CMS Garden at CeBIT
I’ve had the pleasure of attending CeBIT this week. From Monday until Wednesday, I was at the CMS Garden stand.
Let me explain what that is, what we did there, why it was important and how much fun it was.
First, a word about CeBIT. It is a large IT and technology fair. I’d say it’s the largest of its kind on the European continent. It was opened on Monday by Angela Merkel, the German federal chancellor, which is an indication of its impact on Germany’s technological and economical environment. It’s a real beehive of well tailored ladies and gentlemen (and, luckily, some black t-shirts, too). What are these people doing? When I asked them they were never very clear about it, but it sounded like a mixture of trying to interest people in their product, looking for a product or service, acquiring personnel, looking for a job, seeking cooperation partners, and general interest.
The CMS Garden is an initiative to represent Open Source Content Management Systems at fairs like this. By joining forces, we can afford a presence that is likely to make an impression on visitors, much more so than when each CMS or company would have its own stand. The idea is to promote OS CMSs in general, not our companies. It helps that most CMSs have their own niche, so we don’t directly compete. What we try to achieve is more public awareness of our software.
I first got involved last year in Berlin, at the Linux Tag, when my fellow Ploner Maik Derstappen tricked me into helping out at the stand. This was a bit of a home game, as most visitors were already Open Source-minded. The CMS Garden was also present at the DMS Expo in Stuttgart later that year. CeBIT, I was told, is the main event, and I can see why now. There’s a lot of people there who are totally not Open-Source minded, so there’s a lot to be gained there.
In the world of big companies, Open Source is still a relatively less-known business model. This unfamiliarity is something we can change, and CeBIT is a good place to do so. What we, your loyal CMS Gardeners, do is explain how we make money by giving stuff away, how it’s more secure than closed source, how the openness is a good thing for the customer. We explain what we do, we answer the questions, and that’s how we try to familiarize people with the concept. We also have glossy pamphlets.
So does this work? It’s hard to know. Google Trends doesn’t show a significant rise in searches for “Open Source CMS” last week. My presence at the fair has not brought us any leads. We did get a lot of attention from visitors though, thanks to the friendly and open layout of our stand (a brilliant idea). And I had some conversations where I had the impression that my partner was at first not really interested, but got more and more interested as the conversation went on, judging by the questions they asked. Some of these people seemed (I wasn’t always able to ask) to be in a position to be influential in choosing IT solutions for their companies. So I don’t have any numbers to back this up, except the estimated number of conversations we’ve had, but I think the CMS Garden is a good way to get more Open Source CMSs into larger businesses.
And why is this fun, exactly? First, I like the game of getting the visitors interested. I also learned a great deal about other CMSs. The questions visitor and fellow gardeners asked me have made me more aware of Plone’s specifics. But the best part was, when the day is over, to unwind and have a beer with the other gardeners. The quality that goes into our software comes from our community, and our community (all Open Source CMSs) are a great bunch of people.
PS A couple of thank you’s: Floh Klare for CMS Garden coordination, great job! Stefan Luckow for all the prep work, all the talking and smiling all the way. Frank for inviting me to the WordPress meetup. Maik for the Plone coordination. Stefania for the buttons. Mike for his excellent cooking. Peter for the GER-NED replay on the foosball table. And all fellow CMS Gardeners for your companionship. It was great, hope to see you all next year!