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FOSS Third Party Products

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The downside to creating products or installing third party products
This website has been running Plone for almost five years. We started with Plone 2.0.5 and are now at Plone 3.3.1. During that period, we have installed several third-party packages including:
  • A blogging package, COREBlog2
  • A group calendar package CalendarX
  • Several contact/address book products
At this time, all are no longer maintained and have not been updated to be compatible with the ever-changing nature of Plone. So we had two reasonable paths to follow:
  1. Maintain the products inhouse

    This was our first option, and one we embraced in the spirit of FOSS. But this requires a fairly in-depth knowledge of a product. Especially, we found, when porting the product to a new major release. Futhermore, at least CalendarX seemed to be a cut-and-paste of a standard product. Great idea to reduce development effort, but the name space became polluted which caused problems on install, especially for kupu. Many third-party products assumed specific workflows, which changed; ZPTs needed to be changed as variables were changed; schemata needed to be changed as standard Archetypes were refactored. (In case you're wondering, I am writing this as I close issues related to these products). This seemed to take a good amount of our time at unexpected moments, time and effort which was not eminent to our stategic direction, just time and effort towards company infrastructure support.

  2. Develop a new product inhouse

    We considered this option frequently and, in fact, developed an inhouse address book from scratch when none met our requirements.

    However, this is the most time-consuming option. Development and maintenance needs to be scoped and scheduled accordingly.

  3. Replace with alternative products

    This exercise has been illuminating and somewhat stimulating. Most of the Personal Information Management packages on Plone can be found in Google Apps. I am quite pleased with GCalendar and the GContacts module in GMail. They are all I need, especially considering the effort to implement and maintain them.

    Also, I started looking at Wordpress for rapid blogging. Our websites still have a simple blogging capability but it is based on tools in the standard releases - which migrate themselves as part of a release upgrade.

Clearly some technology requirements are salient to our core business plan, and into these we will invest resources. Some represent necessary functionality with little benefit to the future of our company. In some cases, another company is already way ahead of us in a particular technology. I see little to gain by, and a on-going effort in, re-creating the google apps we use or creating new products to fulfill administration tasks.
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