Andy McKay responded to my post on his own blog, something I appreciate because much of what he said is right in line with where my head is at right now. I’m finding myself moving away from recommending Plone to clients, even in a situation where Plone’s features are exactly what they need.
A large number of competent and happy integrators is key to Plone, without them it will wither at either end as it slips into the domain of more and more technical obscurity know only to a few. They are one of the key bridges between the techies and customers.
Andy, I’d say this comment is spot on:
Donna (and please correct me here if I’m wrong) runs a small consultancy producing web sites for customers. She doesn’t have a huge army of technical programmers behind her. She focuses on finding a solution for a client mostly using existing tools that can be customised to her user. At the Planning sprint we she was placed in a category called “integrators”.
A year ago (before we had our summit in February) I started whining about the changes to the theming process (got into a discussion between core developers and integrators who deal with clients on a day-to-day basis). When I left the summit I felt a bit better (though I pretty much got p0wned -as my kids call it – by a 14 year old theming wizard)
Now, over 9 months later I’ve created a dozen skins (or so) in Plone 3. I’m much more comfortable in the command line and I know my way around a virtualenv (and love it) Still can’t code python to save my life, but I can create a skin and deploy it!
Here is where I worry? I’m the exception (not the rule) as are Veda and Matthew Wilkes and Rob Porter and Denis (spliter). We’ve put in extra time and because of our connection to the community are willing to deal with the pain just to get really good at theming Plone sites. For some of us, we work for companies that deploy Plone sites, for others we work at a company that has a Plone site or sites that need maintaining. As I mentioned in my post after Linux World, Plone is not as well-known as it should be after nearly 10 years in existence (2011 will be 10 years). Hopefully World Plone Day will help and the Evangelism team, led by Nate is lighting a fire under our collective behinds to get the word out about Plone.
It’s difficult really, trying to “please all of the people all of the time”, but that is not what we are looking at here. Trust me, as a mom who has raised six human beings with entirely different personalities I know that there has to be some sacrifice made by someone. We can’t all have what we want, all the time.
At the same time, as a professional who has daily interaction with a wide range of “customer” types from the mom&pop shop to the client with 500+ employees looking to streamline business processes online I’m getting to the point where I’m second guessing my recommendation to use Plone. It’s not fair to the client to pay way more than they should in development time because the “easiest” aspect of site creation has crept into the programming side. We say that Plone separates content, programming and design. It has taken many of us years to get where we are and as new designers/integrators approach Plone with an eye on it’s features they are bug-eyed and shaking by the time we explain exactly what it takes to skin a Plone site. I witnessed that today as Veda tried to explain to a newcomer just what it would take to skin their newly loaded Plone site.
That said, what can we do as a community to fix this? In IRC today, Rob mentioned that Joel has created a sweet little “through-the-web” paster form. Love it, where was that when I was learning how to create themes with ZopeSkel?! A move in the right direction. Someone in channel(catherine-w) brought up a great point , ‘if you are new to Plone you won’t understand what this means’. So we need to stop “assuming” that because we understand it that new adopters of Plone will understand at the same level we do. We need to continue to look at ways we can make adoption a much more positive experience! We have a terrific helpful community (Joanna, Veda, Darci, Alex, MatthewWilkes, et al) and Plone’s core feature-set is unrivalled (I’ve been doing a lot of testing/experimenting with various cms’s – ModX and WebGui being the most recent) so let’s keep this move towards improving the integrators experience moving towards the most user-friendly cms, it’s already the most featureful!
(cue six-million-dollar-man theme – doo doo doo doo)
A cms clinging to life
People, we can enhance it
We have the technology
We have the capability to build the world’s friendliest cms
Plone will be that toolkit (product?)
We can make Plone even better than it was before
Better. Stronger. Faster
And on that note I shall go eat spaghetti that I cooked for the family. Lots of garlic and onion *exhale*