Monday, September 04, 2006

Maybe we're just not that kind of people

I always enjoy reading Carlos de la Guardia's posts on the stature of Zope and Zope 3 in the Python community. His top ten list hits it on the head, I think.

One of the big, big criticism against Zope 3 is that it has no website from which it tries to create buzz. I'm not going to repeat that argument, but look at something like the competition and you get the idea.

Then again, Zope has always felt a bit inwardly focused. I don't think its developers feel the need to be validated so strongly by having an influx of people knocking down the doors. They are focused on making the perfect framework, and Zope 3 is in many ways lightyears ahead of the competition. They are people who run small businesses or work for places like Zope Corp or Infrae. They are solving their customer's needs, refactoring ruthlessly and building something they believe in - a framework they love to use, that makes their lives easier (we hope).

But they are not website building people. There is a project going on to build a new webiste, and kudos to people like Martijn Fassen and Philipp von Weitershausen for shepherding this along, but it's been months and I'm guessing it will still be months. We're defining IA and web design still. As far as I know, there's not even a consensus on which technology platform to run it on (I have my pragmatic preferences, of course, but there are politics to be navigated there as well).

In a way, it's a bit of a Catch 22. I think you need a certain type of semi-peripheral enthusiast to build kick-ass websites. Hardcore coders are rarely good web designers or even good at defining information architecture and site structure. More impotantly, they rarely burn to do it, they'd rather be making a less hostile environment and give us a decent local site customisation story (thank you!).

But the kind of bright young things looking to make a name for themselves, who are happy to be drawn into a holy war over their web framework and throw insults at all those who dear imply it's anything but perfect - the perfect guys to make the advocacy website (with some moderation) - are just not Zope 3 users (at least there aren't many of them). For better or for worse...

Maybe they would be if there was a better website. But I think it's also true that Zope 3 targets a more "serious" end of the market, with a steeper learning curve, but with more power and elegance. Whomever may read this and think I'm slagging off the people who build websites for Django or TurboGears or Rails - wait with hitting that comment link. I think you guys are doing a great job, and the bit of my heart that's sentimental towards Zope envies you. I just think there's a different type of community behind Zope 3 - unfortunately one that has many fewer people truly interested in doing this kind of work.

The other part of the problem is governance. Zope 3 lacks a strong leadership figure to put out edicts about this kind of thing. We have strong leadership figures in the shape of Jim, Stephan, Martijn and Philipp - but these are not people interested in defining how Zope 3 should be marketed, and Jim (who's probably least interested, which is no criticism at all) is probably the only one who has enough legitimacy to be able to say "this is what we must do". Well, Martijn and Philipp are trying, but I'm sure they feel it's a bit of a slow, uphill struggle to gain enough buy-in from the rest of the community to get something done quickly. It is done by committee and consensus, like most things in Zope 3 land, and I'm not quite sure marketing is a job best done that way. The promised land may be the Zope Foundation, but for someone not directly involved with its creation, I'm not seeing much of it.

Of course, I may be wrong, and I really don't wish to undermine the efforts of the people who are trying to rectify the situation (I've even offered to help with the technologies I know well that I think could help).

But, here's a thought - perhaps, the people who care and who would benefit indirectly from Zope 3 gaining more recognition in the wild in terms of more business could pool some resources and pay someone to build the right kind of site?


sean said...

TurboGears, Django, and Rails all have a catchy little summary somewhere near the tops of their sites that attempt to capture the spirit of the project.

What would Zope3's catchy summary be?

Martin Aspeli said...

"Adapt yourself" ;-)

This is true though - it's the kind of marketing message that we need to define (and some people have been defining as part of the Zope website project that's ongoing, it's just not out in the wild yet). And this is quite hard - it requires a certain kind of person to come up with a good message that hits the right audience in the right way.

Joe said...

"It is easy to use; you're just dumb."


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will said...