We Love the Community: Plone Strategic Planning Summit 2008

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day to all those celebrating it!

The Open Source Team has hosted many community events over the past two years here at Google HQ. This past weekend, we were privileged to host our friends from the Plone CMS project (open source content management) once again.

Alexander Limi, the Plone project's co-founder and Google User Experience Designer, sent us this write-up of the summit:

Plotting the Future - PSPS 2008

On February 8-10, a cross-section of the Plone Community that included users, integrators, industry experts and hardcore developers from around the world gathered at Google's headquarters in Mountain View for the first Plone Strategic Planning Summit (PSPS). Working under the California sun, the group ignored their laptops and used decidedly old-school technologies such as flip charts, dot stickers and multi-coloured markers — to brainstorm, talk and dream about the future of Plone in a way that rarely happens in open source.

Plone Strategic Summiters

The first day was lead by summit organizer Jon Stahl and marketing guru Mark Corum. Through a series of exercises, they got the participants to think about and identify the markets and audiences Plone serves, what its strengths and weaknesses are and how it should be positioned relative to other content management systems - both open source and commercial. The outcomes will form the basis of a professional marketing package that will help the Plone community sell itself, and aid those who sell Plone services in effectively communicating what Plone is, as well as when and where it is an appropriate solution.

The theme of the second day was “approachability”: How can we make it easier for new integrators and developers to get started with Plone? How can we ensure that these people feel that they are part of the Plone community, and empowered to make suggestions and voice their concerns? Through focused brainstorming, a panel discussion and a bit of creative shuffling around the room, the group was able to identify "pain points" and identify workable solutions. These were then turned into actions that the participants voted on to highlight the ones most worthy of attention. One "champion" was assigned to each action, with a mandate to solicit input from the community, cheerlead the efforts and follow up to make sure that the underlying issue is addressed.

On the final day of the Summit, a special guest star dropped by — Jonathan Wilde, the Grand Prize winner for Plone's entry in the Google Highly Open Participation Contest, who happened to live nearby. A few jaws dropped as they realized this 14-year old had produced four high-quality themes and two new Plone portlets in just a few days, a feat that many in the audience with years of experience admitted they would be unable to repeat. His themes will be used in the near future as high-quality examples of how to make Plone look different, one of the many actions that came out of the summit.

Jonathan got a poster signed by all the attendees, and his mom beamed from the back of the room as he answered technical questions about his work and made suggestions about changes he would like to see in Plone. Whether Jonathan becomes the next Plone rock star remains to be seen - but the Plone community would certainly like to see more of him! What could be a better symbol of approachability than a high school student who taught himself Plone and made a significant contribution to the community on his first attempt?

Front Row: Plone's GHOP Grand Prize Winner, Jonathan Wilde, with his mother, Constance Kobylarz & Alexander Limi
Back Row: Leslie Hawthorn & Martin Aspelli, Plone Lead Developer

Ed. Note: Both photos courtesy of Mark Corum.