Jan 25, 2011

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You Should Buy Plone 3 for Education Right Now

With what must be the fifth or sixth round of apologies to both Erik Rose and PACKT publishing for the delay (very sorry guys), here is my review! Better late than never.

I get bored with the same ol’ blog entry titles:

“A review of so and so’s book, by such and such…”

Not that there is anything wrong with these titles, they serve their purpose. It’s not you… it’s me. Can we still be friends?

Anyway, I will cut to the chase with this one: if you care about Plone and you have not done so already, you should buy `Plone 3 for Education`_right now.

Why?

Several reasons:

  • Erik Rose cares about Plone. He cares so much, he spent months of his life pouring his professional experiences into a book so you can benefit!
  • PACKT publishing will donate a percentage of the proceeds to the Plone Foundation.
  • You will learn a lot about Plone, from the perspective of someone who has supported its deployment and maintenance within a large educational institution.

That is not to say every Plone book is for you. You have to decide for yourself if you want this beautiful creation (see above) of Erik’s to shine on your mantle piece for years to come. Even if you are a giant Plone supporter, and even if you make your living off of Plone, you may still not want to purchase this book. That’s just the way that it goes. But, I will to try to convince you anyway! Here is my chapter-by-chapter review:

Preface

The preface sets the tone of the book, and I like the tone Erik sets. Erik has used Plone for many years at Penn State and you will find his experiences valuable. He’s made mistakes so you don’t have to!

Chapter 1

Chapter 1 covers creating courses (of course!) Erik makes the argument that Plone can hold it’s own against expensive course management software, and I believe him. Of particular interest are Erik’s recommendations to:

  • Put courses in large Plone folders
  • Use news items, events and collections in the context of a course.
  • Cut and paste the course framework once you are done creating it.

Chapter 2

Chapter 2 introduces calendaring in Plone, and Erik suggests using Plone4artists calendar to make your course content easily browsable. Of particular interest are Erik’s recommendations to:

  • Replace the stock Plone events folder (which is a collection contained within a folder) with (just) a collection.
  • Make clever use of keywords to support lots of events.
  • Reorder subfolders in a collection “the hard way”. (Also interesting that he opened this ticket: https://dev.plone.org/plone/ticket/9109and that it has received no “love” to date. Perhaps the new collections UI: http://dev.plone.org/plone/ticket/10902 will save the day!)

Chapter 3

Chapter 3 showcases the Faculty/Staff Directory (FSD) add-on for Plone which allows you to create an online personnel directory. Of particular interest is Erik’s explanation of how to categorize and correlate people within FSD.

Chapter 4

Chapter 4 covers customizing Faculty/Staff Directory. Of particular interest is Erik’s coverage of AT Schema Extender(which is a great way to customize Plone these days).

Chapter 5

Chapter 5 covers blogs and forums. Of particular interest is Erik’s coverage of Scrawl, and the need to exercise extreme caution when installing add-ons (always good advice).

Chapter 6

Chapter 6 covers audio and video. Of particular interest is Erik’s coverage of collective.flowplayer which makes Flowplayer easy to use in Plone.

Chapter 7

Chapter 7 covers forms. Of particular interest is Erik’s comparison of PloneFormGen to Archetypes content objects, and his explanation of when to use one over the other.

Chapter 8

Chapter 8 covers theming. Of particular interest is Erik’s coverage of “new style” template customizations via z3c.jbot (which you don’t even need a package for!)

Chapter 9

Chapter 9 covers deployment. Of particular interest is Erik’s coverage of a typical production software stack that includes ZEO, Zope2, Apache and of course Plone. Also covered is CacheFu, which has been superseded by plone.app.caching in Plone 4.

Chapter 10

Chapter 10 covers maintenance. Of particular interest is Erik’s coverage of collective.recipe.backup to automate the creation of repozo scripts. I would add to that, you can use z3c.recipe.usercrontabto automate the creation and removal of cron jobs to execute those scripts.

Conclusion

All in all, I enjoyed reading this book. And, I appreciate whenever a member of the community shares his/her experiences. So thank you, Erik!

That’s it! I hope you will consider purchasing a copy of Plone 3 for Education right now.

And if you enjoyed reading this review, please consider `helping me help Plone in February 2011.`_

Alex Clark (January 2011)

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