T3CON14 and the CMS revolution

22 October 2014 Comments Off

We are living great times, an era transformed by the internet, the easy reach to information, the power of communication that enhances our experiences, weather we work, we study, we shop or we just have fun. Already always connected, through many devices and interfaces, assaulted by channels that transmit us information, emotion, persuasion, in a permanent state of “new” which we incorporate fast into our lives, can we envision what tomorrow will bring ? Can we, as individual web developers and web agencies, be part and drive this accelerated evolution, instead of reactively adapt to the new trends ?

This year at the TYPO3 Conference in Berlin, I felt enlightened by the feeling that I am in the best possible industry right now – the inspired presenters, the great people of the TYPO3 community, everybody was energized by this acknowledgement: the web transforms, we are transforming it, we ride the wave of change, or if we are not doing it yet, we should get up there fast.

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The nhow hotel, the inspiring location of the conference

Far from being a complete review, this is a collection of notes from the presentations that I could attend and from the discussion that I had during the first 2 days of the conference.

The T3CON14 was opened by Kasper Skårhøj, once again back on stage in front of the community that he has started years ago. Well witted and inspiring, he reminded us a powerful thing: When time passed over us, we don’t remember and don’t value the “hard work” that we did, but the fun that we had, the passion that we put on what we like, the value that we create in the world. When you put passion, you create great things. Thus, follow your bliss, even if sometimes this leads to changes in your path. And do what you like, so that you never “work” again.

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Ric van Westhreenen told us that if we are embracing responsive webdesign we are stupid :) A bit puzzled at first, I ended in agreement. We should do websites for the users, not for the screens. We would be stupid if we just re-organize the information to fit on the screens of any device, without considering the user experience, the context in which he is using the website, the path towards his goal. In the last years, we moved fast through the necessary steps: the responsive design to fit the websites on all the screens of the devices, the adaptive design considers the specific presentation of information and functionality adapted for the device, and now towards the situational design, that considers the context in which you use the website: on the road with poor signal, in the shop trying to compare reviews of products, or at home relaxed in front of your big screen, your needs and possibilities are different, and the websites should “know” this.

I knew that we are in for a great talk when Rasmus Skjoldan took the stage to tell us about building digital experiences with TYPO3 Neos, a product greatly influenced by his vision of moving beyond the boundaries of the “old ways” of presenting structured content through which you navigate in the browser, seeing language as the only relevant target user segmentation. There are no boundaries for information, we should not resume to be web centric, or even worse, think in “pages” and “content trees”, but we would greatly benefit if we are ready to provide complete digital experienced, through all media, to everybody.

From Morten Gade we received the provocation to remove the “management” from the “CMS”. Through our websites, we target our audience through the content, which after all creates the competitive difference for the end users. Emphasizing the “management” could hinder the freedom of good, relevant content creation . A CMS, or better said a CS ( a “Content System”) should be “a tool that allows us to develop ideas, to produce, to cooperate”, a platform for the facilitation of better content, which “should adapt to the organizational context of the producer” instead of setting structured boundaries. The system which allows the content creators to unleash their potential will be a clear winner of the the future market.
For Timour Chafik, the reality is a mosaic of stories. And so it is for all of us, thus we should always remember this when we create websites and their content, marketing campaigns, advertising and anything else that has the purpose to engage our target. Stories are everywhere, and sometimes we might forget that in our companies, as in any company, “there are people who have stories that are waiting to be told”. This is a huge potential that we should be smart to use when we create any project, as from the free flow of ideas and stories that are shared we can generate innovative approaches and ultimately create projects and products that matter for our users, not just from the informative perspective, but also create emotion, inspire, engage them, lead them to identify themselves with the “story” that we are telling.

From a general perspective to something more concrete, TYPO3 Neos received a well deserved focus on several talks, as while the entire CMS market is about to enter a revolution, we in the TYPO3 community are already living one, through Neos.

As Robert Lemke ensured us, we will soon have the translation support at our hands in the upcoming 1.2 version, in fact we could already seen it at work during his presentation, in a real project. While Neos is still not spread out as people might still wait for the promised features from 1.2 and 1.3, there are no doubts for the ones who already started to use it that also from the development perspective it brings a solid advantage. It is much easy to learn than the TYPO3 CMS, in fact we saw ourselves at Arxia and through the public workshop that we did in Cluj for fellow web programmers that getting into Neos and doing a first project is quite easy and does not even require prior knowledge of TYPO3 CMS ( though it helps of course ). And after the first projects done, we should be able to state, as Robert does, that “the speed of development is higher with Neos”, once you’ve passed the learning phase.

I was eagerly looking to see a real large scale Neos project, so I welcomed the showcase of venstre.dk, a site done for the largest and oldest political party in Denmark. With over 10,000 members who can manage their own profile, generate and change information, this was a big challenge to prove that anyone, without prior technical knowledge, would be able to start working with the content with ease just after their first login, without reading manuals and spending hours in training.

An interesting talk from Martin Helmich showed us that there are possibilities to automate the migration from a TYPO3 CMS instance to TYPO3 Neos. Well, at least some automation is possible, making easier for the developers to start from something instead of doing everything from scratch once again. As the interest will raise in this type of migration I the future, we should expect to see more mature tools, moving further from the stage of prototype, which will help us undertake this challenge.

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The CMS to Neos migration mapping

This was the first T3CON where I saw talks about outsourcing. Maybe from some of the audience the subject is new, especially the presentation of the top problems that agencies are facing when contracting work abroad. Misscomunication or lack of communication and quality level ranked on top of the issues. For us, as long time TYPO3 outsourcing providers, there were no surprises, as we know the issues and overheads that both sides are facing during an outsourcing relationship, and when such a relation is not treated with responsibility and engagement for a long term perspective, things might turn wrong.

Weather during the presentations, or while talking with the people in the coffee breaks and social events, I have found out that there are already more and more agencies who work with Neos and with Flow, that there are already large projects launched, some maybe more discrete as they were not publicly presented yet, and there are even more in the making. This was a very encouraging sign for me, proving that Arxia did the right thing by starting to work with Neos and Flow in production from the beginning of 2014.

As we all know, there is much more to a T3CON than just the presentations. It was great to meet people, discussing during coffee breaks and at social events, learning what others are doing and talking about the future of TYPO3, the trends, the challenges, the community, the events and the projects. I was also pleased to see that many people knew already about the TYPO3 East Europe ( www.t3ee.org ) event that we are organizing in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. I liked a lot finding out about Andrea Herzog’s “TYPO3 Rookies” project, which aims to integrate faster into the TYPO3 world the youngsters, interns and developers who are just starting their career. After all TYPO3 is about community, its people, their willingness to contribute, to have initiatives and to start projects, to create events, to move things forward, all joined in a partnership culture, supporting the development of the platforms from which we all benefit.

In all, T3CON14 was a great event, bringing a lot of inspiration about the future that we are called to shape, about the perspectives of the TYPO3 product family and the TYPO3 community.

 Author: Daniel Homorodean

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