Hi Scott,

I wanted to make sure we linked up at Gilbane; maybe we can discuss in more depth some pros/cons of Plone versus other systems and you can determine the best way to position that in the panel discussion without it being so us-versus-them. We have a small pedestal display area for Contextual (www.contextualcorp.com) at the conference. I know that Nate/Jazkarta will also be working a Plone booth, so we should all hook up.

We all have our favorite aspects of Plone.  Here is my off-the-cuff list:

Strengths of Plone (with comparison notes you can omit during discussion, but which provide some context):

1) Ease of Use / In-line Editing:
(Some tools such as Drupal, Fatwire, many others have a separate Admin UI and 'Preview' mode, rather than just navigating to the page to edit, change it, save it. Drupal's admin UI is described as complex and unintuitive.

2) Flexible Workflow / Fine-grained Permissions:
Many other tools hit a brick wall in this area and Plone really shines here. Not only can we have different workflows per content type, but also per area of the site, and permissions per role can be different per workflow state for each workflow. We can also empower some users to have edit/reviewer rights in some areas of a site, but not others.

3) PAS / Integration with LDAP, OpenID, SQL, SalesForce, and other custom Pluggable Authentication Services: Single Sign-On is a deal-breaker for some organizations and through PAS (combined with web services in some cases), Plone succeeds very well here.

4) Versioning, Visual Diffs, Audit Trail:
Now granted, many of the commercial tools offer even better capabilities in the versioning/rollback area than Plone (entire site, entire section, not just content item-specific), but Plone does do well here, and I believe better than Drupal, but not as well as Alfresco and ezPublish. But users still fall in love when seeing visual diffs (green/red-lining of changes) with the ability to instantly rollback to the version they like.

5) Compliance with Standards (Section 508, well-formed XHTML, etc.):
For some orgs, especially government sites, this is a deal-breaker by law (if a site does not adhere to such standards)

6) Abundance of Free Add-ons to Extend Functionality:
For commercial tools, and even with other open source tools, such as Drupal and Joomla, well-working and maintained add-on modules/products typically are sold (e.g. $200 forums module for Joomla, etc.) In the Downloads section of Plone.org, there are over 3,000 free, open source add-on modules.

7) Portlet Management:
Users love being able to add static portlets, collection portlets, RSS portlets, etc. Plone got this very right with 3.0!

8) Structured Content Types (Taxonomy):
Plone does a nice job of allowing for custom, structured content types. Types are not limited to simple pages, files, images, as with some lightweight CMS tools (some people are calling Wordpress a CMS, for example.) While Drupal handles this well TTW with the CCK and Plone has similar TTW options with ATSchemaEditorNG, Dexterity is on its way, etc., I think that the more complex the data/content model, the better Plone does here (RelationshipField/Widget, use of ATVocabularyManager for SelectionField values, etc.) Generation of content types/products via free tools such as ArchGenXML and ArgoUML make it even more tantalizing.

9) Collections / Smart Folders:
Users love seeing that they have the ability to create more complex listing pages (or portlets with listings), without having to pay a developer to create them every time they're needed.

10) LiveSearch

1) Microsites / Subsites:
There are various ways to theme a certain folder/page of a site such that it seems like a separate site. A common use case is an association, government agency, or company that needs the experience of having state-specific websites, but wants the ability to 'roll-up' all state-specific events/news/etc. into the national website. This is done easier on Plone than with many systems and ever more ways are coming out (lineage.)

2) Seemless Multi-site Experience:
Opposite of use case #1. With the trend toward use of Deliverance as a theming approach for Plone (currently is an optional front-end theming layer), it's very possible to consistently theme ones various SaaS sites (Plone, cVent, Salesforce, etc.) as one consistent website user experience. Sure, Deliverance could be used in front of Drupal, Vignette or any other CMS-based site as well, but if Deliverance/xdv becomes more the standard approach for Plone, then we can make the argument this is easier to do with Plone, there will be documentation to help do so, etc. The market is in desperate need of a consistent theming layer like this that allows one to theme some SaaS application that the organization has little customization/development control over, as it is hosted/provided by another vendor that only allows some slight color theming and replacement of logo.

