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May 07, 2008

OpenCms Days 2008 Report

The OpenCms community just finished its first user/developer conference (OpenCms Days 2008) in Cologne Germany. Thank you to our hosts Alkacon Software and the sponsors for putting on such a valuable and fun event.

OpenCms is primarily used in Europe so Cologne (home of Alkacon) was a good choice of venue. If you ever have an opportunity to visit Cologne, you should. It is a beautiful city. Many of the 110 attendees were mostly from Germany but there was also representation from Italy, Spain, Denmark, Czech Republic and there was one attendee from Japan.
The only Americans there were speakers but maybe that was just the weak dollar talking.

Since OpenCms is essentially a commercial open source project (owned and developed by Alkacon) aimed at enterprise buyers, the feel was different than some of the other open source conferences I have been to. It was more corporate, less kumbaya. But there seemed to be a genuine interest in collaboration and community across corporate boundaries. The main question was where to begin. Having the conference was a great start. I saw many first face to face meetings turn into what looked like closer relationships over the two day event.

There were also promises of better inter-company communication - in particular between Alkacon, module developers, and systems integrators. Several attendees had expressed frustration that they had built modules that were quickly either broken or made obsolete by a new release of the the core. The community wanted Alkacon to be more transparent about their roadmap but Alkacon was concerned about making promises that they couldn't keep (Nonetheless, Alkacon CEO, Alexander Kandzior's keynote did a nice job of describing the next few releases of OpenCms at a high level). There were commitments to fix this through sprints (first is July 21-22 2008 in Cologne) and better general communication but, of course, the real proof will be when people return their jobs.

Another observation I had was that the community that I saw seemed much less wrapped up in social media and networking. Most of the conferences that I go to advertise keywords that everyone should use to tag their photos, blogs, and tweets with when they post them on the social networking sites. I got a sense that few within the community used these services. Granted, my expectations for social media use are probably set overly high by the types of projects and people that I follow and the conferences that I attend. I think it is safe to say that Web 2.0 will not be high on the list for OpenCms enhancements. I think that most OpenCms adopters are fine with that prioritization.

The sessions fell into 2 tracks: business and technical. The technical track covered techniques for integrating and customizing OpenCms. The business track showed OpenCms being used in large companies like Bayer, Qimonda, GARDENA, and OEV Online Dienste. Many of these clients have used OpenCms to replace commercial products and are expanding their use of the OpenCms after initial successes. The sites include Intranets, Extranets, Corporate marketing sites and other forms of traditional web content management. They had requirements that are typical of enterprise buyers: large volumes of content, many users with a wide range of technical abilities, and complex organizational structures that require content sharing and access control. Two very good examples were Qimonda's intranet and OEV which hosts mult-tiered websites for 15 insurance companies.

Overall, it was a great conference and (hopefully) the first of many events like it. I will be keeping my eye on the mailing list for follow through on the promises of more community collaboration and communication.