Philosophy & Culture
This was fun!
Got to talk about how and why concrete5 got started, what my own background is, and what makes a startup work. It's always flattering to be called a "go-getter."
Here's the link to the site: http://www.go-getters.ideatewith.com
Also, here's the iTunes link: http://itunes.apple.com/podcast/go-getters/id337491910
concrete5.3 has been made possible by long hours, a great community of developers, and the kind license grants of these folks:
This developer wrote the Python based engine we use to compare versions. It's the only script we've been able to find that actually does diff with an awareness of how HTML tags work. If you stop and think about it, you'll realize that's a HUGE challenge and this guy solved it with a few pages of code. You should hire him to think about very complicated problems if he's willing. He allowed us to bundle his GPL based script into concrete5 under the LGPL licesne.
This designer does a lot of amazing work, is based in Chicago, and is gonna be someone you read about in magazines and books one day (if he isn't already!) We're using his file type icons in the new file manager because they're dead sexy, and work at a large scale. He's allowed us rights to redistribute them with concrete5 and we really dig that!
Thanks to both of these guys, it's awesome to be able to find something amazing on the web and use it. We'll keep doing our best to make sure the whole package is greater than the sum of it's parts!
Ever since osCon08 we've been getting this question a lot. We even got it from the Drupal volunteers who essentially asked ‘with Drupal in the world, why would you even build another CMS?' I think the answer is pretty obvious from just watching the screencast or playing with the demo on concrete5.org, but here's some thoughts I've had with people via email recently:
We are thinking of using Drupal as a basis for a new portal/application server website and became aware of Concrete5.
I would be interested in a brief chat with someone regarding your views of the pros and cons of the two applications, and about some custom work and support for our projects if we decide to base it on Concrete5.
I think c5 is better than Drupal for any number of reasons:
1) It was a successful commercial product for years, so we were paid to throw bad ideas out. Most projects that are open source from the get go have to worry as much about politics as programming. We had the leisure of being paid to make mistakes and fix them for 5 years before giving the core framework away.
2) It actually does what you'd expect out of the box. Look we don't have thousands of developers working with it yet (I think?) but what's in c5 actually works well, it all looks and behaves as one, and it's going to let you solve 90% of the problems you're likely to run into building the average website. You don't have to be an expert in which module breaks which other modules in order to get a site built.
3) It's just as flexible and stable (arguably a good deal more so – but I'm not a Drupal expert and am obviously biased). I can say from my experiences and everything we've been hearing from the community it's a good deal easier and more enjoyable for the end site owner to use. That means a lot when you're waiting for a check – we know.
I'm sure there are a good many more reasons why so many people and shops are taking their Drupal powered sites and rebuilding them in c5, we'd love to hear them here. Is it just the UI, or is the development environment appealing as well? Is it the page types/themes architecture or just that permissions are bundled and you don't have to deal with thousands of competing modules? Is it our massively complete and impressive developer documentation?
We know a lot of people already prefer c5, reach out and tell us what we've done right and what we still need to work on. .. oh, and what you hate about Drupal, so we don't end up making the same mistakes as this grows.
I'm reading Ray Kurzweil who says the the Singularity is Near. While nay-sayers claim his science is questionable, I say he sounds pretty bright to me. The basic gist is because of exponential growth in technology (ie Moore's law) we're on the cusp of revolutionary changes in what it means to be human. We will transcend our bodies through technologies ranging from advanced medical DNA engineering to nano technology and the internet itself. We will become immortal within 20 years. (…says Ray)
I'm perusing an issue of Wired where they talk about Petaflops and the end of science as the process of discovery changes from "hypothesis -> proof" to "real model -> observation." By connecting billions of people with billions of computers and cell phones, you create a global network that is quite similar to the human brain but on a much more massive, and speedy scale. Computer processors got faster than human synapses in the late 90's. Your brain still has billions more neurons than your computer has switches in its processor, but if you start connecting everyone's computer through the internet you can imagine the computers beating us before long. The internet = huge brain.
The more self expression and meaning that can be digitized on various cross linked web sites, the more complex the system becomes. At some point you get complex enough to call it "conscious." Have a hard time believing that the only thing that makes us conscious is complexity? Is a flat worm conscious? Nope. How about a monkey? Well that's got personality. Both have neurons its simply a question of quantity and cross connections.
Well, on the internet cross connections are most easily expressed in HTML. For better or worse, hypertext as expressed through a combination of HTML, XML, and CSS is the best way we have for documenting the meaning and cross connections of the content that makes humanity interesting. Making web pages = good. Think of it as a kid with a tiny brain figuring out how things go together. Learning is work. Twittering, blogging, sprucing up your mySpace page – that's all worthy contributions to the group consciousness. One day we'll all be immortal thanks to your selfless labor and kewl cat pictures.
The only downer is blogs, twittering and social networking sites kinda suck. Building a website the way you want to and being able to edit the copy without learning complex tools is key. You can't expect a kid to learn, playing one game over and over again. In my eyes, blogs are nice because they're easy to use – but the price you pay is your creativity is very limited. What we need is a more flexible way for people to easily edit web sites that don't have to be blogs. ie, concrete5.
Ergo, use concrete5 – it's going to replace your brain one day.
No, not for us. We already have a new logo. No, the logo I'm talking about is for Wal-Mart:
It's interesting they ditched the hyphen – makes sense though, since I could never remember if Walmart was spelled with one or not. The iconic Walmart star is present, but they've moved it from the middle. Upon seeing this logo with the star at the end, the first thing I thought of was an asterisk, meant to denote some bit of trivia or impart a cautionary reminder about the company in question.
(* – May prove hazardous to liberals, leftists, protectionists and yuppies.)
