Project of the Month, October 2008

concrete5


Project Leaders:

Franz Maruna

Franz Maruna
Age: 32
Experience: CEO, Concrete5
Education: University of Hardknocks
SF Profile: http://sourceforge.net/users/franzcmaruna/
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/franzmaruna

Location: Portland, OR

Andrew Embler

Andrew Embler
Age: 29
Experience: CTO, Concrete5
Education: BA English, University of Oregon, 2001
SF Profile: http://sourceforge.net/users/aftk2/
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/embler

Location: Portland, OR

Key Developers:

Matt Salcido

Matt Salcido
Age: 30
Experience: Designer
Education: BA Graphic Design
Location: Portland, OR

elNino

El Nino
Age: 27
Experience: Web Developer
Education: CIS/Business Administration, Minor in Photography from Northern Arizona University

Location: Portland, OR

Ryan Tyler

Ryan Tyler
Age: 32
Experience: PHP/Web Developer, 9 years
Education: autodidact
Location: Portland, OR

Why did you place the project on SourceForge.net?

It’s the phone book of open source projects. There’s legally no real “public domain.” If you stick something on SourceForge, you have to choose a license and it’s never going away. That says a lot when you’ve been in the commercial software world for years.

How has SourceForge.net helped you?

People paid attention. It’s also an easy spot to host forums, for now. Obviously since we’ve got a content management system, there are many things that SF offers that we intend to internalize into our c5 powered community marketplace. Not having to worry about spikes in download traffic is nice as well.

The number one benefit of using SourceForge.net is:

The credibility & awareness. Being named Project of The Month so quickly here is truly a great honor, we feel like rock stars. Thanks!

Project name: concrete5
Date founded/started: 2003
Project page: http://sourceforge.net/projects/concretecms

Description of project:

concrete5 is a content management system, built in PHP, that makes it easy for anyone to run a website. It will save the planet.

It’s super friendly. You edit as you go like Google Pages, but anyone can build out a whole site that does cool stuff by just pointing and clicking. If you can write on a computer you can update your website with c5. It’s intuitive: just point, click, and edit in place. By making it so easy to use, people feel comfortable experimenting with their site. That’s freedom of expression and we like that a lot.

It’s powerful for developers. It can be easily extended in any number of ways. It wasn’t some news or blogging application we just called a CMS and released quickly. It is a toolbox we spent 5 years working on as a commercial solution to our own problems as web developers, before giving it away in 2008. You can build any type of website you want out of c5 without compromise.

It’s dependable & stable. It has been around, runs on a LAMP stack and it handles sites with hundreds of thousands of visitors with no problem. Its block-permission-template structure actually works very well. It’s not written in some language that doesn’t scale, it’s OOP, uses a database abstraction layer, all the stuff a developer would expect.

Why and how did you get started?

Version 1 was a scramble to build LewisAndClark200.org in less than three months. It was an AdCouncil gig with around 100 project stakeholders and our client was a local design agency. We knew a lot of decisions would be made and un-made so we needed to be able to easily move content around without sacrificing design flexibility. This is where our underlying structure started. That was 2003 and php v4.

What is the software’s intended audience?

We really think about two audiences, developers and site owners. We think websites are kind of like homes; you want a professional to build the bones, but a lot of home owners do great DIY work on their own. We continually push c5 to be a flexible building material for developers, and easy for the eventual site owner to feel comfortable using.

How many people do you believe are using your software?

Hard to say, thousands.

What are a couple of notable examples of how people are using your software?

I like the custom applications. SchoolPulse.com is both a cool idea and a pretty aggressive implementation of c5 that makes it easier for parents to manage their busy lives. GereDonovan.com has done some really nice work with both older versions of concrete and concrete5. SustainableHarvest.com is a small business making the world a better place that gets pretty hands on with their CMS. There’s a nice pile of concrete sites to choose from at getConcrete5.com/showcase/

What gave you an indication that your project was becoming successful?

We’re lucky there, editing a website is one of those things that just feels like it should be simple, so people tend to be very vocal when we actually deliver on that promise. We get amazing quotes every day, some of them are on concrete5.org/discuss. It was also cool when we started stumbling onto c5 sites around the web we knew nothing about.

