Plone 3.3 Site Administration Review

Packt Plone books strike again! Written by well-known Alex Clark and technically reviewed by the re-incident Steve McMahon, Plone 3.3 Site Administration comes to my e-shelf. Being Alex the most dedicated administrator, you can’t expect him to be wrong at how to manage a Plone site. :)

While the book target audience is claimed to be everyone interested in becoming more familiar with how to professionally manage Plone sites, I’ve found most of the book very, very basic. If you know how to use a terminal, a text editor and a browser, you’re likely not going to have many problems following the detailed tiny-step-by-tiny-step instructions provided in the book. However, the reader might feel sometimes like a script-kiddie, executing commands and adding sections to his/her buildout without really understanding fully what he/she’s doing (and why) and thus unable to confidently change the configuration. This is specially true in the last chapters of the book.

The writing style is always casual and easy. Alex gets directly to the point without much bla-bla. The downside is that Alex sometimes uses some concepts (like Five, FSDVs or CMF) in the book without previous introduction or pointers to further documentation. But of course, you can always rely on Google. For some questions the reader might have, Alex has opted for a short-answer/medium-answer/long-answer schema that, while the division is not always perfect, helps the reader to decide how in deep does he/she want to go.

The book is a gentle introduction to buildout and product installation (including basic theming) for absolute beginners, and that’s what the first half of the book is all about, but I had expected a longer treatment of load balancing schemes, cache proxies and settings for optimal performance, load testing, multimedia streaming, development-production products and buildout deployment, apache/nginx configuration for Plone, multiple ZODB mount-points and ZEO configuration, among others. These are the kind of things I would expect an advanced Plone site administrator to master, and what we need proper, comprehensive documentation for.

Summing up, if you fall inside the target audience outlined in the paragraph above, you’re going to like this book. If you’re looking for more hard-core site administration stuff, check out Planet Plone and other online docs.

2 thoughts on “Plone 3.3 Site Administration Review

  1. Thanks for the review! You make some good points, especially about the lack of advanced material. I wanted specifically to address the “buildout phobia” I’ve seen in the #plone IRC channel for the past few years. That’s why you see very simple examples for things like “using Buildout to deploy Pound or HAProxy”, because anything more is beyond the scope of the target audience: the computer-savvy-but-buildout-challenged.

    As for FSDV and friends, my style was actually to “say the thing” then include the acronym (developed over time, during writing). So every place you see FSDV you should have seen “file system directory view” first. This is intentional, to get people used to seeing those acronyms. If I didn’t explain what a “file system directory view” is, then that is indeed an oversight.

    Lastly, I think the target audience will enjoy this book, and some have even said as much already (via, e.g.

    At 1:34pm on August 6, 2010, Zoltan Benedek said…
    Hi Alex, I’m a reader of your book “Plone 3.3 Site Administration”. It is an excellent book. Perhaps is my fault, but until now I never had success to install Plone using buildout. With the help of step by step description of your book I could install a simple Plone system and understood the process. I’m going to learn further.
    Thank You



  2. Oh, and regarding the documentation for advanced site administration, I really think we should create a Sphinx repository in the Plone core repository and start writing “professional” documentation. Mikko and Dylan’s “collective docs” experiment has proven we can get Sphinx content into PHC…

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