Plone Conference Followup

2 weeks after the conference has given me plenty of hindsight. I would not have done anything different. Except had more coffee.

If you did not know about the first Plone Conference that was held in New Orleans; you must have been living in a cave ;-). It happened at Tulane University from October 15-17th 2003. The conference was a success on many different levels. For instance we had 150 people at the conference. That also was the maximum occupancy of the Tulane conference hall. Another was the variety of speakers and lectures. But more on that later. I would like to express my sincerity by saying the Plone Conference was one of the most rewarding experiences in my professional career. At first we were planning for about 30 people. How naive! Twenty people at the conference alone were from outside the United States! This was amazing! And all done on only four months of notice. Wow.

Monday and Tuesday of that week we setup at the tulane campus. Those days were suppose to be a "sprint". It was exceedingly unorganized. Luckily Brent and Cameron (cnx.rice.edu) got down to business and flushed out unit tests and killed some bugs. Another group, mostly of europeans did some business level analysis of Plone and wrote up something that resembled a HOWTO. I am not quite sure what the status was and where they landed. I spent most of the days organizing videographer, wire(less) network, projects, and working with Real Impact on getting the streaming service to work. Thanks to the sprint participates for working with no guidance. They did a great job.

Wednesday it all started. We had organized 4 speakers and created packets for the attendees. Almost 110 people went to the tutorials. The first was Alexander Limi (Plone Solutions) speaking about CSS and how to customize Plone using CSS. The second was Jim Roepcke's (Maintainer of Plone OSX installer) "Programming Python in Plone". The only criticism I heard was he was trying to please everyone. He started a bit slow because almost 30% of the participants were new to Python. So for the experienced programmers it only got interesting the last half of the presentation. The 30% who were new to Python gave the entire tutorial two thumbs up. Lunch break. Most people went to the Tulane cafeteria. You could get Pizza Hut, Subway, Taco Bell, Chik-filet, etc. After lunch came Ben Scaller (Abstract Edge) to explain how Archetypes works and the transformation services. This was the complete inverse of Jim's talk. Quickly newbie brains melted and dribbled from their ears. The more experience developers delighted at the level of presentation and had a post-lunch helping of newbie brain. Lucky Andy McKay went on and brought the entire room through the macro view of caching. Then gently lead everyone through the finer points of cacheability and performance tuning. A perfect end to a long day. The streams went live after lunch so people on the internet could watch/listen to Ben's and Andy's talks. That evening there was a panel discussion at Tulane on Making money with Plone. I could take no more of Plone so I headed to Philip's Bar on Maple St. about 4 block walk from the conference. We had arranged for them to open their patio for us. I've been going to Philips for years and did not know they even had a patio! About 80 people showed up at Philips and mingled until about 1AM.

Thursday. Each day was split up into eight 45 minute talks. After two talks there would be a break. The first day of the conference was focused on the Development theme. All on IRC said the streams were acceptable (I turned down the video). The videographer had 2 camera's on each side of the lecture hall. The wireless microphone was working. And the two wireless routers were in full swing. The first talk State of Plone by Alexander and myself. We talked about the history of plone, the community, the website, various victories around the world. The strongest feature of Zope/Plone - Python. After that was Kapil Thangavelu (hazmat on #plone) talking about Subversion (SVN) and Plone integration. Again newbie brains melted. 15 minute break. One of the stars of the first day came on, Lon Boonen from q42. He showed off SPIF (Single Page Interface Framework) and how it could integrate into Plone. SPIF is best described as a CSS/Javascript tweening and morphing framework. If that sounds insane - it is. They also develop Xopus, an XML inline editor. Plenty of eye candy and no brains - everyone was quite happy. Next was Evan Simpson talking on PageTemplates. At a technical level it was brilliant. But it was a bit hard to digest for newbies without visual aids. Brains melted. The geeks listened intently. Then lunch! Afterwards was integrating RDBMS into Plone systems. Joel Burton went over the various approaches and their pro's and con's. Geoff Davis explained how the CMFFormController system worked. And how to get around the premature object creation that inflicts the CMF system by default. Break. Finally Paul Everitt, always a great speaker came on and talked about enriching UI's with XML. Mainly he was talking about the next version of Epoz (that is usable already). Paul see's eye-to-eye with Lon on the javascript/xml paradigm of letting the clients do most of the work. Alot of visual work for people to look at. Finally the end of the day was with Laura Trippi from Simon Fraser University in Canada. She took a multi-disciplinary perspective to Plone and how she as a user views the system. It was very informative and was the highlight for a lot of people. It was a different approach of thinking about Plone and its impact. Laura also complimented the 10%+ of the audience that was female. I personally think that it shows that Plone is breaking out of the stereotype geek world of frameworks. Its a Product. People use it; people get it. They make it work for themselves. That night we had a huge party at the Maple Leaf Bar on Oak St. Two free kegs of Abita Amber beer. More than hundred people. ALOT of fun. Ulu from New York City played up front.

