OpenPublish 2.0 and Beyond – A Labor of Love

As one of the very first widely adopted and professionally created Drupal distributions, OpenPublish has been an active growing project now through 2 major releases and over 8 minor releases since we first released it in January of 2009. OpenPublish has had a good run so far in 2010 with lots of exciting developments to share. As its creator and maintainer, Phase2 Technology has invested over 3,000 employee hours into this effort. I hope this post helps explain a bit about why we think that effort has been worth it.

Version 2.0

In April, just in time for Drupalcon San Francisco, we released version 2.0 which was a big leap from our version 1.0 releases. Rather than introduce new features, we took a step back and worked on the platform itself. One of the major changes is that we introduced the Features module and exportable functionality into the architecture. We did this specifically to curtail feature bloat on the core distro. This change should allow individual customers to have greater modularity of the functionality for a given installation. It also makes sharing custom features across sites a lot easier, as well as update paths for OpenPublish versions, more manageable.

With Version 2.0, we focused a lot of time on improvements to the theme layer because we realized most users were struggling with implementing custom look and feel more than any other issue. Also, we found in our own OpenPublish implementations that the separation of a clean theme layer would significantly improve the time of delivery and maintenance of code. As part of this effort, we released a new cleaner base theme that has received rave reviews from designers.

The complete list of changes for Version 2.0 can be found on our new website also launched in April that features more community resource information, a more appropriate design and significantly improved documentation.

OpenPublish Adoption

In early May, we were very proud to have another classic American periodical chose OpenPublish (and Phase2), The Nation, the 135 year old magazine of culture and politics which is the longest running periodical in the United States. The Nation joins its peer publication, The New Republic, which is approximately 100 years old, in its use of OpenPublish. We are very proud of these two publications and the fact that OpenPublish now powers the two oldest magazines in U.S. history. With other respected political magazines like Governing using OpenPublish, we seem to have carved an enduring niche with policy magazines.

One question we have been getting a lot is how many publications are now using OpenPublish. While our metrics are not exact, we know the following:

Downloads

  • 2010 downloads (since release of v1.6) – 3,500
  • 2009 downloads (prior to v1.6) approx. ~ 6,220

Installations

  • Version 2.0 public installations (in just over one month) – 820
  • Version 1.6/1.7 public installations approx. ~ 770
  • Version 1.0 – 1.5 public installations (estimated) ~ 500

So that means that roughly 10,000 people have downloaded OpenPublish to date and about 2,000 (or 20%) of those people are now running sites using the installation. Even better is that these numbers are trending rather dramatically with greater than 2/3rds of the live installations being from less than half of 2010. It makes us feel great to have had that sort of impact. But we are especially proud that anecdotal evidence suggests many of those are people new to Drupal – meaning we had some impact in growing the Drupal community with OpenPublish.

Partnering with Acquia

While these numbers are nice, we think the market potential is still very untapped and we have taken steps to achieve even greater outreach in 2010. We were honored to be selected as the first distribution to be included in the new Acquia Software Publisher’s program which was formally announced at Drupalcon this year in April. We started this discussion with Acquia last year when both parties realized the potential to take our partnership to another level by jointly promoting OpenPublish to publishers who wanted a fully packaged solution. By having the help of Acquia with sales and marketing and by bundling their specialized services and offerings – which many people ask for from us (support, training, hosting, etc.) we get to focus on product development, innovation and architecture.

Another interesting aspect of this partnership is that we are actually hoping to tap into the Acquia Partner’s program to GIVE work to other implementation firms. The truth is that we don’t have the resources or desire to focus on only doing OpenPublish implementations and we tend to look for larger customers. This leaves a lot of great work opportunities floating around. We would like to see all customers interested in getting professional services help for OpenPublish find someone interested in helping them. This is part of the ecosystem around the distros that Dries wrote about just last week. Right now we have opportunities for designers, trainers, consultants, translators, and developers that exist because of OpenPublish that we would like to share.

Is it Working for Us?

So after all of this renewed effort, we are now often asked if we are getting what we want out of OpenPublish. The answer is yes. We want some of the implementation opportunities that OpenPublish has created to be Phase2 services projects and we are finding those. We want to find large implementation opportunities where we can flex our custom coding muscles, our integration experience tying into back-end system and running multi-site installations. We are getting this work too. We wanted to gain publishing industry knowledge, research, best practices and future development ideas. We are getting that in spades from OpenPublish.

Sure we have also made huge investment, sacrifices and contributions to gain those things, but truthfully we have also enjoyed the creative process of developing a product. It keeps our developers from hitting burn out building sites and lets us explore the commercial side of software product development.

Still, we are looking for more out of OpenPublish by making it the go to open source CMS solution for publishers. We have a great head-start with Drupal and we think that Drupal’s exploding popularity and technical superiority can help us achieve this. There is virtually no reason why a publisher already inclined towards open source would not find at least 50 – 80% of what they are seeking in a CMS from OpenPublish built on Drupal. The rest is “just Drupal” as we say and they can install, code, integrate or customize their remaining needs like any other Drupal customer.

What’s Next

We are working hard on a Version 2.1 update that will quickly fill in a few important gaps from 2.0 including: fixing bugs, performing module updates, further improving theming layer and enhancing SEO and semantic linking through RDFa. Our target date to release this is early June.

Then in coming weeks, we will be introducing translations and debuting a theme/showcase gallery on the site. Also, we are gradually opening up our documentation to external contributors. This summer/fall it will be time to tackle Drupal 7.

An OpenPublish for Uncle Sam

We are so pleased with what OpenPublish has become that we decided this year to try the model out on the needs of the federal government. We are calling the project OpenPublic because of the similarities to OpenPublish and because we see it as the public sector equivalent of the same offering. We will be talking a lot more about that new project in the coming weeks and in subsequent blog posts.

We have great hopes for evolving and improving how online publishing is done using Drupal through OpenPublish and now the government through OpenPublic. We hope you will join us on these community efforts and let us know if there is a way you would like to get involved.