Zope User's Group Meeting


I'm at the Zope User's Group meetingin Las Vegas today. I flew my plane down this morning and planning on flying home this afternoon---its about 2 hours. The flight was a nice (early morning flights always are) and Las Vegas is its usual hectic self. There are about 8 people here including Rob Page, CEO of Zope. There's an information discussion of the newspaper business while we're waiting to get started. The Zope meeting is being held on the heels of the Newspapers Publisher's Expo, so there's a few newspaper people here. Here's a rundown of what the speakers said:

Rob opens up with a discussion of where Zope is going. He makes the point that since Zope has been open source, they've exchanged control of the product for additional developers working on it at little cost to them. Rob doesn't believe that a professional services and support model is sufficient to keep a company going in connection with an Open Source product. Zope's model includes products that can be offered to Zope users. These are not shrink wrapped packages, but rather pieces of intellectual property that Zope uses to add revenue to its professional services work.

Now, Zope hasn't given up compete control of the Zope engine. They are clearly the leader of the Zope open source project. One of the issues they worry about (and deal with via a contributer agreement) is making sure contributed code is clean from an intellectual property standpoint.

Chris Muldrow is the Editor of Fredricksburg.com. He's describing the use of MySQL with Zope and the set up of a Zope cluster. Zope has an internal database, so MySQL is not strictly required. The primary benefit is that data is now in a standard DB and accessible by other programs. Chris recommends a few tools to make this easier:

  • MySQL Front is a tool for manipulating the databases in MySQL. Development on this product appears to have been discontinued, but it can still be downloaded here.
  • The second tool he recommends is ZNolk, a Zope product for connecting to MySQL databases from within Zope. As I understand it, Chris uses ZNolk to create web-based administration tools in Zope for the MySQL tables.
  • ZSearch Interface is a built in tool for building search interfaces on outside database searches.
  • Chart Director is a Python module (apparently not just Python) for building charts.

The application that drove Fredricksburg.com to an external database is their real estate section. They grab data from the local MLS (multiple listing service) every two hours. Getting the data and manipulating it is better done with an external program in Python and MySQL rather than dragging down Zope performance.

From a business perspective, the way that they charge for the service is they sell agents ecards, business cards that show up with listings. An agent's ecard shows up on all their listings and routes email inquiries to them. If they don't buy the ecard, then some other agents ecard shows up in a rotation. There's also a hot properties listing that agents can buy as an upgrade to the basic listing. These are rotated on the home page. The interesting thing is that there are non-technical sales people selling these and entering them in the application using an admin tool that is built in Zope.

Zope Bible I've corresponded with on various issues from time to time with Michael Bernstein, author of the Zope Bible. Its nice to finally meet him. He's speaking next. His talk is a case study on a visual asset repository (digital asset management) system. Images in the system are similar between various customers, but the meta data from client to client varies greatly. Michael created an application that let's the client create multiple, private labeled versions of the asset repository each with its own metadata with no coding.

Sean Upton is from SignOnSanDiego.com, the website for the San Diego Union Tribune. He's talking about using AP (associated press) Digital content in Zope. AP Digital is a division of AP that sells AP content to Internet properties. Standard AP wire stories can't be used raw for various reasons. AP Digital is one solution to that problem. The way AP Digital delivers AP Online data to sites is through NNTP. The data is formatted in an XML-based format called NITF. Sean uses Zope to grab that data out of NNTP, parse the NITF, and present it on their site. The idea is not simply to push the contant online, but let writers and editors work on it and produce localized content.