If you wear glasses like me, sometimes you misplace them and you find yourself in a dire predicament: How do you find your glasses if you can’t see without them? I just discovered this howto video which explains how to make emergency glasses out of a leaf or a piece of paper. I tried it, and it works!
I’ve written in the past about the idea of fostering sub-communities within the greater Plone community, and after some recent developments, I’d like to revisit this discussion and invite you to get involved in making this happen.
First, a brief history:
Back when I was working at Learning Lab Denmark in 2003, I had the privilege of attending the Plone educational sprint in Paderborn, Germany. Not only was I introduced to the German tradition of drinking large Hefeweisen beers everyday for lunch, but it was also one of my first introductions to the Plone community and the concept of sprinting. I had attended my first sprint, the Castle Sprint, only weeks before in Austria.
At the educational sprint, I met Raphael Ritz, who took on the challenge of converting his CMFBibliography product to Archetypes, which consequently resulted in a name change to CMFBlbliographyAT. Archetypes was still relatively new at the time, but Raphael successfully got it working by the end of the sprint. I remember being quite impressed by his programming prowess since he was not trained as a computer scientist but as a neuroscientist.
At Learning Lab, we ended up using CMFBibliographyAT extensively to catalog our researchers’ articles. This was how I justified to my boss at the time, that attending sprints was well worth the investment. Being able to meet and work directly with the product author and in many cases influence and shape the direction of the software is just one of the many benefits of participating in a developer sprint.
Another initiative was underway at the Educational sprint, and that was the EduPlone project. This project originated in Austria and unfortunately never really made much of an impact, presumably because it’s main focus was on using Plone to build a learning management system (LMS), and not a general purpose distribution of Plone for educational institutions.
The last release of EduPlone on sourceforge site was in 2004, and the Eduplone.net and Eduplone.org domain names have since been snatched up by domain squatters, so I think its pretty safe to say that EduPlone is dead. RIP.
Just a few months before the Educational sprint, there were murmurings on the plone.educational mailing list about creating a special distribution of Plone for educational institutions. Sadly, like so many great ideas, without a champion to cultivate and nurture the idea, it fizzled and died.
Fast forward to 2007…
During the Plone Conference 2007 in Naples, Andreas Jung organized a Birds of a Feather (BoF) session he aptly titled Plone4Universities, and cited the Plone4Artists project as inspiration for the idea. On the following day, Andreas summarized the BoF with a 5 min lightning talk about the new Plone4Universities project.
As result of this very popular BoF, the Plone4Universities project was founded. The launch of P4U generated a lot of buzz and now provides a forum for those working in education to rally around a common purpose. Thanks to Andreas, we are making progress towards unity!
Just weeks after the Plone4Universities project was launched, Enfold Systems hosted a Ploneability Higher Ed event in Texas focusing on Plone in higher education. The event had over 40 attendees and resulted in a wealth of presentation materials.
Shortly after the Ploneability conference, Jordan Carswell offered to donate the domain name Plone4Edu to the cause, and rename Plone4Universities to Plone4Edu since it was more representative of the Plone in education effort, not limiting it to just universities.
What this activity indicates to me is that there is a strong demand for using Plone in educational institutions. However, many educational institutions lack the IT staff and resources to go through the lengthy process of evaluating Plone and the various add-on products to see which ones are right for their university. There has to be a way to bootstrap these universities, so that they can get a better feel for Plone’s power and how it can be used to serve their needs.
A proposal to create a Plone4Edu buildout.
I’d like to propose that as part of the Plone4Edu initiative, a buildout is created with a collection of products suitable for the educational audience. The purpose is not to provide a complete solution, but to make a convenient package of the most common add-on products for Plone, that would appeal to an evaluator from the education sector.
So how do you make a buildout?
There are already a number of buildouts available for Plone, to name a couple: PloneGetPaid buildout and Plone4Artists buildout This is probably a good place to start if you want to see how to make your own buildout.
Martin Aspeli, author of Professional Plone Development has a chapter about creating buildouts in his book. He’s also written a howto in the plone.org documentation center called Managing projects with zc.buildout.Â Also, see the comprehensive documentation about zc.buildout on the Python cheeseshop.
We need to give some more thought to how to make these buildouts more accessible, since right now they are geared more towards the developer. Anyone have some thoughts along these lines?