The Joomla! Community Magazine™

Hurt Me Plenty

Written by | Friday, 01 June 2012 00:00 | Published in 2012 June
I've been playing Doom 2 quite a bit lately. It's an old first person shooter, released in 1994, in which the player navigates through a hellish landscape fighting monsters.
Me, Blasting Chain Gun Wielding Zombies Me, Blasting Chain Gun Wielding Zombies

What initiated this shotgun wielding stroll down memory lane was a fantastic book I read recently, Masters of Doom, that tells the story of the game's creators, John Carmack and John Romero. The two Johns were developers, with Carmack focusing on core programming, and Romero on game tools and design. Following the success of Doom 2, tension and resentment grew between them over Carmack's extreme focus on the continuing evolution of the engine that powered Doom. Romero ended up leaving the company to create his own game, Diakatana, which was supposed to be centered on game design instead of technical innovation. Though Romero had the support of deep pocketed backers, when Diakatana was finally released, reviewers panned it for being dated and poorly developed, while Caramack went on to create a string of hit games.

What's This Have To Do With Joomla?

Paul Orwig's February interview with Kyle Ledbetter in this magazine, “The Roadmap for a Great Joomla! 3.0 UX,” is what has me thinking about the story of the two Johns. In one part of the interview, Kyle says, “UX (User Experience) is the most important aspect of Joomla! (of course I'm going to say that). Software methods will change. Javascript libraries will come and go. Designs will evolve. UX is what will keep people coming back.”

I'm a developer, so I know that the most important aspect of Joomla! is the quality of its software engineering (of course I'm going to say that.) Seriously though, when I first read Kyle's assertion, I contemplated it for a few minutes and decided that he was right. No end user cares that Joomla! has a flexible architecture or is object oriented. Users just want to accomplish a task and the measure of any software is how well it aids them in doing so.

Beneath the Surface

Kyle makes a great point, but what about the lesson imparted by Carmack and Romero's story? I write extensions for a living and I have great admiration for the core developers and the bug squad because I'm frequently knee deep in code and using the results of their labor. For me, their work results in faster extension development with more possibilities, greater security, and less effort. To be clear, extension developers aren't the only ones who benefit because the underlying framework was designed to support the CMS which everyone uses. Additionally, it is by the virtue of having a modern code base that other core developers, such as the UX folk, are able to easily implement the cool new features we all want.

While I agree with Kyle that UX is critical, I would add that if you want a cutting edge CMS, you must first have a code base that can make that innovation possible and that its continued improvement should always be a top priority. It's necessary that software methods change and javascript libraries come and go. They're what provide both the opportunity for and response to the challenge for a greater user experience. In the absence of these invisible improvements, UX design cannot maintain forward progress and instead meets the limits of what the code has already been engineered to do, like a tree that cannot grow any bigger because its roots are confined to a concrete planter.

In Conclusion

To get back to Doom 2, Romero faded away and Carmack went on to create other hits, however I don't think either of them has since created anything as fun as the game they originally created together; it is sublime when my Doom 2 character shoots a gasoline barrel and the nearby enemies explode in a gory, pixelated mess. I think the lesson is that it takes both great programming and a well designed user experience to make software shine and I know that we're going to see improvements for Joomla! in both arenas with future releases.

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John Hooley

John Hooley

I develop custom Joomla! extensions for a living and run two tiny companies: Blue Bridge Development, where I sell my services, and Code Haiku, which I use to release my extensions to the community.

I'm the author of the following extensions:

  • Mail In Vote
  • Web Fonts
  • Portfolio Zen