Thursday, March 11, 2010

Reviewing "Plone 3 for Education"

Packt has published a new Plone 3 book by Erik Rose. It's called Plone 3 for Education and is not directed to developers for a change. This is a long anticipated relief. It seems that the need for in-depth technical books like Professional Plone Development and Plone 3 Theming is satisfied. Now we get books describing how to apply Plone successfully. People often believe that if you want to use a CMS, you "have to" do development. This is not true, and this book shows hands-on examples how to configure Plone and 3rd-party products to match the needs.

No Hello World!
Oh how relieved I was when I saw that the book does recommend to create a page first and type Hello World. After only 9 pages, you get to add your first Course.

I also noted very positive that the book does talk about technical details where it is necessary (normal folders vs large folders) but also reminds the reader repeatedly to rethink his requirements by giving plenty of examples from the educational experience the author has. While Plone certainly has the qualities to cope with enterprise scale requirements, he shows alternatives how existing resources can be reused to get started quickly.

Typical Needs
The book covers Plone extensions which are often requested in the educational environment, at least from my experience. So I was positively surprised to recognize a lot. It covers

  • Courses
  • Calendar (incl recurring events!)
  • Faculty and Staff Directory
  • Blogs and Forums
  • Audio and Video
  • Forms
  • Styling
  • and Administration (setup, scaling, caching, maintenance, backup and upgrade)
So if you are happy with this scope and have a little technical affinity or a friendly admin who can do the initial setup, you are ready to create your site yourself. The interesting part here is that the admin is really only needed for the initial installation. Afterwards, the book guides you through setting up the structure and adding the content. Without the need of the admin. Which is the main intention of the book also stated in its subtitle Break the webmaster bottleneck by empowering instructors and staff.

I think that this book makes Plone accessible for non-technical people and shows thus that it is not restricted to enterprise set-ups but can well function in small and medium environments. All together I clearly recommend this. Not only for educational institutions, though. Also if you plan a site with a certain degree of customer-involvement, this might be the perfect start!

You can get the book from Packt (also as pdf) or Amazon.

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