Friday, December 21, 2007

Plone development in La Jornada. A little bit of history

Back in 1995, La Jornada was the first newspaper on Spanish language to have a web site. Over the years, the site evolved from static HTML files, written entirely by hand, to use some dynamic content creation in PHP, but the work involved on maintaining the content and structure was huge. We needed a change, so in 2005 we started looking for a CMS.

The web site of La Jornada in 1996

I asked La Mancha, a friend of mine who was one of the visionaries who brought the newspaper into the web, and he gave me 2 options: one was written in Perl and the other one, in Python. The choice was obvious for me, and we started looking for more information on Plone soon.

I wrote to the Enfold Systems' guys and they put me in touch with Carlos de la Guardia. In three weeks, Carlos gave us an introduction to the Python/Zope/Plone world and he started acting as a consultant for the development.

Those were the early days of Plone 2.1 and Archetypes was the way to go. Our idea was to create content types for everything: editions, current news, analysis, features, opinions... you name it.

We spent several months working on that and, I have to admit, our first tests were not very successful. We had many things to learn and very few experience in many topics.

In the middle of 2006 we had to create a microsite to cover the Mexican general election. We decided to use a plain-vanilla Plone instance with no funky stuff on it and just install a basic skin. The experience was so good that we started using the same system, with some minor changes, as the breaking news edition of the diary.

In late 2006, when we were about to restart the work, I traveled to Seattle for the Plone Conference 2006 and after assisting to Martin Aspeli's talk, I finally saw the light: the way we'd been working was fine... but there were better and easier ways to do it!

From content types to adapters was the new paradigm shift, and we wanted to embrace it as soon as possible. Unfortunately, we couldn't restart the work because we started experiencing performance issues as a result of the increasing traffic. We spent many months understanding and fixing the problems.

The graph shows the traffic growth in La Jornada in the last 5 years (from 2003 to 2007)

The main development has been in standby since then but we've been releasing some of our work slowly. We decided to move some of our products to the Collective in order to enhance collaboration.

I've been talking lately with Carlos about current trends on Plone and Zope deployment and we have now a better idea of what we want to implement in the near future.

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