.3% followed by the smattering of the others. Remember that a large number of Plone books sales may not be tracked due to e-publishing (Plone Live and Plone CM Essentials) and availability online (A User's Guide to Plone).

Once again I'll beat the drum for the Plone community to buy books, review books, write books.