My Adventures in CMS-Wonderland

By Sandra Blok, web journalist and developer, worked for WageIndicator till 2011

In 2001 the Dutch WageIndicator for women only, had an appealing teaser on its homepage: ‘I am a man, can I fill in the questionnaire as well? Yes you can!’

Work with that Woman!

A year later, in 2002, I took a course of internet writing for journalists where several teachers covered various topics. In the afternoon, when all students seemed a bit tired by listening for so many hours, Paulien entered the classroom. I remember that moment very clearly. It was as if some kind of jazzy music started to play. It took Paulien only five minutes to shake everyone up. She showed us a number of websites and explained some cases. She did not give a lecture, but forced us instead to think creatively and to participate in the lively group discussion that arose soon. We had to think together and work together. No one could afford not to pay attention or doze off again.

Instantly I knew: I want to work with this woman!

This was Magic

And so I entered the world of wage inequality, trade unions and last but not least a practical tool named: Content Management System, or CMS for short. This was magic! One could type words in a system, make them bold and give them a color, upload a photo and make hyperlinks just by pressing some icon! Until then I had found my way on the internet by using plain coding.

It was not that this CMS solved all problems. In fact it created a lot of new ones. Many unexpected things happened: punctuation and accents got mixed up, the font could change all of a sudden, pictures floated in and out of view, data got lost, the longer I was online the slower the connection, the system crashed at least twice a week, the guy who had to solve things didn’t work on Wednesday… but hey, we had a super cool tool!

The Marble Miracle

This euphoria however was not allowed to last for long. Designer Nienke Dirkse was working on something new with her team. Something revolutionary, something awesome. As soon as this technical wonder was born, Paulien adopted it: Marble was its name. The new WageIndicator design and the CMS-Marble were Siamese twins, inseparable. Yet another miracle!

I played around for many years with Marble which was renamed Orange Marble when it had grown up. I loved the media library where all the pictures were stored. Everywhere I went, meetings, festivals, weddings, I always brought my camera with me! (no smartphone, just a very heavy digital camera, one of the first which at the time still cost me the fortune of € 900). Photoshop kept me busy day and night. Every article on all WageIndicator websites now had their unique visual. Until one day we got an e-mail from a father who complained that we had published a pic of his son, taken at some Fair. He wanted money for the pic! We took it off right away. Not much later the internet exploded with free pics: playtime obviously was over.


Plone: the Ultimate Can-do

WageIndicator grew fast, while Orange Marble remained what and where it was: a perfect tool for the Dutch Loonwijzer. But it had got all mixed up by Hungarian and Polish lettering and wasn’t equipped to incorporate the inevitable changes brought about by global expansion.

And in came Plone. Definitely a boy-tool; technically very advanced and making me promises of infinite possibilities. I was a bit skeptical though. I had heard such promises before. After all, I was a few years older now and a hard nut to crack. Yet, eventually Plone stole my heart. I could experiment as much as I liked: creating tables, implementing scripts and try freaky stuff with ads and content from third parties. Plone could bend to the left and to the right, one could kick or slap it, but it never stopped functioning. When you needed it, Huub would work out a solution with Plone. His answer always was ‘Yes we can!’

My journey through CMS-country has been an exhilarating rollercoaster ride.