kit blake on Mon, 4 Sep 2000 21:17:37 +0100

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Syndicate: Incubated in Paris

Incubated in Paris

The planning took place remotely, via a mailing list and web pages. It went
fast - a suggestion became a conference within weeks. We call this rapid

The 'we' is a group of people, distributed across Europe, who use an Internet
development platform called Zope ( It's open source,
constantly upgraded by a worldwide community. Steering the endeavor is Paul
Everitt (CEO of Digital Creations, the inventors of Zope) who was visiting
France for a vacation. That was the catalyst.

Some people showed up the night before, and a café near Châtelet was the
designated gathering place. I ran into Alastair in the hotel, whom I know from
the 'ZopeTag' at LinuxTag 2000 in Stuttgart. The hotel was full of Zope people
because, of all the places listed on the agenda page, it had a website. We
went to Café Oz at the appointed time but found no one. Being a gorgeous
day - Paris was in full summer bloom - we went for a walk and relaxed in a
local square, watching the play of people and color. I had a mobile number of
one of the guys so I called, "Hi Ralf, my name is Kit...."  "Hi! I saw your
name on the list, there's a whole group of us coming to the café, after we
finish some last details at the location...."  Time for an espresso. A while
later my phone went off, and a girl said, "Hi, I'm Noa, I got your number from
the EuroZope list, I'm at the café, but I don't see any geeks here...."  And so
the gathering took shape. Within an hour a dozen people had introduced
themselves, strangers by face but known by email. The atmosphere was at once
relaxed and exciting.

The Parisian organizers were dynamic types, French cool, totally up to speed.
They even had nametags ready, so everybody filled them out, manually adding the
spherized Z of the Zope logo. Dinnertime, and the decision was made to split
into two groups. Kamon and Maik stayed behind with one contingent, keeping the
process running for latecomers. Tariq asked, "Should we do something fast, or
have a real dinner?"  "Food is important." He steered us through the busy
streets, choosing a bistro amidst the plethora. "This is a good one." Classic
Paris, tiny tables, full of characters, with crackerjack waiters, blurs of
efficiency in motion. I watched him order wine, a rapid exchange of half
sentences. It took maybe 8 seconds. Bon appétit. The wine and steak tartar were
delicious. Payment was with a chip card, via a wireless device for keying in
your PIN code.

Back to the café. The group was growing, overflowing the table. Multi-threaded
discussions were buzzing in a variety of languages. Later the entire entourage
went for a tour of important sights: the Seine, the best ice cream shop in
Paris (on Ile St. Louis), the incredibly still Place des Vosges. Paris is
remarkable at night, everything is beautifully lighted.

The morning brought another resplendent day. Coffee and a croissant, checkout,
then a quick walk through République to the conference. The location was a new
incubator company, Republic Alley (, which has
housed itself in an odd structure. It was once a covered market, but is now a
chaotic combination of fashion sweatshops and micro-industries. Seems to be
permanently Under Construction. The incubator offices were stylish, with bold
colors and smart signage. Our room was packed, the turnout was tremendous, 60+
people, some ending up on the carpet, encircling the presentation table.

In the center of it all was Paul Everitt, in the flesh. Digital Creations is in
Fredericksburg, Virginia, USA, so for most of the people, this was the first
sight of the man behind the name. He has a real presence. Positive, focused,
open, full of energy, he set the tone of the day. First the organizers
introduced themselves, then everybody did a 5 second intro. Question: "Who is
using Linux as a primary operating system?" Wow, over 50%. "Why is open source
so successful in Europe?" No easy answer to that one. Paul then did a quick
history, and made some not-yet-official announcements confirming the secure
future of Zope. His presentation was completely interactive. Somebody: "How do
you describe Zope in one sentence?"  "Rapid deployment of rich media for
diverse audiences." The next session delved into the platform architecture, and
future development plans. That heated things up. Paul knows when to recede into
the background, letting other people forge the thinking. (Later he said he had
one goal: to listen). It was an open discussion of open software, and I think
he learned a lot. I know we did, see Simon's detailed notes at:

Lunch at a sidewalk café was convivial, and by Mediterranean standards, short.
Back in the Alley, the focus shifted to EuroZope:
+ Ralf moderated a panel about Zope content management, requesting audience
   input for concepts and features
+ Chris presented his Sqishdot project
+ Maik showed ZDP-Tools, the Zope Documentation Project, which is mainly a
   European effort (
+ Kamon and Tariq presented their Poster project that steers Zope in the
   direction of a Content Management System
+ Yves-Eric (who come all the way from Japan) showed a solution for
   internationalizing Zope and multi-language sites
+ Bruno and Stéfane initiated follow-up actions

At the end of the day everyone felt that we'd come a long way. The EuroZope
initiative, born in Stuttgart, had been fully incubated in Paris.

Half of the people stayed for the post-process drink, and Tariq guided us to
the city's first cybercafé, a dramatic skylighted octagon, with tables on the
main floor and computers circling the balcony above. Our multiglot buzz filled
the space. After a beer or two, some said their goodbyes and stepped out.
Those remaining went to dinner, excellent cous-cous, animated discussion, a bit
more personal, "What do you do?"  The group dwindled further, completing the
cycle, including me, en route to Gare du Nord.

The plan includes a summit at Linux Expo, Amsterdam, January 23-24.
Paul, you too.

Stay tuned:
See Joachim's photos at:

Contact continues via the list:

Thanks to Maik Röder for invaluable contributions

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