(* – Prolonged exposure may lead to nerve damage.)
(* – Watch for falling prices…or reap the whirlwind.)
(* – Surgeon General Recommends a Lifestyle Free of Excessive Bargains.)
And so on… Any you want to add?
Okay, who the hell turns their speaker volume up so loud that you can hear "YOU'VE GOT MAIL!" from their AOL account through their floor (our ceiling)? Our upstairs neighbors have received four pieces of mail today. We need to figure out a way to strike back. I'm thinking ceiling-mounted speakers and Ahnold.
From the beginning, Concrete has been designed as a system that makes the creation of pages easy, with a flexible "block" system available for placing items of content within these pages. As Concrete has matured, new data types have been created for different types of tasks. In Concrete5, for example, we have all sorts of these: single pages, page types, themes, blocks, elements, user attributes, page attributes, email templates, and more.
I opened our fridge, and this is what I saw:
It occurred to me that this moment sums up exactly why Concrete is an excellent place to work. Let me put it out there for you:
Reason 1? An abundance of beer.
Reason 2? An abundance of humor. No, for the confused amongst us, we aren't PETA-hating, raw-animal-eating nutjobs. We are, however, irony-loving, hipster-leaning, Arrested-Development-watching nerds.
(Note: I did not open the bag.)
I arrived at work today and prepared to engage in my typical morning routine. Step 1: Put lunch in fridge. Step 2: Brew Coffee. Step 3: wait nervously until step 2 completes. Step 4…well, you get the idea.
Hey all, this is Andrew. I'm Director of Technology here at Concrete Websites, and I'm going to take the reins from Franz for a second.
I've been making websites for more than ten years – first as a production/HTML guy, then a web and database programmer, and now as a director of some very talented programmers. Through it all, a number of things have remained constant. One of those is the impressive amount of bullshit involved when talking about the web. For example, in preparing for this post I took a trip to The Web Economy Bullshit Generator, and while its layout is dated, its content is as hilarious and spot-on today as it was when it debuted. And as the web changes, new sites have arisen to chronicle its changing lexicon. Everyone, it seems, is hatin' on buzzwords.
Why do buzzwords get such a bad wrap? See, as engineers, programmers and information architects, we like precision. We crave it. However, language by its nature is mostly antithetical to precision; terms that get created to express complex concepts can't help but miss some of the nuance, because that's what language does: it distills the complex into something that a person can wrap their minds around without wanting to shoot themselves in the face. But engineers look upon this compromise between precision and accessibility with disdain, and as a result consider buzzwords a bunch of hokum.
I understand this distrust. However, as I've moved from doing day-to-day work in the trenches to more conceptual and managerial work, I've found myself engaging in the unthinkable: I've started to use terms like those so mocked above in serious and non-ironic ways. It started with AJAX, a decent word used to express a technical concept. Now I can't stop: words like "leverage," "scalable," and "monetize" are a part of every day conversation.
Why all the back-story? Hopefully, it convinces you that what I'm about tell you isn't the result of some knee-jerk antipathy toward "buzzwords." I use buzzwords. I think they have their place. I think they can assist in communication. However, when used in excess and in place of any actual content, they deserve to be mocked mercilessly.
Let such mocking commence. The victim? TechCrunch. Their latest article, Bill's Gold Watch, is bafflingly incoherent. Check out some of these quotes, as helpfully disected from the "article" by the second commenter:
- "cloud infrastructure battle"
- "made that platform relatively salivating"
- "while Google methodically mows down the marketplace"
- "going to consolidate Facebook's equity in social metadata and create a groundswell of OpenID adoption"
- "warm fuzzy feelings for Web site owners who become part of an expanding network of reuse of the original log-in"
- "The terms of service for accessing social clouds will normalize over the next few months as users gravitate toward sites that leverage their original investment in OpenID registration"
- "producing affinity based on less work, common interface guidelines, and pressure on Facebook and outside clouds to modify their terms of service to avoid having to reinitialize access to their social data over and over."
- "starting to accelerate in real time streams over Jabber and XMPP"
- "allowing the kind of piping currently enabled between Gchat/Talk, iChat, AIM, and Twitter, which together produce a common set of streams that all are recorded and archived in Gmail's Chat repository"
- "the last time we saw this type of viral spread, it was Adsense carried on the river of the blogosphere"
- "social graph being formed out of the combination of follow and filtered Track"
- "can provide infrastructure to model the unique characteristics of Twitter's dynamic graph using Facebook's avatars"
- "can fit into this like a glove, feeding downstream vertical versions of affinity groups to skinned Silverlight containers"
Jesus. Come on! I first thought of this blog post after reading the sentence "It's not that Friend Connect is going to slow Facebook down; to the contrary, it's going to consolidate Facebook's equity in social metadata and create a groundswell of OpenID adoption which in turn will drive Open Social app development." Who actually believe this?! I'll talk to you all day about social networking, social bookmarking, and grid/cluster computing, but if someone opines in my presence about the "social cloud," they're probably in for a confused look, at the very least. And the sentence "Live Mesh can fit into this like a glove, feeding downstream vertical versions of affinity groups to skinned Silverlight containers." It reminds me of that episode of The Simpsons, in which Lisa, upon seeing a sign for a "Yahoo Serious Film Festival," remarks, "I know those words, but that sign doesn't make sense."
Every industry and field has its echo chamber, in which nonsense is amplified to the point of credulity. The web, with its ability to propagate concepts so quickly and effortlessly, is probably worse than most. Perhaps TechCrunch is a victim of this. Or perhaps they're just trolling for article hits. But if you want people to take you seriously when you say something, it helps to actually say something! I'm convinced that's the true problem with buzzwords: they make it all too easy to write 500 word articles without saying anything at all.