Planet III — launched May 2010
It sounds like Sci Fi. But it’s the latest incarnation of the “Greenpeace Planet” website and Content Management System, which we launched today. It involved more than a year of effort, lots of sweat and blood and not a few tears, by a great many people led by Andrew Davies. The system selection process alone evaluated 42 long-list and 12 short-list candidate systems with a global User Reference Group, that amazingly came to a unanimous decision about the technology. The new site has been designed from the bottom up to integrate social networking and draw big focus on our online campaign efforts. It’s also, thanks to the Design Eye of Elaine Hill, a drop-dead gorgeous piece of eye candy.
It moves us ever closer to a dream that a bunch of Webbies had back at the turn of the century (ayep, that long ago) when, over beers, we considered what it would be like if instead of having dozens of different Greenpeace national websites and designs and systems around the world, we could work together to come up with a single common but flexible design, run by a common content management system that would allow us to share content and assets around the world, clone stories within language groups, and aggregate the global people power of our online actions across the globe.
At the time we had those discussion, our Greenpeace International page was composed by hand, and its big cutting
Greenpeace website 2002
edge feature was a background image that changed randomly when you hit the home page. Sometimes you’d get moss, sometimes beach, sometimes tree. It was way cool in its day, in the same way the HTML
Most of the content we were posting then was press releases, slapped into HTML and FTPed over to our web server, which was in the attic of our office, by a two-man web team, Martin Baker and Gillo Cutupri. Martin did the words. Gillo did the pictures. By 2002 we had a sign-up form, where you could add your email to a mailing list, which we’d set up at the encouragement of Kevin Jardine, who prophesied that email lists were going to be important, and one of the website’s main purposes should be to get people networking with us through email so we could involve them in “online campaigns.” This was crazy talk.
We launched a site in 1999 that was built on Zope. It’s big design feature was a spinning globe, and it had menus with “rounded corners.” These were achieved with tiny rounded corner gif images carefully placed with a relatively new technology called CSS. But it also boasted an online forum, which would grow into a community of activists that did some amazing, pioneering online campaign work over the years. One of the veterans of that community, Lisa Vickers, found her way from forum member to volunteer to a Greenpeace ship and works today at the Greenpeace International headquarters as a digital campaigner. I knew her for years only as “Lizardfish” from the forum.
Planet 1, our first real global content management system, was built in OpenACSand ran on the most robust technology of its day: an AOL server. Yes, AOL, as in America OnLine, the first Server Farmers. We needed to build our own content management system because none existed in those days that would work in every character set, every language, every layout we needed to serve an organisation that had offices in Russia, Japan, Thailand, Israel and the Arabic world and was moving into China. Bruno Mattarollo, an Argentine techie and activist, came on board as technical lead. At some point we realised we needed project manager, and recruited Danielle Hickey, who had run Greenpeace Australia’s web presence, to leave Sydney and join the mad crew in Amsterdam. (She would eventually head back to Sydney with Bruno in tow. I tried to get them to name their first child Planet One. Fortunately, they resisted). The build of Planet One was insane. I remember pizza-fuelled nights in the office that lasted until most of the bars in Amsterdam were closed (and bars in Amsterdam stay open verrrrrry late) and a small army of webbies and volunteers helping move thousands of pages that had been hand built into a database. We celebrated the launch with super soaker squirt guns in pedal boats on the Amsterdam canals.
Planet One served us until 2005, when it was time to move to a new system, developed by Lars Pind and
Planet II: April 2005 — May 2010
project managed by Stephen Donnelly over the course of two years. It marked a new era as we moved steadily from a handful of pioneering offices to bring 22 or our national websites on board, saving millions of eurodollars by not pursuing multiple national design and backend tracks.
Planet Two was designed to inform, inspire, and engage. It carried on and refined the tradition of the Greenpeace website as news magazine, with a backend that was designed to widen the number of people who could publish content to our website — from HR Managers posting jobs to press officers posting press releases to publication managers publishing reports — we brought a wealth of content forward.
But when it came time design Planet Three, we were all about “Inspire, Engage, and Mobilize.” We wanted actions that our supporters could take big and proud. We wanted ways our supporters could replicate content through social media to be everywhere. We wanted the site to provide positive feedback for actions taken, donations made, letters sent, petitions signed. We wanted a sign-in system that would allow the site to recognise our supporters and personalize their experience. We wanted a site that featured our award-winning photography in big bold formats. We wanted a site that was less about us, and more about our amazing network of supporters and what they can do. And that’s what Andrew and his team delivered.