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

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Plone Metrics Person of the Year

Its New Year's Eve and time to announce Plone Metrics Person of the Year, the person deemed most influential* in the past year. The 2008 winner of this prestigious award, garnering all the rights and privileges pertaining thereto,** is Joel Burton.

I'd heard Joel's presentation back in Seattle in 2006 and had the good fortune to take his Theming Plone 3 Bootcamp in DC ahead of the 2008 Conference. And in this regard, Joel is merely the standard bearer for all the incredible Plone trainers out there who are not only great instructors, but advocating every day for Plone. His endless patience, good humor, and powerful presentation make his training seminars top notch.

But on top of that, Joel has provided a web interface to Archetypes generation with his online UML site. Its this tool that has allowed me to effectively use Plone and Zope as a means of introducing students to object-oriented databases and data-driven web services.

Instead of spending time getting students comfortable with Python so that they can run ArchGenXML, we concentrate on ArgoUML models and leave the software flags to Mr. Burton. In practically no time students have installed a local version of Plone on their systems and designed a functional customization to be delivered via the Web.

Its that kind of tool that takes something good (ArchGenXML) and turns it into something approachable by the masses, makes it truly useable. For being an outstanding Plone instructor and for giving us uml.joelburton.com, Plone Metrics is pleased to award Joel Burton the Plone Metrics Person of the Year Award.

* At least from my limited and very personal point of view.

** I'll buy the winners a beer when we're next in the same time zone.

Monday, December 29, 2008

2008 Recap

Not much new in the CMS world this evening, although with all the distractions in my life at the moment, I'm sure to have missed something significant. I did turn up a December "how to choose a CMS" article and a nice write up on Plone in Italy. Also worthy of note from late November, is the announcement that Joel Burton and Roberto Allende have been named to the Plone Foundation's Advisory Board.

All that aside, I thought I'd take a stab at summarizing 2008 from the point of view of Plone Metrics. You'll have to set your way-back machine to 5 Jan when I endorsed Obama based largely on his tech-savy approach and alignment with my international work. After that I explored Google trends, where Plone's slow downward slide continues to this day. Of particular note is that World Plone Day (labeled 'E') made a blip in the news references and a significant peak in search volume.

Since then this blog has explored YouTube stats like Eben Moglen's 2006 Keynote (still getting dozens of views per day), comparative analysis of CMS entries in Wikipedia, and an initial look at the numbers in CMS Matrix.

February brought the first Plone Strategic Summit and some introspection about who was searching for what when they stumbled across Plone Metrics. Some permutation of "CMS file sharing" turns out to be the winning search terms.

March found excitement in Tibet, Plone Symposium East, and some JBOSS musings. April turned up the first references to World Plone Day and the NOLA Plone was getting finalized. I took my first foray into Technorati and blog posts. Plone does extremely well in the metric of posts/blog.

In May I was sent to Turin, Italy to listen to requirements for a UN agency's knowledge management system. I also got to meet Dr. Bates Gill of SIPRI, who interestingly are using Plone for their nuclear nonproliferation portal. In June we took a look at Simpson's Paradox and CMS Matrix ratings plus an analysis of NTEN's CMS satisfaction report and quarterly Amazon stats.

July turned up the SourceForge Community Choice Awards, more anecdotes about file sharing and CMS, and some further anecdotal items from TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design). August was a month for the Bossies, some political potificating, and some interesting visualizations of various CMS home sites. My first piece about using Plone for teaching back in August turns out to be one of the most frequently visited pages. I hope other database design instructors are using Plone and Zope as exemplars of OO databases.

A discussion of hybrid Plone-SharePoint solutions, the Connexions piece in the NY Times, Hurricane Ike and Enfold, and a look at the Plone.net numbers kept things interesting in September.

October was an exciting month, what with Joel's Bootcamp ahead of the 2008 World Plone Conference. I converted a set of Drupal online graphs into corresponding ones for Plone and I see that they are "live," continuing to display the most recent time intervals. The month ended with Martin Aspeli receiving a Packt award for Open Source CMS Most Valuable Person followed a day later by Plone taking top honors for Best Other Open Source CMS in Packt's annual survey.

In November I posted about strategies to get high visibility with Amazon sales stats when new Plone books roll out. There were also postings about developer community growth and, of course, World Plone Day. Oh, yes, there was this minor election in the U.S.

December has turned out to be a quiet month for me, not by choice--elderly parents took priority. Even so I managed to sneak in my quarterly Amazon stats and a posting about database design and manual vs automated methods for modeling and normalizing data schema.

In conclusion I'd like to thank the many readers who have supported these efforts. The numbers at Google Analytics show a slow but steady rise in readership. I'm not ready to quit my day job yet and you'll not see ads on Plone Metrics unless I'm trying to determine some parameter associated with Plone marketing.