Friday. The theme was Deployment and case studies from the frontline of Plone usage. George Donnelly (Zettai.net) spoke about localization. And the upcoming I18NLayer component that will allow you to translate content into any number of languages. Workflow them independantly. And localization issues you may face in deployment. ChrisM was late. So Sean Upton stepped in his place and spoke about how the San Diege Union Tribune is using Plone. Its a great benefit for them to focus on the domain expertise and rely on Plone's UI scalability. ChrisM arrived. He did his talk on Scaling Zope. Mainly the DOs and DONTs. Why Zope is "transparently" scalable. Mainly that Zope does not require any changes to application code for it to work in a scalable environment. How to optimize your Plone and the upcoming ESI changes in Squid3. Finally before lunch Rob Miller did his talk on, "Plone as Groupware". This is so indicative of Zope and Python. People connected to really innovative (typically research but in this case progressive social experiments) proejcts often use the technology. Rob is involved in the Burning Man project. They erect a city for 30000 people for a week long in the middle of the desert. It requires an enormous degree of planning. Almost everyone is a volunteer and work together to organize the event through Plone. Amazing. People actually using Plone to create a city! Then lunch. Before the talk Andy McKay and Kapil brought out flowers to thank Alma and Karina for their work to make the conference a success. I can not tell you how unorganized it would have been with Alma and Karin. A huge tahnks to them both. And now something completely different. In the academic world Plone is being used by the Connexions Project at Rice University. I knew nothing about this project. They were already using Zope. It took only 6 months to convince them to move to Plone wink. Brent Hendricks and Cameron Cooper talk about the CNX project. The CNX project was the flagship of the Creative Common's project, FYI. They have almost 1600 modules of learning materials organized. Very cool. Check it out, http://cnx.rice.edu/ AFter that Richard Amerman spoke about how they leverage existing Plone/CMF components to involve their clients more intimately in their projects at his company. It was very good talk full of practice information. Then a really fun jaunt through the lighting talks. The highlights were Geoff Davis and Alexander Limi attempting to describe the collective projects interactively during the lighting talk. And of course (self plug) the last one was Andy McKay and I showing off Windows shell integration with Plone. We brought up the tree, right clicked on a piece of content and published it. Showing we could see how many replies a piece of content had through the shell interface. Lots of applause. You should hear more of this for-fee project in the next 45 days. Lastly Paul's talk. It was wrong to give Paul the Future of Plone talk. He does not know the future of Plone. So it started off really slow and meandered. The most interesting part was the questions he posed to the audience. How many people think of Plone as a framework ( 40% Hands up ) and how many people think of Plone as a Product ( 60% Hands up ). Argh! Paul basically spoke about how we can bring Plone to the NGO sector. Since that is where Plone belongs. Amongst people with like-mindedness. It was awkward but interesting at the same time. We said "Thanks"; everyone applauded and then stood up and gave us a standing ovation. How rewarding.

The conference ended. It was a success. People bought TShirts. Exchanged Cards. Said thanks. It was such an amazing experience. It was so much beyond my expectations. And everyone mingled. That was the most important part. People made friends, business contacts, and demo'ed what they were doing with Plone. Hi-Privacy, for instance is using Plone to power 1-800-doctors. Who woulda thunk it? The conference ended. I only ended up with 1 parking ticket. And we made a little cash on the side. We have 36 hours of video tapes to digitize. Several people gave me their cards and wanted to keep in touch. I was so busy and pre-occupied I wanted to say I apologize if I spoke with you and then just walked off or did anything air-head like that. And most importantly that I appreciate your support. Without the community, sponsors, active developers - Plone would not exist. You may be asking, "Is there another planned?" The answer is Yes! We will attempt to make this a yearly event. The next one will be held in Southern Germany or Northern Austria. Details to be disclosed early next year. Do not worry we will give you more than 4 months to prepare ;-).

Again thanks.

Alan Runyan and the Plone Team.

In addition, People have been asking about the digitizing of the video. Soon I will have a Mac. and plan on digitizing it. We have had several people offer to host the videos. Its just a matter of time. I would like to get the tutorials online by the end of the year. But alot is happening over the next few months, i.e. my sister, Moya is getting married next week! So it will take at least 30 days after Mac's ship with Panther to start seeing the first videos arrive.

Plone Conference Pictures

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