The Sixie crew is just back from the Plone Symposium 2012 (a.k.a. “PSE”), which was held earlier this week at Penn State University and effectively rekindled our faith in Plone and the Plone Community:
1. Plone is in rapid development, with two minor versions scheduled to release this year and a major upgrade planned for Spring 2013.
Plone is growing, Plone is getting better. I heard many side discussions about KSS actively being removed and being happily replaced with more industry wide accepted front-end tools such as jQuery (added in Plone 3.1), jQuery TOOLS (added in Plone 4.0) and jQuery UI (scheduled for Plone 4.3). RIP customized AJAX tools that nobody else uses.
Eric Steele, with his unique and inimitable style, captivated the audience with his talk on Iterating Plone. First, Plone 4.2 RC is in testing, and will come with a new, simplified UI for Collections (a.k.a. “smart folder” or canned queries). Setting up and changing collection criteria on the go without reloading the page will be made much easier thanks to AJAX embedded on the page. Plone 4.2 is expected to be officially launched in June 2012. You can watch the excitement live on the Plone Dev Trac.
Eric also unveiled the roadmap to Plone 4.3, planned to release in the next few months. The big change that has already been implemented is the complete removal of the Kupu editor and the upgrading of TinyMCE to improve the end-user editing experience and remove some IE issues we have seen with the rich editors in Plone. Another big exciting change coming in 4.3 will be the inclusion of Dexterity, the new content type system, and the new In-Plone theme editor that Eric showed off during the talk.
Finally, Eric unveiled the plans to offer two main features in the highly anticipated release of Plone 5 next year, Deco and Tiles, which will revolutionize the on-the-fly building of web pages.
2. Plone Microsoft: Installing Plone on Windows servers is about to get much, much easier.
There used to be a time when there simply wasn’t a good set of tools to deploy Python products on Microsoft’s IIS server. As a result, the Plone Community decided to use Enfold Systems’ Windows installer. But it was always lagging a little due to the company’s needing to find time to update it at each release, and it was buggy. More importantly, it didn’t come with the tools to properly integrate with the Microsoft web server IIS server by default.
Thanks to Ross Patterson, this issue is soon to be history. Ross has embarked on a mission to leverage the Microsoft ecosystem for delivering web applications. Release managers will soon be able to simply install the Microsoft server and then deploy a Plone instance using familiar tools.
The new installer will be available as a download option on Plone.org by the end of this Summer (Ross and co. are sprinting on it as we speak).
3. The Plone Community, known for its active group of core contributors, is more energetic than ever, and is determined to make Plone the best open source CMS for sophisticated web projects.
Plone definitely enjoys a vibrant and very active community as illustrated by the sheer number of contributors and development events: there has been no less than 12 Plone sprints in the past 12 months.
About half of this year’s attendees had never been to the Plone Symposium, and most people were implementors in the Higher Education sector (we did meet a few other players, such as an architecture firm using Plone to power their intranet). Universities tend to be at the forefront of new technology adoption so this is very good news.
As a side note, rumors have it that Penn State University is looking at replacing their outdated static HTML site, and the choice is now down to WordPress, Drupal or Plone. But as long as Plone continues to outperform other CMS with regards to the management of sophisticated workflows and roles/permissions management, the choice is obvious, which is why other well-known universities have been standardizing on Plone recently, such as UCLA, UW Oshkosh and Notre Dame.
4. Mobile, mobile and mobile. Responsive design is key and good news will be coming to Plone developers in the next few months.
We heard from one speaker that the world now has more mobile devices than there are toothbrushes. Fortunately, Rob Porter is about to release a brand new version of his responsive design package, which will demonstrate it is easy to adapt a Plone site to a myriad of different screen resolutions.
5. Accessibility is getting a renewal of interest, pushed by Penn State, which will be key in the Education and Non-Profit markets.
A lawsuit brought up by the National Federation of the Blind against PennState has “sparked interests” in improving Plone’s compliance with the WCAG 2.0 accessibility standard.
The PloneEdu group’s goal is to have new accessibility upgrades integrated in Plone 4.3 by the end of 2012. They have already made a few improvements:
- The image “alt tag” in text editors has been fixed, allowing screen readers to effectively describe rich content
- The hierarchy of information, typically conveyed by header tags, has been fixed so that visually impaired readers can jump quickly from section to section.
- Some of the semantic markup for tables has been changed. For instance, the typical right column metadata table (“what”, “where”, “when”, etc.) displayed on event detailed pages is now a definition list for optimized reading by screen readers.
- The structure of web pages with portlets has been changed so that the “more” links are correctly attributed to content, sparing blind users from a long litany of incomprehensible “more” read to them by the reader tool.
But, beyond Plone and its bright future, what was really cool was to get a reminder from speaker Paul Roeland that open source has a much larger reach and impact on society in that it powers many fights against oppressing regimes and/or corporations due to its entrenched culture of sharing, building and improving. I can feel the cool brush of the cape on my back and it makes me proud.
Next year’s Plone Symposium may move West a bit as University of Wisconsin Oshkosh has (unofficially) expressed an interest in hosting the event. I am already salivating thinking about getting to the source of the much touted cheese curds…