3) CMS-to-CRM Integration:
From the feedback I received at our booth at CMSExpo.net last year, Joomla and Drupal in particular don't quite integrate with Salesforce or SugarCRM as well, with the more freely available plugins. There were commercial/hosted service options that did answer this better, though. On the commercial CMS side, the Salesforce connectors are few and expensive, and some simply act as an IFrame within the CMS, not blended into the website experience.

4) SEO Improvement:
As with many CMS tools, using Plone to manage site content pretty much instantly improves Search Engine Optimization/Rankings/Results. Better use of keywords, Title tags. alt tags on images/links, proper use of H1 and other heading tags, accessibility options (search engines read a page similar to the way a screen reader for the visually impaired does), auto-generation of sitemap.xml.gz file, easy implementation of Google Analytics code snippet (or other).

5) Security:
There's a reason that Zope is on the Dept of Defense approved OSS application list and by Plone community accounts is used on fbi.gov and other security/intelligence-related websites. And as described on the plone.org front page, cve.mitre.org results indicate that Plone has the best security record of any CMS. Plone's workflow, PAS, and fine-grained security on a site-wide, section-wide, or per-content-object basis really seems second to none.

6) Repeatable Deployments:
Generic Setup allows us to easily export TTW settings for workflow, search, navigation, content actions/views, etc. out as XML that allows for migrating such configuration options to other Plone sites on the same or different servers and platforms. Just listen to the Drupal folks in the room drool over this one, and likely, even many of the commercial tool integrators (that rely upon a DBMS to store such settings, along with site data - have fun separating out just the site settings you want, when it's time to implement client site #2, 3, or to promote the settings from dev to production, but without the dev content data.)

7) No Vendor M&A / Consolidation to Worry About, No Corporate-Owned IP to Worry About: While the commercial CMS market has been rampant in recent years with regard to consolidation (Oracle bought Stellent, OpenText bought Vignette, RedDot, Gauss, IXOS and others, IBM bought Lotus Notes, MS bought NCompass Labs, Autonomy bought Interwoven, etc., etc.), I don't believe customers/adopters/integrators of Plone will be left with no upgrade path and forced to migrate to another CMS anytime soon. Plenty of RedDot customers are going to be forced to move to Vignette, for example, losing significant knowledge of a platform they were comfortable with. The same is true for other consolidations - I'm sure MS has pushed NCompass Labs customers to Sharepoint.

We also don't face the prospect of the Mambo/Joomla (commercial vs. OSS) fork, as the Plone Foundation, rather than some vendor, controls the IP, brand, trademark, etc. for Plone.

See you at Gilbane!

Ken Wasetis
Presdient and CMS Solution Architect
Contextual Corp.

irc/skype/twitter: ctxlken
mobile:  224-628-1665

Scott Paley wrote:
Steve - this is fantastic. Thanks!

Next Wednesday (12/2) I'll be sitting on a panel at Gilbane Boston entitled "Open Source CMS Powwow", as the "Plone representative". Others on the panel will include Mitch Pirtle, the founder of Joomla, Jay Batson, a co-founder of Acquia, and Ian Howells, the CMO of Alfresco. In other words, it's a pretty strong panel (always fun to be the "weakest link!") Obviously I know a lot more about Plone than the other 3 platforms, so this kind of information is extremely helpful. It's interesting to see how Drupal stuggles with many of the same challenges as Plone and is not some "magic bullet".


If anybody out there wants to "arm" me with additional information about what you perceive to be the strengths of Plone relative to the other platforms, please send an email my way. I'm not as interested in the specific ways in which Plone is better than Joomla as I am about where Plone really shines. I have my own ideas on this, but would love feedback.

