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Six Feet Up’s Take-Aways from the 2011 Plone Conference

2011 Plone Conference LogoSix Feet Up attended the Plone Conference in force this year with 8 Sixies traveling to San Francisco, and 4 of them presenting. Here’s a summary of what we learned and why we think it is important if you are using or considering using the open source CMS Plone.

The Future of Plone

Some of our favorite talks during the conference were those related to up-and-coming tools and technologies. Plone is heading toward separating authoring tools from template HTML with CMSUI, which means that the standard UI elements are moved out of the main template and the main page markup, and into an isolated iframe so they don’t interact with the overall theme. This will result in faster performance for anonymous users and will make it easier to theme Plone sites. Upgrading to newer versions and integrating new add-on functionalities will also get simplified as a result of that change. And it will be possible to offer multiple default themes to choose from out-of-the box.

Last, the community is finally hearing content editors’ cries for a better visual editor, which is prompting a group of developers to evaluate and re-evaluate options available out there, including CKEditor, Aloha, and TinyMCE. Stay tuned for the WYSIWIG Battle!


David Glick (Groundwire) presented an interesting Plone-Salesforce integration project for Net Impact leveraging Dexterity, a Plone add-on that makes it possible to create new content types through the web. Using the Dexterity-based membrane user code, dexterity.membrane, Groundwire rolled out two-way content syndication so that member profiles were kept in sync in both Plone and Salesforce.com.

David also showcased a donation system implementation using a custom GetPaid wrapper. The small library allowed them to use GetPaid without the heavy front-end code that comes with the Plone e-commerce product.

Geir Baekholt (Jarn) presented a fantastic integration project between XMPP (Jabber) and Plone called jarn.xmpp. He demoed realtime collaborative editing a la Etherpad inside a Plone site. This will definitely be a winning feature for Plone-based intranets.


Six Feet Up Senior Template Developer Chrissy Wainwright spent her first two full days in San Francisco training a group of 13 people on how to theme Plone.

The hot topic always seemed to be Diazo and Chrissy was asked a lot of questions about her opinions and level of difficulty in presenting it as a training topic. While currently we aren’t using Diazo much ourselves, it is exciting to see all the plans in the making for plone.app.theming and how it will be used.

Geir Baekholt also showed a demo of CMSUI (see “The Future of Plone above”), the new slick editing interface for Plone with Google-style editing tools that are sure to delight content contributors.

Rob Porter (Weblion) presented a talk on “Making Plone Mobile using Responsive Web Design” and demoed examples of mobile pages where page elements automatically resize and move around to adapt to new screen constraints in order to answer the challenges posed by a plethora of mobile devices. His tip: design the user experience with a small screen size first, and then expand. Rob also stressed on the fact many organizations are currently rolling out mobile versions of their sites.

We also learned a bit from Steve McMahon’s (Reid-McMahon) Javascript talk in relation to HTML5 and Plone 4 overlays.


Six Feet Up CEO Gabrielle Hendryx-Parker spoke with many Plone company owners and several of them are rolling out Plone-based intranets that are now more than just collaboration platforms. In addition to wiki pages, blog posts and file sharing, new intranets also include custom tools to address specific business needs. Interestingly, many of those projects are about moving legacy intranets out of Microsoft SharePoint. And more and more Plone consultants are investigating the open source Knowledge Management System, KARL, as a platform for those intranet projects, as Six Feet Up started doing over a year ago.

Related Technologies

This year at the Plone Conference there was a well attended related technologies track. There were a lot of talks on technologies that compliment Plone such as Solr, WSGI, git and Pyramid. Six Feet Up Senior Developer Clayton Parker gave a well-received talk about how to configure Solr to address specific customer’s needs. There was a lot of interest in these new technologies and how they relate to the Plone community.


The main focus of the conference was on developement, yet there were a few talks about the hosting aspects of Plone. One exceptional talk was given by Adam Terry and the PretaWeb Group about their development of a high availability, high traffic site in Australia designed to deliver tsunami warnings and information. Their talk covered both the use of geographically dispersed hosting centers and content delivery networks to maintain a high level of service in the event of a natural disaster. Projects like these showcase the capabilities of Plone and the maturity of the platform.

Last Word

Overall, the conference was very well attended, with close to 60% of the participants coming from another country, and 50% new-comers, which are signs of a healthy and growing community. We are very excited about the direction Plone is taking and we look forward to the great improvements that are coming, especially in the area of usability.

As is the case every year, the Plone Foundation met and elected a new board. This year, our very own Director of Business Development, Carol Ganz, was selected to serve with a group of 7 talented individuals from around the world.

San Francisco is still as energizing as it ever was, and shows no sign of ever slowing down.

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