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Germany 2011 - Day 4

Germany 2011 - Day 4

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Symposium 2011

Cologne, Germany

The day began with a keynote presentation by Allen Chang about the history and the future of Symphony, and was followed by presentations on Git, multilingual sites, search, the mobile web and modular Symphony development, and email. The sessions ended with a quick review of discussion topics that would not be covered by the in-depth discussions planned for the following day.

The History and Future of Symphony

Allen Chang | @chaoticpattern

Allen took us back to the beginnings of Symphony, or Typeworks as it was once called. With great aspirations and a fair amount of arrogance and naïveté, Symphony began as a commercial project to offer a free content management system with a business model based on requiring a $50 upfront support fee.

Even from the beginning, the idea was to build a community of like-minded developers, advancing web standards with a tool built on standards, flexibility, simplicity and design.

The core developers, Allen, Alistair Kearney and Scott Hughes, quickly found out that their business model was not working. Eventually, they decided to move toward offering Symphony as open source software. Since then, the community has grown to become the best feature of Symphony.

Symphony 3.0 beta was released at the time of the last Symposium, representing the system that Allen and Alistair had always hoped to build. In retrospect, it was the wrong approach to completely rewrite the core and break compatibility with version 2, with no planned migration from version 2 to 3. This would mean the loss of all the gains made since the release of 2.0, including the API, extensions, documentation and forum discussions.

So, the plan is to continue building on Symphony 2 and use the Symphony 3 beta system as a proof of concept of some solutions that can be pulled into Symphony 2.

The Symphony company is no longer responsible for the development of the application, and the reponsibility for the Symphony core and extensions has been fully given to the community. Allen will continue as Technical Lead for the Symphony project.

The working groups have been very successful in many ways over the past year, but there now needs to be a formal process for enlisting new members and resigning as a member. And separating people into separate types of groups may have been a little too limiting. Instead, we are planning to have a single working group, where members can take on any type of task they feel they are capable of taking on.

Git + Symphony

Nils Werner | @phoque

Git is a distributed version control system that Symphony is using to manage the collaborative process involved in developing an open source project. GitHub is central to all aspects of the work that the community is developing for Symphony.

Nils gave us an overview of the importance of using Git in all our workflows, reviewing commonly used commands and best practices for Symphony development, whether building extensions or contributing to the core.

Building Multilingual Websites

Jonas Coch | @klaftertief

A common challenge for web sites that have a global reach is the integration of multiple languages. There are several approaches, and within the Symphony community, there are multiple techniques and extensions that have been proposed, developed and implemented.

Jonas provided an overview of the strategies, extensions and techniques that can be used in managing multilingual content.

A Brief Introduction To Search

Nick Dunn | @nickdunn

Nick Dunn, Head of User Experience at Airlock, described the challenges involved in implementing search in Symphony as a prelude to a demonstration of an extension he has been working on for over a year-and-a-half. The demonstration involved importing the full works of Shakespeare into Symphony and searching for keywords and phrases. The extension has now been updated to include the following features.

The Search Index extension is now close to a version 2.0 release and is currently being used in production on a commercial site, More! Magazine.

Designing and Building for the Mobile Web

Stephen Bau | @bauhouse

My talk was a modified version of the presentation I gave during our Mobile Web Workshop. I provided a brief history of the web in the context of design defined as:

Adapting skills and tools
to the forms of communication
that make sense to connect with people
and share your ideas

Designers have tended to translate past modes of communication to the new medium of the internet, but we have broken the web in the process. Tables and Flash have been our legacy. Now we build web sites with only desktop devices in mind. The web was designed to be fluid, adaptive, accessible and device-agnostic.

Our new mobile context calls for a new approach to web design that recognizes the web as an entirely new medium. Recently released or soon to be released books such as Luke Wroblewski's Mobile First and Ethan Marcotte's Responsive Web Design give us some principles and techniques for a new approach. With the growing popularity of galleries, such as Media Queries, and the launch of the new Boston Globe site, sporting a responsive web design, using CSS media queries to adapt web layouts to different screen sizes and devices is an approach that demonstrates the effectiveness of using standards-based code and tools to cost-effectively build once and publish everywhere. Symphony, built from the ground up with web standards in mind, provides the tools to adapt to these new approaches and change our workflows in the process.

(View the slides here.)

Symphony User Interface

Nils Hörrmann | @nilshoerrmann
Simone Economo | @eKoeS

Nils Hörrmann and Simone Economo presented their ideas about the Symphony User Interface design refresh that they have been engaged in, where they face the challenges of overcoming the fear of imperfection, the fear of complexity and the fear of progress. At the same time, we need to consider accessibility, responsive design, and backward and cross-browser compatibility as we envision how the user interface should evolve over time.

Email Power in Symphony

Huib Keemink
Michael Eichelsdörfer

Michael Eichelsdörfer, a freelance developer working in Munich, Germany, has been working with a German political party, helping them to build a means of communicating with their membership base through websites and email. He developed the Ninja Domains technique for serving multiple domains from a single installation of Symphony.

To build a system to use Symphony sections, events and data sources to manage mail lists and send plain text and HTML emails, he enlisted the help of Huib Keemink of Creative Dutchmen to collaborate on the Email Newsletter Manager extension. With this new extension, in combination with the Symphony core Email API and the Email Template Manager extension, Michael and Huib demonstrated how easy it is now to manage subscription lists and send emails, all within Symphony.


Allen Chang ended the day by moderating discussions about the future of the Symphony site, being redesigned and developed by Craig Zheng. It will feature a single stream for showcases, extensions, releases, discussions and social networking feeds with filters for different content types. Satellite sites will be able to access an API to create regional subsites, using the same template as the German Symphony Developers Network.

Dinner at Mercato Deluxe

After a day packed with amazing demonstrations of new Symphony extensions and the passion of this small community, we gathered around one large table at Mercato Deluxe to enjoy a fine dining experience, featuring Italian cuisine and wine, talking late into the night.