The Talkoot Project Blog from June, 2012

Sharing more information

Hi! Zak from Magnolia here. I'm just back in my home town of Vancouver after an excellent, if brief, visit to Magnolia headquarters.

During my visit, I was glad to have interesting discussions with the people I work most closely with. A major thread in most of these discussions was communication. This post is about how we plan to start communicating more openly, especially about Magnolia 5 and our overall direction.

Sharing more information about Magnolia 5

We've been talking about Magnolia 5 for a while now. There have been high-level presentations on the roadmap, architecture, UI and more. However, what we've shared is just a tiny fragment of the work that has been going on behind the scenes.

As we approach the release of Magnolia 5, it becomes increasingly important to share information that helps the people who rely on Magnolia CMS become familiar with the changes and improvements that this next release will bring.

One of the first new things that we'll share is draft work on Human Interface Guidelines for Magnolia 5 Apps. These guidelines will help designers and developers build attractive extensions for Magnolia 5 that have an exceptional user experience. I'll be writing more about this in a coming post, describing what we hope to achieve and how we hope to achieve it.

Sharing more

Another key topic of discussion was how we can keep our customers, partners and others in the Magnolia community more up-to-date with what we're working on and what strategies are guiding our actions.

Towards this end, we'll be creating a web page that acts as a dashboard for information on our key strategies and policies. Future announcements about changes to our strategies and policies will be posted at this page, as well as being announced the appropriate forum. This change will make it easy for people to keep up-to-date with our plans and key activities.

Initially, we'll set this page up on the wiki, as that will give us the most flexibility in testing different approaches to sharing our information.

Listening more

Sharing is only part of communicating. Another key part is listening.

If you've been following blog posts in the Talkoot space, then you know about the interviews that we're doing with our partners. These are part of our work to actively listen more to the people who we rely on (and who rely on us.) I'll write more about this in coming posts, focusing on what we're doing, why we're doing it and how we're doing it.

Thank you

As always, thank you for reading! If you have input or questions, please leave a comment below or drop me a line at zak.greant@magnolia-cms.com

Labels: magnoliaecology

CMSday in Paris on June 14 was organized to provide a forum where the biggest players in open-source content management systems could meet and discuss. The day emphasised the importance of human connection and the need for collaboration and community. However, the first CMSday was also created to promote open source CMS and present their advantages to novices.

Magnolia thrives by fostering a dynamic community, so CMSday was a must to attend. Sales representative Christian Hauser and community manager Grégory Joseph travelled to Paris for the day. Besides Magnolia, there were almost 20 other CMS vendors present in the busy MAS conference halls.

Creating a space for personal exchange

"A humanist vision of software" - this is what CMSday organiser and Smile CEO Patrice Bertrand thinks is one of the essential characteristics of open source. Bertrand presented a variety of advantages of open source, but humanism stood out in his opening keynote.

"Humanist" is a big word and maybe not commonly associated with technical terms, but when it comes to CMSday, one can see what Bertrand is trying to capture by the phrase. It is visibly one of the biggest motivations that drove Smile to organise the one-day conference in Paris: to promote a focus on human exchange. Smile realised that there was no opportunity for CMS enterprises to meet and exchange ideas in person, said Smile Marketing Director Grégory Bécue in the second opening keynote.

Mobile revolution

The first event on Magnolia's agenda was the roundtable discussion on the topic of the mobile revolution. Christian joined representatives of eZ Publish, Hippo, Typo3 and the Wordpress community to discuss mobile issues. While everyone at the discussion presented some special features of their product (eZ Systems talked about their Rest API, for example), there was a consensus on several trends:

  • the need for a multi-channel approach
  • simple and intuitive usage
  • a focus on personalization

Christian pointed out that Responsive Web Design is something Magnolia has done for a long time. Responsive design is about much more than just mobile sites. It covers a variety of devices such as tablets or Web-enabled TV set top boxes. Magnolia 5, the next major release of Magnolia, takes responsive design to the next level, with a new administrative interface that has been designed from the ground up to include support for mobile and touch devices.

 


Christian at the roundtable discussion on the mobile revolution
Photo courtesy of CMSday

 

In the afternoon, Christian was interviewed by web TV provider Intelli'n and discussed the latest Magnolia evolutions as well as the roadmap.

