It is concrete5s turn to shine in 2016, and were so excited to be here with you!
Today I want to give you a little of history to set context, and then tell you about all the exciting things that are starting to happen now.
Weve all put in a lot of work to get our spot as the 4th most popular CMS today. We introduced the idea of in-context editing with concrete way back in 2003. We kept championing that your website should be as easy to use as a word processor all the way through going open source in 2008.
When we went open source, it was at a time of massive change for us. Our clients were all startups, so the great recession hit their budgets hard. We went through some downsizing, and we released the fifth major rebuild of our closed source Concrete CMS as now free and open source under the MIT license. Quickly we saw our daily downloads go from a few, to dozens, to hundreds. We became project of the month on SourceForge within 90 days.
We started to have this amazing community of developers come together. It was miles away from what we had been doing as a little closed source interactive media shop. It was amazing for us. Every day wed get new developers asking great questions and making valuable contributions in our forums. For me it felt like a whole rebirth after running a traditional webshop for so many years. It was like starting to read the second book in a series you know is going to be awesome.
We organically grew, hiring in Portland, and focused our open source business strategy around our marketplace. We built the marketplace from the ground up to be a destination community. We developed gamification with karma points and badges. We created special offers, support systems, video shows and hired staff to review add-ons. We tried everything. When business people asked me if youre open source, how do you make money? I immediately answered the marketplace! We worked hard and watched revenue grow at steady rate until early 2012 when something started to change again.
Looking back at when the marketplaces growth slowed, I cant quickly sum it up with a simple answer. Theres at least a dozen things I can point at, some our fault, many just natural events and the competitive landscape changing. While almost any software solution out there has a developer marketplace of extensions these days, I cant find one that bases their entire revenue model on it. Even the mighty app store only accounts for 1.2% of apples's gross revenue.
There are improvements we still want (and do) make to the marketplace. We know it is a critical part of of the concrete5 ecosystem. Were proud of the work weve put into it, the quality of the reviews, all the work the PRB does, and particularly the tremendous efforts all our vendors go through to provide great support for their products. A big change internally however is acknowledging that entire project can not funded by proceeds from the marketplace alone. That strategy put undue burden on all the marketplace developers. It also ignores larger needs around our product that we should be paying attention to.
With that realization some time ago, we went to work rebuilding deep core elements of concrete5 that we wanted to be better in our first ever non-backwards compatible release: Version 7. This has really become another rebirth for concrete. Much like going open source in 2008, it took way more energy than we could really afford at the size we were, and we went through painful downsizing to get it out the door. If the first book in our Concrete CMS trilogy was our closed source early days, then everything through version 6 has been our second novel. Were now just starting the exciting third book in the series where things come together for our heros.
For years Ive been saying concrete5 is ubiquitous, its like a screwdriver, you can build a doghouse or a skyscraper with it, there is no vertical market. Thats a great sound-bite. Its true that small projects organically mature into larger ones very well with concrete5. However, you cant be everything to everyone, and some hard learned discipline has taught us to really think about our sweet spot.
An organization that has a team of people working on their website really benefits from using concrete5. Maybe its a company doing $10mm+ a year in revenue with a marketing department tired of calling the web guy for every change they need to make to their complicated site. Maybe is a large organization like PlannedParenthood or the U.S. Army with hundreds of content editors securely making changes to their parts of the site with limited training but effective workflow. Maybe its a school with contributors who have a wide range of skill sets wanting to edit their own parts of the site and use a development process that make sense for their unique team. All of these types of projects are wildly successful with concrete5 today. 2016 is about positioning ourselves as the primary open source solution for this type of project.
Our sweet spot is capitalizing on the in-context editing feel that ALL of the hosted web builders base their user experience around, but offering it to the more discerning larger client with bigger needs. They know their web presence will grow over time. For that type of client we have a uniquely appealing product, today.
What this means for PortlandLabs is a shifting of energy to sell more support. Weve taken on huge projects in the past ourselves, and while well always continue to offer development services, were not a full service interactive media firm any longer. We offer no design or strategy services, we cant worry about your content or SEO. We just offer concrete5 development and support contracts, and thats the way we like it.
Think of us as a really great stage manager for a broadway play. The agency is the director, the client is the performer on the stage, selling their ideas and products to the audience. Its our job to make sure the set is properly built, the theater runs well, and any emergencies are handled efficiently. Every director brings their own process and team to the equation, every actor has their own needs too. Its our job to support what works for everyone involved. Serving this balance between creating and running websites is exactly what concrete5 has always excelled at technically. The services we offer from PortlandLabs will focus on enabling that same balanced solution, but through an ongoing relationship.
Were relaunching our support offering at concrete5.org. Were adding an optional Agency of Record model so we can clearly augment any shops service offering with our own support, certification and approval. We are repricing our enterprise software. We are launching a new partner program. We want your webshop to include upport plans and Enterprise tools from PortlandLabs in your proposals. We know our success has been because of the passion of our whole community, and we want to continue growing together with you.