The stated agenda of the talk is, "Just a few short years ago many organizations wouldn't think of implementing an open source content management system. Today, thousands of major global companies have implemented solutions like Drupal, Joomla!, Plone and Alfresco, to name a few. In this session, Joe Bachana, Founder and CEO of DPCI, has invited major luminaries from these four open source CMS projects to help attendees better differentiate each system from the others. Particular attention will be paid to calling out the strengths of each system. The session will also pay close attention to any feedback or lingering criticism in the market that open source CMS platforms still face."

The moderator followed up privately to let the panelists know that, "With regard to the tone of the session, I'd like it to be constructive -- I don't have a particular interest in declaiming which project is better than the other. However, there are clear differentiators on platforms (LAMP, Python, Java/J2EE) as well as functional focus for each that can and should be called out, and we should endeavor to do so. Further, I would like to leave ample time to discuss the criticisms of the open-source platform and communities, since there is still a great deal of it out there."

Thanks all,

Scott Paley
Abstract Edge

On Sun, Nov 22, 2009 at 12:59 PM, Steve McMahon <st...@dcn.org <mailto:st...@dcn.org>> wrote:

    While at the Non-Profit SW Dev Summit, I had the opportunity to
    attend a couple of Drupal panels (new to Drupal, and what's new
    with Drupal). Drupal had their A team at the summit (a couple of
    core devs and several evangelists) to do the talks. I wanted to
    pass on a few things on what I observed. Share as appropriate.

    1) Drupal is also having the framework vs product debate. From
    what I heard, the "framework" side is definitely winning. Many
    Drupal integrators are actually demanding that some new,
    friendlier UI in the Drupal 7 preview be rolled back because they
    feel it undermines their flexibility as integrators. Drupal 7
    continues to be a micro-core product that is not really suitable
    for use out of the box. The Drupal folks emphasize that no
    inexperienced person should think they can integrate Drupal by
    themselves (for more than a blog), as they need to gain a lot of
    experience as to which modules really work together.

    2) There is no migration path for add-on modules between 6 and 7.
    The core devs emphasize that it will be a rare 6 module that does
    not need a complete rewrite to become a 7 module. The integrators
    in the audience moaned loudly on receiving this news, and
    complained that this was awful for them. The core devs replied
    that the new APIs would make add on modules more secure and reliable.

    3) Drupal is still very complex for end users. I don't think they
    really differentiate between users and site managers. Positioning
    a node in the content hierarchy still requires intimate knowledge
    of how Drupal works (or add on modules that organize portions of
    the tree). The ideal Drupal install is probably either small
    enough that a single site admin is not a bottleneck, or large
    enough that several site admins can be well trained.

    4) Permissions and roles are still pretty much global, and
    workflow is rudimentary. No ACLs. The organic groups module
    remedies some of that, but there was skepticism about whether or
    not it could be ported to 7.

    5) The CCK (content creation kit) is now pretty much integrated
    into 7, and is really pretty cool in its ability to allow site
    admins to add fields to content types TTW. On the other hand, they
    don't have a round trip story, and I heard a couple of
    conversations, that translated to Plone-speak, amounted to "we
    need something like generic setup to handle repeatable deployments."

    6) Real-life Drupal is actually very resource intensive. The
    audience was told that they could do something like a blog on a
    cheapo host, but that a real deployment with multiple content
    authors would require a dedicated server or large virtual slice.

    7) They are still, out-of-the-box, a great blogging platform, and
    if you're using Drupal as a "news to the home page site" with a
    few static pages, it's easy and fast to configure.

    8) The party line on Acquia is that what's good for Acquia and
    Dries is good for Drupal. I saw not a hint of discomfort with that.

    9) A somewhat contradictory pair of party lines: "it's easy to
    find PHP programmers, and they're inexpensive, therefore PHP is
    the place to be" and "Don't even think of using a PHP programmer
    with less than 3 years Drupal experience to do any customization."

    10) Taxonomy was "never meant to provide site structure" and is
    now deprecated as a way to build nav trees. The "right" way to do
    it is with the new relations fields, which allow you to pick nodes
    as parents/children.

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