 


Christian's interview with Intelli'n
Credit: Isabelle Dubach

 

Le Money Mag Showcase

Magnolia partner Web-ISI (a part of the Synten group) presented how they successfully migrated Le Money Mag (http://lemoneymag.fr) to Magnolia CMS. Le Money Mag is a website dedicated to financial advice on topics such as work, taxes and renting. More than 6000 articles, files and interviews as well as 200 000 users had to be transcoded and migrated, some rare special data types manually. Synten's Laurent Vartanian emphasized how Magnolia always responded exceptionally well to technical and commercial queries that the client had.

 


Le Money Mag (http://lemoneymag.fr) front page

 

Satisfied Magnolians

We think the CMSday was a success: "Smile organised a great event. I also liked the venue", Christian said. Further, he was pleased to meet clients and interested attendees at the Magnolia booth. Grégory was also happy with the outcome of the conference: "We got a chance to show up on the French market, which happens too rarely".

What's next?

The next conference that Magnolia will present at is Jazoon in Zurich. Magnolia developer Daniel Lipp will speak about virtual presence management on June 26th. On September 4-5, the international Magnolia Conference will take place in Basel. Find out more about the Magnolia conference and sign up here.

 

Explore CMSday more:

  • Watch Intelli'n's interview with Christian here.
  • Download the slides of the opening and closing keynotes.
 

Hi! Zak from Magnolia here.

In my last post, I wrote about why we want to interview Magnolia customers, community members and partners. This post is about the draft questions for partners (and other companies that build solutions with Magnolia.)

I've already written to a small group of partners to ask for their participation in the first round of interviews.

If you'd like to participate in the interviews in the near future, please drop me a note at zak.greant@magnolia-cms.com after you read this post.

Background

Please read what follows as if I'd asked you to do an interview with me. Keep in mind that these are questions for companies. I'll have different questions for individual Magnolia community members and Magnolia customers.

The questions I plan to ask are split between information about your company and your use of Magnolia.

The discussions and information gathered will be confidential within Magnolia International, but I will later ask to use specific, limited pieces of your information in other ways at a later date.

At present, I'm only looking for quick and simple answers, but will likely want to discuss more in the future. I am happy for more in-depth answers, if that is what you wish to provide.

Also, if any of these questions are too private for you, we can alter or omit them.

About your business model and company

  • broadly speaking, who are your customers?
  • what products and services do you provide your customers?
  • what unique value do you offer your customers?
  • how do you acquire your customers?
  • what are the most important business activities that you undertake?
  • what are your most important business resources?
  • what partnerships are essential to your business?
  • what is your current market position and strategic focus?
  • what is your desired future market position and strategic focus?
  • what steps do you plan to take to get there?
  • how many staff do you have and in what roles?

About your use of Magnolia

  • how many Magnolia CE projects have you delivered in the last two years?
  • how many Magnolia EE projects have you delivered in the last two years?
  • how many upcoming Magnolia projects do you hope to deliver?
  • what is your success ratio when proposing Magnolia projects?
  • what is your major challenge in proposing Magnolia projects?
  • what is your major barrier in delivering Magnolia projects?
  • overall, what is the important thing you need from us that's currently missing
  • overall, what is the most important thing we do for you now
  • overall, what is the one thing you like best about Magnolia CMS
  • what does each key Magnolia-related role most need support with related to Magnolia? (I'm happy to talk with key staff at your organization to get answers to this question.)
  • in general, how can we better support you?

Are you coming to the conference?

I'd also like to know if you plan to attend our conference.

If so, what do you hope to achieve from participating?

What we hope to learn

At the end of the interview, I hope to have a thumbnail sketch of:

  • who you are
  • who you serve
  • your current and future market position and strategic focus
  • what you need from us

Deliverables

From your answers, I will prepare a report for you and for us that contains:

  • a transcript of our discussion
  • a high-level description of your current/future business model(s) using the Business Model Canvas method (If you are unfamiliar with the method, this 0:02:20 video explains: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QoAOzMTLP5s)

I am also happy for suggestions on questions that you think are important for us to ask.

Thank you!

Thank you for reading! If you have thoughts, comments or questions, please leave a comment below.

If you'd like to do an interview with me, drop me a note at zak.greant@magnolia-cms.com

Getting to know you

Hi! Zak from Magnolia here.

This post is about why we're conducting a series of interviews with people in the Magnolia community. If you'd like to participate in the interviews, please drop me a note at zak.greant@magnolia-cms.com after you read this post.

Getting to awesome

Over the coming weeks, I'll be interviewing Magnolia community members, customers and partners.

