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CMS-Garden - Why Open Source CMS's Are Not Opponents

CMS-Garden - Why Open Source CMS's Are Not Opponents

Every so often I have some tweets in my timeline where I can watch people from Joomla! talking really bad about Wordpress. Or Drupal. Or another CMS. And most of the times, people do this because they see all the opensource CMS as opponents on something that they call "the CMS market". Now, take a seat, because here comes a shocking truth: neither Drupal nor Wordpress nor any other opensource CMS is an opponent for Joomla. 

The real opponents are closed source CMS, "do-it-yourself" website generators and web agencies selling their "own system" to clients. Each and every time a large company chooses a closed source system because they think that an opensource CMS "won't be professional enough" is a huge loss for all CMS communities. And every time a guy next door fires up iWeb to build his website a kitten dies.

You may ask why I point out this quite obvious fact. The reason is, that I think that the opensource CMS haven't realized this yet and therefore invest far too much time and effort in fighting each other instead of working together to get a bigger piece of the cake that we call internet. But there's one project, that could be an example to CMS communities all over the planet and I would like to tell you something about this thing that calls itself "CMS-Garden".

In the beginning...

Everything started in 2012 on the world-largest IT trade fair called "CeBIT" that takes place in Hannover, Germany. A local webhost called "Mittwald" invited four opensource CMS to present themselves on their CeBIT-booth to attract some new people - and of course to attract some new customers for Mittwald. I was asked to represent Joomla! on the booth (together with two Mittwald employees) and before I got there I was a bit concerned that each of the systems (Joomla!, Wordpress, Typo3 and Drupal) at the booth would end up in telling bad stuff about the other systems - but you know what? The exact opposite happened! We started to get in touch with each other, took a look at the systems we had no experience with and talked about pretty much everything from technical details to project government. And at the end of the fair we were so amazed that we decided to come up with a small "OpenSource CMS" booth at CeBIT 2013, which would be a common platform to present Drupal, Wordpress, Typo3 and Joomla.

After the fair, things started to grow really fast:

  • within 4 months we had 9 more systems that wanted to be part of the booth: Contao, Contendio, OpenCMS, SientificCMS, modx, Redaxo, Plone, DjangoCMS and Papaya
  • we found a very experienced partner, which was the company that organizes the so called "OpenSourcePark" at the CeBIT. They were really interested in the idea of a CMS booth and helped us a lot with all the organisational details that none of us had any experience with
  • we worked out a concept of how we would like to present ourselves: as professional, but open and friendly communities, who want to present the best things of their systems - with the honesty to tell people if their specific use case can be realized better with another system than the one that he or she is representing. 
  • we came up with the name "CMS-Garden" and decided to let the name influence the booth design and clothes. We bought straw hats and skirts that were real eye catchers and attracted a lot of people that didn't even know what a CMS is.
  • and we started to realize: well, this is going to be really expensive.

In the first calculation, we had costs of 100 000€ - that's a huge amount of money, and we knew that it would be really hard to raise it as we had made the decision to not show any sponsor logos at the booth itself. Instead, we decided to create a brochure that would be given away at the booth and that would consist of neutral descriptions of the participating systems, opensource in common, a nice comparison table and a lot of ads that could be bought by people and companies in the CMS communities.

Getting started

At first, we really had problems to get the ad sells going because people didn't believe that we would actually be able to make it and realize the project, but with a lot of engagement from people from all the communities, we were able to raise 75 000€ which was enough to bring us to the CeBIT as we reduced some expenses. And the brochure was called "the by far best publication of the whole fair because it's not only marketing-shit". By the way: the Joomla! community contributed almost a third of the sum - so take a moment to clap yourself on the shoulder.

So now we started recruiting people from the communities that would be willing to invest their free time and even money (travel expenses, food) to represent their system - and I write "system" and not "their business" as we had rule that said that you're only allowed to give away your business card if somebody directly asks you. Thereby, we wanted to ensure that the systems and not the individual businesses are in the focus of the booth visits.
As it turned out, this was the really easy part. Within a few weeks we had over a hundred (in numbers: 105) volunteers for the booth - that's cool huh? A hundred people from 13 CMS systems working together to reach a common goal: kick closed-source systems asses. And to ensure that the volunteers had the chance to get in touch with each other (and to save a huge amount of money on hotel costs) we rented a complete youth hostel including a kitchen and slept, ate and talked together under one roof.

Now you might ask yourself if our plan worked out and everything worked as expected. Short answer: yes. And it was 10 times better than everything I had dreamed about before the event! During the whole fair we had an incredibly positive atmosphere at the booth that I never experienced before! It was so great to see more than a hundred people from all over Germany coming together to reach our goal of presenting ourselves as the better alternative to closed source systems. And each and everyone of them was open-minded, friendly and honestly interested in how other system handle things which created a really positive mood - we were one big opensource family. And I think within those five days at the CeBIT, I learned more about the other systems than during my last five years as a web developer.


And it was also a really successful project from a marketing perspective. During five days, we had approximately 9000-10000 people visiting the booth! That's an entire small city taking a closer look at our systems! And even more important: those people were decision makers in large companies, they work at the tech press or at governmental institutions - so exactly the kind of people who are really hard to reach. For example, because of our booth, the CMS-Garden as a project got invited into the BITKOM which is the largest German IT industry organisation - that's a huge thing because we got this membership for free instead of having to pay 10 000€. And we had an IT-manager of the German space agency "DLR" who specifically came to the CeBIT to take a look at the CMS because they want to relaunch their sites with an opensource system - by the way: right now they are in the process of deciding if they stay with their current closed-source system or switch to Joomla, which would be an awesome thing for the Joomla! community.

So at the end of the event, we made the decision that the CMS-Garden has to go on! So far, we have attended four more fairs in Germany this year, and in 2014 we want to attend at least six fairs, including the CeBIT which is our biggest one. And we decided to establish a CMS-Garden association to have a legal base for all our projects and to concentrate our marketing efforts in Germany at one place. For example, we want to hire a company to handle all the press work for all systems in the German market - if we do this together, it's just a few hundred euros for each system per year. If each system would do this by itself, it would probably cost 3 or 4 times the sum.

CMS-Garden is an awesome, unique thing!

But if you ask me, it shouldn’t be unique! We should have gardens all over the globe, because this can work everywhere and not only in Germany - so if you thing that working together is a good idea, talk to your local communities of other CMS and build up your own version of the CMS-Garden. You won't regret it!


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