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Support Ploneboard, a "Conversation" Product for Plone

by LiveModern Webmaster last modified Jan 04, 2012 01:13 AM
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Almost every Plone administrator needs a product that facilitates conversations among members. Most sites use the default "discussion" tool. Others have installed more specilized products such as CMFBoard. What binds most admins and members of Plone sites is the fact that none of these tools is simple yet robust, like the rest of Plone. It's time to change that. Pledge now to bring Ploneboard to version 1.0 this spring.



Ploneboard v1.0

Ploneboard is an easy to use web board. It utilizes the proven Plone user interface, and is made for easy integration into Plone sites. The target audience is businesses and developers wanting a discussion board in their Plone site.

Ploneboard aims to do one thing, and do it well. It will never be an over-the-top all-bells-and-whistles message board, but will stay minimal in the sense that it's living inside an existing content management system—and will leverage that to the fullest extent possible.

After too long untended in the Plone Collective's SVN repository, the code was brought up to date in September, 2005 and made compatible with Plone 2.1. This product is only compatible with Plone 2.1, and also requires that the 'Five' product be installed. 'Five' is bundled with Zope 2.8+, and can also be installed separately for Zope 2.7 instances.

Since September, when the first beta version was published, Plone Solutions has been developing Ploneboard further, in conjunction with paying clients. But the authors have also been working with the Plone community on a new PLIP to bring Ploneboard to version 1.0—and much wider adoption. With enough community support in March, Ploneboard v1.0 can be released this spring.

How you can help

Ploneboard is in active development by Plone Solutions, with many improvements paid for by their current development customers. But there are several improvements that have been spearheaded by the needs of the Plone user community. To code the priority items listed in the current PLIP, the community will need to pledge several thousand more dollars early this spring ($3,000 USD has been pledged to date). Here's how you can help:

  • Pledge now to help bring Ploneboard to v1.0. A pledge means contributing $$$. If you are a Plone admin, our suggested pledge is $75, less than half the cost of a commercial solution for your own site (without the pain of integration), but worth much more to the entire Plone project. Perhaps this comes out of your web development budget, or your software purchase budget, or your "do the right thing this month" budget. An hour's equivalent (give or take) of your consulting time is a small price to pay for a great conversation tool for Plone. If you want to put Ploneboard on a fast track, pledge more than the minimum suggested amount. If that pledge amount is a bit rich for you, surely you know 2 or 3 friends that will go in on it with you. Note that your pledge will not be "cashed" unless the whole pledge goal is reached by the end of the campaign.
  • Start your own campaign at (a fabulous Plone site) to mobilize your own community to pledge support for your use of Ploneboard. Use these pledges in March to multiply how much you can pledge toward the campaign's goals. In other words, use "word of mouse" to make a large pledge to Ploneboard. See the LiveModern Story below about how I raised $3,000 (USD) for Ploneboard from my community in February. My community is fairly large by Plone standards, but almost any Plone community can be successfully appealed to about creating better tools to facilitate conversations that are important to its members. Contact me if you want assistance on implementing your own pledge campaign.
  • Pick a PLIP that matches your itch and coordinate efforts to scratch it once and for all. Or suggest a PLIP that you can rally others around. Either way, code is always welcome, whether it is integrated into the core of Plone v1.0 (the current PLIPs) or as a product to enhance Ploneboard. One developer has expressed interested in developing a couple of the lower-priority/deferred PLIPs on behalf of their paying clients. Another CMFBoard user, stuck on Plone 2.0.5 because there is no upgrade path for CMFBoard, has already developed a migration tool so that you can retain all of your CMFBoard content in Ploneboard. This script will not likely be included in Ploneboard, but is another example of how Ploneboard is already generating code developer interest.

Any option you chose above should also include a pledge to tell your circle of Plonistas to do at least one of the above. Be the change that you seek. It doesn't take much more than evangelists to organize Plonistas to a good cause. Every Plone admin (let alone member) will need a good conversation product at some point in the future, if only to replace the default "discussion" tool in Plone. The more momentum we can build now, the sooner Plone will have a simple and robust conversation product.

Ploneboard Pledge Match

Ploneboard is attracting attention in some interesting places. We've identified an anonymous donor that will match any pledge made by the Plone community in March on a 1-to-1 basis. In other words, if you pledge $75, the suggested minimum pledge, during the current Ploneboard Pledge drive, this donor will match your pledge with another $75. Leverage your pledge to the max now! In fact, why not consider making a larger pledge yourself, so that we can get to Ploneboard v1.0 all that much faster?