All that's left is to come up with Plone Metric's Person of the Year. Feel free to make nomenations via comments and I'll take them under advisement.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Very Plone Christmas to All

I was going to just leave a comment to M.B., but when I hit 500 characters I thought it best to make it an entire posting.

Re: Theoretical vs real. As a DOE/NNSA laboratory, we're pretty much frozen at the moment with funding only coming from Congress' most recent continuing resolution. However, Plone work continues to grow.* At the risk of getting a deluge of resumes, I'd be glad to file yours for future reference if you send it to kehorak at sandia dot gov, the e-mail for my professional alter ego and day job.

I, too, lean towards the application front end and am very lucky that in Plone I only occasionally am down in the ZMI and very, very rarely in real python.

That said, I'd much rather work through someone else's Python code than try to understand a typical PHP script. (That was said knowing that Drupal's PHP may be much more rigorously coded that "typical" PHP.)

Back to my teaching philosophy, if I played the numbers game (something like 20 million PHP sites out there**), I'd be teaching only Drupal, PHP, and SQL Server. Fortunately, other faculty are teaching PHP, so I can skate on that one. When it comes to databases, though, I largely teach plain-Jane (and plain-John) SQL, but with a strong emphasis on using automated tools (yes, even MS Access QBE) to do the grunt work. Similarly, whether ERWin or Visio or other tool, those kinds of automated assistance are fundamental to being able to correctly and quickly normalize very large database schema.

There are plenty of RDBMSs out there and everyone can conceptualize a hierarchical one like your local harddrive, but only a few useful object-oriented DBMSs. I find that Zope fills that latter niche very well and that Plone is a key extension. To be able to give a student a working web server, OO database, and a means of customizing it from a model is a huge instructional advantage. The number of students who go on to create working applications in under 15 weeks is not insignificant and speaks to the utility of the Plone/UML combo.

And like the ghosts of Christmas, they do it all in one night.


* I know its got to be unsustainable, but we continue to have exponential growth :-)

** Where does Wikipedia come up with these numbers??

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Manual vs Automatic

One of my YouTube videos for my College of Santa Fe course in database design picked up an interesting comment the other day. The respondent said, "I'd personally never hire a DBA that lacked the ability to normalize using method #1 [manual normalization]." My answer in turn has a bearing on Zope, Plone, Python, Archetypes, and Joel Burton.

I'll admit that I've been paying my rent in large part based on the skills that I learned back in the 80s from my Oracle Masters classes on manual normalization. But today a machine can generate a model or SQL more quickly and accurately than a human.

With frameworks like Zope and Plone out there, I'd much rather have a good object-oriented person working for me. In the end, its going to be job requirements that should drive any hiring decision, not some a priori statement. One could equally say that I'd never hire a printer who couldn't illuminate a cover page by hand.

I am reminded of my graduate statistics professor (Dr. Karl, UA) who taught us this bizarre matrix method for computing the solution to ANOVA problems. Even in matrix notation, to get an exact answer, sums of squares had to be painfully cranked out on a hand calculator. And interestingly, he never asked for an exact numeric solution, only the matrix formulation.

A year later I was hired as a post-doc at the NMSU Dept. of Horticulture to do onion karyotyping and agricultural statistics. A program named SAS was used there. It only required that I put the data in a Fortran-like data file and define the problem as a matrix solution. Exactly what I was taught. I never had to manually calculate a sum of squares--the machine did all the grunt work.

What I want in a new hire is someone who understands objects conceptually and can use whatever tools are handy to generate a data model, a needed SQL statement, or a Web-enabled form that interacts with a backend database. While its handy to have a fundamental understanding of normalization, a high level of skill in manual normalization isn't usually needed.

Now in the Zope/Plone world, my webmaster (not a Python programmer at all) can build a UML model, run the ZARGO file through Joel's web tool, and unpack the archetype in the correct Plone products folder. A trivial amount of Python is all that is needed to manually change simple things like misspelled labels, incorrect widget types, and so on.

Being able to go from UML to functional Plone product so easily is one of the incredible benefits about using Plone as a CMS. Its hard to imagine how people work in SharePoint, Drupal, WordPress, or Alfresco without such a capability.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Quarterly Amazon Stats

Its December and time for my quarterly statistics on Amazon sales ranks for Plone texts. Remember that when it comes to Amazon sales rank, big numbers mean low sales. That said, Aspeli leads the pack ever so slightly at #310,527 followed very closely by Lotze, et al. and Cooper. Pelletier and Shariff are at the top of the graph and bottom of Amazon sales rank, no doubt because of their effective direct e-distribution.

There are two newcomers to the graph: A Users Guide to Plone (Lotze, Runyan, Hasecke, Nagle) and The Definitive Guide to Plone, 2nd Ed. (Reale, McKay). The latter is due out next April and is available for pre-order. Recall my earlier post about racking up a favorable sales ranks by coordinating pre-orders.

By way of comparison with other CMS, VanDyk's Pro Drupal Development has a sales rank of #8,385. Mercer's book comes in with #15,746.