The Best Collaborative Tool?

After lots of trialling with lots of people the tool that shows the most promise has the worst name… Coming a close joint second were SocialText, Confluence and LifeRay.

Why did pip the others at the post? There are lots of reasons…


It’s open source (and built on Plone). The importance of this can’t be stressed enough for me. It buys the project the ability to benefit from other extensions and development work. I’ve already seen an XMPP (instant messaging) plugin that we’ll be able to slot in. It also means, ironically, that we don’t have to make a decision about which tool to use just yet, we can continue trialling for as long as we like, even getting to grips with what it is like to bend and extend. And lastly, open source is a good fit ethically.

It’s not based on a per-person pricing model. Because I am planning to create a collaborative environment where it is easy to invite collaborators in, I’m expecting that people will set up projects that maybe only run a few months – and maybe some people in those projects might be invited in to “cast an eye” over sketchy, unfinished work.

Its user interface, which is based on jQuery is by far the most instantly usable and likeable. This can’t be stressed enough – people actually like it. And for me, seeing how well the wiki interface behaves is delightful being able to link from one page to another without any special codes or URLs is refreshing.

I am now getting to grips with Plone. I may be gone sometime. I’m trying to work out how hard it would be to mine some data from social media sites and research repositories and create a sort of discovery engine for people at the University of York (see below). I’ve done the mining and the visualisation bit, now I just need to figure out how to save objects in the ZODB and how to create Products in Plone.

If anyone knows of any good resources/books for learning Plone, please pass them on… So far, the two books I’ve tried have left me a bit cold with code that doesn’t work very, very early on in the “Getting Started” chapters (sigh!). Wish me luck…

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5 Responses to The Best Collaborative Tool?

  1. Kim Nguyen says:

    Try Martin Aspeli’s book:

    new edition coming out soon too I think.

  2. Ken Wasetis says:


    I’m really interested in what your intention is wtr the ‘discovery engine’ idea.

    Is it the case that you’re still looking for ways to get data (from various external, likely social media type sources) into Plone? Is it more a question of how to get Plone to automatically discover the data by registering various sites and services it should ingest from? Both? Other?

    There are too many approaches to getting data into Plone to be discussed here in real depth, but I’d recommend starting with built-in capabilities as much as you can (register RSS portlets that pull in content, leverage the marshaller to import/export content with metadata, use XML-RPC with web services, and add-on products, such as FeedFeeder.)

    Other approaches such as full-blown SOAP web services and the XML marshaller are things we’ve used on more complex integration projects.

    If site scraping and/or crawling are needs (for getting the data in the first place), and if you have programming capabilities, since Plone and leverage Python for most of their power anyhow, I’d recommend taking a look at LXML and/or BeautifulSoup. Ian Bicking made a nice presentation on them at PyCon a year or two ago:

  3. Rok Garbas says:

    Welcome to Plone Tom.

    I’m also a big fan of UI guys at Cynapse really put great effort in it.

    There are many good books about Plone out right know. For start i would recommend Plone 3 for Education. it covers a little bit of everything in a very few pages. here is the list of other books i read and i recommend them:
    – Practical Plone 3: A Beginner’s Guide to Building Powerful Websites
    – Plone 3 Theming
    – Professional Plone Development

    … you find them here:

    all best .. and dont forget to drop by on #plone channel

  4. tom says:

    Ken, thanks for that… that’s the route I’m planning… RSS first, then maybe custom XMLRPC stuff, then maybe Gadgets (that’d be nice).

    The books you mention have bugs with the version of Plone I am using (with regards to the permissions module and addPolicy)… and although I kept fixing errors, they got me in the end.

    And also (very annoyingly) … when using the PDFs having code listings that spread over page breaks, so that you can’t copy and paste is tedious (oh and the tabs don’t copy over either)… grr! AND I found their teaching approach slightly awkward at times…

    The “discovery engine” is coming along quite nicely over here…

  5. Sergi Sales says:

    If you aren’t discouraged yet, you can give a try at


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