November 2009
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Brave Vendors, Cruel Judges and Me

These be seven curses on a judge so cruel:
That one doctor will not save him,
That two healers will not heal him,
That three eyes will not see him.
That four ears will not hear him,
That five walls will not hide him,
That six diggers will not bury him
And that seven deaths shall never kill him.
- SEVEN CURSES

Better late than never. I promised I’d scribble something about the Web Idol Competition at JBoye 09. The competition involved 6 vendors each presenting a fast paced 7 minute demo to the crowds, mimicking something like Pop Idol. The judging is done by an “expert” panel of 3 judges who offer inane commentary. The audience vote holds all the power over the final outcome.

I was lucky enough to be asked to be one of the three judges on the panel. Teaching me the ropes were Erik Hartman, a grandfather of Content Management, and Sara Redin of JBoye. The night before, I was out drinking with a Dutch guy called Erik and was enormously impressed by how much he knew about all the CMS products out there. Idiot that I am, I didn’t put two and two together and only realised that he was the Erik when I sat next to him on the panel. I’ve been a fan of his for ten years.

Anyway, the participating vendors (in the order they presented, from our right to left in the picture) were Microsoft, e-Spirit, Kapow, TERMINALFOUR, 23 Video and Sitecore. So 4 content management vendors, a content migration vendor and a video startup.

WedIdol1

First up was Microsoft, presenting a Web Content Management interface in SharePoint 2010. I think it is a massive improvement over the monster that is MOSS 2007, but my fellow judges didn’t think much of it. The much hated Ribbon interface (as featured in the new versions of MS Office) received scorn. The demo didn’t show anything profound. While it is true that we didn’t see anything that other systems haven’t been doing for years, at least it brings SharePoint into the ballpark. I’ve been violently opposed to the idea of using MOSS for public facing sites, but the new version might warrant a rethink.

While we’re on this, those of you that saw Steve Ballmer’s discussion with Tom Rizzo in October 2009 must have had their ear’s prick when they heard this:

We have a lot of customers using SharePoint in Internet sites, and with the capabilities of 2010, we expect to see that explode. But it wasn’t the initial design point for SharePoint.

Wait, Steve, did I hear you right? After The Righteous have been fighting (and losing) the SharePoint For Public Facing Sites for many a long year, you suddenly say that Internet Sites were not a design goal of the initial SharePoint. No shit. But why couldn’t you have saved everyone a whole lot of pain and said this when MOSS was released. And if, in 5 years time, you end up saying the same thing about SharePoint 2010, I think I’ll kick you in the starboard testicle.

Next up was e-Spirit, showing off the FirstSpirit CMS. e-Spirit aren’t a vendor I know much about. They’re really big in Germany, and are trying to get into other markets. I actually quite like the interface we were shown, although it does look rather complicated. It’s always hard to judge as we were show the interface as seen by an administrator. Maybe it’s simpler if you’re logged in as a lesser mortal. The drag-and-drop of multiple objects looked rather nice. That said, the demo didn’t go well at all. The connection to the interwebs was very slow which screwed the demo badly (my comment about everything being run on local machines was wrong). And the choice of things to show wasn’t great either.

Third on was Kapow, doing a content migration demo. I thought the demo was decent, taking content from the conference site and sticking it into SiteCore. However, I suspect that most of the audience probably weren’t sure what they were seeing. For me, the demo was a lot more interesting than the rather dry Kapow presentation the night before. They showed the web interface for scripted remote control of a browser for migrating content. If I understood it correctly, it’s a bit like the Selenium IDE. Seeing as I’m more a fan of coding/scripting than pointing/clicking, it didn’t do much for me. I’m sure there is a scripting interface too, but we never saw it. I know the Vamosa product suite far better than I know Kapow, and the demo I saw didn’t allow me to compare the two.

TERMINALFOUR was fourth. Piero showed a nice solid demo of the interface with a bit of WebDAV thrown in, but again nothing profound. Later that beer-fuelled evening, Janus introduced Piero to someone from the Danish digital agency 727 online, and we all spent the next half an hour talking shite about 727 landing on TERMINALFOUR. You probably had to be there.

Fifth was 23 Video, a startup that also produced the video for the conference. While the previous four demos were feature showcases, this demo was scenario based, which the judges preferred. But as the judges are all CMS geeks not Video Sharing Sites geeks, there weren’t too many questions. For example, my company uses the YouTube API and Viddler at the moment. The demo didn’t convince me to consider changing. I’d also have loved to see a video upload, but I guess the restrictive conference bandwidth probably meant they were clever to avoid this.

Last were defending champions SiteCore, presented by the defending champion Lars Birkholm Petersen. This was probably the most feature poor seven minutes of all of them. The whole demo consisted of creating a form with a CAPTCHA, and trying to fill in the form. There was a peak at the newly released Online Marketing Suite. They cleverly did not ever actually show the SiteCore interface which some of you will know also contains an Office-style ribbon.

However, it was a brilliantly presented featureless demo. Lars had hats representing conference organiser Janus, and CMS Analyst Adriaan Bloem (who wasn’t at the conference because he wasn’t capable of passing the CAPTCHA). He told a great story and got lots of laughs from everyone. You can watch the all the demos below.

The results:

  • 3rd – TERMINALFOUR
  • 2nd – 23 Video
  • 1st – Sitecore, defending their title

Unsurprisingly, the votes went according to the quality and style of the demo, not according to what was actually demoed. And the best demo certainly won. But none of the vendors showed any profound features. Throughout the conference everyone was talking about The Next Big Thing, Social Media, Engagement, Web 3.5, etc, etc. Yet all the CMS vendors simply showed their content entry forms! If I’d had a vote, I think I’d have voted for Microsoft (shock, horror!) based on a Most Improved Award mentality.

The whole event was great fun. The other two judges were mean – Erik being the hardest to please. I’m told that Erik looks like a kitten compared to Tony Byrne, who makes vendors cry. Finally, I often wonder how important the “sizzle” factor is in demos that are part of formal RFPs. I hope the buyers judge on more than the audiences at Web Idol do.

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4 comments to Brave Vendors, Cruel Judges and Me

  • The joke about 727 landing on TERMINALFOUR was epic ;)

    • It sure was. Started getting a bit silly when we were talking about Piero setting up a demo booth in the security queue at Heathrow Terminal 4 so he could sell licenses while people had nothing better to do.

      I should have mentioned that 727 actually do have an old 727 plane as part of their office. It’s quite a story.

      An old, successful, Danish advertising and marketing agency established in 1972 was re-invented. In November 2003 727 communication as had its unique grand opening. Lady Patricia – an old Boeing 727 and a new airport terminal was put up on one of the busiest motorways in Denmark.
      The plane and the terminal building are now 727’s headquarters. Within one year after the grand opening the brand awareness rate jumped from 20% to 85%

  • George

    As always I’m drawn to look at the interface code of the vendors. The usual mixed bag but I was interested to see 23 Video are using Drupal…

    …there is no escape.

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