The open horizon

11 years of Plone at UW Oshkosh, and now a new start

Over 11 years ago, during my first year working as a systems analyst / DBA at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, it was fate that I volunteered to have a look at a grant project that had come in from our College of Education and Human Services. 

Plone Comes to UW Oshkosh (2004)

The $300,000 grant project was to create a sophisticated web portal for the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction's new WIDA project, a multi-state consortium developing K-12 diagnostic tests for English Limited Learners. 

The web site content would be partly public, partly private (login required), and would allow the viewing and downloading of documents and files., some of which were password-protected.

The content creators were educators, not technology specialists, so the entire user interface needed to be geared to non-technical users, with WYSIWYG editors and easy uploading of files and images, and had to allow content to be reviewed before being made public (workflow!).

Over the next three years, we formed a small design, programming, and support team that quickly delivered a beautiful, functionally rich web portal that was used by thousands of educators from over 20 states.  All this was possible thanks to the flexibility and power of the open source Plone enterprise web content management system (

My colleague, Brian Ledwell, and I began to demo Plone and what it could do for a number of units on campus, and we soon had many deployed Plone sites in use, for academic departments and colleges.  What began as a grassroots effort to professionalize the university's web presence eventually won official adoption of Plone for the entire campus.

Fast Forward to 2015

As of February 2015, UW Oshkosh has close to 300 production web sites built with Plone, including intranets, public sites (for academic and administrative units), and workflow (e-business) systems, supported by a small but dedicated team. 

Over the years, that team has included students majoring in Computer Science, Information Systems, and Theatre, who have gone on to successful careers in Information Technology, sometimes in positions at UW Oshkosh. 

Some have become leaders in the Plone open source community, participating in the User Interface and Security teams; contributing to PloneEdu, and hosting the Plone Symposium Midwest for 2013 and 2014.  We have contributed several add-ons to the Plone universe: uwosh.timeslot, uwosh.northstar, uwosh.pfg.d2c, uwosh.snippets, uwosh.transitionbuttons. 

A New Start

Beginning March 1, 2015, I will be embarking on the next phase of my career, working freelance on Plone projects.  While I am leaving behind my job at UW Oshkosh, my connection to valued colleagues and great friends continues, and so does the living legacy of the second largest Plone installation in the US*, and one of the largest in the world.

For this success, I thank my colleagues at UW Oshkosh, in particular my co-conspirator Brian Ledwell in bringing Plone to the campus, our former CIO Ken Splittgerber for having the confidence in us and our vision for the university, the many, many welcoming, brilliant, and kind members of the worldwide Plone community, but most especially the WebLion team at Penn State for showing us the way.



* The largest US Plone installation is University of Louisville's, initially built by Kurt Bendl and currently maintained and enhanced by Brandon Gaddie.