Matt, please introduce yourself to our JCM readers.
My name is Matt Thomas, founder of betweenbrain (http://betweenbrain.com), a small firm located in Connecticut, and Chief Architect of the Construct Template Framework. My dot-com career started in the year 2000, shortly after a four-day, cross country trek from California to join a start-up venture in Connecticut. Although this company burst with the tech bubble, I felt fortunate for having had met my wife — and future mother of my daughter — as well as establish the foundation of my future company and life to come. The years following have been eventful and provided many opportunities to serve my clients in various capacities. More recently, I have had the opportunity to devote myself to website development and providing Joomla! related services. I also work in conjunction with my friends from Planet 12 to provide print, identity, design and creative services.
How did you first learn about Joomla!?
I discovered the Joomla! project in late 2006 while searching for suitable technology that could be used for a start-up venture. This was my first exposure to a fully developed CMS. I ended up investing a substantial amount of time evaluating the current CMS's available. I choose Joomla! due to its widespread adoption, and most importantly, vibrant and active community of users and developers. I repeatedly encounter clients being sold proprietary technology or getting stuck with a project or software that is no longer supported. I want my clients to have the ability to be in full control, and to have the freedom to work with common technologies that many consultants and developers are familiar with.
Do you have any interesting stories about early Joomla! projects or websites that you worked on?
Some time ago, I had the fortunate opportunity to help the owner of a local sushi restaurant develop a website for a hobby of his. At the time, his business was slow, so we decided to trade sushi for code. One evening, while doing some on-site training, his head Sushi chef asked me what I'd like to eat. I told him to surprise me and he ended up creating what came to be known as the Joomla! Roll.
What caused you to decide to volunteer to help support the Joomla! project?
Being a free, open-source, community-based project, the contributions by volunteers are invaluable to the success and longevity of Joomla!. The hard work and dedication by those who have contributed to Joomla! is evident by its widespread adoption by major organizations, corporations and non-profit groups, not to mention the countless small business and personal websites that it powers. My feeling is that if I am to benefit from the project, either personally or professionally, the least I can do is to give back. From a business stand-point, it makes good sense to invest in, and be involved with, the core technology that my business uses.
What different areas of the Joomla! project have you volunteered for, and what areas are you currently involved with?
My involvement with the Joomla! project started by interacting with the community in the user forums, which lead to working on various Wiki docs. I later participated in a Pizza Bugs and Fun event. That gave me a good taste of what it is like within the Joomla! Bug Squad. Earlier this year, I contacted Mark Dexter to see if he felt that I could make a positive contribution to the JBS. Mark suggested that I work with something brand new to the project: system testing. With system testing being a new initiative, I have had the opportunity to work with new technologies and help to establish and document processes that will help improve the project.
What goals do you have for improving the areas of Joomla! that you are currently volunteering with?
Currently, my primary focus with Joomla! is to help establish a solid foundation for system testing. Since system testing provides the opportunity to automate a user's interaction with Joomla!, and test the system as a whole, it is believed that it will play a role in improving the development and release cycle. My current goal is to help in the establishment of those areas so that interested individuals can quickly and easily learn more about the role of system testing within the project, as well as easily join in the fun.
What are some of the challenges you face in the areas of Joomla! that you are currently volunteering with?
With system testing being an unknown technology to many, one of my biggest challenges is to demystify it and help others discover the potential it holds for improving the Joomla! project and web-related services.
What do you enjoy the most about volunteering?
I find it very fulfilling to be making a positive contribution to a project that affects millions of people in a positive way. Joomla! has provided me an opportunity to give back and I am grateful for that. In the course of doing this, I have gotten to know many good people and learned quite a bit about new technologies and methodologies.
What do you find the most difficult or challenging about volunteering?
There are so many areas within the project that one can get involved with, I find it hard to focus on only one and not get distracted or sidetracked by jumping into another one.
What do you like the most about Joomla!?
The community! Joomla! would not be what it is today without the fantastic support and enthusiasm of the people behind it.
What would you personally like to learn more about which is related to Joomla!?
I've done a lot of work with templates and template overrides, and have started to learn more about developing components and extensions in general. I've had the fortunate opportunity to gain insight into the Joomla! API. Having had this exposure has greatly intrigued me to learn more about the core framework. Frameworks that build upon Joomla!, such as Nooku, are also very intriguing to me and I hope to have the opportunity to explore them someday.
What opportunities for improvement would you like to see happen in the Joomla! project?
I'm very excited about the move to the new 6-month development cycle. I think that it will provide a structure that will invite more involvement from developers to contribute to the project. Since Joomla! is used for many applications, I think the concept of alternate distributions, similar to the way Ubuntu does it, could make Joomla! more easily adopted by a broader audience.
Also, as the project grows larger, communication and transference of knowledge will be an increasing challenge. The community has done a fantastic job in amassing an impressive amount of information and exchanging it on a regular basis through many methods. This can be intimidating to a newcomer, as there are many places to explore for this information and sometimes knowledge gets lost. I think there is a great opportunity for improvement in consolidating some of these methods of exchanging and preserving this knowledge and information. I am happy to see the websites being re-designed for a more unified experience, and hope to see them integrated on a deeper level in the future. This effort will certainly help us maintain great communication and transparency, and I hope to see this initiative continue proactively.
What would you say to someone who is thinking about volunteering to help with the Joomla! project?
Do it! But, be forewarned... it's like quicksand, the more you active you are, the more you get sucked in (to paraphrase someone notable within the project).