The purpose of the interviews is to help us better understand who we serve and what they need.

In the context of the Talkoot project, the interviews should help us answer two very important questions:

  1. What concrete things will make a Magnolia 5 book "awesome"?
  2. What technical education materials best meet people's needs (or, framed differently, do people really want a Magnolia 5 book?)

What does awesome mean to us?

For us, awesome is about results.

It would be awesome if the book (or whatever technical education materials people want us to produce) helps:

  • many new people adopt Magnolia 5
  • new and existing Magnolia users quickly become productive with Magnolia 5
  • more people use best practices for developing, deploying and maintaining Magnolia CMS

What does awesome mean to you?

For our technical education materials be awesome for us, they need to be awesome for people who use Magnolia.

While we believe that we have a good idea of what people need now, this knowledge just puts us on a roughly equal footing with other open CMS vendors. If we want to be better in this area, then we need a more complete picture.

This is where the interviews come in. They will give us a structured way to better understand important things about the people and organizations we serve, including:

  • what they want from technical education materials
  • what they need from us
  • what we do now that has the most value to them
  • what they like best (and least) about Magnolia
  • what they can do to grow the Magnolia ecosystem
  • who they serve

Desirable side effects

Reading the above list, you may have wondered, "Aren't these questions about more than a Magnolia 5 book?" Absolutely!

Most of the activities that we undertake - from development and documentation to sales and marketing and everything in between - can benefit from a better understanding of the people who rely on us.

The information that we gather in these interviews will be an important part of helping us grow and excel.

Also, by sharing reports and other resources based on the information gathered in the interviews, we hope to help you grow and excel in your own ventures.

More on these points in a coming post.

Thank you!

Thank you for reading! If you have thoughts, comments or questions, please leave a comment below.

If you'd like to do an interview with me, drop me a note at zak.greant@magnolia-cms.com

Footnotes

1. Our current understanding of what people who rely on Magnolia need is informed by many things:

  • what we learn as we do business and provide services. Each RFP, sales call, training, etc. helps us learn more of what people want and need.
  • discussion on the community forums.
  • bug reports and feature requests.
  • analyst briefings and market trends.
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Designing for Collaboration

Hi! Zak from Magnolia here.

This post is about how we're designing the Talkoot project for collaboration. It includes guidelines to help us run the project in a way that fits our values and that will help us reach our end goal.

This post and the guidelines that it contains are drafts. If you have ideas, questions or other input, please leave a comment at the end of the page.

Also: This is going to be a busy week for posts, as I catch up with missing posts from last week. Sorry about that!

Help us get to know you

These guidelines are based on a mix of the experiences and values of the Magnolia team. For my part, I've brought my experiences with various communities, including the Free Software, PHP, Mozilla, MySQL and Wikimedia communities.

However, none of this experience is a substitute for actually finding out what real Magnolia users think. Over the next few weeks, I'll be doing brief interviews with a wide range of people who work with Magnolia CMS. In the interviews, I'm hoping to find out what people need, want and value around Magnolia as a product, an organization and a community.

If you'd like to do an interview with me, write me at: zak.greant@magnolia-cms.com

Collaboration guidelines

These are the rough guidelines that we're using to steer our part of the Talkoot project.

Be open

In all of the Talkoot project, we are working hard to be open. Keeping in mind our obligations to keep confidential information secret, we want to share what we're planning, learning and building with others and we want others to do the same.

We're doing this so that others can participate in and learn what we're doing, in the belief that the benefit of mindful cooperation is far greater than the costs of being open.

Have fun, be brave and be kind

In the Quickstart guide, we ask participants to have fun, be brave and be kind. We want to be able to participate in the same way. I'll write more about these guidelines in a future post.

Think holistically

There is a wealth of resources and opportunity within the Magnolia ecosystem, but so much of it is wasted.

As we plan and work, we want to keep the big picture in mind, asking questions like:

  • How can we get the most result for our effort?
  • Where else could we use this?
  • Who else could benefit from this work?
  • How many people will benefit from what we do?

In a crowded space like the CMS market, competition happens on many levels - especially on a system level, where one CMS's ecosystem is competing with other CMS ecosystems. The more that we are able to mindfully support and grow the Magnolia ecosystem and the people in it, the better our ecosystem is for everyone who relies on Magnolia.

Seek data

Thinking holistically requires knowing (or at least having good guesses) about the systems you want to think about.

When possible, we want to know about the parts of the system that we're dealing with, especially the people who work within the system.

