Plone…we meet again

I have a nice love story with Plone. It is like a close friend that becomes a lover in different stages of somebody’s life.

I first discovered Plone back in 2003. It was a great love story, I use it as intranet since then and worked in a few projects based on it. But since the end of 2005 I haven’t been able to work deeply with it, so I haven’t been able to test the newest version (other people from Grupo CPD were in charge of projects related with Plone). I was willing to work with the new version, specially after I met Alan Runyan during Software Libre Conferences that took place in autumn in La Laguna (Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain. During the last 3 o 4 weeks I’ve the chance to use it again for a project, this time for a web portal.

Plone has grown up but still keeps in the user layer that mixture of functionality and simplicity I used to love so much, and the power and complexity that have attracted technicians these past 10 years.

I love this wiki way of generating contents that Plone has added to the new version. I’m a wiki fan and Plone can satisfy people like me.

Plone is not just the first and only really robust CMS, useful for big scale projects, it is a really good CMS, useful for medium size projects too.

wiki, kile, kontact, RT…and voila!

Wikis, kontact, RT and kile are four of the basic tools I use everyday. Some of the guys I work with have been worried for a long time about integration of tools in one interface so they can work with them in a wiki way.

When I first heard about this I didn’t think it was a great idea, but now I’m 100% convinced about the need of such a tool.

When people begin to use computers need clear and easy to use interfaces, where all the information is placed in text boxes with big names with one screen for each concept, like kontact does. Is the groupware way. Kontact is a great tool because integration between tools has always been a concern for the developers. Part of it success is because of that.

Wikis are terrific tools. They make the difference, specially when you are part of a big team. Bugtrackers are also useful in those cases. Is not only a tool for developers but for all kind of people. Workers are much more efficient when they can list the activities they have to accomplish ordered by priority. To coordinate teams is much easier when you can take a look to everybody’s contributions in a wiki and list their assigned work.

Kile is a basic tool for me. It makes easy to use tags in LaTeX.

So, why not to take the best of each one of them in a single tool (or a single interface)? I want a tool like kile but not for writing LaTex but for writing in a wiki.

Let’s say I’m writing a text that I want to send to somebody, so I select that text and introduce a tag (|body| my text|/body|). When I press save, the tool detects the tag and, since I haven’t specified basic information to send the e-mail, it ask me, lets say, in a panel at the right side of the screen. Of course I could have defined it while writing the text with the tag |to|e-mail address|/to|, for example. The same can happen with names, phone numbers, etc.

All the information tagged can be found in the wiki page where I wrote it but, since the tool recognice the tags, specific information can be listed in a specific page automatically. So if I look for the name of a travel agency, for example, it shows me all the names (information tagged with |name|) associated to the information tagged with |company_type|. I also can decide which information associated with the tag |company_name| I want to be shown.

This works very well with bug reports. We integrated long time ago Twiki with RT by defining specific tags in the wiki that opens or close new bugs (tasks) in RT, all identified with diferent colours (red for open tasks, green for closed tags, etc). We cannot live now without it.

The calendar can work perfectly this way. I can define a meeting by writing in a wiki page something like this: |meeting|Talk about KDE|/meeting||hour|8:30|/hour||place|tenerife|/place|. Since it is hard to remember the tags(there would be tons of them), we need an kile like interface to list them all. There has to be a special wiki page where you can list all the meetings or list what you have to do today, ordered by priority, date or whatever. You can also assign tags to information that relates it to other information so you can list it all together in one wiki page. Wikis do this quiet well with a whole contribution, but it should be possible to do it with a single piece of information.

The point is be able to introduce different kind of information without switching from one interface or tool to another one. You have them all in one (from the user point of view).

This is a more natural approach than the one we use now. When you are in front of your computer, you begin to write a text, for example. Part of that text has to be sent as an e-mail (so you tag that part as |body|) where you have included a contact and a task (you tag both). Right now you have to copy the text and paste in a new e-mail (you open a mail client), then open the tracker and create one task, write the contact information in a specific tool (so you keep record of it) and attach it to the e-mail and then send it. Too many interfaces for basic actions, in my opinion.

Making such a tool attractive to beginners would be hard, I know. Anyway, I want something like this so I asked for it to the Three Wise Men.

Have you get the idea of what I want? Is it an impossible dream? Do you know a good approach to this idea?

kdisser + latex beamer

Kdissert is an awesome app behind a simple idea. Giving talks and product presentations, you realice how hard is to make non linear presentations. When the complexity of an idea is high, sometimes you cannot express it linearly.

Kdissert help you to simplify what you want to say. After you make clear your ideas, it generates automatically a latex beamer presentation. I’m still fighting against the template, but hey…I don’t have to do it everything at once. For this presentation I’m working on, I’ve made some progresses. Hopefully, by the end of the year I will be able to make presentations a lot faster than right now, using latex beamer from scratch.

If you are tired of making complex presentations, this is a good approach: kdissert + latex beamer.