July 2010

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Plone 3 Multimedia cover

Time for a new review of a Plone book! This time it’s Plone 3 Multimedia, by Tom Gross, and published by, guess who… Packt Publishing! One would say that Packt has a really good marketing team. :P

The mistake in the title is here strikes once again, since most of the book, if not it all, will apply also for Plone 4, but Packt continues following this policy.

First think I thought was… do we really need a whole book about multimedia in Plone? The answer is, well, there is enough material, enough multimedia-related products for Plone out there to write a book about the topic if you want to.

One thing I don’t understand is what the target audience is supposed to be. The “Who this book is for” section claims that (please Packt don’t sue me for copyright-related issues ;):

This book is for Plone integrators who want to extend the core of Plone with multimedia features. It gives no introduction to Plone and readers should know how to set up a Plone site using a buildout. The book can be read and understood well even if the reader is not a Python developer, though some examples have Python code included.

The book starts giving definitions of what a CMS or what multimedia is and the different types of multimedia elements we can stumble upon, so you think it’s going to be soft, but it soon dives into using multimedia in Zope Page Templates and Python code, and later uses some more advanced concepts (e.g. automated testing, traversers, marking interfaces, zope events…) without (IMO) proper introduction.

Is not that I can’t accept the reader is required to have some former Plone knowledge — what I don’t understand is the mixture of really-newbies with more advanced coding material.

I would have appreciated a kind of requirements story to give more coherence to the content as a whole, something like what happens in the Plone 3 Products Development Cookbook or Proffessional Plone Development: a fictitious client that presents some requirements for a to-be-developed Plone site.

Plone 3 Multimedia doesn’t follow this pattern, and the result is a different structure, a reference presenting and briefly explaining different products to add multimedia features to your site, like the whole Plone 4 Artists (p4a) suite, plonetruegallery, Slideshowfolder, collective.flowplayer, Plumi, Vice, collective.uploadify or Red5, among others.

The two last chapters deal with what I think are vital topics when dealing with multimedia: storage and caching. In the storage one, I miss some more guidance about which storage system choose in every situation and why, instead of just a list of different available products with storage-related features.

Finally, I don’t think the appendices, covering multimedia and syndication formats, licenses and links for getting more help, are worth it. We already have Wikipedia, Google searches and all, so if one wants to read about, say, Ogg Vorbis, one ends here or here, with a lot more info that what one can find in the corresponding appendix of the book. All these pages could have better been employed in explaining more deeply the more advanced technical concepts, for example.

To sum up, I find this book good for “advanced” integrators or developers who are looking for an overview of the different available multimedia products for Plone. For the rest, I’ve not doubt you can learn something from it, but perhaps others fit your profile better.

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