Annette Lewis - The super integrator

published Oct 20, 2016

Annette Lewis gives the second keynote talk at the Plone Conference 2016 in Boston.

Disclaimer: I do not call myself a super integrator, but others do, and I humbly accept it.

Three years ago I had not heard about Plone, though I had used various other CMS packages. Now I work at Penn State university doing websites, particularly Plone websites, moving static content into Plone. When I started, there were 120 websites, and other a few months my only other colleague left. We got other people into the team. We support 23 departments, 10 programs, 16 centers and institutes, and more. Not all websites are Plone, but about forty to sixty are.

I was showing a site to Eric Steele, and he looked like: you do this through the web? Yes, I do. Theming, Diazo, works fine.

I learned through trial and error. It builds character... and eats up time.

If it exists, don't recreate it. Take an existing solution and improve on it.

I am using Diazo to it's fullest. Using xpath and xsl to keep original classes and ids, so that an editor who is looking at a page source can still see that a part of the page is for example a portlet, so that he knows where to start editing it.

Some stuff I need to do in page templates.

If I need a similar block three times, then I make it reusable.

Portal types. We were using News Items for slider images. That is hard for editors to remember, they think: I want an image, so I can't use a news item. For those cases I simply copy the News Item type and give it a name that makes sense to them, like Home Images.

I talked to Cris Ewing last year about how I did all this through the web, and I saw his enthusiasm, so I knew: I am not crazy to do everything through the web.

I want my end users to feel empowered. It is their website.


What would make my life as integrator better? Plone 5 actually solves several things. It would help with caching of our custom css, and defining the colors for css in the resource registries. Debugging diazo could maybe be easier, saying clearer what the error is. Diazo snippets would be nice. David: there is a diazo snippets library, available as chrome extension.

If your Diazo rules are slow, make your rules more specific.

Our policy is to train the users. If they don't get training, they don't get an account. And I say: if you mess things up, like accidentally removing an entire folder, don't try to fix it yourself, but immediately call us. Not an email, call us. We have good relations with our users.