For the Talkoot project, a large part of this means knowing what matters to people who use Magnolia. We want to know things like:

  • who interacts with Magnolia and how? Do folks who design directly interact with Magnolia? Do people who develop Magnolia also maintain the systems that it runs on?
  • what issues and topics are most important to people who work with Magnolia?
  • how do people want to learn about Magnolia? Technical manuals? Videos? Brief tutorials? Coaching? Training?
  • what are the biggest challenges people face around Magnolia use? Skill development? Visibility? Sales? Troubleshooting? Maintenance?
  • what future plans do people have around their Magnolia use? Do they need to train new people to use the system? Do they have many instances to maintain, scale or migrate?

Design for collaboration and constructive competition

We want a vibrant, healthy community where people compete around real value - like producing state-of-the-art knowledge, providing exceptional service or delivering innovative solutions - instead of around artificial scarcity.

In the context of the Talkoot project, if we have data and think holistically, we can work to design technical education materials that help us reach towards these goals.

In the broader scope, we can borrow things from the Talkoot project to help improve all of our business activities.

Support external innovation

We have limited time and resources. For every opportunity that we can develop or help someone else develop, there will be many more that are left undeveloped.

We want to make it possible for others to innovate without our direct participation.

Being open is one way to foster this. Interested parties can easily keep up with what we do and use the ideas to support their own ventures (presuming that patents aren't involved.)

Using free and open licenses is another way to make external innovation cheaper and easier for others. In this regard, we will be using various Creative Commons and Free Software/Open Source licenses for the work that we produce.

Pages in the Talkoot wiki space have a footer that contains licensing information. Generally, content is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License (CC BY-SA 3.0), a license that gives us (and other contributors) credit for the work, while ensuring that others can freely build on what we're sharing. For more information on the Creative Commons licenses, visit http://creativecommons.org.

Thank you!

Thank you for reading. If you have thoughts, comments or questions, please leave a comment below.

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Perfect is the enemy

Hi! Zak from Magnolia here. This short post is about why fear of criticism and lack of feedback can make public collaboration (and personal productivity) hard. The post focuses on my own concerns in these areas, but I suspect it'll resonate with others as well.

Do you have trouble with criticism, public collaboration or perfectionism? Please give the post a read and leave your comments below.

Fear of criticism

About a week ago, I posted blogging guidelines for Talkoot that included a schedule and the maxim:

Perfect is the enemy of good and of done.

This saying was on my mind because I'd spent too long writing the blogging guidelines. I had my reasons - the first post should be good, communication is very important, I want to do a really good job, and so on.

I then spent far too much of last week trying to write a perfect blog post about how we're designing collaboration in the Talkoot project.

Thinking harder about why I'd fall into a trap that I know about, I think that it's very simple:

I'm afraid of criticism.

I know that I'm not alone in this. Fear of criticism stops many people from contributing in situations where they feel vulnerable.

For my part, I'm at the start of a new project and I'm significantly worried about it getting enough interest. At the same time, I also want feedback to help motivate me and keep me excited. It is a funny paradox where I both fear and need communication.

Getting unstuck

I've been thinking hard about how to hack around this problem, both for myself and for other (eventual) participants in the project.

For myself, I'm trying these things:

Staying focused - It's easy for me to predict criticism and get focused on it: all I have to do is review my own work. Mere seconds into review, I start to feel uneasy about various bits of it that could be so much better.

Right now, my focus needs to be on using writing and other work to get people engaged with Talkoot. If the work meets those goals, I'm succeeding. The "perfectness" of the work matters much less than this.

Asking for support from colleagues - I work with a bunch of nice, smart people. I've asked a few of them to help me by:

  • listening to what I'm concerned about
  • paying attention to what I'm working on when I'm stuck
  • reminding me what I'm working on and why I'm working on it
  • giving me feedback on my work
  • being in touch more often (as I work remotely from the rest of the team)

Thanks for reading!

Thank you for reading! If you have a moment, please comment on this post. In particular, I'm interested in:

  • Your own concerns in this area?
  • How you deal with a fear of criticism?
  • What do you think helps build a culture where people feel safe to take risks and be criticized?
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Blogging about blogging

Hi! Zak from Magnolia here. This post is about how I think we should write blog posts for the Talkoot project.

We are publishing the guidelines under the CC-BY license so that others can benefit from them. I also hope that I'll get feedback. Please give the post a read and leave your comments below. I'll use your input to improve the guidelines.

