1st UK Silverstripe meetup
Thursday, 3 September 09: Off to my first ever Meetup, 120 miles from where I live. Crazy? Maybe, but it is on a topic I am really interested in, and so far I don't know anybody whom to talk about it properly : SilverStripe, a new CMS that has become my preferred choice for making websites.
It was all worthwile, some of the reasons being:
- Met some interesting and enthusiastic people to talk about web design/development in general, and SilverStripe in particular
- Got confirmation that SilverStripe is a really good system
- Also got to know about some of its limitations
- Heard about some new devlopments
There was a good mix of people, mostly from the London area. My fear had been that everybody would be 10 years younger than me and/or have 10 years more experience with web design and development. Neither was the case. There was a considerable number of people who have children and one who was to become a father for the first time, and all of these, I reckon, were about my age. Regarding experience, there were some people who weren't actually professional web designers, but just use SilveStripe for their own or their spouse's or friends' websites. But then, there were some very experienced people as well. I found it valuable hearing from them how they use Silverstripe and when they don't use it (for example, ecommerce sites).
The meeting was organised by three members of the company GPMD who specialise in Silverstripe websites, mainly by Richard Johnson. Mark Slocock founded the company 10 years ago with a partner. He explained how he had built his own CMS that the company then used for building websites. But as he had come across Silverstripe he realised "it was 5 years ahead" compared to his own system. This, he said, made it an easy decision for him to abandon his own system and switch to Silverstripe.
I also talked to Jamie Neil, who works at GPMD, too. He has a degree in Computer Science and worked in various IT roles before joining GPMD. I asked him why SilverStripe wasn't more popular. "Mainly, because it is a very young system. But there are strong communities in New Zealand and Australia." To not give a wrong impression, there were not only people from GPMD present. Jeff van Campen, who has organised the London Web Standards Meetup for a year, is a web designer especially interested in user design/interface design. He is thinking of re-desining his own website with SilverStripe. He also said it was surprisingly difficult to find venues for these meetups in London.
The pub where this meeting took place, by the way, was not bad, it had a seperate area where we could sit, but the music was a bit loud at times. My suggestion would be to have the next meeting at Bristol! I think there must have been around 20 people at the meeting. Some left quite early, not long after I arrived (got there 45 minutes late). I liked the fact that it was a relatively small group. Generally, as mentioned before, there is not such a strong user base in the UK yet.
There would be more people to mention and more of the conversations, of course. I just wanted to give a glimpse of the meeting. To round up this post, a list of new and old conclusions about:
Why I love Silverstripe
- Easy to use for the end user/client
- HTML/CSS is completely independent, you can have any layout you want
- Customizing the CMS is done through PHP code, not through a user interface
- PHP is very well structured, all based on PHP5, capsuled functionality, easy to build on and extend
- Enthusiastic community ready to help with questions
For me it is both a very versatile tool for building applications (I have just built one for teachers, for discussing and publishing lesson plans online), and a good way to improve my PHP! If you use SilverStripe and live in or near Bristol, please do get in touch. For the moment, I am happy to go to London for the next meetup!