The LiveModern Story

LiveModern started some conversations among housing modernists a couple of years ago, using a forum product called CMFBoard (I'd link to a site, but the CMFBoard site has been down for more than 6 months). At the time, it was the only forum product for Plone, and the situation has not changed much since then. CMFBoard served us well for a while, but as our site grew (we're now more than 14,000 members) it became increasingly evident that we'd need a different solution. To CMFBoard's credit, part of the problem is the ZODB—members keep getting dreaded ZODB.POSException.ReadConflictError page. Upgrading to Plone 2.1.x, with Zope 2.8.x, promises to solve the ZODB problems, but CMFBoard is not compatible with the most recent Plone/Zope iterations. The CMFBoard product died for all intents and purposes. So, I decided to move on.

I found out that I'm not alone. A simple yet robust conversation/bulletin board/forum product that is compatible with Plone 2.1.x is a need for a great many sites. In fact it may be one of the main reasons that Plone sites are prevented from upgrading to the latest version of Plone, or developing a robust online community. In my searches for an alternative product, I tracked down Ploneboard, a product by Plone Solutions that was finally made public in an early beta last fall.

Several other sites that were experiencing similar pain collaborated on developing a PLIP for Ploneboard. In this PLIP, we identified the features that were most needed in Ploneboard to bring it to version 1.0, i.e., a version that was worthy of wide adoption. Once we had decided on what our priorities were, we approached Plone Solutions about what it would cost to just get the priorities coded as quickly as possible. That total was about $10,000 (USD). We thought it was a good deal, and we've been particularly impressed with Plone Solutions' responsiveness.

While LiveModern may have a bigger itch to scratch than most, we knew we could not go it alone to develop Ploneboard. What LiveModern decided to do was set an example for others to follow by approaching our members (membership is free on our community site) to pledge to "Finally Fix the Forums!" We wanted to contribute our fair share to Ploneboard. I appealed to our members' self-interest: they knew that our forum software blew, and they could make a small contribution toward getting us off CMFBoard and onto something that will serve us well far into the future.

Of course, I published a campaign page on LiveModern, but I also sent messages to an opt-in email list of about 1,700 addresses, all of which had subscribed to a newsletter for LiveModern News updates. I sent three appeals over a 2-week period, knowing that there are many reasons that a member may or may not choose to pledge based on just one appeal (only 1 of these people opted out of our list as a result of my appeals).

Once someone had pledged, I publicly acknowledged them on LiveModern by adding a "contributor" button to the metadata that is displayed on every forum post that they had authored. Pretty soon these buttons were appearing all over the site, and of course they linked back to the pledge campaign page.

Finally, with just a couple of days left in the month-long campaign and almost at our goal, I appealed directly to the members with the most forum posts. It was a very different appeal, primarily pointing out all the reasons that LiveModern community-buiilding would be limited if it did not upgrade its forum software. I also reminded them of how much pain they had to go through to hold conversations with our current software. Not all of them pledged, but enough of them did that we blew past our goal by about 20%.

The end result was that we secured pledges of $3,040 from 79 people, allowing LiveModern to do our part in supporting Ploneboard development efforts, as well as jumpstart a broader campaign to develop a great conversation product for Plone.

I tell this story because it demonstrates a few key principles that will help other Plonistas:

  • Plone members don't necessarily like the conversation tools currently available to them;
  • Plone members are open to appropriate appeals to finally fix that; and
  • Plone members will pledge when given multiple opportunities.

During the Ploneboard pledge period in March, I will send an additional appeal to the over 12,000 registered members of LiveModern that have never been afforded the opporunity to pledge (our acceptable use policy, which all LiveModern members agree to when they register, allows us to send this appeal). While we fully anticipate that our response rate will be much lower than in February, we have set—and will meet—a goal of raising an additional $1,000 (USD) to augment the funds already raised.

I  encourage you to implement your own Ploneboard pledge campaign. If you have a few chits to collect, it does not take all that much time or effort, and any contribution you can make to Ploneboard development will be leveraged many times over in the Plone community. Contact me if you need help. This spring, Ploneboard will help position Plone as a platform many new prospective Plone clients can count on as a mature CMS.

Please pledge now.


P.S. In lieu of a good discussion tool for my site, I've turned on Plone's default commenting. If you have comments and/or questions about Ploneboard, please try to add your thoughts to the Ploneboard PLIP at Otherwise, please comment on pledging for Ploneboard here. Likewise, I'll update you on the status of our pledge efforts here. (Wouldn't it be nice if the default discussion tool in Plone included an option to subscribe? It's a Ploneboard PLIP.)




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