If you have been to a content management conference in the last year, you might have seen one of Tony Byrne's 'CMS Idol' or 'Web Idol' competitions. If you have, you know they are a nice excursion from the typical vendor expo. If you haven't, the basic premise is similar to the American Idol television program but instead of singing and dancing (thank goodness) the vendors do short 6 minute demos of their product. Like the television show, there are three judges (I once played Randy, dawg) giving commentary but the audience decides. Tony used to do a regular conference session called something like 60 seconds with a vendor where he would ask questions from the audience. That was good but this is even better because it is visual and fun.
Web Idol is also entertaining if you like rooting for the underdog because the big heavy weights of the industry rarely do well. They try to do too much with their demos to show their breadth and, on any one feature, they are not necessarily better than a simpler product with a well defined niche and understanding of the problem that they are trying to solve. Another factor is that the small players really gear up for these things while the big guys often don't even participate because the downside of losing is way worse than the upside of winning (people expect a product that costs 10 times as much to be better). The arrogance that the "industry leaders" have doesn't help either.
Winning Web Idol does not so much mean that you have the best product (there is no best product) but it does indicate that you have connected with the audience and shown a solution that they can visualize using within their organization.
Even with that disclaimer, I still think it is very cool that eZ publish beat out FatWire, SiteCore, Terminalfour, and Tridion to win Web Idol at the cmf2006 in Denmark last week. This is not a 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team class upset although there are probably some people out there who think it is. People who have not seen open source content management software frequently believe these products to be developed by programmers and for programmers with very poor usability. Usability and simplicity are the key factors in Web Idol and the cmf2006 audience was clearly impressed. So, kudos to the eZ team for a great set of demos and removing some of the fear, uncertainty and doubt about open source technologies.