With version 7 being out for over a year, concrete5 has really changed. Our codebase has become more appealing to standards driven developers, to the point where our own Korvin Szanto has become a leading member of PHP-FIG. Version 7 has had the real world time to get its kinks worked out, and makes version 6 feel dated. The emphasis on responsive design, grid aware layouts, mobile preview - those features have all panned out to be exactly what the market demands. From abstracting templates from page types, to the new strongly typed content framework were building, theres been more exciting improvements and changes to concrete5 in the last 12 months than in the previous 3 years combined. We feel just like we did in 2008 before launching open source. Its great to have a product youre really proud of that you want to share with the world.
Another huge change for us has been the decentralization of PortlandLabs. We used to have expensive offices in the hip part of town, hire local talent and start training them from 0 on concrete5. Now we work on Slack and meet every once in awhile in a room full of couches and whiteboards. We have an international pool of freelancers whose expertise everyone watching this will know from their github work on core, and Andy and I are excited to be working with each and every one of them. We can engage the best talent from anywhere, instantly, 24/7, and everyone can decide for themselves what makes a nice work environment. Being an old 90s web guy, I love this new evolution in startup culture. Its a massive improvement, You just have to learn how to depend on software for process, instead the water cooler.
Its going to let me personally work from anywhere in the world, and come next fall - thats exactly what I intend to do. I will be taking my family on tour as we go across the UK and Europe from September on. I hope to visit a lot of shops and people that are using concrete5 on my way, so if youd like to meet - Id love to hear from you. We might even dip through the Pacific on the way home.
eCommerce remains an open concern here, but has no launch date yet. It ties directly into the work were doing now around Data Types. Over the years weve seen a need to disconnect the content you might want to manage, from the pages it is managed on. Data types will make building an application just as easy to do with concrete5, as building a content driven marketing site is today.
Imagine being able to throw a bunch of custom attributes together call it boats, then easily create a relationship to a marinas model, and have all of the list, edit, add interfaces to manage that data automatically generated for you. Add the ability to bring data in from 3rd party feeds like SalesForce or Oracle, and all of a sudden concrete5 becomes a really powerful content management system, with a nice web builder GUI on the front end.
We will use this new strongly typed data model to power our own free eCommerce solution, which will really focus on the content management side of the problem and rely on third party solutions like Paypal and FoxyCart for the checkout, discounts, taxes, shipping, all that. This keeps our team from being spread too thin. eCommerce is a huge problem to get right on its own. It also makes eCommerce for concrete5 appealing for all sized clients, including the bigger ones.
Well be releasing some other add-ons focused around business needs including a calendar, careers section, and press room. Were planning some cool ideas for an A/B testing and personalization suite. Theres lots of big things on the horizon at PortlandLabs.
Were notoriously bad about marketing what weve done. concrete5 has been a well kept secret for way too long. As this third round of huge changes comes to together into the next book in the concrete series, we need a voice to scream to the world about the awesome things being built with concrete5. That voice, our new Technology Evangelist, is Jessica Dunbar.
Jess has been a concrete5 fan since the very early days. Shes helped Trivera build some great concrete5 sites over the years. Shes been very active in the Joomla community, where she just left a role on the management team to join us full time. Her responsibility is to grow the project, period. To that end shell be managing training & certification as they emerge this year for version 7. Shell also run parts of the community, marketing, events - so on. Shes a full time PortlandLabs employee, but she is not involved in sales, support, operations, or any other services we offer. Her only job is to drum up the ground swell of developer interest that drives an open source project. Weve only been working with her since January started, and already we can feel the difference. Very exciting changes around here indeed!
We just announced an important project for PortlandLabs with the U.S. Army MWR Group. Over 80 sites are being redesigned and centralized into a single concrete5 install that disseminates information to millions of soldiers, spouses, family members, and friends. Its a huge responsibility to get right, and we think a great story for agencies to tell their larger prospective clients about concrete5
So in the past year or two a lot has been changing and now so much of it is finally coming together in 2016.
This is a perfect time for developers to get involved with concrete5. Maybe youve felt like a small fish in a big pond on some other projects. Well, were eager to have your contributions here. Andrew and I are both very accessible, Korvin hangs out in IRC all the time.
Weve completely revamped our labeling system on github and have more 3rd party developers getting pull requests accepted than ever before. Some of those developers are now contractors with us here at PortlandLabs.
Our docs have just been relaunched as a wiki, where its easy for anyone to contribute. Even a typo fix might get your name in lights on the leaderboards.
Sure our version 7 marketplace only has a few dozen themes, and im told theres thousands out there for the big three CMSs. That sounds like a great opportunity for someone who wants to be a big fish in a small pond thats growing. Even in this last year of version 7 launching, the more popular themes grossed developers on average about $10,000, sometimes up to $20,000. It takes time to build a good theme and get it approved. Now would be a good time to start as the rising tide of Jessicas promotional efforts will float all boats.
Theres a lot of ways to get involved, and if youre not sure how but would like to help, please do contact Jess - shes eager to orchestrate any and all energy you can offer.
So Thank you very much. It's been an amazing adventure so far, and the future it looking bright for concrete5 in 2016.
Let me introduce Jess, and take a few questions.