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Post Summit Post: Plone the do-ocracy

February 11, 2008

Peoples thoughts and experiences of the Plone Strategic Planning Summit 2008 is starting to drop in to the blogosphere, and just like the rest I had a great time. If there is just one reason to use Plone it’s the amazing community. If commercial software companies wine and dine the customers, we give the customers a yearly excuse to go to the best conferences available: The Plone conferences. In that respect, the summit was just what I expected, loads of great people having a great time, and coming up with great ideas.

In other respects, it was exactly what I did not expect. I expected a small conference where a plan for the nearest future of Plone would be decided. It was nothing of the sort. Instead, we were during three days exposed to what was referred to as “secret Google technologies”. That label was tongue-in-cheek and almost completely incorrect, as they were neither secret, Google or technologies. These techniques instead involve large measures of self-adhesive paper in various sizes and colours, and markers also in various colours (and scents, but that’s optional). These were used to great effect to let everybody know roughly what everybody else’s opinions were. And this is what the summit was all about: Communicating everybody’s ideas and opinions to everybody else, so that we could see which of all our ideas and opinions that had a general support in the Plone community.

Why is this important? Plone is not a democracy, were one community member has one vote. It’s also not a meritocracy, where people who have shown themselves worthy get to decide where Plone goes. Instead it’s a “do-ocracy“. It is the one who does the work that decides how it should look. If you want something done, you do it. Not all open source projects work like this. Most open source projects have a very small number of people that have commit access, for example, while Plone has relatively many contributors. This contributes to the chaos of Plone, but this inclusive culture is also one of Plone’s greatest strengths.

This also means that a summit, no matter how fancy the name, does not take any significant decisions. Instead we all do, everyone in the community, by doing what we think is the right thing to do. This means that the purpose of the summit was not to decide the future, but to give all of us as individuals a feeling for what of all our wild and crazy ideas that others are interested in. This helps us focus our efforts on those tasks that other will appreciate, and create things others have use of, and not just create things for ourselves that nobody else uses.

Again we see the power of emergent features to rise out of a sea of individualism. Plone rocks.


From → plone, zope

One Comment
  1. I think do-ocracies are the norm for open source projects. At least this has been my experience. A counterexample might be XFree86, which turned into a meritocracy based on people’s past contributions, instead of a do-ocracy based on people’s present contributions. As a result there were a lot of “core” developers who weren’t doing anything but providing stop energy for those people who did want to do something. The result was a much-needed fork (, and from what I can tell the effective death of the XFree86 project.

    The XFree86 team organization reminded me a lot of *BSD, which have also had forking problems, and would probably have been forked more except that disaffected people do better just switching to Linux. In both cases there were “core” groups with a sense that you earned your way into core with contributions and then kind of had tenure, and as time went on the core group started growing more and more slowly.

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