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You're never alone with Plone
By China Martens
IDG News Service (Boston Bureau)

BOSTON (07/24/2007) - Ask Plone users what they like best about the
open-source content management software and chances are a key feature
they'll list along with ease of use and multilingual support is the
community of experts that's grown around the product.

Having access to knowledgeable people is of particular importance to Plone
users right now as the software, which is based on the open-source Zope Web
application framework, continues to incorporate more and more Zope 3
functionality. There's a sizeable skills gap among users who are familiar
only with earlier versions of the application server and not the most recent
release. The community is also putting the finishing touches on
version 3.0of Plone itself due out next month.

Plone, named after a British electronica band, began life in 2000 as an
attempt by the project's cofounders Alexander Limi in Norway and Alan Runyan
in the U.S. to create a more user-friendly interface or skin for Zope 2.
Plone helps users manage documents, files and images through a Web interface
and also lets them publish that content to the Internet or to an intranet.
Earlier this month, Limi announced that more than one million copies of
Plone had been downloaded so far from the Web site.

One way of getting Plone users together is a sprint, a three to five day
meeting where participants work in small groups to develop, test and
document new functionality for the software. The latest sprint took place in
Boston and focused on improving the handling of audio and video files and
images in the Plone4Artists software bundle used for creating portal Web

Aaron VanDerlip, from nonprofit relief agency Oxfam America, was among the
participants. The organization's Web site is based on Plone. He said the
site's mettle was tested and proved strong and stable when donors flocked to
make online contributions to Oxfam to help the survivors of the terrible
tsunami that rocked South Asia on Dec. 26, 2004.

Looking to the future, Oxfam would like to add audio and video to its Web
site both as a way to attract more donations for its relief work and to show
donors how their money has been spent. VanDerlip is also keen to see a lower
bandwidth version of the site accessible to those with limited connectivity
options as well as catering to the needs of people visiting the site from
their mobile phones.

The Nature Conservancy, a conservation organization that works worldwide to
protect ecologically important lands and waterways, uses Plone to power the
ConserveOnline open forum where environment groups, government agencies and
private landowners can come to exchange views. The site also makes a variety
of conservation resources available including documents and maps and enables
users to create small Web sites or workspaces to flag particular
environmental problems they're working on to solicit both feedback and

The Nature Conservancy is a long-time Zope user and that's how it discovered
Plone about three years ago, according to Sally Kleinfeldt, senior
technology architect, technology and information systems, at the
organization. Previously, the charity had developed its own custom content
management applications based on Zope and a small raft of these legacy
applications are still in use. Although no decision has been made, over time
The Nature Conservancy would look to rewrite or replace those applications
using Plone.

In terms of Plone4Artists, the Conservancy is particularly interested in how
the software handles content that contains embedded GIS (geographic
information system) data. Web services are another important Plone feature,
Kleinfeldt said, as the Conservancy looks for ways to enhance information
sharing across different environmental organizations and enable mash-ups.

David Siedband is a Plone developer who's been working with environmental
groups at the grassroots level. While a large entity like The Nature
Conservancy may move slowly in adopting new technologies, state and local
groups can respond much more quickly and also may not be subject to the same
legal restrictions in terms of sharing land data. Those groups are moving
ahead with embracing audio and video and when new forays into technology
prove successful, those moves can "bubble up from the field" and later be
taken on by the likes of The Nature Conservancy, Siedband and Kleinfeldt

Utah State University is using Plone as the content management system for
its eduCommons OpenCourseWare management system. EduCommons helps
universities develop and manage educational material from their
undergraduate and graduate courses that they've decided to make available to
everyone for free online. The university has done a lot of work around
dealing with copyright issues and is donating that effort back to Plone.

Universities in Cuba, Japan, The Netherlands and the U.S. are already using
eduCommons and Utah State is in discussions with universities in China, said
David Ray, developer at the University's Center for Open and Sustainable
Learning (COSL). Software vendor Novell Inc.'s global training services unit
is also a fan of eduCommons, using it to make educational material available
for its Novell authorized courses and other customer training information.

Novell also uses Plone to power its Web site. The company turned
to Plone after finding Web content management software from Vignette Corp.
didn't provide the functionality the software vendor was looking for in
terms of support for multiple languages and different types of content.

Nathan Sandland, an independent consultant, has been helping Novell adopt
Plone and notes two other teams within the vendor are also using the
open-source content management software.

As Plone users get to grips with Zope 3 and start becoming familiar with
Plone 3, there's another issue to consider -- when the open-source software
will move to the latest version of the GNU general public license (GPL).
Plone is currently made available under GPLv2. GPLv3 debuted at the end of
June. The topic's likely to be on the agenda at the annual Plone Conference
due to take place in Naples, Italy, in October.

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