Andrew (our CTO) really felt it the moment he realized that he didn’t need to answer every single SourceForge forum post immediately – that there were others out there, some of whom were just fans of concrete5 and not affiliated with our company in any way, who would quickly and accurately respond to peoples’ questions. That’s been very rewarding — and very much appreciated.

It’s only been three months since we released this version as open source, so the speed of it taking off is a bit amazing to us. To be frank, the biggest indication of success to me as a CEO was when someone found a security hole, and was kinda punky about it on their blog when we failed to notice his email in our info@ email box. (btw: the issue was resolved within hours of us actually learning about it, and we actually check info@ now. ;)

The groupies were a good sign too. Ladies, Matt’s single!

What has been your biggest surprise?

The desire for a multi-lingual interface. I guess that’s obvious when you think about it, but in 5 years of corporate consulting it never really came up. We plan to support multiple languages for the core interface elements in the next major version release.

I’m also pleasantly pleased that people dig our philosophical rants on the corporate blog concreteTheStudio.com.

What has been your biggest challenge?

Time & Money. We like keeping our core team small, so finding the time to actually write documentation or add the features we’d like is hard. We’re still trying to find the right partners so we can focus on what we love. We’ve always been project funded so there’s always a balance.

Why do you think your project has been so well received?

It works. Even our competitors are impressed with the ease of use. It looks good and is a pleasure to have at 2am when you just have to change that page. We are also generally fun and interesting people to hang out with. Can I buy you a beer? See???

Where do you see your project going?

Replacing hacked blogs as the most commonly thought of CMS for good looking websites.

Fulfilling the promise, we all believed in 1995, that anyone would be able to compete with the big boys in the online media space. Letting anyone communicate their own message to the world effectively. Being the printing press of the future.

You know, we’re keeping the bar low.

What’s on your project wish list?

Documentation, both for developers and for site owners. It’s our Achilles heel right now.

What are you most proud of?

That c5 is helping so many people around the world express themselves freely online. Concrete5.org has had visits from as far as Sudan and Laos, I don’t know what that really means but I think it’s pretty cool.

I’m also proud that we’ve been able to keep a designer on staff full time. I don’t think that’s common for open source projects, and I think it’s important. They do call it “engineering AND design” ya’ know.

If you could change something about the project, what would it be?

I would have enough money in the bank to go dark for 4 months and do nothing but build the marketplace & community we’ve dreamed up. We’re getting it done slowly now, but it’s not an easy project and it can’t be half-assed.

We spend a lot of time feeling out most of the big decisions we make. We also had the luxury of being a small commercial toolkit for years where we could recognize one approach was wrong, and backtrack without hurting any feelings. I’m pretty happy with where c5 is today and I’ve got a pretty good sense of where we want to be 1, 2 and 3 years from now.

How do you coordinate the project?

We use a sweet (albeit not open source) app called Intervals. (GetIntervals.com). They’ve got a sexy ticket & time tracker that is the easiest I’ve seen for people to use, and gives me the reports I need. We’re not really doing major changes to the core any more, most of the versions this summer have been in response to real world beta testing.

Do you work on the project full-time, or do you have another job?

Full-time. We’re a company with staff based in Portland, Oregon, and we use some freelancers from around the globe.

How much time would you say you spend, per week, on it?

Depends on the week. Sometimes it’s almost all client specific c5 work, sometimes it’s all core project work. We’re not doing anything that isn’t somehow related to c5 at this point.

What is your development environment like?

We use it all. I’m writing on a MacBook, with a glass of Woodford Reserve with one cube of ice. My CTO also likes Macs, but with gin. Some of our developers do actually use PCs, and we all very much appreciate unix & beer.

Milestones:

Milestone Date
First commercial release of concrete CMS 2003
Went open source, launched concrete5.org. Started releasing alpha versions on SF 05/23/08
Exhibited & impressed at O’Reilly’s OSCON 06/21/08
Launched getConcrete5.com – our hosting business and revenue stream. 09/08
Awarded Project of the Month on SourceForge! 10/08
Launch a marketplace and community that lets people sell code and find work. Release a commercial tool for managing multiple centralized c5 installs. Q4 2008

How can others contribute?

You can contact us through concrete5.org. We’re always looking for great PHP freelancers if you want some consulting work. You can build your own blocks and themes for c5 knowing there will be a cool place and audience to sell them to soon. We would also love assistance translating the interface, writing user docs & how-to’s, etc.


Check out our previous projects of the month.