UPDATE
This post is now out-of-date. Our current blogging guidelines are at [Blogging guidelines].

Draft Talkoot blogging guidelines

Background

We hope that our blogging will lead to people discussing and participating in the Talkoot project.

The first challenge is getting the attention of the Magnolia community - a group of busy people from different backgrounds. To get people's attention, I think that we need to:

I also want our blog posts to motivate people to participate in Talkoot. There are many ways we can do this. In blog posts, a simple way is to:

Finally, we should not try to make our blog posts (or these guidelines) perfect. Perfect is the enemy of good and of done.

More on each of these points below.

Make regular blog posts

I think that people want to get interesting information:

  • regularly (but not too often)
  • at predictable times
  • that are convenient for them.

We can be more regular by having posts ready before we need them. If anything interrupts us, we can use what we've already written.

If we have posts ready to publish, it is easy to be predictable: we just pick times to publish and stick to them.

Posting at convenient times is a challenge. We are writing for people in many time zones. No matter when we post, it'll be the middle of someone's night and they'll be late to the discussion. As a compromise, let's try posting on Tuesdays and Thursdays near the start of my day (15:00 UTC). We won't compete with anyone's Monday, and I can engage with people who comment on the post over the rest of my day. After that, the Magnolians in Europe can pick up where I left off.

Write short, well-structured posts in plain English

We are writing for busy people with different levels of fluency in English.

Fluent readers often skim text, looking for interesting parts.

Less fluent readers may read word-by-word, needing more time to find what matters to them.

Readers who use machine translation are best served by text that uses simple words, simple grammar and simple structure.

Busy people have less attention and need less content that is better structured.

Jakob Nielsen's guidelines on writing for the web address these needs and are worth reading.

I've listed some important guidelines below:

  • Important things first. Put the most important points at the beginning of the post, so that readers can quickly decide if the entire thing is worth reading.
  • Keep posts around a 1000 words or less. A careful read of 1000 words should take most readers less than 10 minutes, and fluent readers can skim this amount of text in a minute or so.
  • Use short sentences. Usually, short sentences are easier to understand than long sentences.
  • One point per paragraph. Keep paragraphs short and limited to a single key point.
  • Use common words. Most readers should not need to use dictionary to read our blog posts.

Make posts valuable to readers

Right now, we are writing for Magnolia community members who might participate in Talkoot.

Guessing at what they need, I think that we should have one post a week on something concrete (like a task that can be done) and one post a week on something abstract (like this post).

As people participate, we should find out what they need and adjust our style and focus to fit.

One major topic per blog post

We can make blog posts simpler by focusing on one major topic. This simplicity should lead to easier editing, simpler discussions around the blog post and so on.

Focusing on a single topic will also make blog posts easier to search for and update.

Remember the bigger story

Having short and simple posts means that we need to tell our story in parts.

Right now, there are a few big stories (or threads) that we want to focus on.

One thread is about the hows and whys of the Talkoot project. Posts should cover topics like:

  • Why we're running the Talkoot project
  • Why participate in Talkoot
  • How to get the most your participation

Another thread should focus on what is happening in the project. Posts should cover topics like:

  • How the project is progressing
  • What the roadmap looks like
  • What work needs to be done now

Ask for reader participation

If we want reader participation, we should ask for it.

Asking at the end is natural - if someone has read the entire post, they're likely interested and have something to offer.

Asking at the beginning lets readers know what we'd like from them.

Make it easy for readers to participate

We can make it easier for readers to participate if we ask for simple things that are well-described and easy to do. We also should make sure that we only ask for what we really need, instead of asking for others to do our work for us.

Make it beneficial for readers to participate

This topic needs a separate blog post to discuss how and why we want to make participation good for everyone involved.

We should say what we think the benefits of participating are. We should also ask readers how participating could benefit them.

Perfect is the enemy of good and done

Our blog posts should be good, but not perfect. The most important thing is to stimulate conversation and enable participation. If what we write leads to good discussion and good collaboration, we're doing the right thing.

Thanks for reading!

If you can, help me in the following ways:

  • Please comment on this post. Your input will help improve these guidelines, which will lead to better posts in the future. I'm most interested in your personal experiences, either as a reader or a writer. Also, I have a much easier time writing when I get feedback on my writing.
  • Follow Talkoot on Twitter so that you can more easily keep up-to-date with what the Talkoot team is working on.

Next week, I'll be writing about how we are designing the Talkoot project for collaboration.

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